Oaklawn Park Pick 3 with Whitmore and Essex Stakes

March 16th, 2023

The six-furlong Whitmore S. (G3) and 1 1/16-mile Essex H. (G3) for four-year-olds and up highlight a 10-race card at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

Below we provide spot plays and a Pick 3 ticket for the aforementioned stakes along with a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer in Race 7.

Oaklawn Park Race 7-9 Wager

  • $1.50 Pick 3: 1, 6 with 2 with 1, 5, 10 ($9)

Race 7: Allowance optional claimer, 1 1/16 miles, four-year-olds and up

#4 Frosted Grace (2-1) kicked off his seven-year-old season with a 1 1/2-length victory in a $62,500 claimer at Oaklawn while posting a 90 Brisnet Speed rating over a fast track. He then returned a month later to finish a neck second to Caddo River while recording a 91 BRIS figure over sloppy ground. Trained by Robertino Diodoro, the Mark Valeski bay is 2-for-6 from today's distance with two second-place finishes and will retain the services of hot jockey Cristian Torres (20% winner this meet), but the morning line favorite can be beaten here.

We'll take a stand against him to begin our Pick 3 ticket and play #1 Kupuna (5-2), a son of Hard Spun who won by 3 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer run in the mud Jan. 29. The four-year-old's 94 Speed rating is the highest last race speed figure among the field, and he's 2-for-3 from today's distance, as well as 2-for-2 at Oaklawn. Trainer Bret Calhoun is a 22% winner with horses that won their last race and a 20% winner at the allowance level. Nik Juarez (12-5-2-0 the last seven days) will stay in the saddle, and the rail post is winning at a 19% clip.

In addition to Kupuna, we'll play #6 Ain’t Life Grand (4-1), who romped to a 13-length victory in the Iowa Breeders' Derby in his last start in October. The Not This Time four-year-old is 3-for-3 from 1 1/16 miles and has a chance in his first start off a long layoff.

Race 8: Whitmore S. (G3), six furlongs, four-year-olds and up

Multiple stakes winner #2 Tejano Twist (3-1) is the one to beat in the Whitmore and will get a challenge from Steve Asmussen trainee #9 Cogburn (7-2), who came home three-quarters of a length in second in the Chick Lang (G3) on the 2022 Preakness undercard. Cogburn hit the shelf following his loss, then returned last month to race in an allowance at Oaklawn, where he won by a neck and beat today's race rival #1 Spankster (8-1) by half a length. Cogburn drew an outside post, where he'll break alongside fellow pacesetter #8 Pirate Rick (12-1).

Tejano Twist's stablemate #4 Edge to Edge (4-1) will also duel for the early lead. The five-year-old wired his last two at six furlongs while under Francisco Arrieta, who hopped off the speedster to ride Tejano Twist.

We'll single Tejano Twist here and count on him to get up late with a hot pace to chase in this six-furlong sprint.

Race 9: Essex H. (G3), 1 1/16 miles, four-year-olds and up

#3 Rated R Superstar (20-1) is back to defend his title in the 2022 Essex, but the 10-year-old's Speed figures have dropped off significantly since his victory last March. Most recently, he finished 12 lengths in fourth behind #10 Last Samurai (5-2) in the Razorback H. (G3) on Feb. 18.

A five-year-old Malibu Moon son, Last Samurai flashed a 105 BRIS figure in his win, good for the highest last race speed rating among the field. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee may struggle from the outside post, but he has an excellent jockey in his corner in Cristian Torres, a 21% winner with routes who is 28-7-8-1 over the last seven days.

We'll back the Grade 3 champ with 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1) also-ran #5 Classic Causeway (15-1), who will switch from turf to dirt for trainer Kenny McPeek, an 18% winner this meet. The four-year-old colt will also pick up jockey Flavien Prat, who has gone 9-5-0-2 this meet, and Classic Causeway has recorded a number of bullet workouts ahead of his four-year-old debut.

#1 Silver Prospector (6-1) is worth including too. The Steve Sexton Mile (G3) winner showed marked improvement last out, when he scored a 3 3/4-length victory in a one-mile optional claimer and brought his Speed rating up eight points from his previous start. The Steve Asmussen pupil drew the inside post and put in a fast workout on March 11, indicating he is sharp and ready for his third start off a layoff.