Oaklawn spot plays for Jan. 28, including Martha Washington and King Cotton Stakes

January 26th, 2023

Before the Southwest Stakes (G3) crowns a champion along the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), Oaklawn Park will feature a pair of non-graded stakes, including the 1 1/16-mile Martha Washington for three-year-old fillies — part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks — and the six-furlong King Cotton for four-year-olds and up.

Below we offer spot plays for both non-graded stakes, along with an allowance and maiden special weight sandwiched between the two.

Race 5: Martha Washington S., 1 1/16 miles, three-year-old fillies

In a small, six-horse field, this one should come down to either morning line favorite #3 Defining Purpose (6-5) or #5 Olivia Twist (2-1). The latter is unproven at today’s distance, having raced twice at a mile after breaking her maiden on debut in a five-furlong sprint. The Mshawish filly is undefeated in three career starts and romped to a 15-length win in her first try at eight furlongs back in November. Trainer Todd Fincher is a 33% winner with shippers and a 22% winner with horses that won their last race, while hot jockey Cristian Torres is 19-9-3-0 in his last seven days. The filly is bred to relish the stretch out in distance, so she’s an interesting single if you’re looking to take a stance against the morning line favorite in horizontal wagers.

However, we’ll back Defining Purpose here. The Cross Traffic filly flashed an 89 Brisnet Speed figure when romping to a 5-1/4 length victory in the one-mile Year’s End S. at Oaklawn and won at today’s distance three back in a maiden special weight. Trainer Kenny McPeek is a 21% winner in non-graded stakes and is 4-for-9 paired with jockey David Cabrera over the last two months.

Race 6: Allowance, six furlongs, four-year-olds and up

With an overflow field of 14, including two also-eligibles, #5 Ninja Warrior (7-2) opened as a slight morning line favorite for trainer Robertino Diodoro, a 33% winner this meet. The Speightstown colt comes off a 4 1/4-length tally in a $50,000 allowance at this track in which he clocked a 92 Brisnet Speed rating. But the four-year-old can be beaten by #11 Torontotoro (5-1), who romped to a similar 4 1/4-length win at today's distance while posting a 104 BRIS figure — the highest last race Speed rating and highest at today's distance among the field — at Mountaineer over a track labeled good. The American Pharoah six-year-old has posted a trio of bullet four-furlong workouts since his allowance score and the presser-type will break from an outside post with speed to chase.

Race 7: Maiden special weight, six furlongs, three-year-olds

#4 Commerce Comet (3-1) just missed on debut when finishing a head second in a $120,000 maiden special weight for Steve Asmussen, a 20% winner with horses running their second career race. The Pulpit grandson will add Lasix for the first time in his second start and will pick up rider Cristian Torres, a 27% winner with pacesetter types. Commerce Comet's 82 BRIS figure may be eight points lower than the most recent Speed rating posted by morning line favorite #8 Easy Action (7-5), but his race rival has failed to break his maiden in three tries and faced weaker competition than Commerce Comet last out when finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind in second in a $90,000 maiden special weight at this track.

Race 8: King Cotton S., six furlongs, four-year-olds and up

The second non-graded stakes on tap for Saturday should again come down to two runners — the morning line favorite, four-year-old #7 Gunite (7-5), and five-year-old #3 Flash of Mischief (9-5). Out of Asmussen’s barn, Gunite was 4-for-7 in 2022, finishing out of the money just once, when fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) last out. He's run his best races at seven furlongs, but he’ll cut back to six here, a distance from which he broke his maiden. He also won by a neck at 6 1/2 furlongs in the Amsterdam (G2) after stumbling at the start. With five straight triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings, he should succeed with the cutback in distance while dropping in class. But, Gunite has never raced at Oaklawn, and Asmussen is 6-for-89 this meet.

Let’s fade the Gun Runner colt and play Flash of Mischief, who dominated by nearly eight lengths last out in the Ring The Bell S. when running on sloppy ground, conditions that may be similar to Saturday’s with rain in the forecast. The Karl Broberg pupil is 3-for-5 at today’s distance and flashed a 110 Brisnet Speed rating when winning the David M. Vance S. by 6 1/4 lengths three back. Regular rider Cristian Torres will stay in the saddle and is a 24% winner this meet.