When it comes to the older males at Oaklawn going two turns this coming season it’s safe to say things are fairly wide open. Last year Todd Pletcher shipped into Oaklawn Park and dominated this division. He won the Razorback and Oaklawn Handicap with Race Day, and also captured the Essex Handicap with Golden Lad. Both of those horses went on to have “hit and miss” races throughout the summer and fall showing that they weren’t even some of the strongest horses in his barn. The lone local winner of the four race series was Carve who won the Fifth Season Stakes on opening weekend, and also did finish a strong second in the Oaklawn Handcap.
With that being said where do we turn to this year as far as the local contingency goes? We’ll start with Carve who is currently working out at Fair Grounds in preparation for this season. He has to be considered the strongest horse returning for this year, but his Fair Grounds works may mean he’s staying down there for the winter. A foursome of horses are known to be pointing for the Fifth Season Stakes that have caught me eye. First we’ll start with Smack Smack who is fresh off back to back wins in stakes races at Zia Park. The Don Von Hemel trained and Toby Keith owned gelding has actually won four of his last five, and could be the “hot horse” coming into the meet. Secondly, For Greater Glory is pointing for the Oaklawn series, and has had moderate success over the last few years. He won’t wow you, but he’s at least respectable. Thirdly, Street Strategy is 50/50 to run on opening weekend, but is no stranger to success at Oaklawn. Finally, millionaire Departing has had solid workouts at Oaklawn Park leading up to a probable run in the older stakes series. He could be the favorite on opening weekend in the Fifth Season. Those four plus Carve make up what is a questionable group that has some proving to do.
The newly turned four year olds will hopefully pick up some of the slack, and help answer a few mysteries. When thinking of these horses Far Right, Bold Conquest, and Mr. Z are the ones that come to mind. Out of those three Bold Conquest is the only one that’s had consistent workouts since Oaklawn has opened up for training. Smarty Jones and Southwest stakes winner Far Right has returned to the workout tab after an extended break, but has only recorded two works and is probably a few weeks away from making a start. Then of course you can’t forget the crazy Indiana Derby winner Mr. Z who isn’t even on the grounds yet, but will be soon and will most likely target the later races in the series like the Razorback and Oaklawn Hadicap. Out of those three you’d think Far Right would be the one to watch as loves Oaklawn Park, and will probably benefit for the time off he received.
Of course the two turn horses aren’t the only ones that should be warranting attention as two very classy sprinters in Ivan Fallunovalot and Alsvid are back once again. Lets start with Alsvid who took home the biggest race of the meet for sprinters last year which of course is the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap. He also captured the Grade 3 Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs, and participated in the Breeders Cup Sprint. Also in the Breeders Cup Sprint was Ivan Fallunovalot, who won the King Cotton at Oaklawn Last year, as well as two sprint stakes at Remington Park. These two have developed a rivalry that will surely be continued in Hot Springs this year. The other sprinter that could resurface at Oaklawn is Breeders Cup 4th place finisher and Bachelor Stakes winner Holy Boss. He hasn’t recorded a workout yet for 2016, but ran three time at Oaklawn last year.
So we’ve previewed all of the locals, but as everyone knows the shippers will have something to say about this division in a big way. It’s hard to say who might show up, but trainers from all across the country will have their eyes on Oaklawn Park. The fun kicks off opening weekend in the Fifth Season Stakes, continues with the Essex Handicap on February 13th, Razorback Handicap on March 19th, and culminates in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, which now has a purse of $750,000, on closing day April 16th.