#1 BLOFELD – Make no mistake about it…I had completely given up on this horse until his race last time out in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. That race where he narrowly defeated Stanford was the best race of his career by a mile, and really makes me excited about him running longer as he was gaining with every stride. Of course another big positive is trainer Todd Pletcher shipping him to run in this spot. He doesn’t often ship horses to Oaklawn, but when he does he usually means business. John Velazquez also comes in for the ride so that has me doubly excited. Was not thrilled with the rail draw, but I believe he has enough speed to get out of the gate well and get in good position. At odds of 4-1 he looks awfully enticing.
#6 UPSTART – What a great comeback race for Upstart last time out in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap right here at Oaklawn Park. That race should serve as a tremendous prep race for this one where I expect more improvement. On Razorback day he looked a perfect picture of health in the paddock so I think there is no doubt he’s back in a big time way. I said to myself after that Razorback performance that he would be very tough to beat in the Oaklawn Handicap, and I stand by that by picking him second. If not for the reemergence of Blofeld he would be my top pick, but I’m too intrigued with Blofeld at 4-1.
#8 EFFINEX – The curious case of Effinex and his hives makes its way to Oaklawn Park. There is no doubt the hives outbreak really took a toll on him in the Santa Anita Handicap where he did not run his normal race. Now the big question becomes…is he over them? He’ll need to run big in this spot, and there is reason for doubt that he will do that. Clearly he is the most talented horse of the bunch. His race in the Breeders Cup Classic or Clark Handicap will win this race. However, at a short price it’s hard to bet him here as I still lack confidence that he’s 100% healthy. In no way would I leave him off my tickets, but I’m not putting him in a “make or break” position.
#4 FINANCIAL MODELING – Recent private purchase transfers from the barn of Chad Brown on the east coast to the barn of Brad Cox in the Midwest. His upside seems to be endless as he’s lightly raced and seems to be running his best races as of late. Last time out in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park he was competitive with the likes of Mshawish as he finished fifth only beaten by a little over three lengths. You have to love that he gets Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride as he’s been riding him on the east regularly. Has all the makings of a very nice horse, just not sure if he’s good enough to win the whole thing. Can definitely hang around for some minor rewards though.
#2 MELATONIN – Last time out in the Santa Anita Handicap this horse absolutely freaked in a huge performance! Can he do it again? I’m thinking no…but I wouldn’t leave him off your exotic tickets. He’s the type of horse that will have to prove it to me once again before I buy in to him being a top notch caliber horse. The Santa Anita Handicap came up fairly weak, especially considering Effinex and a bad case of hives the morning of the race. He’s a horse that likes to be on the front end so expect him to go from his inside post, but don’t expect him to make it look easy like last time.
#7 DOMAIN’S RAP – You have to love this former low level claimer who is now trying his luck in a Grade 2 race! Even better…the spotting of Domain’s Rap makes total sense as the horse has earned his shot today. Last time out he nearly won the local prep for this race, the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap, as he was second to the talented Upstart. Look for this horse to make them work for it on the front end of things as he has great early speed. Not one that will be on my tickets, but he is one I’m scared could beat me.
#3 POINT PIPER – Decent enough horse, but this is asking a lot today. Under normal circumstances the Oaklawn Handicap would be a logical spot, but this year the race came up ultra tough.
#5 CARVE – Hasn’t come back this year the same way he used to be, and is outclassed in this spot even if he was at peak form. Just too tough of a spot.