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This isn’t the first time since I started writing my Pick 5 tickets at Oaklawn Park that I’ve missed out on a massive score by one leg. Yesterday cost me a chance at over $1,400! Luckily, another nine-race card is on tap, and after the eighth race, we might have a better idea who will be running in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) down the road.
Best of luck!
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight for Arkansas-bred 3-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $60,000.
#2 Tempt Fate makes his second start in 2020 for Carl Deville after finishing a distant third on February 14. The winner on that day, Heritage Park, won his next start at the Allowance level and then ran in the Nodouble Stakes this past Saturday. My Golden Diablo, who finished second behind Heritage Park, won next time out as well. That was a very tough race and Tempt Fate should be battle-tested and ready to go. #4 Chicken Hawk was almost 26/1 in his debut but didn’t run like it. He gained ground on My Golden Diablo that day but just ran out of time. At 4/1 on the morning line, he has gained a lot of respect and is very dangerous. My top choice comes from the Federico Villafranco barn, #9 Rockthepulpit. He chased Hesluck around the racetrack but just couldn’t get by in the stretch. One can argue that race started and finished the same, but I was very impressed. Villafranco steps this one up in class, which gives me confidence that Rockthepulpit is up for the task.
Race 6: Waiver Claiming $25,000-$20,000 for 4-year-olds and upward going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the dirt. Purse $28,000.
This is the most straightforward leg of the Pick 5 sequence. My top choice, #8 Hardly a Secret, will be ridden by Martin Garcia. He drops in class for Chris Hartman after winning at the $35,000-$30,000 level last time out. He and Secret Touch went around the track together, but Walter De La Cruz did a nice job of sitting just off the pace and waiting for an opening. It’s interesting to note that De La Cruz will not be aboard today as he will be on Conquest Big E instead. The other horse that intrigues me is the #9 Moment for Robertino Diodoro. Last time out, he ran on a sloppy track and was a part of a hot pace the entire race. The start before that, he was in too deep and couldn’t keep up, finishing a distant sixth. The race that I focused on was the November 8 start at Churchill Downs. In a similar race, he got the lead with ease and wired the field. He has his hands full with this field of 12, but his early speed should help him establish a good position into the first turn.
Race 7: Starter Allowance for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $37,000.
#3 Jewel Thief will not be facing Misty Blue, which must be a relief for the connections. Misty Blue is just better than her, but that is no shame. Brad Cox has this filly trending upward and it would not be a surprise if she can use this race as a springboard to bigger and better things later in the year. #4 Summer Storm hasn’t been in the best form as of late, but her competition was very strong. The winners of those races – Sunny Dale, Wholehearted, and Getridofwhatailesu – have all impressed since those efforts. Summer Storm has done very well at the Starter Allowance level in the past at Oaklawn Park and should be a considerable favorite here.
Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming for 4-year-olds and upward going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the dirt. Purse $63,000.
This is one of the best AOC fields that I remember handicapping in a very long time. All nine of these runners have run in stakes races in the past and may use this race as a launching pad to the Oaklawn Handicap on May 2. #4 Gato Guapo makes his return to Oaklawn Park since May 3, 2019. He’s finished in the money in nine of 10 races since he last raced here, but this will give him his biggest test in a long time. Diodoro wouldn’t have shipped him from Turf Paradise, where he had been training, if he thought Gato Guapo would struggle. #5 Pirates Punch has been spectacular in 2020. He ran a winning race at the Fair Grounds in the Mineshaft Stakes (G3) on February 15. He couldn’t hold off Silver Dust, the post-time favorite, but that race was very impressive. Tyler Baze knows that he needs the lead and there aren’t any other runners who can match his supreme early speed. #8 Kurilov looks to go three-for-three in his career at Oaklawn Park. Since Brad Cox got his hands on him late in 2019, he’s responded well. He steps up in class, but he’s faced better in the past and has looked fantastic in 2020.
Race 9: Allowance for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the dirt. Purse $61,000
#6 Crystal Lake ran an identical race to eventual winner Ready Orb Not last time out but was just a couple of lengths further back. She has shown early speed in the past, but 2020 has been a different story. Since coming to Oaklawn Park, she has shown a propensity to fall behind and try to close late, making her very tough to beat in the stretch. #7 Gold Credit makes his debut for the Phil D’Amato barn after finishing third to Sunny Dale last time out. D’Amato does not have a ton of stock here, but his runners have finished in the money 50% of the time. That stat alone makes Gold Credit a viable candidate to win her second career race. My top choice is #9 Shocking Fast for Steve Asmussen. The connections moved on from Bob Baffert and placed her in Arkansas. Her race on February 29 was dominant and Ricardo Santana, Jr., let her jog home.
Best Bet: Race 1: #2 Defender
Best Longshot: Race 4: #4 Ravens Reflection
$0.50 PICK 5 – 2,4,9 / 9,12 / 3,4,7 / 4,5,8 / 6,7,9 – $81
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