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– 1st Star: Close Hatches (KY) – She shipped in and stole the show from the three year olds! Sometimes horses struggle with the Oaklawn surface when shipping, but Close Hatches proved to be a champion Saturday when winning the Azeri Stakes and turning back several worthy challengers in the stretch run. When you consider her race record, and also considering when she did lose last year it was to some seriously good horses, this one could be turning into a super star. You’d think they’ll come back now for the Apple Blossom, and unless someone ships in with some serious class it could be lights out for everyone else who enters.
– 2nd Star: Hoppertunity (KY) – It’s a Rebel Stakes that we’ll be talking about for a long time, but through all the bumping, grinding, and controversy it was Hoppertunity who came out on top. Is Hoppertunity the best horse moving forward? That’s certainly up for debate, but it also doesn’t matter when it comes to this particular race. All the credit must be given to jockey Mike Smith for this one as he made things as difficult as possible for Tapiture and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Santana rode a brave race himself, but the veteran Smith did just enough to make the difference. Hopefully we’ll see the top four finishers of this one all come back for the Arkansas Derby.
– 3rd Star: Golden Lad (KY) – Pletcher’s success at Oaklawn isn’t as strong as many of the other tracks he comes too, but Golden Lad broke that trend as he dominated the Razorback Handicap over a field that looked evenly matched. The field is probably not the best Grade 3 you’ll find, but it still included several horses that like Oaklawn and were highly touted. Who knows where he’ll pop up next, it could be virtually anywhere. It would be nice to see him back in a month to run in the Oaklawn Handicap…but will he come to challenge Will Take Charge?
– Govenor Charlie (KY) – He was bet down to the 2-1 favorite and thought of by most as being the better of the two Baffert horses that had shipped in for the weekend, but Govenor Charlie didn’t run a step in the Razorback step. He was out-ran from the beginning, and never got into the race at any point. With the track starting to play strangely his connections could point to that as an excuse, but to me it looks like he’s not a true two turn horse.
– Saturday: The Gazebo Stakes – Three Year Olds – Six Furlongs – Purse: $100,000
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