HOT SPRINGS, AR – A tussling trio of tough equines produced an exciting stretch battle in Saturday’s Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park that saw Rated R Superstar pull off the upset for his first win in 11 months.
Breaking from the far outside post 9 under Walter De La Cruz at 14/1 odds, Rated R Superstar sat off the pace while Dalmore led from the rail through fractions of :23.27 and :47.33. Heading into the far turn, Nanoosh advanced from his stalking position to take the lead, but Snapper Sinclair and the 8/5 favorite Giant Expectations were hot on his heels, with Rated R Superstar running four-wide right behind them. Nanoosh began to give way with a furlong remaining, leaving the remaining three foes to duke it out up front. At the 1/16 pole, the Cipriano Contreras trainee drove himself forward just enough to hit the wire first by a head in a final time of 1:42.66 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track.
Stuck in the middle during the stretch run, Snapper Sinclair was unable to withstand the winner’s late push but did take second by 3/4 of a length over the bettors’ choice. Nanoosh took fourth over Chris and Dave by a 1/2-length, while behind them, Heavy Roller necked out Sonneteer for sixth. Hence never seemed to find his footing and languished at the rear, passing only a tired Dalmore in the stretch to complete the order of finish.
Rated R Superstar’s win was his first since winning the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last April and his first since Contreras claimed him for $62,500 last November. The 6-year-old gelded son of Kodiak Kowboy now sports a record of 33-6-5-6 with $780,767 earned for current co-owners Contreras Stable and Crystal Racing Enterprises.
“He’s just a good old horse,” Contreras said. “He made a half a million dollars before I got him. You don’t make a half a million dollars by being a … he’s a nice old horse. He still has something left in the tank, hopefully, a little better than this.”
Contreras said Rated R Superstar will be pointed for the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 13.
Rated R Superstar returned $31.20 to win, $10.80 to place, and $5.20 to show. Snapper Sinclair brought back $6.60 to place and $3.80 to show, while Giant Expectations paid $2.80 to show.