Close menu
Several Top 3-Year-Olds Anticipated for Oaklawn Stakes
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Several Top 3-Year-Olds Anticipated for Oaklawn Stakes

HOT SPRINGS, AR – With much of the Kentucky Derby (G1) Trail on hold until further notice, this Saturday’s $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes is shaping up to be one of the deepest prep races of the season. Entries will be drawn Wednesday for the Oaklawn Park event.

( Content Continues Below Ad )

Several dominoes had to fall in order for the Oaklawn Stakes to come about this weekend. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Kentucky Derby, traditionally held the first Saturday in May, to early September and left a hole on the major racing calendar. Oaklawn Park officials opted to move the Arkansas Derby (G1) – the track’s biggest event annually – from April 11 to May 2, swapping spots with the Oaklawn Stakes.

Like the Arkansas Derby, the Oaklawn Stakes is restricted to 3-year-olds that will cover 1 1/8 miles. Though it is not an official Kentucky Derby prep race, and thus does not offer any points to the top four finishers, the anticipated field is brimming with talented runners hoping to make their way to Churchill Downs. New this year, the top three finishers in the Oaklawn Stakes (known last year as the Oaklawn Invitational) will receive an automatic berth into the Arkansas Derby.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, the defending leading trainer who has earned that honor 10 times here, has last year’s Hopeful Stakes (G1) winner Basin slated to make his second start of 2020 in the Oaklawn Stakes. After missing by a nose on debut at Churchill Downs, the son of Liam’s Map rattled off two victories at Saratoga, including the Hopeful, before taking the rest of 2019 off. He returned in the local Rebel Stakes (G2), finishing third while making his first start around two turns.

The Rebel’s winning trainer, Bob Baffert, is expected to send at least one member from his arsenal to Hot Springs, though he’s keeping mum as who exactly that will be. Many expect it to be Nadal, winner of the Rebel in his two-turn debut, but the uncertainty surrounding Santa Anita Park – Baffert’s base of operations – could change those plans.

Nadal winning the Rebel Stakes (Credit: Coady Photography)

Other Baffert horses under consideration include Charlatan (who exits an impressive allowance score), Thousand Words (winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity [G2] and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes [G3]), and Eight Rings (the American Pharoah Stakes [G1] winner who was most recently sixth in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile [G1]).

John Servis pupil Mischevious Alex is expected to bring his three-race win streak to Arkansas. After dominating the Parx Juvenile Stakes and Gulfstream Park’s Swale Stakes (G3), he earned 50 Kentucky Derby points for taking the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. The son of Into Mischief’s best finish going two turns was a third, beaten 3/4 of a length, in last summer’s Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park. His only other attempt going two turns was a failed turf try that saw him finish seventh in the Laurel Futurity Stakes.

Bret Calhoun may run two trainees, with both Mr. Big News (probable) and Digital (possible) nominated. Mr. Big News broke his maiden at Fair Grounds on January 20, then finished fifth in the second division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2). Digital was also fifth that day, though it came in the first division of the Risen Star. He recently fired a best-of-33 bullet at Fair Grounds, covering 5 furlongs in :59.1.

Other probables include Sir Rick (Robertino Diodoro) and Shared Sense (Brad Cox), with Taishan (Richard Baltas) a possibility as well. The full list of the stakes nominations can be found here, courtesy of Equibase.

Join the Inner Circle

Sign up for exclusive 10% discount on orders, plus be the first to access our daily free and premium horse racing picks, articles, podcasts, and more!

Sign Up