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HOT SPRINGS, AR – Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s Silver State narrowly outkicked Rated R Superstar to champion Saturday’s $500,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Silver State was the 6/5 favorite as he broke from post 5 under Ricardo Santana Jr. and settled off the pace, ahead of only Rated R Superstar in the six-horse field.
Harpers First Ride dueled inside of Green Light Go early, though both began falling off in the far turn and allowing Night Ops, Silver State, and Rated R Superstar to flank them five-wide by the top of the stretch.
Silver State poked his head in front of the group and held a narrow advantage over Rated R Superstar, who fought gamely in the stretch but couldn’t reel in the Steve Asmussen trainee any closer than a neck.
The final time for the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt route was 1:42.73.
“We had a beautiful trip,” Santana Jr. said. “I was in the position I wanted to be in. He relaxed really well for me, and turning for home, he gave me a really nice finish.”
Night Ops finished 1 3/4 lengths behind in third while 2 1/2 lengths clear of Harpers First Ride. Green Light Go was another length back in fifth and a distanced Uphold completed the order of finish.
Silver State’s win was his fourth straight dating back to last October (when he first returned from a 7-month break) and follows a local victory in the Fifth Season Stakes last time out. The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt’s record improved to 9-5-2-1 with $630,094 earned.
“It’s a great partnership with the Hortons and Winchell Thoroughbreds,” Asmussen said. “They’ve done so much for me. This horse has always shown a lot of potential. We gave him the necessary time and he’s come back to win 4 races. This was a very quality win today.”
Silver State returned $4.40 to win, $3 to place, and $2.10 to show. Rated R Superstar brought back $8.20 to place and $3.20 to show. Night Ops paid $2.20 to show.
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