Friday’s card at Oaklawn features the Fantasy Stakes. The race drew a competitive field of twelve — there has not been anyone like Farrell, Miss Sky Warrior, Paradise Woods, or Unique Bella in Arkansas this year, so the Fantasy is wide open.
Saturday, Oaklawn features the $1 million Arkansas Derby. It’s do or die for Classic Empire, an intermediate distance goal for Malagacy…and ten others hope to spoil the party.
Bob Baffert has been dominant in this race in recent years, and sends out another solid entry this year in American Anthem. But, ten others will try to put his streak on halt. The field includes several from the Oaklawn series, including Uncontested, Petrov, and Lookin at Lee. Steve Asmussen also sends his solid Fair Grounds horse, Untrapped. Todd Pletcher doesn’t send out Southwest winner One Liner — but he does send Malagacy for his stakes Debut. American Anthem isn’t the only west coast shipper — Lewis winner Royal Mo comes, too. And, a few other real long shots come to try and spoil the party.
The racing meet at Oaklawn gets underway this Friday, and promises three months of competitive dirt racing. The action excites at all levels: full fields in claiming races (not to mention the most patronised claim box in the country!), and classy groups in stakes company.
Here, Blinkers Off looks at the latter. Opening day features the Fifth Season Stakes, a listed one and one sixteenth mile dirt stakes for open company aged four and up. Saturday’s card features the Pippin Stakes: same listed level, same eight and a half furlong distance, but for older fillies and mares.
Fellow Chicago racing fans can enjoy Oaklawn-loving Illinois-breds in each of these races: Domain’s Rap in the Fifth Season, Streamline in the Pippin.
The Pippin also has a treat for fans of the Curlin babies: Terra Promessa returns to Hot Springs for the first time since her victory in the Fantasy Stakes (GIII) last April.
I take on the Azeri (GII). The eight-horse field includes Champion Untapable, but will she be beaten like she was last year?
Paul tackles the Razorback (GIII) and the Rebel (GII). The Razorback features a contentions group of ten older horses, including a pair of Illinois-breds. The Rebel drew a full field of fourteen three-year-olds, and the race promises to be a contentious battle for the winner’s share of 50 Kentucky Derby points.
Though Terra Promessa has gotten most of the ink for her eye-catching victory in the Honeybee Stakes, a few other Curlin babies have had quite a good time of things, as well. Though she was the only stakes winner over the weekend, three other sons and daughters of Curlin found their way to the winners’ circle, and two others garnered stakes placings.
The race drew just a field of six, but that field turned out as competitive as one could ask for. The headliners are certainly two-time Oaklawn stakes winner Marquee Miss (also last year’s Arlington-Washington Lassie winner, for fellow Chicago circuit followers…) and Grade I winner Nickname, but four worthy competitors plan to see the starter along with them.
In this tight race, I find one of those newcomers particularly bettable.