by Dustin Fabian
March 12, 2020
Few things are as excited – and potentially rewarding – as being a horseplayer in the spring.
Every week, there is something big to play. Last weekend, it was the Santa Anita Handicap, Tampa Bay Derby and Gotham Stakes. This weekend? The Rebel Stakes, Beholder Mile and Jeff Ruby Steaks take center stage.
My focus in this article is on the Oaklawn card, which attracted Bob Baffert’s potential star shipper Nadal, but I highly recommend not sleeping on the races at Santa Anita or Gulfstream.
At Santa Anita, their G1 feature, the Beholder Mile, attracted a field of seven headlined by multiple graded stakes winner HARD NOT TO LOVE. She is in great form and will be hard to deny. And if you hit Santa Anita’s Late Pick 4, featuring the aforementioned Beholder Mile, you can Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points.
And at Gulfstream, the lone graded race is the G3 Hurricane Bertie and nine fillies/mares are signed on there and all look like they’ve got a big shot. And if you hit Exactas on four different races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, you’ll Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points.
And at Turfway, six stakes races headline their biggest day of the year and focus will be on the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks, which attracted a field of 12. Sprinkle in overflow fields for both the Kentucky Cup Classic and Bourbonette Oaks and this is a day of racing you won’t want to miss.
But without further ado, here’s my Oaklawn Park Late Pick 4 ticket:
Race 8 – Essex Handicap ($350K) – 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
The kickoff leg of a competitive Late Pick 4 is the Essex Handicap for older horses and a solid crew of seven is entered. I think you can get past with just using a few of these, so my Pick 4 will utilize #4 BANKIT (5/2), #6 SNAPPER SINCLAIR (7/2) and #7 PIONEER SPIRIT (3/1). I don’t see much pace in this race outside of PIONEER SPIRIT, which would hinder closers like LAUGHING FOX, NIGHT OPS and GUEST SUITE. And BRAVAZO, a longtime favorite of mine, just doesn’t win enough and doesn’t seem to be in good form following multiple layoffs.
Race 9 – Azeri Stakes (Gr 2; $350K) – 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
The 1-2-3-4-5 finishers from the G3 Houston Ladies’ Classic at Sam Houston in January are back for the Azeri and, as that race was a blanket finish with four fillies separated by just a length at the wire, you may want to bet on a similar result this time. #5 SERENGETI EMPRESS (9/5) is the class of the field, at least on name recognition, but she has dropped five straight decisions. She’d be a hard filly to single, especially when in against #1 STREET BAND (3/1) (making her second start off the layoff) and #4 LADY APPLE (5/2) (won the Houston Ladies Classic and 3-for-3 at Oaklawn) again.
Race 10 – Rebel Stakes (G2; $1M) – 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
A bit of an unfortunate draw for Bob Baffert’s highly-regarded shipper, #1 NADAL (5/2). You have to figure they’d have preferred not to end up stuck on the rail, as Joel Rosario is going to have no choice but to send from that post. On the bright side, the only other pace player in the group seems to be #5 NO PAROLE and he figures to be second choice. This is a big step up in class for the Louisiana-bred and, while he’s winning with ease, I’m not a huge fan of his declining speed figures (89 > 86 > 79 on the Beyer scale). So I’ll bet on NADAL to win the battle between those two and also use #4 SILVER PROSPECTOR (7/2), who won the G3 Southwest here in fine fashion for Steve Asmussen.
Race 11 – Maiden Special Weight – 6 Furlongs Dirt
I’m going to try and get through the nightcap by using just a few of these. #12 TIPSY GAL (6/1) makes her second start for Dallas Stewart and what jumps out there is she was favored in her debut. It’s not common that a Dallas Stewart-trainee is favored at first asking and that tells me the word is out on her being a pretty nice horse. She was only beaten a length in that first start and should move forward. I’ll also use #3 LUCKY BETTY (6/1), beaten just a half-length on debut (in the same race as TIPSY GAL) and a pair of first-time starters - #7 LEGGS GALORE (12/1) for Phil D’Amato and #9 NEVER SAY CAN’T (10/1) for Larry Jones.
Race 8: 4, 6, 7
Race 9: 1, 4, 5
Race 10: 1, 4
Race 11: 3, 7, 9, 12
Ticket Cost: $36 for 50-cents