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Race of the Week: $600K Razorback at Oaklawn | Saturday, February 24, 2024

by Jeremy Plonk

February 21, 2024

The Lead:
The $600,000 purse of the Razorback Handicap catches the eye, but you quickly learn when scanning the past performances that these are not horses worthy of the lofty pot. But as you get through the 13 of them entered, you realize this could be the best betting race of the weekend anywhere in the US at any level. Some races are fun to watch, but give me the great gamble any day of the week.

The Razorback is part of a big card that includes a fantastic Exacta-Thon promotion at 1/ST BET and Xpressbet. On Oaklawn's 12-race Rebel Day card, hit exactas in 6 or more races and claim your share of $20,000 in bonus money amongst other players on those two platforms who also nail the required number of bets. Plus, the player who hits the exacta on the most races on the card wins $5,000.

Field Depth:
PROMISE KEEPER's Grade 3 Peter Pan win is the field's signature score, but that came in 2021. Grade 3-placed runners here include SPEED BIAS, AIN'T LIFE GRAND, OCTANE, and MIDNIGHT RISING. There's no decided class edge among these, though PROMISE KEEPER has kept the slightly best company lines over time.

FROSTED DEPARTURE and SPEED BIAS have early foot from inner post positions and should be sent along with OCTANE and U.S. ARMY in the fray. PROMISE KEEPER is pace-versatile but can also show speed. Look for a pretty quick tempo over the 1-1/16 miles.

Our Eyes:
Here are my horse-by-horse notes. (COMING SOON)

#1-SEIZE THE NIGHT: Runner-up in the Fifth Season as the 2-1 favorite, he'll hope for drier conditions than his last 2 starts on wet tracks. Note all 4 career wins have come on fast dirt. Leading jockey Cristian Torres gets to save ground and try to rally late.

#2-FROSTED DEPARTURE: Won the local Renaissance Stakes in 2022 sprinting and wired an allowance field in December here at the Razorback trip. Expect Ramon Vazquez to put him into the race from the outset and see where chips fall for inconsistent sort who has been out of the money in 6 of his last 10 tries.

#3-SPEED BIAS: Last year's Pimlico Special runner-up by a nose and Keeneland's Fayette third-place finisher by a neck, he's teased at top levels with his front-running style. Tends to settle for the minor awards even when favored (0-4 as chalk in last 9 attempts).

#4-AIN'T LIFE GRAND: Away since a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Cornhusker in July, he ran poorly at Oaklawn last March off a similar, long layoff. Stakes winner locally over this same distance, so it's all about his readiness for trainer Kelly Von Hemel. He's trained consistently with some fast flashes in the a.m.

#5-OCTANE: Gulfstream-based Florida-bred makes a shrewd road trip to battle for $600K against a soft cast for that kind of cash. Beaten favorite in the Sunshine Classic last out has to extend a longer stretch run here than he's had at Gulfstream, where similar races end at the sixteenth-pole finish line. He'll make them earn it from near the front given his 17: 7-4-1 record.

#6-MIDNIGHT RISING: Career turf/synthetic performer took the dirt for the first time Jan. 6 at Oaklawn and scored a 15-1 upset over a muddy track. Ran respectably in stakes company at Woodbine and Turfway and likely fits on class with these. Expect a midpack bid.

#7-U.S. ARMY: He's had the early lead in 5 of his last 6 starts, including a wire-to-wire stakes win at Remington Park. But he backed up at Oaklawn in his local unveiling Jan. 26 in allowance company as the 5-2 favorite, finishing third to Razorback rivals Notary and Escapologist. Distance the question for speedster.

#8-MAGIC TAP (pictured above): Half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter American Gal has been a stayer of note, cutting back in distance Saturday after 5 consecutive races over 9 furlongs. Fourth in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby when chasing tough Saudi Crown, one of the key players in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Saturday morning (US time). Tyler Gaffalione comes in to ride, reuniting with the Steve Asmussen contender.

#9-O P FIRECRACKER: Late-running third in a pair of allowance races at the current meet, son of local standout Will Take Charge steps up into the stakes ranks. Rallied just behind Magic Tap here Jan. 13 over 1-1/8 miles, but both of his wins have come at the Razorback distance.

#10-PROMISE KEEPER: The 2021 Peter Pan winner was claimed for $80,000 in September and notched his first victory in more than 2-1/2 years when immediately moving to the Robertino Diodoro barn last out. Led every step of the Fifth Season with the rail draw and small field size; this test promises to be deeper and tougher from a wide draw, while his 7-1 price that day likely shrinks after a fast speed figure.

#11-NOTARY: High-percentage trainer Armando Hernandez and owner Antonio Donato went in for a $50,000 claim in July and this Street Sense colt has since rattled off 3 wins and a runner-up from 5 starts. Smoked allowance runners locally on Jan. 26 by 5 widening lengths, including Razorback returnees Escapologist and U.S. Army. In career form.

#12-ESCAPOLOGIST: Deep closer was a no-match second to Notary in their Jan. 26 allowance matchup over a muddy track. Kenny McPeek colt has 5 straight finishes in the money in allowance and claiming races and takes a step up in class. From difficult post, he'll likely drop far back to avoid ground loss. Brian Hernandez Jr. comes in from Fair Grounds to reunite, while regular rider Julien Leparoux opts for Octane.

​#13-BOLZY: Recent allowance winner has been off the board in 5 of 7 career starts and has yet to make a stakes bid at age 5. Fantastic pedigree hasn't panned out, by Gun Runner and out of the one of the greatest Oklahoma-bred stakes winners of all-time, She's All In. Earned a huge speed figure last out in a career-best, and has followed up with a Feb. 17 bullet workout in 47-3/5 for a half-mile, so maybe the lightbulb finally switched on. Wretched post, but intrigues some.

Most Certain Exotics Contender:
No locks in this spot, but the edge goes to MAGIC TAP, who has had 6 straight superfecta finishes.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
BOLZY's last was really good and he has a license to be a stakes horse for a trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, who doesn't just throw one to the wolves. Demand 15-1 or 20-1 from that abysmal post draw, but usable underneath.

Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
Attacking the exactas with the extra Exacta-Thon promotional incentives. $15 exacta part-wheel MAGIC TAP over OP FIRECRACKER, BOLZY, SEIZE THE NIGHT, NOTARY and OCTANE ($75). $5 exacta part-wheel NOTARY over OP FIRECRACKER, BOLZY, SEIZE THE NIGHT, MAGIC TAP and OCTANE ($25).