July 6, 2020

Mr Freeze among deep group of 14 in Oaklawn Handicap

Mr Freeze and jockey Robby Albarado romp by eight lengths in wiring the West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer Park on August 4, 2018 (c) Mountaineer Park/Coady Photography

He’s one of the best one-turn horses in the country and at 1 1/8 miles very good, but Mr Freeze will have to be the latter and then some to take a very competitive renewal of the $600,000 Oaklawn H. (G2) on Saturday. The supporting feature on closing day of the 2020 meet in Hot Springs, the Oaklawn H. has attracted a full field of 14.

Mr Freeze exits a dominating three-length win in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) on Feb. 29 for trainer Dale Romans, and will have the hot-riding Joe Talamo in the saddle Saturday. The son of To Honor and Serve has been less prolific over 9 furlongs, but recently placed in the Clark (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1) behind the likes of Tom’s d’Etat and Mucho Gusto, neither of whom are among the entries.

Multiple Grade 2 winner and classic-placed Tacitus, fifth in the Saudi Cup (G1) in late February, returned to the U.S. following the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup (G1) and makes his first stateside start since September for Bill Mott.

“He ran well in the Saudi Cup to be fifth. He hadn’t been out in a long time,” said Mott.

Grade 1 veteran Improbable, who has a reputation for acting up in the starting gate, again had little luck in a post position draw at Oaklawn. The Bob Baffert trainee had to break from the far outside post 11 in last month’s Oaklawn Mile, in which he ran very well to lose narrowly to Tom’s d’Etat after a very wide trip. Unfortunately, the City Zip colt drew post 14 for the Oaklawn ‘Cap.

“He ran a winning race. Got beat by a really good horse,” said Baffert. “His gate issues, I don’t know why…you take him in the morning and you could set a bomb off in the gate and he won’t move.

“That’s the reason I left him there. That gate crew is getting to know him really well, and I think that’s going to help.”

By My Standards, runaway winner of the New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds in late March, is a horse on the rise and is a clear danger with continued good form. Trophy Chaser, who captured the Challenger (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs narrowly but in quick time, is another who enters in the best form of his career.

Warrior’s Charge, who lasted to win the Feb. 17 Razorback H. (G3) in wire-to-wire fashion, should be prominent early. Trainer Brad Cox has also entered Night Ops, who captured the Mar. 14 Essex H. in the slop.

Last year’s Jim Dandy (G2) winner Tax looks to rebound off a poor ninth-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, while John Sadler seeks a victory with Combatant, who upset the Santa Anita H. (G1) in early March in his second start for the stable.

The Oaklawn H. goes off as race 12 on the 14-race card, in between the two divisions of the Arkansas Derby (G1).