Emily Gullikson takes a look at the Oaklawn Park Feb. 27 card and provides her OptixEQ analysis for Races 3, 4, 7 and 8.
#4 SHAKES CREEK will make his first start this season for Garcia and in a good spot to return at Oaklawn Park. This will be just his second career start over this main track with the race last April in a much higher level and competitive restricted claiming event. In that Apr. 25 race he broke slow and raced on hold, starting to make up ground late. As noted, that event had a much higher OptixFIGRANGE (OFR), and he ran an OptixFIG that day in RANGE for today’s claiming event. In terms of placement, Garcia has been careful picking out spots to run him where he was protected last season at Indiana Grand and Arlington Park. That is key running for a tag this afternoon and with connections not the most willing to lose him, though also have to place him where he can compete.
#2 HANDY will make his second start of the meet with upside from the sixth-place finish on Jan. 24. Heading into that race, Vance made the decision to run protected in that starter allowance coming back from the 59-day layoff scratching out of a race at this $20k N2L level on opening day, just two days earlier. Drawing the rail (noting a rail draw also on Jan. 22) played a role in the trip and tactics used and factored into his race result. Handy was forced push the pace from the inside, not his ideal running style, and was caught up pushing a contentious pace at the same time. The race was starting to slow late which assisted the winner Lngtermrelationship, and the show finisher Trashtalkinyankee, one that came back to win two weeks later. Handy is upgraded from a pace standpoint and capable to return to a tracking trip this afternoon shown as a Square on the center of the Plot. In addition to pace, he fits on speed with OptixFIG in RANGE as well as class for this claiming condition. He ran at this restricted claiming level back on Oct. 4 race at Keeneland earning a B OptixGRADE (winning GRADE for the level) with his third-place finish that afternoon.
RACE 7 – RAZORBACK (G3)
The OptixPLOT looks fairly straightforward in terms of pace; however the “Red” PlotFit suggests there is more going on that it appears on first glance. Looking at the Plot, #2 HUNKA BURNING LOVE presents a clear pace advantage alone in Quad I. He expects to take up that role, though is tested for class here and likely to be challenged by #3 MAILMAN MONEY given this race shape from Quad III, as well as #6 LONG RANGE TODDY coming off the layoff. Long Range Toddy holds has some tactical speed that is hidden on the Plot based on some more recent trips, as well as his age with the bulk of his racing career from the juvenile and sophomore seasons. These three runners are tough to make a case for in terms of win contenders, though play a role in today’s race shape. Even with the PlotFit the representation here as Circles (lacking finish compared to others in the field) is honest and stepping up to this graded stakes level, class will be in play and exposed with some stronger, classier horses in this race.
The most “obvious” and likely favorite the public will side with is #4 OWENDALE for Brad Cox. His position on the Plot is tough to ignore with the Large Square tracking in Quad II up high on the y-axis. Those credentials make him logical in this spot, though he has been one that is tough to trust and faltered at a shorter price on more than one occasion, and value should be taken into account today.
#7 MYSTIC GUIDE could challenge for that favorite role here as he has been consistent in his races to date with respect to his OptixFIG and class, yet to finish off the board and recording consistent OptixGRADE in graded stakes company. His position on the Plot in Quad IV is a more fluid position as he is still considered lightly raced and proven versatile in terms of running style. That was noted in the most recent start, the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) when positioned as a Quad IV Square. He took up a pace-pressing role that afternoon and finished together at the wire with tracking ground-saving winner, Happy Saver. Saez will have the call this afternoon, and as an assertive rider, will be looking to establish early position from the outside post. In terms of upside he is preferred over Owendale and logical alternative.
#1 SILVER PROSPECTOR should offer value and upside from his recent races and finishing positions that could see him competitive here as well. The wide trip in the Clark (G1) played a role in his sixth-place finish, which was a sneaky good effort recording a solid 97 OptixFIG in the process. Tactically he was out of position and against the race shape (X_FLOW) in the Louisiana (G3) last month at the Fair Grounds. Santana will be back aboard with the return to Oaklawn Park, and he is capable to show more tactical speed here than his recent races and position from Quad IV.
In terms of OptixPLOT position, #5 RATED R SUPERSTAR does present true-to-form placed in Quad IV. He will again be tested for class at this graded stakes level, a big step up from the claiming group last month. Claimed off that win on Jan. 30, he will run here for the new connections and with nothing to lose running in this race. Overall, he has struggled to win, often running below par for this graded stakes condition, settling for the minors on his best day.
RACE 8 – SPRING FEVER STAKES
#6 AIN’T NO ELMERS is capable to fly under the radar in this competitive field; she offers value and upside here for trainer Bret Calhoun. It is worth keeping in mind, while she is lightly raced, each trip and placement for her races to date and how that impacts her position on the Plot. Isolating the main track six-furlong races, she has solid form with some excuse for the Fort Springs S. at Keeneland, her only finish off the board. Going into that race she was slightly “over the top” in terms of form cycle with the two strong races, the allowance win on Sept. 2 at Churchill Downs and the place finish in the Miss Preakness (G3) on Oct. 3. That regression in terms of form cycle, factored at Keeneland as did the pace as she was forced to send from the rail and into a fast early pace before tiring. Given time to recover she returned earlier this month with a good race off the bench, not quite fully peaked on Feb. 4. She should benefit from that start and this second start of the form cycle, a pattern that has been successful in the past.
Isolating those shorter sprint races are key here with today’s 5 1/2-furlong distance and given the race complexion looking at OptixPLOT. Her position as a Circle in Quad I is not necessarily a complete negative in this case and could work a trip under today’s dynamics and noted upside from those recent trips. Ain’t No Elmers is position above the ParLine which indicates she can keep pace with #3 AMY’S CHALLENGE and drawn outside of her is capable for a stalk-and-pounce trip, one that has been successful for her in the past, with the ability to get first run on the tiring pacesetters and the jump on the closers. #7 SHESOMAJESTIC is shown in a similar position on the Plot, however, is more established as a five-year-old mare. She sits below the Par Line and one of the class indicators here that she is slightly below for this stakes level compared to others in this field.
Amy’s Challenge does present according to OptixPLOT the “speed of the speed” in here though does expect to take pace pressure especially with those to her inside with #1 CASHCHECKORCHARGE and #2 SUNNY DALE, and finish could be suspect here with the Circle and “Fire” Contention. #5 HEADLAND is similar to Shesomajestic as a more established five-year-old and slightly flattered on the Plot based on the age and experience level, something that rings true for Amy’s Challenge as well. In the past, Headland has been exposed at the stakes level and racing slightly below on that class front. In terms of trip, she could be forced to chase the pace early with the first call (furthest left) position on the Plot, which could reduce some of her finishing ability (Square) late. That same “no keep” scenario is possible for #8 BEST KEPT SECRET drawn outside which could see her racing more in line with her Surface/Distance Quad I Circle trip.
The 5 1/2-furlong distance here is unique and could play against the two likely favorites, #4 CASUAL and #9 KIMARI positioned in Quad IV. While the “Fire” Contention is in play, the 29 SpeedRate is on the lower end and cycles back to most of the field sitting below that ParLine. This pace scenario combined with the shorter sprint distance could see Casual and Kimari left with too much to do late and with the short price expected at hand.
The Southwest S. (G3) horse-by-horse is available on our partner site, OptixEQ.com as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Race series. The analysis for all of the prep races are free – just requires registration to access that race data.