July 25, 2024

Oaklawn Park Circles & Squares Analysis for Mar. 13

Cirlces & Squares for Oaklawn Park


The lower 12 SpeedRate could present a pace advantage for #5 PLANE TALK clear in Quad I with separation above the Par Line with the “Green” PlotFit. He is an interesting horse in this race as the only runner in this field that is race protected at this claiming level, a cagey spot for McLean Robertson to return off the 192-day layoff. The 0-for-6 record here at Oaklawn Park is worth a deeper dive; his first three starts here in Hot Springs were at the Special Weight level in his sophomore 2020 racing season, and the 2021 races were at the higher allowance level. While he has finished off-the-board and yet to win, those efforts given the class level at the time and the change here to run at the claiming level move Plane Talk forward, holding OptixFIG consistently recorded in today’s 86-81 OptixFIGRANGE/OFR.

The change in class also moves #4 SACRED OATH forward in today’s conditions back at the claiming level where he has been able to compete for McKnight, keying off the placement and results from the 2021 season. The change in class today should also make for a change in terms of trip and running style for this horse based on his most recent running lines as what appears to be a closer/Quad IV role. Once again, the projected trip is keying off his claiming races last year when taking up presser Quad I/II role; a trip that will be required as noted with the lower SpeedRate to compete.

After Sacred Oath cleared the N3L condition last summer at Woodbine, trainer Norman McKnight has kept this horse protected, and for the most part, overmatched, at the higher allowance ($100k purse) level events. The class change was key Dec. 11 for Sacred Oath to race as a contender in that starter allowance, a $28k purse, with the proper placement noted in that daily edition of Circles and Squares. Sacred Oath turned in a strong B OptixGRADE and 95 OptixFIG, a “winning” effort though found himself against the dynamic in a four horse field closing ground to finish alongside the pacesetting winner, Beverly Park. As Sacred Oath returns today, McKnight has provided the proper class and distance change, along with rider change to apprentice rider John Hiraldo, suggesting positive intent to race here as a contender, especially in a spot where the chances of this horse being claimed are high.


The feature race on the card for older horses will draw a lot of attention with many familiar names and popular connections in this competitive field. With the quality of this allowance race, the winner could come from any number of horses with #7 BACKGROUND not to be ignored. Trainer Mike Puhich is showing positive intent here with the distance change making his second start off the layoff, a favorable and successful pattern for this horse in the past. The sprint on Feb. 20 looked every bit a PREP, marking the return for Background off the 189-day layoff. Background was able to get what was required on the day in terms of conditioning with the GALLOP+ after the wire and race under his belt with the move forward (STRETCH?) projected today finding the added ground.

In terms of positive intent, the sprint distance has been used only as a “prep” for Background in the past, with that sprint race often first start off the layoff or form cycle – the pattern in play for today’s event. Background has improved each time when transitioning from sprint-to-route in terms of results to OptixFIG, since the start of his career with that form cycle pattern nearly executed to perfection. That pattern includes his Special Weight maiden win here in 2020 and followed up in the 2021 Oaklawn Park season recording that second-off the layoff route win on Feb. 27. His lone sprint-to-route place result still recorded the “winning” effort (B OptixGRADE and 99 OptixFIG, BLANKET finish) taking a tough beat in the Hanshin Stakes on June 26th at Arlington Park, a race and OptixNOTES shown in the Past 3 Runlines.