July 16, 2024

Oaklawn Park Circles & Squares Analysis for Mar. 19

OptixEQ Circles and Squares
OptixEQ Circles and Squares

RACE 7 – The Whitmore Stakes (G3):

The pace of this race, the Whitmore Stakes (G3), does not seem to favor any particular runner looking at the visuals on Standard (current form) to Surface/Distance with the “Red” PlotFit in play. Speed/OptixFIG also looks to be a neutral handicapping factor looking at the highlighted numbers in the Past 3 Runlines as most show OptixFIG in today’s OptixFIGRANGE/OFR. With that noted, each horse will be assessed as an individual with the emphasis upgrading form utilizing OptixNOTES and primarily class given this is a graded stakes, $200k, event.

It is tough to know in advance which horse will be favored at post time though should any horse land at 5-2 or below, that horse will be played against in the top spot. #2 BOB’S EDGE is listed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for this race and could fall into that role coming off the King Cotton Stakes win earlier this meet. As noted above with speed figures and not much weight leveraged on that handicapping factor, it does come into play as far as potential value or lack thereof with Bob’s Edge as his numbers in the Past 3 Runlines sit below today’s OFR. He does hold a 102 OptixFIG from his allowance win at Churchill Downs last May that is worth noting, though the rest of his numbers are more consistent with those shown in the Past 3 Runlines.

#1 NO SHIRT NO SHOES is hovering around the lower end of the OFR in terms of a fit on speed and is lighter on class with his OptixGRADE at the allowance level in the B/B- RANGE as he steps up in class. His compensation on the board should make up for some of that deficit as well as given a bit of an upgrade on the Plot as a Quad I/III Square in a Snowflake Contention and lower SpeedRate scenario.

#3 GREELEY AND BEN finds a similar position on the Plot to No Shirt No Shoes, though is slightly upgraded as he sits clearly in Quad I on both Standard and Surface/Distance. That exchange will play out with the public as Greeley and Ben will be a shorter number on the board, if not favored in this race. He has a lot of characteristics that will attract a lot of public attention from his connections, with Karl Broberg sending out live runners and David Cabrera riding well. Greeley and Ben’s numbers (speed figures) have been consistent, and his race record shows a lot of “1’s” with twelve of his last thirteen starts resulting in a win.

He comes into this race on a current three race win streak including some productive races, such as his most recent start, the starter allowance win here Feb. 21. That event produced two next out winners with those horses highlighted in the standard past performances likely drawing in the attention of the public. Taking a deeper dive into those next out winners, both horses ran back in lower OFR starter allowance races and both horses won with declining OptixFIG from their effort on Feb. 21.  That could suggest that Greeley and Ben could also step back from his number earned in that race last out, a factor of form not necessarily speed.

In addition, class will come into play as he steps up to the graded stakes division for the first time in his career. This class test is warranted off his recent record, though that class test has to be assessed strongly in terms of value. This horse and the connections have been able to take advantage of the race placement with his biggest test, the Thanksgiving Classic Stakes back on Nov. 25 at Fair Grounds. His place finish earned the B- OptixGRADE, a grade below the winning par (B GRADE) for the level. That stakes race with the $150k purse is the most comparable class test to today’s graded stakes event, and given he came up short beyond just the result is another factor where taking a short price today is not necessarily the right play.

#4 KNEEDEEPINSNOW finished in a blanket for the minors right behind Greeley and Ben when these two faced off in the Stars and Stripes Stakes Jan. 30 at Sam Houston Park. That recent fourth place result behind today’s rival should create value today with overall not much between the pair when looking at the Plot (pace) and Past 3 Runlines. Kneedeepinsnow could even be upgraded of the pair as he lacks the “red” Keywords in what projects to be a shift in odds between the two. Form along with class is key with Kneedeepinsnow carrying positive factors in both categories coming back in this spot.

As far as his form cycle, the timing for the Stars and Stripes Stakes made Kneedeepinsnow vulnerable, especially as he was favored in that event, returning on short rest, just 16-days from his Optional Claiming ($101k) allowance win here at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 14. He has been freshened off his pair of January races for this graded stakes run, which suggests positive intent and a return to peak form potential. Positive intent could also be gathered with trainer Mike Maker pointing to this race and providing Kneedeepinsnow the recovery time (48 days) to run back to a peak effort, which is required here to win.

#9 HOLLIS also has a lot of value concerns in this race as one that could find a fair share of public support listed as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. As far as pace, he does not hold any pace advantage as a Large Circle in Quad I, something that would be required in this case as one of the favorites. Today’s six-furlong distance is a subtle, though could be a significant change in distance for this horse keying off his recent PERFECT trip wins at the shorter sprint distance. That could be overlooked on paper, especially showing Hollis as the 2021 winner of the Sam Houston Park, Stars and Stripes Stakes, a race run at six-furlongs on the main track and a race that holds significance with the others in this field. Going back to that race last year for Hollis, he made an EASY_LEAD and according to OptixNOTES, was all out to the wire and fortunate to hold on for the win, a dead heat finish. That creates both stamina as well as some class concerns as he steps back up to the stakes level today paired with a potential short price.

#8 HEART RHYTHM does not project to be a shorter price, though is one that could be peaked in his current form cycle coming off a new top earned last month winning clearing the N2X condition. Heart Rhythm also lacks a class and pace advantage, shifting from his usual Quad I/II Square position to a Large Circle for the first time in a long time for him.

#6 ROYAL DAAHER has a similar form cycle pattern, recording a top effort and career high 104 OptixFIG Feb. 19. He will wheel back in 28-days for this race, a third start of the form cycle and putting together back-to-back races for the first time since the layoff return in December. His Plot position today is a notable shift, as well as racing as a Quad III Circle for the first time in his career. The “Red” PlotFit could have a role in that position today, though is something that overall has to be factored when considering this horse as a contender.

#7 TULANE TRYST also finds a Plot shift coming into this race and sits in one of the lower percentage winning positions as a Quad IV Circle. That Plot position must be taken seriously when it comes to the number on the board, though perhaps not literally, as upside can be projected from that Plot position. Unlike many runners in this race, Tulane Tryst is a lightly raced and still developing four-year-old with stakes ambitions returning this season. As far as that Plot position, his age with most of his racing from the sophomore season makes up for the bulk of data in that seven race sample. That includes the two races where he finished off-the-board that play a big role in impacting his Plot position and shape. Those two races are the Woody Stephens (G1) back in June of last year at Belmont Park – a race that was followed up by a 131-day layoff – and the race returning from that long layoff showing up later that season on Oct. 14 at Keeneland.

Tulane Tryst is a horse that impressed in his first two starts last year at Fair Grounds, breaking his maiden in that second start with a 96 OptixFIG and B+ OptixGRADE. He carried that number to his place finish in a highly competitive allowance race run on the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard. His form has improved getting back on track at Churchill Downs, recording a strong 100 OptixFIG and B+ OptixGRADE Nov. 20. He validated that run and his first two starts with another B+ OptixGRADE and 98 OptixFIG while not being asked (NO_PUSH) late, drawing off from his rivals Feb. 10 at the Fair Grounds. This horse has overall upside that is not necessarily reflected in the Plot and is worth of consideration even as he steps up in class with the B+ OptixGRADE, an indication of a class rise.

#5 ATOKA came out of the common race with Royal Daaher from Feb. 19, recording a B- OptixGRADE for the effort. He improved his finishing position just two weeks later with the place finish, making a MOVE through TRAFFIC as the race shape was slowing late. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, as he is known to do, will come right back in this spot with another 14-day return as a trainer that is not one to miss out on a stakes opportunity. Atoka is tougher to make the case for as a top contender, though his current form does not have any strong knocks and recording a similar effort could pick up another minor share.