Evaluating the top Oaklawn Handicap Contenders

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oaklawn Park is home to a pair of $1 million stakes races this Saturday, the Oaklawn Handicap and the Apple Blossom handicap. The Apple Blossom is getting all the attention with headliners SWISS SKYDIVER and MONOMOY GIRL saddling up for a 1 1/16 mile challenge on the main track. Check out our Apple Blossom preview here.

We'll focus on the Oaklawn Handicap as it's a deeper field and could offer horseplayers a more betting value. A field of eight will race 1 1/8 miles on Oaklawn's main track. Meet to date, there have only been three races at the distance and surface. A pair of winners were early speed runners and the third from off the pace.

With a pair of million-dollar races and a few high-priced allowance and claiming races, expect the track to be fast with a heavy speed bias. Speed dominated at Oaklawn last weekend during the Arkansas Derby card and has been the way in nine of 10 racing days, according to last week's The Player's Edge guest Robertino Diodoro.

If speed is the way, then WARRIOR'S CHARGE (PP: 4 ML 6-1) is the way. The five-year-old gets to the front and fast. He's been first to the quarter-pole in eight of his last 10 races. Along with the fastest early fractions, he has the top early and mid-pace numbers, and he might not get a lot of competition. If he can get away with 6 furlong fraction above 1.11:5, he'll have a better than 6-1 chance to lead the field from gate to wire.

California invader, EXPRESS TRAIN (PP: 2 ML 5/2) is the one most likely to chase the rabbit. He's tried to hug the early leaders in his last couple of starts, switching up from a more off the pace style in three of the previous four starts. Jockey Juan Hernandez travels across the country with EXPRESS TRAIN. He coaxed some of his fastest fractions out of the four-year-old in his last despite running his longest race to date. Faster fractions and a shorter race can be a winning recipe.

OWENDALE (PP: 6 ML 7/2) is another that tried to flip running styles in his last start. Normally, he tries to go from worst to first but forgot how to find the winners' circle. Trainer Brad Cox had jockey Florent Geroux ride co-pilot in his last start and gave up the win at the wire by a head. The last time he tried the frontrunner thing, he did it two races in a row, both seconds. Cox and Florent will probably send again here.

SILVER STATE (PP: 1 ML 4-1) has won four consecutive races, the last couple at Oaklawn in his first two starts at the Arkansas track. Overall, he's finished in the money in eight of nine career starts, a bad seventh in a race where he tired in his third start after a layoff. This will be his second start after a rest and his resume says round two won't be much different than round one, which might be good enough to make it five wins in a row.

FEARLESS (PP: 3 ML 7/2) shouldn't be anywhere near the front. He's been no closer than seven lengths from the leader at the first call in his last four races. What he lacks in early kick, he more than makes up with his late legs. The brown gelding's late pace numbers are off the chart compared to the rest of the field. If a late runner is going to get the job done, this is the one. 


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