Apple Blossom, Count Fleet Sprint highlight this week's racing action
What can you look forward to in racing action at Oaklawn Park this coming weekend?
After being dark for the Easter holiday, Oaklawn Park returns this week to its normal four-day racing schedule Apr. 16-19.
While Arkansas-bred 3-year-olds will be in the spotlight Friday in the $100,000 Rainbow and $100,000 Rainbow Miss, it's Saturday's card featuring the $600,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) and $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) that takes center stage on the national racing landscape this week.
Who could run in the Oaklawn races?
With reigning champion older mare Midnight Bisou laying low following her February excursion to Saudi Arabia, the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom for fillies and mares will have a look similar to its immediate local prep, the Mar. 14 Azeri (G2).
Serengeti Empress romped by more than six lengths over a sloppy track in the Azeri and is the likely favorite on Saturday for trainer Tom Amoss. Her familiar foe, Street Band, is also scheduled to return after finishing a distant fourth in the Azeri.
"She does not prefer the mud track and it was also the every-other race that was her time to throw a bad race," said trainer Larry Jones of Street Band earlier this month. "So, if that was her bad race, it will be very similar to the Alabama (G1), when she came out of it and won the Cotillion (G1).Trainer Tom Amoss
Others pointing to the Apple Blossom include Go Google Yourself, who captured the Feb. 17 Bayakoa (G3) at Oaklawn by a neck, and last season's top older female sprinter Come Dancing. The latter captured the Ballerina (G1), Ruffian (G1), Gallant Bloom H. (G2), and Distaff H. (G3) impressively last season, but disappointed when sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1).
Come Dancing has won or placed in two of her three starts at 1 1/16 miles or beyond, but those were all in one-turn races at Belmont Park.
The Count Fleet Sprint over 6 furlongs is expected to feature Whitmore, who seeks an unprecedented third victory in the race. Whitmore captured the 2017 and 2018 editions, but settled for second last year behind eventual champion Mitole. Whitmore will enter off a 2 1/2-length victory over Mr. Jagermeister in the Mar 7. Hot Springs S.
Grade 3 scorer Bobby's Wicked One, victorious in the Duncan F. Kenner S. and Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds in his last two starts, is another Count Fleet probable.
The Apple Blossom and Count Fleet Sprint kick off Oaklawn's Racing Festival of the South, which is now spread out over three weekends after the track revamped their stakes schedule last month in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.