Handicappers Debate: 2023 Fifth Season at Oaklawn Park

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TwinSpires Staff

January 13th, 2023

Saturday’s Fifth Season S. at Oaklawn Park features a solid group of 10 older horses competing over a two-turn mile, and Grade 2 winner Ginobili, runner-up in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), has been installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite.

James Scully and John Mucciolo have different opinions. Who will you side with?

James Scully: I’m going with #1 Soy Tapatio (9-2), who should settle into a favorable ground-saving trip before offering his best. The five-year-old gelding enters on the upswing for Robertino Diodoro (30% win this meet), netting triple-digit Brisnet Speed and Late Pace ratings in recent starts, and Soy Tapatio figures to receive the right setup in a speed-laden field.

John Mucciolo: I'm going to go outside the box a bit and side with #3 Heart Rhythm (12-1) for John Ortiz. The son of Flat Out likes the course (4-2-1-0), he's been in good form since being claimed three back, and I also expect the five-year-old to sit off of a hot and contested pace early on before moving into contention late. 

Are you concerned that Soy Tapatio could get shuffled back and out of contention from the rail with so much speed signed on for the event? I can envision the gelding having traffic issues turning for home. And I'm curious if you feel that Ginobili is a Del Mar horse-for-course, or if the addition of blinkers has simply turned him into a different kind of horse?

Scully: That’s a concern for Soy Tapatio given the projected pace scenario, but he gained confidence over the fall, recording a pair of wins and a neck second at 1 1/4 miles from the last three starts, and the stalker possesses the tactical foot from the starting gate, if necessary, to avoid getting shuffled too far back.

Until he wins a race outside of Del Mar, Ginobili is tough to trust, especially at short odds. He likes to race on or close to the pace, and given the presence of several other speedy types, the two-turn mile distance looks like a stiff challenge, as well. And I question whether the trip is right for Heart Rhythm, who has recorded his last three wins at 6 or 6 1/2 furlongs — do you think he will thrive on the stretch back out to two turns?

Mucciolo: Yes, I believe that Heart Rhythm is well-suited to the two-turn mile, even though he's been essentially a one-turn runner to this point of his career. His attempt at eight furlongs at Churchill Downs in the summer was much better than it appears on paper, as the bay ran into Caddo River, who nearly set a track record on that day. Rafael Bejarano will get Heart Rhythm to relax early and pounce in early stretch on Saturday.

Scully: Thanks for your contributions, John. We’ll keep tabs on whose selection performs best in Saturday’s Fifth Season at Oaklawn Park.