Playing speed in Oaklawn Saturday stakes

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 17th, 2020

Oaklawn Park will feature a pair of intriguing stakes on Saturday, the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) for sprinters and $600,000 Apple Blossom (G1) for distaffers. Both races drew large fields with an abundance of pace present.

I’m taking the speed of the speed in both spots.

Count Fleet:

#4 Bobby’s Wicked One is super quick from the gate. And he can run opponents into the ground after carving out an opening quarter-mile in :21 and change, winning multiple 6-furlong races under those circumstances.

A 5-year-old son of champion sprinter Speightstown, Bobby’s Wicked One got good last spring, posting a fine win in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland and a respectable second to Mitole in the Churchill Downs Sprint (G1), before heading to the sidelines for the rest of the year after a failed turf sprint experiment in early June.

He’s come back better than ever for Al Stall Jr. this year.

In 2019, Bobby’s Wicked One recorded a pair of convincing wins, as lone speed, in Fair Grounds races before netting a 105 Brisnet Speed rating for his facile wire-to-wire tally in the Commonwealth. He’s following the same pattern this year, impressively winning the Thanksgiving S. and Duncan Kenner S., and posted century-topping Speed figures while winning under wraps.

I don’t think speedy rivals Flagstaff, Hidden Scroll, Mr. Jagermeister, and Share the Upside can run with Bobby’s Wicked One during the early stages, and the Al Stall Jr.-trained chestnut will establish himself as one of the nation’s top sprinters after leading wire-to-wire in the Count Fleet.

Apple Blossom:

#11 Serengeti Empress has come back with a pair of solid efforts this year, including a 6 1/4-length romp in the March 14 Azeri (G3) at Oaklawn, but I believe she has more to offer. We’ve seen this pattern before.

Royal Delta was the leading 3-year-old filly in 2011, defeating elders in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), but she needed a couple of starts before hitting her best stride at age 4. After getting drilled in the Sabin (G3) at Gulfstream Park and finishing up the track in the Dubai World Cup (G1), she became the top older female in training.

Last year, Midnight Bisou (the second-best 3yo filly in 2018) didn’t distinguish herself early in the season, recording a workmanlike narrow win over Moonlit Garden in the Sam Houston Ladies Classic (G3) and an all-out nose tally over Escape Clause in the Apple Blossom. Come Dancing was actually odds-on against an 8-5 Midnight Bisou in the Ogden Phipps (G1) in early June after those underwhelming performances, and Midnight Bisou’s season really took off after she won convincingly.

Serengeti Empress rolled to an impressive win in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff behind elder rivals. Covfefe, the champion female sprinter, earned 3-year-old filly honors, but Serengeti Empress established herself as the premiere 2-turn filly in her division.

She took all the pressure and wound up a fine second when returning in the Sam Houston Ladies Classic against three graded stakes-winning rivals, and Serengeti Empress cornered impressively when galloping to victory in the Azeri last time.

Come Dancing and Cookie Dough will try to keep her company on the front end, but Serengeti Empress won’t be trailing any rivals during the early stages. The classy Tom Amoss-trained miss should dismiss the other speed by the far turn, and Serengeti Empress will take another step forward at age 4 with a wire-to-wire triumph in the Apple Blossom.