Scully: Farmington Road one of Saturday’s plays at Oaklawn
A couple of compelling stakes races highlight Saturday’s 12-race program at Oaklawn Park, including the $200,000 Oaklawn S. for 3-year-olds. Originally scheduled for May 2, the 1 1/8-mile test will feature a field of 13, and I will take a stand against the top two choices on the morning line.
#4 Thousand Words is listed as the 5-2 favorite in the Oaklawn S. (race 11). Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the Pioneerof the Nile colt stamped himself as a highly promising sort when opening his racing career with a pair of game wins, including the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). However, Thousand Words did not move forward at age 3 when producing low Brisnet Speed ratings (92-83) in the Bob Lewis (G3) and San Felipe (G2). He could appreciate getting out of California, and improve upon an unplaced effort last time with a minor award, but Thousand Words will be an enormous overlay and must find a way to finish faster at short odds. I will let him beat me.
#1 Basin will make his second start back for Steve Asmussen, and the Hopeful (G1) winner can flatter Nadal after a non-threatening third in the Rebel (G2). He will be asked to travel an extra sixteenth of a mile after weakening badly last time, registering only a 69 Brisnet Speed rating, and must work out a trip from a difficult rail post. Basin could be prominent from the start with Florent Geroux picking up the assignment, but with plenty of speed to the outside in the starting gate, he looks vulnerable on the stretch out and will be left off my tickets.
#12 Farmington Road is my top selection. Granted, the outside post isn’t ideal, but I do think the Quality Road colt will work out a better trip after being too far back early, and cornering ridiculously wide on both turns, in the first division of the Risen Star (G2). Todd Pletcher, a five-time winner of the Arkansas Derby (G1), will add blinkers to keep his charge more focused in the early stages, and Farmington Road utilized pace-stalking tactics when easily breaking his maiden at Tampa Bay two back. His Speed and Late Pace numbers continued to increase last time, and Farmington Road looks poised to move forward off a sneaky fourth-place effort in his stakes debut.
A couple of other runners of interest include #5 Sir Rick and #8 Taishan. Sir Rick will face a class check, but the Paynter colt has improved significantly in the last two outings and will look to steal the race on the front end for Robertino Diodoro and David Cohen. Taishan faltered in a couple of stakes attempts after a nice maiden win last fall, but he enters on the upswing for Richard Baltas after rebounding with a sharp wire-to-wire allowance score over the track. The Twirling Candy colt will look to factor from just off the pace with Joel Rosario retaining the mount.
Here are some additional thoughts on Saturday’s card:
Race 9, Oaklawn Mile S.
The $150,000 Oaklawn Mile is the first stakes event, and a salty field of 14 is set. We won’t get the 3-1 morning line on #3 Tom’s d’Etat, but his price may not be too short with the money-burning Improbable taking plenty of action on the far outside. Tom’s d’Etat’s career has been marked by long layoffs, but I really liked how he came on last fall with stylish victories in the Fayette (G2) and Clark (G1). And I’m excited the 7-year-old horse is remaining in training for Al Stall Jr.
He will cutting back in distance, but Tom’s Etat won his last start at a mile and has the positional speed to ensure a good trip with the short stretch at the one-mile distance. His Brisnet Speed and Late Pace numbers are terrific, and he’s won off a lengthy layoff previously. I won’t go against him.
If playing vertical exotics, #8 Bankit looks worth including given his late punch and the potential for a good setup.
Races 4 & 6
A pair of one-mile entry-level allowances will be offered on the undercard, and I will look to build multi-race tickets around logical contenders in each spot.
In the 4TH race, #5 Blackberry Wine will not be a prohibitive favorite due to the presence of Scabbard, and I like his chances on the front end. Bet down to 4-1 in the first division of the Risen Star two back, Blackberry Wine should receive a favorable trip with his speed and prove too fast for these rivals.
In the 6TH race, #6 Giocare invades for Pletcher after posting a solid maiden win over 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream. The Curlin colt has posted triple-digit Late Pace numbers in both outings, including a 110 last time, and Geroux takes the call. Giocare can continue to progress with another strong showing.
A 1 1/16-mile maiden for 3-year-olds is sandwiched between the stakes races, and bettors will spread in the 12-horse field from a multi-race perspective. I’ll be watching the tote board because it’s easy to envision #12 Hunt the Front (6-1 m/l) graduating with a better trip Saturday.
Hunt the Front established a good stalking position and wound up a commendable second when rallying over a speed-favoring track on the opening-day program. I didn’t understand what Channing Hill was doing last time, dropping back into a different area code during the opening stages of a Feb. 29 maiden, but the Revolutionary colt launched an eye-catching move on the far turn and carried his run to the wire finishing a clear second to General Trev, who was an impressive maiden winner in my estimation and came back to run well in a tough allowance last Saturday. I love the jockey switch to Rosario, who shouldn’t lose contact with the field, and trainer Nick Zito (1-for-31 at Oaklawn) may help the price on Hunt the Front.