Horse Racing Picks for Saturday: Best Value Bets at Oaklawn Park (April 11)

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While there aren’t many tracks still running, Oaklawn has a great card for us on Saturday. There are two non-graded stakes races on the card: The first is stacked with graded stakes winners and the second, which is the feature, guarantees a spot in the starting gate for the Arkansas Derby — a Kentucky Derby qualifier.

I’ve decided to focus on the late Pick-5 sequence, so let’s dive in.


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Race 8

5:12 p.m. ET

First up in the sequence is a $61K Allowance race for four year olds and up at a distance of one mile with 12 runners.

Let’s start toward the outside with No. 9 Proverb (9-2), who is trained by Richard Baltas and ridden by Joel Rosario. Last time out was the first off the layoff for Proverb, where he finished in third by 1¾ lengths over a sloppy track. In that race he lacked room, but finished well. Today, he gets the benefit of a drop in class and one of the top riders in the world in Rosario.

With it being the second off the layoff, dropping in class, getting Rosario aboard and hopefully working out a better trip, I’m making Proverb my top choice.

Next we have a longshot in No. 2 All West (20-1). Trained by Wayne Catalano, All West will have Joe Talamo in the saddle. He broke his maiden in impressive fashion last time out, kicking clear to win by four lengths. Since then, he’s posted three strong workouts, the most recent being a bullet five-furlong work. The speed figure number that All West posted in his maiden score is good enough to win this race, and at this price, I’m going to include to him.

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Race 9

5:43 p.m. ET

Race 9 is the first non-graded stakes race. With a purse of $150K, the Oaklawn Mile Stakes is for four year olds and up and as its name mentions, will be run at one mile. The full field of 14 has four graded stakes winners and another four who are graded stakes placed.

While this is the deepest and most competitive field of the day, it also features my best bet of the day: No. 3 Tom’s d’Etat (3-1). He’s coming in off a four-month layoff, but won his last two starts, both graded stakes races. Tom’s d’Etat has nine wins, two seconds and one third in 16 career starts. He has posted triple-digit speed figures in six consecutive starts, which is more triple-figure speed figures than any other horse in the race. This will be the third straight start that Joel Rosario will be in the irons.

Between his class, win streak, speed figures and Rosario aboard, Tom’s d’Etat is my top pick and best bet of the day.

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Race 10

6:14 p.m. ET

Race 10 is a $60K maiden special weight race for three year olds at one 1/16 miles. We have yet another full field of 12, with three of them being Triple Crown nominated.

We’ll start with the lukewarm morning-line favorite, No. 10 Dean Martini (7-2). The gelded son of Cairo Prince is trained by Brad Cox and will have Talamo up. Dean Martini hasn’t been able to break his maiden in six career starts, but has been competitive with three seconds and two thirds. In his most recent start, he was caught 5 wide at the 7/8ths pole, but finished willingly, missing by 1¾ lengths. This was Dean Martini’s first start after a two-month layoff and it was the first time Talamo was aboard.

Due to his competitive running style and this being his second start off the layoff, where Cox is winning at 29%, he’s going to be my top pick.

No 12. Hunt the Front (6-1) has been competitive, finishing second in both starts as a three year old. The Nick Zito trainee was no match last time out, but was able to make up 15 lengths from last to finish second. Hunt the Front will get Rosario aboard for the first time. Rosario has a magical way of timing his ride with closers like Hunt the Front. He’s one that I’m including in my ticket.

The last horse worth a look is No. 4 What a Country (8-1). In his only career start he finished second by 13 lengths, but was clearly second best as he finished 7¼ lengths ahead of the third place finisher. Jockey Joe Johnson put What a Country in a good spot, but he was no match for the winner. While losing is never impressive, it was a good first career start and if he continues to move forward here, he has a chance at a nice price. He’s another one that I’ll be including.

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Race 11

6:48 p.m. ET

Next we have the feature, the $200K Oaklawn Stakes for three year olds. It will be run at 1⅛ miles and serves as an automatic qualifier for the Arkansas Derby for the top-three finishers, with their entry fees paid. Ten of the 13 in the field are Triple Crown nominated.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Saturday’s race was added for these horses as the Arkansas Derby (which was moved to May 2) would typically be this weekend.

We’ll start with a look to the rail with No. 1 Basin (7-2). He’s trained by Steven Asmussen and will have Florent Geroux in the irons. Basin has two wins, one second and one third in four career starts.

In his last start, Basin finished third by 7¾ lengths behind Nadal in the Grade 2 Rebel. Basin ran into some traffic at the quarter pole and was shuffled back because of it. After that, he had no chance of catching Nadal. The Rebel was his first start off a more than six-month layoff, so while the finish was disappointing, it seems as though it was also a tune up to prepare for the Arkansas Derby.

Asmussen wins at 19% second off the layoff and Geroux has four wins in 11 starts during the current meet at Oaklawn. While the rail can be a tough spot, getting Geroux will help as he’s one of the nation’s top jocks. Basin will be my top pick here.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Trainer Bob Baffert.

Oaklawn is Bob Baffert’s home away from home, and he’ll be sending out No. 4 Thousand Words (5-2). After winning his first three career starts, Thousand Words finished a disappointing fourth by 11 lengths last time out in the Grade 2 San Felipe. It looked like the connections were pointing him toward the Santa Anita Derby, but with Santa Anita being shut down, they shipped him here, most likely to prepare him for the Arkansas Derby.

As previously mentioned, Baffert does really well with shipping horses from the west coast to Oaklawn, and while his most recent start was disappointing, you must include Thousand Words here.

No 8. Taishan (8-1) is coming in off an easy 4¾ lengths win against optional claiming company. Trainer Richard Baltas gave him some class relief after running in back to back graded stakes races, never finishing better than fourth. Last time out was the first time Rosario was aboard this son of Twirling Candy. He also significantly improved his speed figure last time out and if he’s able to build off of that, while this is a step up in class, he has a chance at a nice price in here. I’m including him in my ticket.

Finally we will go toward the outside to No. 12 Farmington Road (6-1). The son of Quality Road is trained by Todd Pletcher. He’s coming in off a two-month layoff after a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. In that race, he was caught 5-6 wide on both turns and was 8 wide in the stretch, but was still able to make up ground late. If jockey Martin Garcia is able to work out a better trip, watch out for his closing kick late as there should be plenty of pace for him to run into. Farmington Road is another I’m including.

[Bet now at TVG and get your first bet 100% risk-free up to $300.]


Race 12

7:19 p.m. ET

We close out the action with a $50K optional claiming event for four year olds and up, non-winners of two, with a field of 12.

Let’s start with the favorite, No. 10 Sonny Smack (7-2). In his last start, he went off as the favorite against similar company, but was no match for the eventual winner, finishing second by 4 lengths. Sonny Smack is trained by Don Von Hemel, who wins only 8% of the time, but is having a good meet with three winners from 16 starters. His speed figures suggest he stands a big chance in here, and while I’ll be including him in my ticket, he’s not my top pick.

Just to his inside is No. 9 Cashanova (8-1). Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Talamo, Cashanova is coming in second off a 10-month layoff. He was off slow in his most recent start, but rallied to finish third by 3 lengths. Cox is sending out winners 29% of the time second off the layoff, and him and Talamo have teamed up 43 times over the last 60 days, winning 23% of the time.

Cashanova has three career starts at Oaklawn, with two firsts and one third. Prior to the layoff, he had won two in a row, and with a better start he should move forward in this spot. He’s my top pick in here.

No 3. Hunka Burning Love (15-1) is a longshot that I’m including. He finished fifth by 3¼ lengths in his last start against this same company. In that start he had a number of excuses as he was rank early and in traffic at the 7/8ths pole. He’s one of the speed horses in the race, and if he can settle early, Hunka Burning Love could steal one on the front end.


Betting Picks for Oaklawn Park, April 11

Race 8

  • Win: 9
  • Pick 5: 2,9/3/4,10,12/1,4,8,12/3,9,10

Race 9

Win: 3

Race 10

  • Exacta box: 4,10,12

Race 11

  • Win: 12
  • Exacta: 1,12/1,4,8,12
  • Trifecta: 1,12/1,4,8,12/1,4,8,12

Race 12

  • Win: 9
  • Exacta box: 3,9,10

[Bet now at TVG and get your first bet 100% risk-free up to $300.]

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