Horse Racing Picks for Saturday, April 18: Best Bets for Oaklawn Park
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There’s a great card today at Oaklawn, headlined by two graded stakes, the feature being the Grade I Apple Blossom at 6:16 p.m. ET. The action gets underway in Hot Springs, Ark. at 1:35 p.m. ET, but I am focusing on the late Pick-5 to build around the day’s biggest races.
4:42 p.m. ET
Race 7, which is a $61K Allowance for three-year-olds and up who have never won two races, will be run at 1 mile. It’s a deep and classy field of 10 horses. It kicks off the late Pick 5.
First, let’s take a look at the morning-line favorite, No. 5 Dessman (5/2). Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, this four-year-old son of Union Rags has one win and three second-place finishes from four career starts.
One of those second-place finishes was in the G2 San Vicente in February 2019 at Santa Anita. His most recent start was at the end of February of this year, missing by just 3/4 of a length. That was Dessman’s first start in almost a year and he’s been training well leading up to this spot.
Baffert’s horses are always live, especially at Oaklawn. I like Dessman in here, but he’s not my top pick.
Next, we will look to the rail with No. 1 Wild Popit (4-1). He has a win, one second and one third in three career starts. After about a year layoff, he came back to the track in late February where he crossed the wire in front, but was disqualified for drifting out and interfering with the second-place finisher.
In his most recent start, he won going away by two lengths to finally, officially break his maiden. This five-year-old son of Tapit, should appreciate the extra distance today and with his running style I’m making him my top pick in here.
The longshot that caught my attention was No. 4 Urban Light (15-1). There are a number of firsts for him in this spot; his first start for trainer Ignacio Correas, first start on the dirt, first start in a year, first start as a gelding and his first start in the US without blinkers. He’s been training well leading up to this race, most recently going four furlongs in 47 2/5 seconds.
Although there are a lot of firsts for Urban Light, that’s also what draws me to him. He’s been training since the beginning of the year and should be fresh and ready in this spot. At the price, I’m going to include him in my exotics.
5:14 p.m. ET
Race 8 is the first of two graded stakes races on Saturday’s card. The six-furlong G3 Count Fleet Sprint features a field of 11, nine of whom have won a graded stakes.
Towards the inside is No. 2 Flagstaff (7/2). He is trained by John Sadler and will have Joel Rosario aboard. Flagstaff has five wins, three seconds and two thirds from 11 career starts. This will be his first career start outside of California and third off the layoff, most recently winning the G2 San Carlos at Santa Anita.
Saddler is winning at a 19% clip when his horses are running for the third time off the layoff, 17% when shipping in and 22% in graded stakes races. Flagstaff’s stalking style should allow him to sit a perfect trip and get up at the wire for the win. He’s my top pick in here.
No. 4 Bobby’s Wicked One (3-1) is shipping in from Fair Grounds for trainer Albert Stall Jr. and bringing six wins, four seconds and a third from 15 career starts. He is coming in after back-to-back wins in non-graded stakes races. His most recent start was in mid-January where he went gate-to-wire, winning by 4 1/4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite. All six of his wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion.
Stall is winning at 25% coming in off a 90+ day layoff, 21% when shipping in, but only 9% in graded stakes races. While I’m including him in my ticket, there are a number of other speed horses in this race who are going to want the lead. If they get in a speed duel up front, it should set up nicely for our top pick, Flagstaff to pick up the pieces late.
The classiest and most well known horse in the race is No. 9 Whitmore (5/2). The seven-year-old gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect has 13 wins, 10 seconds and three thirds from 33 career starts. This will be his third start off the layoff. Most recently winning a non-graded stakes event here at Oaklawn, kicking clear after sitting a stalking trip.
He’s trained by Ron Moquett and will have Joe Talamo in the irons. Moquett is only winning at 10% in graded stakes races and 9% third off the layoff. Additionally, Whitmore hasn’t won a graded stakes race since 2018.
I’m betting against him in this spot.
5:45 p.m. ET
Race 9 is a six-furlong $50K optional claiming race for fillies and mares with a full field of 12.
Let’s start down on the rail with the morning-line favorite No. 1 Shanghai Tariff (5/2). She has six wins, six seconds and a third from 21 career starts and has four wins, four seconds and a third from 10 starts at Oaklawn Park.
In her most recent start, Shanghai Tariff, finished second by 2 1/4 lengths. This was her first start of her five-year-old campaign after a four-month layoff.
Since that start she’s put up a bullet five-furlong workout in 58.36 seconds. Trainer James DiVito wins 17% of the time second off the layoff and 18% in sprint races. Shanghai Tariff’s speed figures are good enough for her to win in this spot. She’s not my top pick, but I will be including her.
No. 8 Heavens Whisper (6-1) is coming in off back-to-back wins for trainer Paul Holthus and jockey Joe Talamo. She has 12 wins, four seconds and five thirds from 26 career starts with three wins, one second and one third coming from five careers starts right there at Oaklawn. Heavens Whisper was claimed three starts back and since Talamo has taken the reins she’s been undefeated.
Her stalking style should give her an advantage with the amount of pace in here. She also posted the highest speed figure in her last race compared to the entire field. With her win streak, stalking style, Talamo aboard and her speed figures, Heavens Whisper is my top pick in this race.
The other fillie I took a look at was No. 6 Break Even (3-1). Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Joel Rosario, she’s one of the classiest horses in the field. During her 2019 season, she won six in a row before finishing second in the G2 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga in August. She then went the sidelines until the end of February where she finished a disappointing 6th and last as the 4-5 favorite in a non-graded stakes event at Oaklawn.
Break Even is one of the other pace horses in this race and her post position has the potential to be troubling for her if she doesn’t get away clean or gets caught wide going into the turn with three other speed horses to her inside, including Shanghai Tariff.
Cox wins 30% of the time after the horse was beaten as a favorite in their last start and Rosario wins 28% in sprint races. If she can get back to her 2019 form, she has a big chance in here. I’m including her in my ticket.
6:16 p.m. ET
Race 10 is the feature, the G1 Apple Blossom Stakes. The 1 1/16 mile event is for fillies and mares four-years-old and up and we have a full field of 14.
All the way to the outside is No. 14 Ce Ce (7/2). She is trained by Michael McCarthy and will have Victor Espinosa aboard. Ce Ce has three wins and a second from five career starts. This will be her third start of her four-year-old season, winning her first two.
In her most recent start, Ce Ce won going away in the G1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita, where she sat a four-wide stalking trip and kicked clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths.
This will be her first start over a mile, but the distance shouldn’t be an issue. McCarthy wins 27% of the time when shipping in and 26% of the time third off the layoff. This is Espinosa’s only mount of the day so you know that he’s going to want to make the trip from California worth it with a win. Ce Ce is my top pick.
The other horse I like in here in No. 12 Go Google Yourself (12-1). The five-year-old daughter of Into Mischief has seven wins, five seconds and three third-place finishes in 19 career starts and is a perfect 2-for-2 at Oaklawn.
Trained by Paul McGee and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., this will be Go Google Yourself’s second start of 2020. In her first start of the season she won the G3 Bayakoa here at Oaklawn, kicking down her foe at the wire to win by a neck. Hernandez has been aboard her six times with four wins and two seconds.
Go Google Yourself has never missed the board at this distance, with four wins, three seconds and two thirds from nine starts. At the price, she’s one that I cannot leave off the ticket.
The lukewarm morning-line favorite is No. 4 Come Dancing (3-1). She moved to the D. Wayne Lukas barn after she wrapped up her five-year-old campaign with a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
She has eight wins and a pair of seconds from 14 career starts. Although Lukas is a Hall of Famer, he’s only winning at 9% during the current meet and only 6% coming off a 90+ day layoff. Due to her poor performance last time out, the long layoff and the barn change I’m betting against Come Dancing in this spot.
I would be remiss to leave No. 11 Serengeti Empress (4-1) out of the conversation. She won the Kentucky Oaks last year at 13-1, but couldn’t find the winner’s circle again in her three-year-old season. This will be the third start of the year for Serengeti Empress, with the most recent being a romp in the G2 Azeri Stakes, where she won by 6 1/4 lengths after being left alone on the lead early on and never looking back.
Trained by Tom Amoss, she will have Joe Talamo in the irons. If she gets the lone lead again in here, which is very possible, watch out as she could run away with this one just like she did in the Azeri. She’s one that I have to include here.
6:47 p.m. ET
The nightcap is a $50K claiming race for four-year-olds and up that will be run at 1 1/16 miles with a field of 12.
We will start down on the rail with No. 1 Timeline (4-1). Trained by Steve Asmussen, the six-year-old son of Hard Spun will have jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard. He has five wins, one second and three thirds from 16 career starts.
In his last start, which was the first off a three-month layoff, Timeline finished third by 3¼ lengths against tougher competition. He was caught four-wide on the second turn and lost second late. Asmussen wins 19% of the time second off the layoff, 21% when it’s the first time in a claiming race and 22% in claiming races, overall. With the drop in class and a better trip, Timeline stands a chance in here and he’ll be one I use.
Just to his outside is No. 2 Kurilov (7/2). He is trained by Brad Cox and will have Joe Talamo in the irons. Kurilov finished fourth by 8 3/4 lengths in his most recent start against tougher competition. His two starts prior were both against similar company and he won both of those races.
Cox wins 29% in claiming races and Cox and Talamo win 21% of the time when teaming up. The drop in class, Cox’s win percentage and having Talamo aboard are the reasons I’m making Kurilov my top pick in here.
Finally, we have No. 10 Matrooh (5-1). The 10-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor has 11 wins, three seconds and eight thirds from 41 career starts. Matrooh is trained by Robertino Diodoro and will be ridden by David Cohen.
Since being claimed three starts back, he has two wins and a third. The third-place finish was in his most recent start, where he was in traffic at the 3/16ths pole. Matrooh’s two wins prior came in front-running style, which seems to be his preferred way to win.
Diodoro is one of the meet’s top trainers winning with 25% of his starters. He also wins 28% of the time after the horse was beaten as the favorite and 27% in claiming races. Diodoro and Cohen have teamed up 71 times in the last 60 days and are winning at 21% during that stretch. Matrooh is one that I’m including in my ticket.
Bets for Oaklawn Park, April 18
- Win: 1
- Double: 1/2
- Pick 5: 1,4,5/2,4/1,6,8/11,12,14/1,2,10
- Win: 2
- Double: 2/6
- Win: 6
- Double: 6/14
- Win: 14
- Exacta box: 11,12,14