Saturday’s card at Oaklawn Park is one of the biggest of the spring. The 12-race program features some of the most important races of the meet, including a showdown between Letruska and Ce Ce in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.
That comes early on in the card, but the late Pick Four still holds plenty of intrigue. I’ll attack it with a $10.50 ticket, and here’s how I’ve put it together.
Going against the ninth-race favorite
The opening leg is a starter allowance event for older sprinters. I’ll start by taking a stand, as I’m not sold on 3-1 morning line favorite No. 7 Don’t Forget. His last race was impressive, but it was a pretty big step forward from his last several races. He may need to move forward again to win this, and at his likely price, I don’t think he provides value.
I’m going three deep, and my top pick is No. 6 Admirably. He’s shown an affinity for Oaklawn since coming here a few months ago, and he beat several of today’s rivals last time out. His versatility is a big plus, and I think he’s got a big chance to win his third race in a row.
I’ll also use No. 1 Drena’s Star and No. 5 Town Champ. None of these horses are huge prices, but I think they present attractive alternatives to an overbet favorite.
The first of two singles
One of my favorite negative angles comes in the 10th. This is an optional claiming race for older horses, and here’s a fun question. If No. 3 Eastside Cool is so well-meant, why is trainer Steve Asmussen also running No. 6 Allege?
Eastside Cool makes a lot of sense on paper, but that’s a big red flag. It’s a big reason my ticket instead singles No. 9 Go West, who broke his maiden at this route last month. That one’s run up against some talented horses in the past, and a few solid recent drills indicate he’s ready to go in his first start against winners.
If one of Asmussen’s pair scratches, I’d advise using the one that runs and doubling the cost of this ticket. However, as it stands now, I don’t think the presence of both is a ringing endorsement for either entrant.
The more popular single
The 11th is the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. It carries a $1 million purse, and as a result, it’s attracted some very talented older horses.
No. 8 Fearless is the 9-5 favorite, and I think he’s going to be tough to beat. He’s run three times this year, and his two losses have come to Grade 1 winner Speaker’s Corner. When that rival went to New York, Fearless capitalized with a romp in the Grade 3 Ghostzapper. He was a close-up second in last year’s renewal, and I think he may be better a year later.
Spreading in the Oaklawn finale
There’s no way around it: The 12th at Oaklawn Saturday is a mess. It’s drawn a full field of 12 Arkansas-breds, and I’m using more than half the field.
My tepid top pick is No. 4 Heritage Park, whose record looks far better if you toss his off-track races. Focus on races run over fast tracks, and you get a horse that’s 6-for-16 with four wins at Oaklawn. A repeat of his two-back effort may be enough to win this at a pretty nice price.
My ticket also includes No. 2 Macho Rocco, No. 5 Blame J D, No. 8 Whenthedovescry, No. 9 Ima Bling Cat, No. 11 You Vee Cee and No. 12 Goodnight Archie. It’s a confounding race on paper. Thankfully, back-to-back singles earlier in the sequence allow me to spread here without much of a burden.
The $10.50 Oaklawn late Pick Four ticket
R9: 1, 5, 6
R12: 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12