American Turf Magazine
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Jan 19, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


          As Oaklawn Park readies for another season beginning January 19, 2007, the American Turf Club will take at look at some highlights for the meeting which runs through April 14th, 2007.

          The opening day stakes race, the Dixieland, a $50k stakes for three year olds going five and a half furlongs, gets the meeting off to a flying start. A few weeks into the meeting Oaklawn will host the $100k Essex Handicap for four year olds and upward at 1 and 1/16th miles. On Monday, February 19th the road to the Kentucky Derby starts in the Southwest Stakes for three year olds at a distance of one mile with a purse of $250k.

          On March 9th the Razorback Handicap for four year olds and upward at 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $200k will continue the handicap division and the following day the Azeri Breeders’ Cup for four year olds and upward fillies and mares to be run at 1 and 1/16th miles will be run with a purse of $175k. On March 17th the three year old stakes continue with the Rebel for three year olds at 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300k will be run in the second of three prep races for the Kentucky Derby.

          Three weeks later on April 6th the Fantasy Stakes which is a big prep for the Kentucky Oaks will be run at the 1 and 1/16th miles distance for three year old fillies with a purse of $250k. The very next day Oaklawn will host two $500k stakes races with the Oaklawn Park Handicap at 1 and 1/8th miles for older handicap horses and the Apple Blossom at 1 and 1/16th miles for fillies and Mares.

          On closing day April 14th there will be two $100k races for three year olds, the Northern Spur Breeders’ Cup for three year olds at one mile and the Instant Racing Breeders’ Cup for three year old fillies also at one mile; however the highlight of the day and of the meeting is the Arkansas Derby for three year olds at 1 and 1/8th miles distance with a purse of $1 million dollars. This race has been a big stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby in recent years with SMARTY JONES sweeping all three stakes for three year olds and then went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. In 2005, AFLEET ALEX won the Arkansas Derby, finished third in the Kentucky Derby and then went on to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Last year’s winner LAWYER RON was one of the top contenders for the Kentucky Derby but didn’t perform well but did run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November for new trainer Todd Pletcher. The quality is there at Oaklawn and the racing seems to get better with each year.

          If you’re playing the races at Oaklawn this season and want to look at the human connections let us look at last year’s standings. The jockeys’ race was very close last year as John Jacinto (45) held on to win by one win over Luis Quinonez (44). Jamie Theriot, finished seven back of Jacinto with 38 wins but the win percentage 17% was higher than the top two jockeys. Terry Thompson (37) and M. Clifton Berry (34) are two hard hitting veterans that always are ones to watch. A few jockeys that had a rough time of it last year were Roman Chapa, who was 1 for 30, Travis Hightower who was 0 for 38 and John Lejeune who went 0 for 28, they might be some to play against unless they can turn it around early on.

          The leading trainer last year was Cole Norman with 40 wins, five more than Steve Asmussen, but Asmussen had a better win percentage with 24% compared to Norman’s 18%. Those two trainers were easily better than the third place finisher Robert Holthus who had 18 wins. Larry Jones, Ronny Werner, John Cox, and Thomas Amoss are all solid trainers that win at high percentages and must be followed when playing the races at Oaklawn. Good Luck!



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