Jan 09, 2009
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
Oaklawn Park opens its doors for 2009 on January 16th and the meeting runs through April 11th. Over the years Oaklawn has become a major track for winter racing. It used to be Gulfstream and Santa Anita but now Oaklawn will serve as one of the destinations that many trainers will use as their winter base. The lack of a turf course hurts their product some but with large fields and quality racing Oaklawn is a force to reckon with.
There are many promotions that Oaklawn will have over the course of the meeting but if you like corned beef sandwiches you must get out there for opening day. In addition to the traditional opening day feature stakes race, the Dixieland Stakes; you can get Oaklawn’s signature sandwich for just 50 cents. Soft drinks will be offered for just 10 cents— a real bargain.
Just a few days later on Martin Luther King Jr. Day you can get a free CURLIN bobble horse. In addition to the giveaway there will also be the Smarty Jones Stakes, the first distance race for Arkansas Derby bound three year olds.
The next big stakes race on the Triple Crown trail at Oaklawn will come on February 16th, when they host the Southwest Stakes, run at one mile with a purse of $250,000. Last year’s winner was DENIS OF CORK, who didn’t win any of the Triple Crown races but was second in the Belmont Stakes.
On March 14th the Rebel Stakes is the next race for three year olds run at 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300,000. It is worth noting that there is another race for three year olds at the end of February on the 28th run at six furlongs with a purse of $50,000. This race was won by AFLEET ALEX in 2005 before he went on to win the Arkansas Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes that year.
The highlight of the meeting will come on closing day April 11th, when the $1 million dollar Arkansas Derby will be run. This race is for three year olds at 1 and 1/8th miles and has been a key race when leading into the Triple Crown races. The week prior there are two $500,000 races with the Oaklawn Handicap for four year olds and upward and the Apple Blossom Handicap for fillies and mares four year olds and upward. This race was won by ZENYATTA last year as she established herself as the top filly in the country.
When betting Oaklawn from a human perspective lets take a look at the jockeys and trainers. Last year’s jockey’s race was right down to the wire with Eusebio Razo Jr. holding off Luis Quinonez by a 49-47 margin. Calvin Borel wasn’t not that far off in third with 42 wins. Cliff Berry and Timothy Doocy rounded out the top five with 38 and 33 wins respectively. Oddly enough there was not a jockey who rode there on a daily basis that had a win percentage over 20%. The highest win percentage was Razo Jr. with 19%. Mike Smith had an 80% winning percentage with only five mounts; he was home first in four of them with one second place finish. Follow this Hall of Famer if he makes any stops in Hot Springs.
The trainer’s race was also a good one but not as close as Steve Asmussen was home first with 33 wins and a winning percentage of 20%. Steve Hobby finished second with 26 wins but his winning percentage was 24% with an in-the-money percentage of 61%. Stanley Roberts checked in third with 23 wins and a winning percentage of 19%. The top five was rounded out by Jorge Lara and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas with 19 and 18 wins respectively. Unlike the jockeys there were many trainers over 20%. Larry Jones, Cody Autrey and Chris Richard are three to keep your eye on when going to the windows. Tom Amoss had only 13 starters last year winning with 3 and he had a very solid 85% in the money percentage.
For more information please visit Oaklawn Park’s website at www.oaklawnpark.com. Good Luck!
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