Jan 15, 2004
By: Joe Girardi
Oaklawn opens its doors for its 100th season on January 23rd 2004 and the meeting runs through April 10th 2004. This season may be its best yet. With three different products to offer the racing fan, live, simulcast, and Instant racing Oaklawn will definitely enjoy a great meeting in 2004. There is also going to a $5 million Oaklawn Centennial Bonus. This bonus can be attained by any horse that can sweep the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. This bonus matches that of the Triple Crown bonus that is given out to any horse that sweeps the Triple Crown. In addition to that bonus the purse for the Arkansas Derby will be doubled to $1 million dollars. Oaklawn is really pushing their three year old program with purse increases of the Rebel Stakes from $125,000 to $200,000 and a purse increase in the Southwest Stakes of $75,000 to $100,000. The increase in purses and the bonus that will be offered to any three year old that can sweep all three races is sure to attract some of the nation’s top three year olds. The money is just too much not to take a shot at.
Instant racing is slot machines with a twist. It offers all the bells and whistles associated with slot machines (literally and figuratively) while being completely pari-mutuel, and based on actual racing. It is pari-mutuel wagering on racing but in an electronic format. Similar to the VLT’s that have generated so much revenue for many tracks across the country, Instant racing has done the same for Oaklawn. This has helped increase purses for the horsemen and thereby making the live races more competitive as the fields get larger.
As always the highlight of the meeting will come on the final day, April 10th when they host the Arkansas Derby. The week prior to that on April 3rd, Oaklawn will host the Oaklawn Park Handicap and the Apple Blossom Handicap, both will carry a purse of $500,000 and will start off the final week of racing.
Before playing this year’s Oaklawn meeting let us take a look at some of the results from last year and try to find some solid betting opportunities. Last year’s leading jockey was Jamie Theriot who had 71 wins but really impressed with a win percentage of 27.7%. His in the money percentage was 55.1%, easily the best of any jockey with at least 10 mounts. He will probably be played at the windows this year based on his success last year but it is hard to argue with that kind of percentage.
When looking for some value Don Pettinger is one that comes to mind. He doesn’t win a huge amount of races but his total of 21 last year was good enough for 8th place and the winning percentage of 16.2% was solid enough to make some money. Also his in the money percentage of 46.2% was third best among the top jocks and he can round out some exotics at a nice price.
When handicapping trainers at Oaklawn it is almost going to be impossible to beat last year’s leading trainer, Cole Norman. He won the meeting with the same number of wins as the leading jockey and his win percentage of 30.5% was higher as was his in the money percentage of 57.9%. He bested second place finisher Stanley Roberts by 49 wins. His horses are almost always overbet so it will be tough to bet on him. However, if the opportunity presents itself there may be a chance to get some value betting against some of his horses.
One trainer to look at when handicapping trainers is Michael Tomlinson who had a solid meeting with a limited amount of runners. He had six wins from 17 starts for a solid winning percentage of 35.3% and an in the money percentage of 64.7%. He should be one to watch at this year’s meet also.
Another trainer that is interesting at this year’s meeting is Ron Moquett. With five wins from 101 starters his win percentage was only 5%. However, he did have 16 second place finishers and 17 third place finishers to boost his in the money percentage to 37.6%. If he can turn around some of his second and third place finishers at this year’s meet he can offer big time value to the player.
If handicapping jockeys and trainers are not your cup of tea the best way to try and beat Oaklawn Park is to use your trusty American Turf Club, always giving you the best horse racing knowledge around.
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