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Jan 18, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               The Oaklawn 2013 meeting gotunderway on Friday January 11th and it runs through Saturday April 13th. The 56 day meeting will race every Thursday through Sunday and they will have live racing on two Mondays during this time. Monday January 21st, Martin Luther King day and Monday February 18th, Presidents day.

               Oaklawn has become a winter destination for three year olds that are on the trail to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown. The Smarty Jones Stakes, a race named after a horse that rolled through the three year olds stakes here back in 2004, than went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before finishing second in the Belmont in his bid for the Triple Crown. That race is for three year olds and will be run at a mile with a purse of $150,000, on January 21, 2013. The Southwest Stakes, the next race for three year olds will be run on February 18th. It is a Grade III and it is run at a slightly longer distance of 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300,000. The Grade II Rebel is run just about a month later on March 16th, that is a Grade II race, run over 1 and 1/16th miles and that will carry a purse of $600,000. All of those races will lead up to the highlight of the meeting and one of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby and that race is the Arkansas Derby, a Grade I, run over 1 and 1/8th miles and that will carry a purse of $1,000,000. Expect to see plenty of the top three year olds compete in this race for a shot to race in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

               In addition to the top races for the three year olds Oaklawn will also host races for other divsions. The Razorback on March 9th, a Grade III for four year olds and upward at 1 and 1/16th miles carrying a purse of $150,000 will be a prep for the Grade II Oaklawn Park handicap on April 13th. That race will be run over 1 and 1/8th miles and will carry a purse of $500,000 should see plenty of the top handicap horses flocking to Oaklawn for this race.

               The three year old fillies are not left out of the stakes schedule when it comes to Oaklawn as they will host four stakes races, similar to those leading up to the Arkansas Derby, these races will lead to the Grade II Fantasy Stakes on April 10th. On Saturday January 12th, the Dixie Belle stakes for three year olds will be run over six furlongs with a purse of $60,000. That race will serve as a prep for the Martha Washington Stakes on February 9th, again for three year old fillies run at one mile with a purse of $75,000. That race will then lead into the March 9th Honeybee Stakes, a Grade III for three year old fillies run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $150,000. These three races all will lead up to the Fantasy Stakes with hopes that will propel these runners to the Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May for three year old fillies.

               Lets take a look at how some of the jockeys and trainers fared at last year’s meeting and who to look for this year when going to the windows.

               In the jockeys standings we saw Cliff Berry come home first with 50 wins for the meeting scoring by just four wins over Terry Thompson. Expect to see those two fight it out again for top honors. Cliff Berry finished with a 19.7% winning percentage a very respectable number as well as 44.1% in the money. Carlos Marquez Jr. and Israel Ocampo, who finished with 17.2% and 14.1% winning percentages respectively are two that might come in under the radar at the windows and can offer some value if you are just looking to play jockeys. The most popular jockey that was supposed to ride at this meeting, Calvin Borel, will be sidelined for several weeks after breaking a bone in his left wrist. He is likely to return riding at Oaklawn when he heals but according to his agent, Jerry Hissam, there is a chance he could comeback at the Fair Grounds. Borel is just one win shy of 5,000 for his career so he has that milestone waiting for him upon his return.

               In the trainers standings we saw trainer Steve Asmussen take home another title last year scoring with 36 of his 162 starters for a solid win percentage of 22.2%. Allen Milligan had a very good meeting finishing second with 32 wins, just four behind the leader. Even though Asmussen does win at a high percentage, his horses tend to get overbet and we may look elsewhere for some value. Chris Richard, had 17 wins but a winning percentage of 26.2% and an in the money percentage of 47.7%. Michael Tomlinson is another to take a look at when playing trainers at Oaklawn, he only started 39 horses but 8 of those horses won for a 20.5% winning percentage. His in the money percentage was not that much higher at 33.3% so it might be prudent to use his horses just on the win end. Ingrid Mason is another who had a good meeting, 10 wins, a 16.7% winning percentage and an in the money percentage of 46.7%. However you decide to play Oaklawn Good Luck! If you are looking for more help our February issue of American Turf Magazine has plenty of Oaklawn coverage. Call 1-800-645-2240 to order or go to www.americanturf.com



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