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Jan 21, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


Oaklawn Park opened its doors again on Friday January 21st, 2005

 and the meeting will run through Saturday April 16th, 2005. With the

 huge impact that SMARTY JONES had on the racing industry, it all

started at Oaklawn Park. This has brought a lot of excitement to the 2005

 meeting and hopes again for another try at a Triple Crown.

            The meeting started off with a small stakes race on Friday

 January 21st, the $50k Dixieland stakes at a distance of 5 and ½ furlongs.

 The first important stakes of the meeting will be on February 19th in the

 Southwest Stakes; last year’s winner was SMARTY JONES, who went on

 to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Along with the Rebel

(March 19th) and the closing day $1 million Arkansas Derby, these three

races consist of the Road to the Triple Crown for Oaklawn Park. The $5 million

dollar bonus that was offered last year to SMARTY JONES will not be

offered this year again but the million dollar purse of the Arkansas Derby and

 the fact that SMARTY JONES used Oaklawn as his winter home there

will be some quality three year olds racing at the Spa in 2005.

            On April 9th the older horses come into play with the $500,000

Oaklawn Park Handicap for four year olds and up to be run at 1 and

1/8th miles. Last year’s winner was PEACE RULES who was one of the

 better handicap horses from 2004. Look for more of the same this year

as GHOSTZAPPER, Breeders’ Cup Classic hero may find his way to

Oaklawn for this race. The fillies and mares get their due on the same day

with $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, for four year olds and up at 1 and

1/16th miles. AZERI made a triumphant return to the race with a huge win

 that started off her 2004 campaign, which saw many impressive wins and

ended with a fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against the males.

 That was her third Apple Blossom in a row but with her retirement there

 will be a new champ this year.

            Last year’s leading jockey was John Mckee who had 71 wins with a

winning percentage of 18%. His in the money percentage was 50% which

 makes him one to watch when playing exotics. The second place finisher

 was Tim Doocy who was 19 wins behind with 52. Third place was a tie

 between Jamie Theriot and Roman Chapa who both visited the winner’s

circle 49 times. A couple of jockeys that both rode over 100 horses last

year that didn’t have a great meeting were James Lopez and Robert

 Williams. Lopez was 9 for 101 for a 9% winning percentage but he moved

 his in the money percentage way up to 40%. Robert Williams on the other

 hand could only manage 3 wins from 117 mounts, for a 3% winning

percentage. This should be a very competitive meeting from a jockey’s standpoint.

            Moving to the trainers it looks like it will again be two trainers

 to decide the title. Last year’s top two trainers were Cole Norman and

 Steve Asmussen. Although Norman was an easy winner last year with 56

 wins as compared to Asmussen’s 33, Asmussen had a much higher

 winning percentage. Norman was 56 for 205 with a winning percentage of

27% and an in the money percentage of 55%. Asmussen was 33 for 79

with an impressive winning percentage of 42% and a solid in the money

percentage of 73%. Robert Holthus who finished third with 27 wins is

probably just trying for third place again. Asmussen who broke the record

for most wins in a year should make it interesting between him and Norman.

 Although both Norman and Asmussen will win the bulk of the races they

will no doubt take the bulk of the money so when playing the races some

 trainers to look for that can offer value are Michael Tomlinson and

Lynn Whiting. Tomlinson had 9 wins and a winning percentage of 27% and

 an in the money percentage of 48%. Whiting on the other hand had 8 wins

 and a winning percentage of 24% and an in the money percentage of 58%.

 These two trainers win at a high percentage and can offer values at

the windows.

            Hopefully Oaklawn will have another strong meeting and produce

 another Derby and Preakness winner. For more information about Oaklawn

 Park and their upcoming events visit the website at www.oaklawn.com. Good Luck!

 



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