Oaklawn Park: The Grade II, $600,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles
#2 Carve: Lightly raced gelding looked like a new horse last time off the Asmussen claim, when he exploded in deep stretch with the addition of Lasix in an optional claimer to run his career mark to 2-for-2, with both wins coming over the track and distance. Beautifully bred son of First Samurai gets thrown into the deep end of the pool today, but he drew perfectly, and aside from heavy favorite Super Ninety Nine, the others haven’t exactly broken the speed of sound in any of their races. Point being, at a nice price with a ton of upside and affinity for the track, you’re allowed to think he can bridge the gap in his stakes debut; expecting a big run.
#1 Treasury Bill: Stretchout sprinter is somewhat intriguing due to the fact that he ships in for Ellis, who rarely heads outside California or runs his horses over their heads, so that alone should at least make you look a little closer. Son of Lemon Drop Kid closed stoutly to finish second in Santa Anita’s GII San Vicente last month, while tackling winners, not to mention stakes foes, for the first time, so you know he’s got some quality to him. He’s sure bred for this middle distance and he’s got a speedy stablemate (Title Contender) to ensure some fast splits, which also helps his chances; not impossible for part.
#3 Texas Bling: The first of a trio of runners exiting last month’s track and distance GIII Southwest saw the wheels come off in the slop that day when he finished a well-beaten ninth, a month after he was necked out by fellow rival Will Take Charge in the local Smarty Jones. Handicappers will have to ask just who is showing up today, while also taking note that the horse who beat him a country mile in the Southwest—Super Ninety Nine—is back here as well, along with a slew of talented new shooters; tough to tout.
#4 Delhomme: Talented Pletcher colt makes his first start at 3 after stretching out and running a game third in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen to end his juvenile campaign in November. That race, once thought of as arguably the best 2yo event of the season, has come under scrutiny this year as race winner Overanalyze was a dreadful fifth as the favorite in Aqueduct’s GIII Gotham March 2, and third-place finisher Normandy Invasion was a disappointing, albeit extremely troubled, fifth in Fair Grounds’ GII Risen Star February 23. So, needless to say, this guy has some questions to answer as he tackles a tough field off a long layoff, all at an underlaid price; mixed signals in this corner.
#5 Hardrock Eleven: Longshot heads north on the interstate after failing to fire at well over 100-1 in the Risen Star, and his prospects don’t look much better against this group. One-time winner is still eligible for a N2L and it’s not like he would scare anyone in that spot, either; enough said.
#6 Den’s Legacy: The first of two from Baffert has been building his resume—and bankroll—by nabbing some smaller slices against some California heavyweights, and now he heads to the Midwest to try and grab a big price for local owners Westrock. On paper his second-place finishes behind Goldencents and Flashback in a pair of SA GII’s look pretty solid; both of that pair waged their own personal war against each other in last weekend’s GII San Felipe out West and came up wanting in the stretch, so you have to wonder just where this colt stands? On paper he’s one of the ones who can win this if he improves, and we all know Baffert wins essentially every time he ships to OP, but not sure this son of Medaglia d’Oro is good enough; using underneath, if at all.
#7 Will Take Charge: The first of two from Lukas couldn’t get untracked when sixth in the Southwest, some 18 lengths behind ‘Ninety Nine, which came on the heels of an extremely wide, winning trip in the Smarty Jones. So was it the slop, a bounce or simply the tougher company that did him in last month? Likely it was a combination of the three, which means he’s better than that 18-length drubbing but not quite good enough to threaten the top of heap here; minor award appears to be his ceiling.
#8 Stormy Holiday: Late-running son of Harlan’s Holiday was a late addition to the field for Robertson, who has enjoyed a stellar meet, though he starts one of the longer shots in this deep GII. Exits a fourth in the local six-furlong Gazebo, and his lone two-turn try was a similar finish behind a few of these in the Smarty Jones, so on paper, you can see why he wasn’t planning on showing up here to begin with; needs softer to threaten.
#1a Title Contender: Former Baffert runner makes his first start for Catalano after setting the pace before blowing a 3-length lead late in Carve’s win, in what was his seasonal debut. Speedster has trained forwardly for his new barn and should be involved throughout, but if he couldn’t handle Carve, who is not one of the favorites today, it’s going to be tough to deal with the big guns; seems destined to ensure a fast pace for his stretch-running entrymate.
#9 Oxbow: Lukas’ main man sure looked good running off in deep stretch in FG’s GIII Lecomte in January, then ran a better-than-it looked fourth in the Risen Star, which solidified his status as one of the better 3yo’s in training. Versatile runner can run from on or just off the pace, which gives new rider Smith plenty of options from this outside draw. He also gets to walk out of his own stall today, as opposed to shipping down the road to New Orleans, which can’t hurt a colt who has every right to run another biggie while potentially sitting a dream trip; call to post the mild surprise.
#10 Super Ninety Nine: Baffert’s second runner ran off and hid by 11 ¼ lengths in the sloppy Southwest when he coasted on a loose and lonely lead and relished a track that a lot of others didn’t. Things could be a bit different today, however, as he might have to prove it over fast ground from a tough post, all while facing eons better than he did last month. Of course, he’s been arguably the fastest horse in the country since stretching to two turns, and he showed in a sharp SA optional claiming win that he can stalk if need be, too, so it’s not like he’s one-dimensional. On paper they all have to improve open lengths to beat him, but from a tricky draw at an underlaid price, you’re allowed to try and do just that; tabbing him second-best today.
#10 Super Ninety Nine