Blinkers Off 069: Oaklawn Recap and Weekend Racing Podcast Released

Blinkers Off Logo2Blinkers Off has released a new episode!

Blinkers Off provides weekly insights into the world of horse racing including race selections and previews, handicapping methods and exclusive stories.

You can view all episodes of Blinkers Off by visiting our podcast page.

COMING SOON: Stayed tuned for our brand new website and logo update! It will be a major upgrade across the board and we hope you all will enjoy it!

Blinkers Off 069: Oaklawn Recap and Weekend Racing – April 18, 2014

The Thoroughbred Racing Dudes recap the 2014 Oaklawn Park meet and preview the notable stakes races for the weekend, including the Grade II Charles Town Classic, Grade III Illinois Derby and Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes.



Oaklawn Swag Part 2: The Arkansas Derby

Here are some of the pictures we captured from the paddock area right before the running of the Arkansas Derby!  Enjoy!

Oaklawn Swag Part 1: A Tribute to Will Take Charge

Many of you have probably seen the amazing photo’s over the last year from Mike Sekulic, who captures Santa Anita like no one else can.  Well today we are posting pictures from our personal collection of last weekend’s action at Oaklawn Park.  WARNING…the pictures aren’t as good as Mike’s, but we still think you’ll enjoy him.  The first Oaklawn Swag post will be an all WILL TAKE CHARGE tribute post!  Tomorrow we’ll post an all Arkansas Derby picture collection.  Enjoy!

The 3rd Annual Racing Dudes Oaklawn Awards


Will Take Charge Winning the Oaklawn Handicap was the Moment of the Year

Horse of the Meet: Close Hatches – This was a tough award to decide on this year, but in the end it had to be Close Hatches who won based on the fact that she was the only horse to win more than one Graded Stakes race this meet.  With no standout three-year old, and Will Take Charge only running atOaklawn once, Close Hatches is the most worthy of the group.

Older Male of the Meet: Will Take Charge – He was our three-year old horse of the meet last year, and now he is our older horse of the meet this year!  Even though he only ran once at Oaklawn, he proved much the best out of the other horses in the Handicap Division.  He also put on a show for the locals every morning during training hours, as he was the first horse to hit the track each morning.  Many thanks to Willis Horton and D Wayne Lukas for running the horse once at his home track.

Older Female of the Meet: Close Hatches – Obvious choice here as she won both the Azeri and Apple Blossom.  The last horse to accomplish this feat was Havre De Grace, who went on to win horse of the year.

3 Year Old Male of the Meet: Tapiture – Another tough award to decide on, but in the end Tapiture got the nod over Ride On Curlin and Danza.  Tapiture wo nthe Southwest Stakes, nearly won the Rebel, and finished a decent fourth in the Arkansas Derby.  He now has lost some hype heading to Kentucky, but still made his presence felt in Hot Springs.

3 Year Old Female of the Meet: Sugar Shock – She was a courageous winner of the Fantasy Stakes, and crossed the line first in the Honeybee before being disqualified.  She’ll go up against much tougher next time out in the Kentucky Oaks, but there is no doubting that she was the best of the bunch at Oaklawn Park.

Sprinter of the Meet: Alsvid – Even though he didn’t win any of the sprint stakes at Oaklawn this meet, his consistent performances land him this award.  He was a solid second in the King Cotton, Hot Springs, and Count Fleet while others in the division had up and down moments.  You can bet this horse is due for a win soon.

Owner of the Meet: Danny Caldwell – An absolutely dominating performance by Caldwell as he won the owners title by nine races.  We had the privilege to get to know Danny early on in the season, and after meeting him it’s easy to see why he’s so good at what he does.  He’s one of the best claimers in the game, and puts in the time and effort it takes to be successful.  The award couldn’t have been won by a nicer guy.  Caldwell will be heading to Prairie Meadows next!

Trainer of the Meet: Steve Asmussen – Amongst all the controversy, Asmussen just kept on winning.  As usual he took the last two weeks by storm and crushed his competition once again.  This is Asmussen’s second straight Racing Dudes Award.  Also Asmussen’s assistant Darren Fleming deserves a mention as well as he looked over the stable for most of the year and always does a great job.

Jockey of the Meet: Ricardo Santana Jr. – Another guy who is receiving his second straight Racing Dudes Award.  Santana proved that last year was no fluke as he easily won the jockey’s title for the second straight year.  This is a guy who is getting better and better with every mount, and is a rising star in the game.

Flop of the Meet: Strong Mandate – It’s painful for us to admit it…but Strong Mandate never lived up to the expectations we had for him.  After running decent in the Southwest and Rebel, he was last in the Arkansas Derby and now sits on the outside looking in as far as the Kentucky Derby is concerned.  Hopefully he can regroup and regain his form.

Favorite Moment of the Meet: Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap – He pretty much stole the show on Derby day.  It was a thrill to see the home town horse win in front of all his fans.  Major shout out to Brady Lukas for allowing us get in the winners circle with one of our favorite horses of all time!

Restaurant of the Meet: TIE – Hawgs and Jahna’s – That’s right…we like to eat. The Dudes have been to many places in Hot Springs over the years, but Hawgs Pizza and Jahna’s Italian easily are the two best.  We highly recommend them to anyone who visit’s the Hot Springs area.

Race of the Meet: The Rebel Stakes –


Oaklawn Report #14

Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap

Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap

Three Stars of the Week

– 1st Star: Will Take Charge (KY) – The home town horse didn’t disappoint his 63,000+ fans when he won the Oaklawn Handicap in typical heart stopping Will Take Charge fashion!  Up the back stretch there were some anxious moments as at one point he fell to last place, but at the top of the stretch he made his signature move and passed them all while holding off a late run from Revolutionary to win by a length.  He also survived a lengthy inquiry for interference in the stretch, which is a topic that is still being debated today.  Never the less the Oaklawn Handicap was the moment of the meet, as this horse will go down as one of the most popular horses to ever run at Oaklawn Park.

– 2nd Star: Danza (KY) – What a shocker!!  Danza went off at 41-1 in the Arkansas Derby, and romped to a four and a half-length victory.  Jockey Joe Bravo was able to give Danza a flawless rail skimming ride, and when asked the question he simply left the others in the dust.  It’s hard to say whether he can bring that kind of effort next time out in the Kentucky Derby, but if he does he could be a real threat.  Trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t have the best of records in the Derby, but this colt could be peaking for him at the right time.

– 3rd Star: Close Hatches (KY) – This champion returned to Oaklawn after taking the Azeri last month, and basically ran the same exact type of race in the Apple Blossom, winning once again.  There is no questioning this is one of the star older female in the group, and should be able to compete successfully against heavy hitters Princes of Sylmar and Beholder as the season goes along.  Close Hatches will be pointed towards the bigger races in New York over the summer, perhaps starting off on Belmont Day.

Flop of the Week

Tapiture (KY) – Considering that almost everyone thought at the very least this horse would run respectable, it was quite the surprise when Taptiure ran a flat fourth in the Arkansas Derby.  He made a decent move on the turn, but was just unable to make any kind of late run down the stretch.  Perhaps the added distance hurt him which is something we’ve seen with Tapit colts in the past.  He’s still qualified for the Kentucky Derby, but this loss was troubling.

Trainer Standings

Rank Trainer Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Steven M. Asmussen 157 35 32 18 $1,859,450 22% 85 54%
2 Federico Villafranco 82 25 18 8 $590,127 30% 51 62%
3 Chris Richard 89 23 11 12 $607,695 26% 46 52%
4 Brad H. Cox 70 18 11 13 $683,976 26% 42 60%
4 Cody Autrey 112 18 22 19 $564,877 16% 59 53%
6 Chris A. Hartman 91 17 18 11 $621,412 19% 46 51%
7 Joseph R. Martin 87 13 9 15 $278,958 15% 37 43%
8 Ron Moquett 109 12 10 8 $479,032 11% 30 28%
9 D. Wayne Lukas 91 11 9 10 $939,788 12% 30 33%
9 Randy L. Morse 86 11 10 10 $412,414 13% 31 36%

Jockey Standings

Rank Jockey Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Ricardo Santana, Jr. 292 59 49 30 $2,561,193 20% 138 47%
2 David Mello 216 35 31 26 $896,278 16% 92 43%
3 Ramon A. Vazquez 181 32 24 22 $912,786 18% 78 43%
4 Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 235 31 33 35 $1,169,595 13% 99 42%
5 Jon Kenton Court 178 26 19 18 $999,460 15% 63 35%
5 Terry J. Thompson 202 26 22 24 $942,814 13% 72 36%
7 Luis S. Quinonez 173 22 19 17 $837,749 13% 58 34%
8 Ken S. Tohill 172 22 31 19 $819,373 13% 72 42%
9 M. Clifton Berry 149 21 13 18 $793,547 14% 52 35%
10 Jareth Loveberry 197 19 23 19 $559,735 10% 61 31%

Owner Standings

Rank Owner Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Danny R. Caldwell 80 24 18 8 $579,267 30% 50 63%
2 Maggi Moss 53 15 8 8 $298,260 28% 31 58%
3 Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. 55 13 9 4 $351,710 24% 26 47%
4 Steve Landers 68 11 12 12 $221,335 16% 35 51%
5 Steven M. Asmussen 39 9 10 5 $163,041 23% 24 62%
6 Ulwelling, Al and Bill 35 8 5 3 $185,314 23% 16 46%
7 Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC 20 7 5 1 $623,626 35% 13 65%
7 Zayat Stables, LLC 34 7 4 3 $378,337 21% 14 41%
7 Martin Brothers, Inc. 35 7 4 2 $105,391 20% 13 37%
10 William Stiritz 47 6 3 1 $206,856 13% 10 21%

Arkansas Derby Race Replay




Racing Dudes Handicapping Challenge: Halterman vs. Black vs. Rapko


Welcome to another week of the Racing Dudes Handicapping Challenge! Each weekend we select 8 to 10 races from around the country and offer up a little handicapping challenge to anyone interested. We’ve received a massive amount of interest to take on the Dudes! So much so that we’ve had to resort to drawing randomly to see who gets to take on our back-to-back defending champ Mr. Halterman (Dude #1). Everyone will get a shot! And now, we’re adding one more challenger each week!


Fake $2 Win/Place wagers ($2 to Win and $2 to Place) and (1) mandatory $4 Win/Place wager will be made on the horse a player selects in each race. Only one horse may be selected per race. If a player’s horse wins, the player score is credited on both the Win and Place payouts. If the horse finishes second, the player score is credited only on the Place payout. And just so we’re clear, all wagers and payouts from races are NOT REAL and will be used for scoring purposes only.

In the event of a late scratch or change of track conditions, players may change picks provided given race has not started. If picks have already closed, the scratched horse will be replaced with the post-time favorite for that race.

Past results:

Week 1: Aaron Halterman (Dude #1) defeats Kelby Von Hemel $43.60 – $21.00

Week 2: Paul Mazur defeats Dude #1 $25.00 – $17.80

Week 3: Aaron West defeats Dude #1 and Paul Mazur $31.30 – $28.80 – $8.00

Week 4: West defeats Dude #1 and Oaklawn Wizard $53.30 – $27.00 – $25.60

Week 5: West defeats Dude #1 and Chance Moquett $42.40 – $37.40 – $22.20

Week 6: Dude #1 defeats West and Zack Gillham $68.00 – $49.80 – $35.40

Week 7: Dude #1 defeats Nicolle Neulist and Brady Lukas $30.00 – $29.20 – $13.80

This week’s challengers:

Jared Black

imageJared is 23 years old and a Finance/Business Management major at Henderson State University (graduating in May) where he also played college golf for 4 years.

Jared started going to the races with his dad when he was 3 years old and now visits Oaklawn once a week. His family actually owns racehorses as well. His favorite track besides Oaklawn is Delta Downs because of the huge payouts. You can find him around the paddock area when Danny Caldwell has a horse running, as he is in the “Danny Caldwell Fan Club” along with Justin Lewis (@JustinLewisLR).

His favorite wager is the Win/Place bet. Show money is no good! His biggest win was a 60/1 winner at Delta Downs last year! You can follow him on Twitter at @JaredWBlack.

 Ryan Rapko

Ryan Rapko was born, raised, and still lives in Aliquippa, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. Ryan started getting involved in handicapping in the Summer of 2008 after getting a job at his local OTB. He taught himself how to wager and how to read the form. For the past 6 years, he has continuously been improving his handicapping skills whether it would be wagering and learning from acquaintances at the OTB or from his long time good friend @Whattasurprise.

He bets a variety of wagers, but mostly likes to focus in on Win/Place, Pick 3’s, and Pick 4’s. His biggest day of wagering came at the 2012 Kentucky3utkoze65ytt9ucoudds Derby. He cashed 2 Pick 3’s totaling roughly $2,500 as well as the Exacta and Trifecta in the Derby for another $1,500.

If he is not wagering online, Ryan can either be found at either Mountaineer Park or the Meadows Casino reading the form, building tickets, and cashing winners. His favorite tracks he would like to visit someday are Del Mar, Saratoga, Keeneland, and Gulfstream.

Outside of racing, Ryan enjoys watching and wagering on sports. He is a fan of the Yankees, Big Blue Nation, and the Chargers. He is also a fan of the WWE.

Currently, Ryan is partaking in a mythical bankroll challenge for the Keeneland Spring Meet. He posts full card selections, Challenge Plays that affect the bankroll, and, after each racing day, updated stats. All of this, as well as other horse racing handicapping thoughts, can be found on his twitter page @Chuckles375.

Challenge races:


1  Toyota Blue Grass S. (4:45 CT)

2  Arkansas Derby (6:07 CT)


3  Keeneland Race 6 (2:40 CT)

4  Keeneland Race 7 (3:11 CT)

5  Keeneland Race 8 (3:42 CT)

6  Santa Anita Park Race 4 (4:00 CT)

7  Keeneland Race 9 (4:13 CT)

8  Santa Anita Park Race 5 (4:30 CT)

9  Santa Anita Park Race 6 (5:00 CT)

10  Santa Anita Park  Race 8 (6:00 CT)


Dude #1
KEE R11 #5 (Off) #4 (Off) #3 (3rd)
OP R11 #3 (Off) #4 (2nd 7.00) #8 (3rd)
KEE R6 #8 (2nd 4.80) #6 (1st 6.80 3.60) #6 (1st 6.80 3.60)
KEE R7 #1 (2nd 4.60) #1 (2nd 4.60) #7 (3rd)
KEE R8 #3* (1st 11.20 6.80) #2 (Off) #3* (1st 11.20 6.80)
SA R4 #7 (Off) #2 (2nd 4.60) #7 (Off)
KEE R9 #3 (2nd 4.00) #9 (Off) #6 (Off)
SA R5 #6 (2nd 3.00) #6 (2nd 3.00) #3 (1st 5.20 2.60)
SA R6 #1 (1st 11.40 6.60) #8* (Off) #8 (Off)
SA R8 #5 (1st 5.60 3.00) #5 (1st 5.60 3.00) #5 (1st 5.60 3.00)
Score $61.00 $38.20 $44.80

* Denotes player’s $4 Win/Place wager

You think you can hang with the big boys (or girls)? Want to take the winner? Shoot us an email by visiting our contact page and let us know you’re interested! We’ll even plug your website, blog, Twitter feed, handicapping skills, etc. And who knows… defend your title long enough and we may even throw in a prize!


Weekend SimplePlays™, Free PPs and Dudes Challenge

Can Bayern win the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby?

Can Bayern win the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby?

The final HUGE weekend before the Kentucky Derby has arrived! Whether it’s the Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Handicap or Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, we’ve got you covered with FREE picks and SimplePlays™ at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland!

And if that’s not enough track coverage, here are even more weekend SimplePlays™ featuring Aqueduct, Pimlico and Gulfstream Park:

Saturday Cards

SimplePlays™ Single Day Cards for April 12, 2014 at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.

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Sunday Cards

SimplePlays™ Single Day Cards for April 13, 2014 at Pimlico and Gulfstream Park.

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Weekend Cards (Combined) 20% off!

SimplePlays™ Single Day Cards for April 12, 2014 at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.

SimplePlays™ Single Day Cards for April 13, 2014 at Pimlico and Gulfstream Park.

Buy Now

We also offer SimplePlays™ each and every race day at KeenelandOaklawn Park and Fonner Park.

About SimplePlays™

Using the information created by our custom, systematic approach, we give you a product that shows exactly how and what the Dudes bet at the track. With SimplePlays™ you not only receive your traditional Win, Place, and Exacta wagers, but also suggested multi-race (Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6), Trifecta and Superfecta wagers for every race on the card!

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Free Past Performances

Oaklawn Park

G1 Arkansas Derby

G2 Oaklawn H.

Northern Spur S.

Instant Racing S.


G1 Toyota Blue Grass S.

G1 Madison S.

G1 Jenny Wiley S.

G3 Shakertown S.

G3 Commonwealth S.

Santa Anita Park

G2 Potrero Grande S.

G3 Las Cienegas S.

Racing Dudes Handicapping Challenge

Each Sunday we host what’s called the #DudesChallenge. We select 8 to 10 races from around the country and offer up a little handicapping challenge to anyone interested in taking on the Dudes! Fake $2 Win/Place wagers ($2 to Win and $2 to Place) and (1) mandatory $4 Win/Place wager is made on the horse a player selects in each race.

This week we’ve decided to incorporate the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby into the mix! The challengers picks can be found below and make sure to tune in tomorrow to check out the remaining challenge!

Dude #1
KEE R11 #5 (Off) #4 (Off) #3 (3rd)
OP R11 #3 (Off) #4 (2nd 7.00) #8 (3rd)


Blinkers Off 068: Racing Festival of the South Podcast Released

Blinkers Off Logo2Blinkers Off has released a new episode!

Blinkers Off provides weekly insights into the world of horse racing including race selections and previews, handicapping methods and exclusive stories.

You can view all episodes of Blinkers Off by visiting our podcast page.

COMING SOON: Stayed tuned for our brand new website and logo update! It will be a major upgrade across the board and we hope you all will enjoy it!

Blinkers Off 068: Racing Festival of the South – April 11, 2014

The Thoroughbred Racing Dudes preview the entire Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park including the Grade I Arkansas Derby and Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap. The Dudes will also take a visit to Keeneland and preview all the stakes racing including the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes.


Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) Preview

1. Danza

DanzaRace Record:(3) 1-0-2


Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:One of two Pletcher entries kicks us off as we move through this competitive field of nine!  Pletcher won this race last year with Overanalyze, but Danza comes in lightly race and needs to step up big time to compete.  He’s had just one race since August of last year.  In his lone start this year he was third in an allowance at Gulfstream, so it’s hard seeing him beating this talented group.

2. Knock Em Flat

Oaklawn 2011Race Record: (5) 1-2-0


Jockey:Luis Quinonez

Trainer:Donnie K Von Hemel

Graded Stakes Victories: 0

The Verdict:Tough to see how this one can match up class wise with most of these.  I think the light bulb finally came on last time out in his crushing maiden win, but this will be asking too much.  He is cross entered in a smaller stakes earlier on the card, and that should probably be where he ends up

3. Tapiture

tapRace Record: (6) 2-2-2


Jockey:Joel Rosario

Trainer:Steve Asmussen

Graded Stakes Victories:2

The Verdict:He was the clear-cut winner of the Southwest Stakes, and with a clean trip he probably would have won the Rebel Stakes as well.  He currently sits at number two on our Kentucky Derby rankings list, and deserves favoritism in this race.  The son of Tapit has gotten a mile and one-sixteenth without any problems at all, and I think he’ll stretch out to this distance fine.  Likely winner with the right trip.

4. Ride On Curlin

ROCRace Record:(8) 2-1-4

Earnings: $214,687

Jockey:Jon Court

Trainer:William Gowan

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:We saw a major progression from him last time out in the Rebel Stakes, as he battled with Strong Mandate all the way around the track before finishing a close third.  The workouts since that race have been huge, and many locals are picking this horse to pull off the upset.  We know the breeding is there, and we’ve seen flashes of brilliance talent wise, but can this “wise guy” horse get it done on the big stage?

5. Thundergram

Oaklawn 2011Race Record:(6) 1-3-1


Jockey: Norberto Arroyo Jr.

Trainer:Mark Casse

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:Curious spot for him to land…especially since trainer Mark Casse has a much more worthy competitor in Conquest Titan.  You can’t see much in the past performances that gives Thundergram any kind of a chance against this tough bunch of runners.

6. Commissioner

Commissioner_Top-Billing_Coglianese-684x533Race Record: (5) 2-1-1


Jockey:Mike Smith

Trainer:Todd Pletcher

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:I’m not ready to give up on him just yet!  Commissioner will finally get off of a track that favors speed when he runs in this one, and should benefit greatly from it.  He’ll need a little pace to run at, which he should get, and I love the mile and one-eighth distance for him.  Many people think the horse is too slow, but I believe the tracks he’s been running on made him look that way.  He’s my long shot pick!

7. Conquest Titan

ConquestTitanSwynfordStakes2013MB298Race Record:(7) 2-1-0


Jockey:Calvin Borel

Trainer:Mark Casse

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:While most have jumped off he Commissioner bandwagon, I’ve jumped off the Conquest Titan bandwagon.  Actually I was never on it to begin with.  I’ve never seen why this one had all the hype that he’s had, and I’ll make him beat me before I believe.  It is a little scary that so many still believe in him though…if you are one of those people maybe you can comment on this preview and explain why.

8. Bayern

bayern1Race Record:(2) 2-0-0


Jockey:Gary Stevens

Trainer:Bob Baffert

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:File this one under the “wouldn’t be surprise with anything” category.  He’s a wild card in every sense of the word.  Lightly raced, been off for a while, but he’s showed a tremendous amount of talent.  I’ve heard lots of comparisons to Bodemeister this week, but Bode came to Hot Springs off a second place effort against a tough stakes field.  Bayern comes in off an easy allowance victory.  That lack of seasoning might keep him from winning.

9. Strong Mandate

Strong MandateRace Record:(7) 2-1-1


Jockey:Luis Saez

Trainer:D Wayne Lukas

Graded Stakes Victories:1

The Verdict:It’s put up or shut up time for Strong Mandate.  There is no question he had legit excuses when finishing third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile and second in the Southwest Stakes, but his fourth place effort in the Rebel with a perfect trip was concerning.  His breeding suggests he can run all day, but his races suggests one turn races are best of him.  He truly is a question mark.


The Apple Blossom Handicap (Grade 1) Preview

1. Close Hatches

Close Hatches

Race Record: (9) 6-2-0

Earnings: $1,487,300

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Bill Mott

Graded Stakes Victories: 4

The Verdict: Have to love the way Mott came to Oaklawn Park last time for the Azeri to test the waters before committing to this race.  He was rewared for the decision as Close Hatches was a decisive winner of the Azeri, and now you have to love her chances in this one.  The field has come up a bit short, and there is absolutely no doubting who the class of this race is.  If she shows up with here “A” game…they are all running for second.

2. Rose to Gold

Rose to GoldRace Record: (12) 6-1-0

Earnings: $963,509

Jockey: Calvin Borel

Trainer: Sal Santoro

Graded Stakes Victories: 3

The Verdict: Against ungraded or Grade 3 company Rose to Gold has been very impressive, but she is yet to tackle tougher competition with much luck.  Her race two back in the Houston Ladies Classic had me thinking she had taken a big leap forward, but she went backwards next time out finishing seventh in the Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream.  She does hold two victories at Oaklawn Park, but I don’t look for her to make it three.

3. Stanwyck

Stanwyck_NYRARace Record: (13) 3-2-5

Earnings: $304,250

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Graded Stakes Victories: 1

The Verdict:Trainer John Shirreffs thrilled the masses at Oaklawn twice by bringing the great Zenyatta to the Apple Blossom, but make no mistake…this is not Zenyatta.  Stanwyck has just one graded stakes win to her credit, however she has run decent in her last couple of races against graded company; finishing third in both the Santa Maria and Santa Margarita Stakes.  Maybe she is a late developing horse, but she won’t be good enough here.

4. On Fire Baby

On Fire Baby Oaklawn 2012Race Record: (13) 5-1-1

Earnings: $761,974

Jockey: Joe Johnson

Trainer: Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage

Graded Stakes Victories: 4

The Verdict:The defending Apple Blossom champion is back again this year, and should be ready to fire a big race!  Last time out Close Hatches soundly defeated On Fire Baby in the Azeri Stakes, but it was clear On Fire Baby needed that race.  Now she should be fit and ready to roll, and with the home track on her side I give her a small chance to pull off the upset.  She’s clearly the logical alternative if you don’t want to play Close Hatches at low odds

5. Let Faith Arise

LetFaithAriseSantaMargarita2014BEN298Race Record: (10) 5-2-1

Earnings: $380,284

Jockey: Corey Nakatani

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Graded Stakes Victories: 1

The Verdict:She’s coming into this race off a Grade 1 victory, but you have to question the toughness of the field she faced last time out.  This one has always ran solid races, but not until recently has she moved up to Graded Stakes company at bigger tracks.  Perhaps another that is a late bloomer, but I just can’t see her matching up well with a horse like Close Hatches.