by EMILY GULLIKSON
Emily Gullikson analyzes OptixEQ plays for Saturday racing at Oaklawn Park.
#3 WHENTHEDOVESCRY will make his first start for sharp connections this afternoon. This will be his first start here at Oaklawn Park (despite being an Arkansas bred) and does have to transfer his from to this circuit. With that said his tactical speed can be a major asset here (well-placed in Quad I on OptixPLOT) and a chance to take the field gate-to-wire in the opener.
#1 GOOSE DRANK WINE has some upside from his recent 9th place finish at Turfway Park and placed to be more competitive this afternoon. His trip back on December 20th was not one that was overly obvious in terms of excuse though did have to race in traffic moving a bit early to try and improve position, a move that hurt him late. While he was unable to hold position in the lane, he kept trying. The move back to conventional dirt should be favorable and with his run style looks to get the right stalk-and-pounce trip.
His main challenge could come from #4 AQWAAM and #9 NOLA WIN both coming out of the December 20th race at Churchill Downs and will make their first start off the claim for their respected connections. NOLA WIN finishing 4th and ahead of AQWAAM ran a grinding type race, even a bit on the ploddy side. That tends to be his style, and one that could just be right for today’s race shape. AQWAAM faded to 9th in that common race though some factors in play that could suggest upside off the effort. As the second choice in the wagering he was making his return after more than a year, 370-days, a first for the claiming tag, and returning to a sprint. Those factors create challenges on their own, and trip did him no favors either. He broke slow and from between horses moved a bit early to recover. Unable to do so or hold position ultimately losing ground in the lane. He returns in a similar spot here (class/surface/distance) and capable to move forward just getting that first start off the layoff out of the way.
#2 GUEST SUITE could play the upset role in here as he has races fast enough to compete with the others in this field as well as some sneaky back class. He showed ability to start his career and even a brief presence on the Derby trail after winning the G3 LeComte in 2017, though failing to pick up the necessary points and suffering some layoffs after. Since then he has been looking for his place in the racing scene. He was claimed back in October by Contreras and has since picked up a win with a solid 104 OptixFIG back at Churchill Downs on November 24th. He will return to the main track here coming off a could minor placings over at Turfway Park, holding his form coming into this stakes event.
#3 SNAPPER SINCLAIR was favored in this stakes event last year (when held in April on the Apple Blossom undercard) though failed to get into the race after the slow start and wide trip. He will look for redemption this afternoon and certainly capable to do so. He finds class relief, and necessary relief, coming out of the two Grade 1 races back in November.
#6 SONNETEER has been a regular here at Oaklawn since his early racing days and since picking up the place finish at 112-1 in the G2 Rebel Stakes back in 2017 while still a maiden. It would be another four months before breaking his maiden though after doing so returned to Oaklawn Park in 2018 with the upset 29-1 win in this 5th Season Stakes event. He will return to Oaklawn Park here coming back from the layoff (231-days) and capable on his best day to make some noise once again.
#5 BRAVAZO has been well overdue for a win (most recent win 2018 Risen Star [G2]). He has been holding his own against some of the tougher older horses in training, and will find some class relief coming out of the steady string of Grad 1 races into this stakes event. This will also be his second start of the form cycle coming off the wide trip in the G1 Clark. In terms of class and speed figure (OptixFIG well in Range/OFR) for this event. In terms of trip he projects to find a favorable one tracking just off the pacesetters #6 PIONEER SPIRIT, #7 COLONELDARKTEMPER and #8 SEVIER. That stalking trip looks to be similar and upgrades G3 Lukas Classic winner
#2 MOCITO RITO looking to rebound following that win from his two most recent races.