For a listed stakes race with a mere $100,000 purse, Saturday’s Fifth Season on opening weekend at Oaklawn Park has proven surprisingly popular at the entry box. So much so that the 1 1/16-mile prize for older horses will be run in two divisions.
The first division (Race 5, 4:08 p.m. ET) has attracted a classy eight-horse field with six proven stakes winners in the fray. The late-running Sonneteer, who nabbed the 2018 Fifth Season, has plenty of local experience and figures to start among the favorites. The Keith Desormeaux-trained 6-year-old contested the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) and has been breezing steadily for his first start since a close sixth-place effort in the June 8 Brooklyn Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park.
Snapper Sinclair, upset winner of the Tourist Mile on grass at Kentucky Downs, also warrants respect while dropping in class out of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Clark (G1). Meanwhile, 2017 Lecomte (G3) winner Guest Suite, 2018 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) champion Remembering Rita, 2018 Canadian Derby (G3) winner Sky Promise bring serious back class to the fray
The second division of the Fifth Season (Race 8, 5:38 p.m) is even deeper. 2019 Lukas Classic (G3) winner Mocito Rojo, 2018 Ben Ali (G3) champion Rated R Superstar, 2017 West Virginia Derby (G3) winner Colonelsdarktemper, and 2019 Tenacious S. winner Pioneer Spirit all have the talent and credentials to win on their best day.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly Bravazo, who came within a half-length of upsetting Triple Crown winner Justify in the 2018 Preakness (G1). Conditioned by D. Wayne Lukas, Bravazo failed to challenge off a long layoff in the Clark (G1) on Nov. 29, but after competing in 10 straight Grade 1 races, the drop in class for the Fifth Season, might be just what he needs to rebound.
Another highlight of the Saturday card at Oaklawn is the $100,000 Pippin (Race 7, 5:09 p.m.) for fillies and mares traversing a mile. The 11-horse field is packed with stakes-experienced fillies, and Notapradaprice looms among the most formidable after romping to a 6 1/2-length triumph in the Dec. 21 Blushing K. D. Stakes at Fair Grounds.
But Notapradaprice is far from a shoo-in for victory. Irish Mischief, runner-up in the Charles Town Oaks (G3), and Gold Standard, beaten just a half-length when second in the Remington Park Oaks (G3), represent a dangerous duo from the barn of Brad Cox. Also bound to attract wagering support is Lady Suebee, who ships in from California off a third-place effort in the Bayakoa (G3) at Los Alamitos. Whoa Nellie, a three-time allowance winner for respected trainer Larry Jones, adds further depth to this competitive field.