With the Gulfstream Park Championship Meet in the books as of last weekend, Oaklawn Park will have a virtual monopoly on the stakes-level racing allowed to be held in this pandemic-stricken country over the next four weeks. And has been the case throughout the winter, Oaklawn’s overnight program figures to remain strong and an enticement to bettors in its own right.
A glance at the Saturday program bears this out. As usual, the entirety of the 10-race card is a balanced mix of all class levels with a generally high number of starters per race. There’s also a sprinkling of shippers throughout the card from tracks that had to end their meets prematurely (e.g. Fair Grounds, Sam Houston) and from locales where racing has been temporarily halted (e.g. Kentucky, Fairmount Park).
The two most interesting races are the featured $100,000 Purple Martin, a 6-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies, and a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance for 3-year-olds, some of whom undoubtedly still have aspirations for $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) on May 2.
The latter comes first on the card as Race 8, and the marquee names are Answer In and Finnick the Fierce, who possess six and five Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points, respectively. Answer In, a head second in the Springboard Mile and a distant third in the Southwest (G3) in his season debut, is the likely favorite for Brad Cox.
Finnick the Fierce, who out-finished Tiz the Law when an 87-1 second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last fall, has not been as effective in backing up that form in two starts this season, finishing fourth in the Lecomte (G3) and seventh in the second division of the Risen Star (G2). A wet track could improve his chances, though, and there is rain in the forecast for Hot Springs on Saturday.
Also worth keeping an eye on in the allowance are Winning Impression, Fort Knox, General Trev, and Stackin Silver.
The Purple Martin features the Bill Mott-trained Frank’s Rockette, who broke her stakes maiden last time at Gulfstream with a seven-length romp in the $75,000 Any Limit on Feb. 22. The daughter of Into Mischief had placed second three times in graded company last season, including the Frizette (G1) and Spinaway (G1).
Other leading contenders include Edgeway, who zipped six panels in 1:09 taking her debut by five lengths at Oaklawn on Feb. 29 for trainer John Sadler, and the Wesley Ward-trained multiple stakes winner Kimari. The latter won on debut over the dirt at Keeneland by 15 lengths last April, but raced on turf the rest of the year, losing only the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot by a head and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) against the boys by a little more than two lengths.