Emily Gullikson takes a look at the Oaklawn Park March 18 card and provides her OptixEQ analysis.
#1 SHACKLEFORD COUNTY holds upside making her second start of the Oaklawn Park meet and from the Jan. 30 trip. Her 84 OptixFIG fits in RANGE this afternoon and as shown in OptixNOTES capable IMPROVE off that sixth-place effort. In that race she broke slow (SLOG), which is not something she has a habit of doing, and capable to race closer to the pace this afternoon. That is worth considering with her position on the PLOT and EP RunStyle that should see her closer to the early pace this afternoon.
The Diodoro pair of #1 PIONEER SPIRIT and #5 CHRIS AND DAVE present as pacesetters (Quad I/III) and could see a scenario that could set up runners from off the pace and present value with the public support gravitating towards that pair. Chris and Dave ran a solid race, B OptixGRADE with the ground loss (X_WIDE) trip 19 days ago, though some regression could be present given the effort, trip, and quick turnaround here. Pace could be another component even as placed well on the Plot as a Large Square, he could be forced to use from Quad III to keep pace with stablemate Pioneer Spirit and #7 ARRIVAL in Quad I.
#4 EASY SHOT can be upgraded on Surface/Distance as a Quad II Square and has upside coming into this race making his third start of the form cycle. He benefit from the return race sprinting at this $50k claiming level (B- OptixGRADE) and stepped up with the added ground in the Feb. 27 allowance race, the common race with Chris and Dave last month. As shown in OptixNOTES the FOG was heavy impacting the visuals and the trip for many in that event.
#6 LAUGHING FOX also holds some upside and sits favorable in terms of trip as a Square in Quad II. He finds a subtle upgrade with that Shape as his Jan. 30 race at this claiming level. He was positioned in Quad II as well, however a Circle that afternoon. With that change in play here, his races suggest he can compete against today’s group. #2 COAL TRUTH sits in a similar spot to Easy Shot and Laughing Fox, however, presents as Quad IV today, a big change from his recent starts this meet when seated in Quad II. It is worth noting connections scratched out of the Temperance Hill S. last weekend to run this spot. While this is softer, he will still have to contest with the step up in class today as well as with that trip from a less-than-ideal spot for him to compete. Similar pace concerns for #3 CASHANOVA a much deeper Quad IV closer position with today’s Contention and SpeedRate.
#7 AUBERGE does have some challenges in this spot as she returns from a 411-day layoff and a notable barn change racing today for Michael Stidham having previously been trained by Bob Baffert. The Stidham barn has taken over some of the training of the Speedway horses with stablemate Roadster making a similar return (378-day) in the New Orleans Classic (G2) on Saturday at the Fair Grounds. As shown on OptixPLOT, Auberge could present as pace advantage this afternoon based on her Quad I position. This spot, and with the assertive Ricardo Santana aboard, could just be the combination to find success today. Given those noted changes, the value should be present to compensate her in this spot. That also comes with the competitive nature of this field and with public attention expected to gravitate elsewhere.
#6 WILDWOOD BEAUTY is listed as a mild morning line favorite and, while capable to win, she does not hold an edge. #2 OCEAN BREEZE was impressive (B+ OptixGRADE) in overcoming adversity to win her season debut here on Feb. 2. That said, the trip did force her to work harder than necessary in what should have been a much easier return win. #4 LADY ROCKET could present upside as well making her second start of the meet. She was a bit one-paced (PLODDY) in her place finish on Jan. 29 and as a result will race here with the blinkers added today. #3 READY TO RUNAWAY could be upgraded based on her position on the Plot, however, does have some challenges coming back off the 190-day layoff and to this higher allowance condition.
Similar layoff concerns for #1 LEXI ON THE MOVE, though it is favorable to see Diodoro point her back to Oaklawn Park, where she has been the most competitive in her races to date. Stablemate #8 CHERISHED has similar layoff concerns returning from a 104-day layoff here and has to show she belongs at this class level with her prior form a bit soft for this allowance condition. #5 SARA SEA should not be forgotten here and often is as she projects to be a big price this afternoon. She holds some edge over others here in terms of recency making her third start of the meet and form cycle. Her races this season as shown in the Past 3 Runlines earned the B- OptixGRADES and recorded OptixFIG in RANGE.