June 23, 2024

Plainsman, Thomas Shelby rematch on tap in Essex

Plainsman wins the Razorback Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

Essex H. (G3) — Oaklawn Park Race 9 (6:10 p.m. ET)

A pair of stakes for older horses, both upgraded to Grade 3 status for 2022, are the highlights on Oaklawn Park’s Saturday program this week.

The $500,000 Essex H. (G3) over 1 1/16 miles bears a strong resemblance to last month’s Razorback H. (G3) over the same distance. Plainsman and Thomas Shelby occupied the top two slots throughout and were separated by a neck at the finish of the Razorback after a prolonged stretch duel.

Plainsman, who was winning his fourth stakes since last June, will concede an additional pound Saturday to Thomas Shelby, a front-running six-year-old who has lost three stakes at Oaklawn this winter by a length or less. Popular Kid, third throughout in the virtual Razorback carousel, also returns for the Essex.

Rated R Superstar, beaten a neck by Silver State in the 2021 Essex, was undoubtedly compromised by a slow start in the Razorback. Although a closer by nature, the nine-year-old was 15 lengths adrift of the lead at the first call and simply left himself with too much to do. By the finish, he had whittled the deficit to less than three lengths.

The ability of Rated R Superstar and others to make a case late could be aided by the presence of Warrior’s Charge, who snapped an extended losing streak in late January with a dominating allowance win over the track and distance. The veteran also tends to show speed, and has a bit of back class having won the Razorback and placed in the Oaklawn H. (G2) two years ago.

Also in the lineup are Grade 3 veteran Title Ready and Beau Luminarie, who won or placed in all 11 starts last season.

The $200,000 Whitmore S. (G3), formerly the Hot Springs but renamed in honor of the recently-retired champion sprinter of 2020, is the six-furlong supporting feature on Saturday.

Greeley and Ben, who has won 16 of his last 21 starts, including all three outings so far this year, will face eight rivals. Among these are Bob’s Edge, a 2 3/4-length winner of the King Cotton S. in late January, and Hollis, a three-time allowance winner over the local track, including a Feb. 20 dash over No Shirt No Shoes.

Also exiting an allowance win is Royal Daaher, who netted a 100 Brisnet Speed rating for his wire-to-wire victory on Feb. 19.