May 25, 2024

Older males garner spotlight in Oaklawn Handicap, Ben Ali, Elkhorn

Red Route One became a graded winner and millionaire in the West Virginia Derby (Photo by Coady Photography)

Older horses will be in the spotlight in Saturday’s graded stakes action at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland, the most lucrative feature being the $1.25 million Oaklawn H. (G2) over 1 1/8 miles.

Betting in the 11-horse Oaklawn fixture is likely to settle around Red Route One and Skippylongstocking. Red Route One enters off a two-length win in the New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds, his first victory since the West Virginia Derby (G2) last August. The Steve Asmussen trainee has a win and two seconds in four prior runs over the Oaklawn strip, the win coming a year ago in the Bath House Row S.

Multiple graded winner Skippylongstocking shook off the effects of his Pegasus World Cup (G1) in January to claim the March 9 Challenger (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs for the second year in a row. The well-traveled son of Exaggerator notably captured the Charles Town Classic (G2) last summer before finishing third to Horse of the Year Cody’s Wish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

Octane and Magic Tap, one-two in the Feb. 24 Razorback H. (G3), figure to get some support, as should the Bob Baffert-trained Reincarnate, third in the Santa Anita H. (G1) most recently. However, a pair of more lightly raced contenders might offer more appeal.

Highland Falls had won three of four before finishing fourth in the Santa Anita H. in his stakes debut, and the son of Curlin remains with upside for trainer Brad Cox. Instant Coffee, who landed the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Lecomte (G3) earlier in his career, can move forward off a third-place effort in allowance company at Gulfstream in mid-February in what was his first start in nearly 11 months.

At Keeneland, nine older horses will travel 1 3/16 miles in the $300,000 Ben Ali (G3). The morning line favorite is Kingsbarns, the 2023 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner who captured his season debut in early March against allowance foes at Gulfstream going seven furlongs. Also expected to attract play is last year’s Suburban (G2) victor Dynamic One and the newly-gelded Smile Happy, a multiple graded winner for trainer Kenny McPeek.

Earlier in the card, Bold Act figures to be an overwhelming favorite to give Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby another graded win on turf this meet in the $350,000 Elkhorn (G2) over 1 1/2 miles.

Bold Act traveled to Keeneland last fall and captured the Sycamore (G3) by three parts of a length as the favorite. The son of New Approach has since won the Dubai City of Gold (G2) at Meydan and picks up Frankie Dettori for his Elkhorn assignment.

Other notables include Highland Chief, the 2022 Man o’ War (G1) and Sycamore winner who has not raced since the Breeders’ Cup that same season; Missed the Cut, who enters off back-to-back wins in the San Marcos (G3) and San Luis Rey (G3); Silver Knott, third in the Hollywood Derby (G1) when last seen; Dynadrive, winner of the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) two back; and European import Winning Spirit, who placed in the Italian Derby (G2) last year and debuts here for Christophe Clement.