Oaklawn Handicap Picks: Silver State the play

Steve Asmussen sends out a potent one-two punch in the Oaklawn Handicap
Steve Asmussen sends out a potent one-two punch in the Oaklawn Handicap

The $1,000,000 Grade II Oaklawn Handicap has unsurprisingly attracted a good field of eight at Oaklawn this Saturday.

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Express Train (#2) is clearly the horse to beat in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap coming off a strong runner-up finish in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap out west. The winner of that race, Idol, isn’t any kind of superstar, however he is a rising star and Express Train did finish ahead of Maxfield, who prior to the Big Cap many considered the leader of this division. Both his effort in the Big Cap and his prior win in the G2 San Pasqual would make him awfully tough to beat, but I’m a little worried about this horse as he ships across the country to contest this race. He really doesn’t have much margin for error, in my opinion, yet he’s going to be a decisive favorite. 

Given these concerns with Express Train I’m siding with the local contingent, namely the uncoupled duo from the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen. Ordinarily I’d prioritize the higher-priced option, which in this case is Silver Prospector (#8), however in this case I just think Silver State (#1) is worth the drop off in price. Silver State hasn’t been lighting any stopwatches on fire, but this horse is quietly in the midst of a four-race win streak, including a pair of stakes victories at the meet. It’s clear he’s a much-improved horse since returning to the races late in his sophomore campaign, and with his penchant for finding the wire I just think he’s the right horse in a race in which it’s difficult to trust anyone.

Silver State is my top pick in the Oaklawn Handicap, but his stablemate Silver Prospector is no slouch. He’s not displayed the same kind of consistency as Silver State, however on his best day he’s capable of making noise here at a generous price. His latest effort in the G3 Razorback was one such race, and it was subsequently flattered when the winner Mystic Guide came back to take the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. If Silver State can put together another performance like that I believe he’s capable of upsetting this race.

I also wouldn’t discount Fearless (#3) as he stretches out in distance, though I wonder if he’s better suited to one-turn racing and he probably won’t offer much value. If he’s able to show more speed than he has in the past in his two-turn races there’s no reason he can’t beat a field like this.

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