Oaklawn Mile Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Race @OP

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. (above) and trainer Steve Asmussen pair up once again to enter Gun It, in the OP Mile 400k. See what their chances are like, and whom they will face in this year's race.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. (above) and trainer Steve Asmussen pair up once again to enter Gun It, in the OP Mile 400k. See what their chances are like, and whom they will face in this year's race.

1 Mile (Dirt), Oaklawn Mile Stakes, Purse $400k, 4+

This race represents a fairly recent addition to the Arkansas Derby Program. It serves as one of those "Black Type" / "Non-G" contests that commands such a purse value, that major trainers and their charges are bound to show. Over the past 2 years of its existence, we have seen Exulting, trained by the Maker Barn, and Tom’s d’Etat, from Al Stall’s midst, cross the wire 1st in Hot Springs. Now, we shift to this edition, and it promises to give us a pretty big thrill.  

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Long Range Toddy (Jky: J. Court/Trn: D. Stewart):

Trainer Dallas Stewart has a number of strong runners in his stable, but this "Toddy" isn’t one of them. Sure, this 5-yr-old out of Take Charge Indy has ability, but since coming over from the Asmussen op, he seems rather befuddled, wandering in and out of class events. Probably too much to do once again in the OP Mile.

Grade: C-


#2 Gun It (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: S. Asmussen):

Loads of pundits have a range of opinions on Tapit colts. Some are bullish, while others would prefer to offer psychological suppositions concerning their stability. This entry from Steve Asmussen looks inviting since he is lightly-raced in 2021, with an effort over the MT track that showed some promise. Ricardo Santana is a hardy and aggressive soul. I think this one could be a sneaky overlay. I am getting a bumper sticker that says Tapits Rule!

Grade: B


#3 Wells Bayou (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

Here is a 4-yr-old colt that was near the top of the racing world last year, winning the LA Derby, against a well-matched field. COVID-19 clouds rolled in, and then he tried as he might in the split Arkansas Derby (G1)—5th to Nadal. Brad Cox sent him to the sidelines, and he reemerged in the Louisiana (G3)—3rd. Tough to gauge how his graduation to the older colt ranks. His works speak to a “yes,” but I am suspicious of his overall ability. Florent Geroux should be a comfort, trying to get this one home.

Grade: B


#4 Rushie (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: M. McCarthy):

This son of Liam’s Map checked a number of boxes when he won the Pat Day Mile (G2) on the September KYD146 undercard. Mike McCarthy had him up against the very best in the 3-yr-old division before that, and he acquitted himself well against the likes of Art Collector, Swiss Skydiver, and the Eclipse Award Winner for Horse of the Year, Authentic. He was severely overmatched in the BC Dirt Mile (G1) against Cox’s Knicks Go, but that’s not surprising because no one was going to catch that horse-for-the-course. McCarthy’s stock as a conditioner continues to “Gap Up,” and I have no doubts that he has done everything humanly possible to get this one ready. With Joel Rosario flying in from Keeneland, I am sure that only adds to the advantage. I will say this . . . if the colt is sharp, he could be lethal.

Grade: A-


#5 Blackberry Wine (Jky: D. Cabrera/Trn: J. Sharp):

Joe Sharp’s Calumet homebred is as unreliable as a “Non-G” runner could possibly be. He will build your hopes up, then in a moment, they will all be dashed. There are numerous examples of what I am speaking about. Sure, last time at Oaklawn, he won convincingly among some high-level ALLW action. That is once again the hook . . . he drops down, gets a score, then when he returns to the Show, strikes out. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, seems an apt sobriquet. The choice once again of having David Cabrera ride makes sense, but there is no doubt that 4/1 is way too short a price to accept.  

Grade: C+


#6 By My Standards (Jky: G. Saez/Trn: Bret Calhoun):

I will not soon forget the call by Oaklawn track announcer Vic Stauffer last year when this son of Goldencents came thundering down the lane in the 1 1/8th OP Handicap (G2). It was the capstone to a nice 3-race run for the then 4-yr-old colt. Now, a year later, he returns to the scene of that moment, primed to come off the bench. This is one of Bret Calhoun's prize members of his stable, and there are some major expectations for the connections, that now include Spendthrift Farm. His level of fitness will be the question, but he clearly likes this track. Maybe the 1 Mile distance is a tad shorter than he is used to, but his conditioner must think this is a good start to what looks like a promising 2021 campaign.

Grade: B+


#7 Pioneer Spirit (Jky: R. Vazquez/Trn: M. Maker):

Here is a horse that is now 8-yrs-old for trainer Mike Maker. This one proves that you can still run at an advanced age. I am not sure he quite has the class rating that he once did, but Maker owns this one too, and he must have a good reason to enter him in this spot. Love that angle because most will underestimate his ability. He just needs the proper trip, and maybe Ramon Vasquez is just the jock to do it. If he can, he will bring an enormous payout because I see this one drifting up towards 10/1. Maker continues to amaze, and prove his surface versatility as a conditioner. More for this aged relative to do, but hope springs eternal, even if legs do not.

Grade: B-


#8 Home Base (Jky: F. Arrieta/Trn: C. Contreras):

The stable of one Cipriano Contreras took on this new charge a race back, and the ownership as well. He did not have much luck under Peter Miller’s tutelage, though a couple of 3rd place finishes could qualify as positives. Still, coming into this BT, I am not sure he is up for this kind of company. That test case under Contreras, an ALLW107k, was a bit of a miss—another 3rd. If you look at Fran Arrieta’s record as a jockey, you have to respect his numbers. Jumping aboard this runner could make a difference, I suppose. But again, he looks out of his depth compared to some of the others that are rising up. Big price for this 6-yr-old, out of Street Sense. Channeling that champ, might be in order.  

Grade: C


#9 The Sound (Jky: M. Garcia/Trn: B. Cox):

This is going to sound odd, but there are some qualities that I see in this Cox runner that out distance the ones in his other entry. Most will not be pleased to see the result of that last 6F sprint @OP. He just seemed out of gas, well before the next station. I am not sure what happened to him, but if you go 2-back, he was stellar off the bench going a 1 1/16th on the Main Track in an ALLW85k. His progress up at NYRA tracks last fall was even more telling. This is a frontend speed runner, and if that is your type of style, then you need to realize what a great price this one truly will be. Martin Garcia is such an unheralded jockey, with major experience under his belt. In fact, in many ways, he is better prepared than Florent Geroux. That might be off-base, but I like “the sound” of that assertion.

Grade: B+


Join us Saturday for all of our Oaklawn Park selections! Should be a great set of races celebrating the Arkansas Derby!