By Sean Morris

Analyzing Oaklawn Park's Late Pick 4 on March 14

By Sean Morris
Oaklawn Park Picks for Saturday 14 March 2020
Oaklawn Park Picks for Saturday 14 March 2020

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Race 8

Bankit (#4) has returned even better as a 4-year-old and is absolutely the horse to beat in this race, but with so much rain in the forecast at Oaklawn on Saturday you have to be concerned with the poor performance he put forth in his lone try on a sloppy track. On a dry surface, he would be a shoo-in, however a very wet track puts this race up for grabs.

If Bankit regresses as expected, this essentially becomes a clash of the two divisions of the Fifth Season run earlier in the meet. While I think the division Pioneer Spirit (#7) won was the stronger of the two, I wasn’t enamored with his next start in the G3 Razorback when he got a great trip but couldn’t even hold third. He can win, but I can’t get on board at a short price.

Instead, my top pick is Night Ops (#2), who actually finished worst among the three entrants from the other division of the Fifth Season but probably ran the best race. Early on that January 25 card speed and the rail seemed to be good, which was a hold over from the previous day when that same bias was prominent. Night Ops had neither going for him in the race launching a wide rally from off the pace, but he still finished well and even had to steady very late between horses. In his next start just two weeks later, he endured a very wide trip but still was able to defeat a solid optional claiming field. He’s now drawn much better, is quietly in very good form, and should offer plenty of value.

Main:  2,4      Backup (priority):  1,5,6,7

Order of preference:  2-4-1-5

Volatility:  Average

 

Race 9

The G3 Houston Ladies Classic, which all but two fillies in this spot are coming out of, was a strange race and to be honest I’m not entirely sure what to do with it. It doesn’t exactly reflect well on the highly-regarded top three that Mylady Curlin (#2) was right there despite a less than ideal trip, as she’s more of a fringe graded stakes type, but the race came back quite fast and was a good starting point for these fillies.

The winner, Lady Apple (#4), got an absolutely perfect trip but she also had a right to improve as a newly turned 4-year-old. She can win right back, however I think you have to be slightly against her given the way things unfolded in that race. Serengeti Empress’ (#5) effort was probably the most representative of her true ability to date. She didn’t have to go too fast early and the race was contested on a fair track, which was virtually never the case during her sophomore campaign. She hung in gamely all the way to the wire and it was a solid performance to kick off the year. She could absolutely improve in her second start of 2020, however she’s never been on a sloppy track and is likely going to be the favorite, so I wouldn’t want to get too carried away with her.

By process of elimination, my top pick is Street Band (#1). The race she ran in the Houston Ladies Classic seems like a useful prep going forward, and she probably got the worst trip of all, though it wasn’t particularly bad. She’s handled a wet track in the past and Larry Jones’ runners have been very live at the meet. I expect her to take a step forward and believe she’s the most likely winner even though she might end up the third choice in the wagering.

Main:  1,5      Backup (priority):  2,4

Order of preference:  1-5-4-2

Volatility:  Low

 

Race 10

This is a fascinating race for being a relatively small field. Nadal (#1) is likely to be favored and I’m OK with that. This horse has shown a lot of promise through two career starts, even if some of the shine was taken off of his debut with a more workmanlike encore in the G2 San Vicente. It might not have looked pretty, but I thought it was a very encouraging performance as he had to duel through very fast splits on the inside and was dead game in the stretch. The real appeal with Nadal is that he’s bred much more for longer distances, so there’s a good chance we may just be scratching the surface with him right now. I think he’s the most likely winner, however I wouldn’t want to accept too short a price on a horse shipping across the country and trying two turns for the first time, even though his pedigree suggests it will be to his benefit.

Silver Prospector (#4) finally got back over a dry track in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park and ran a terrific race. I have my doubts about the fairness of the racing surface that day and think he may have benefitted from a track that was favoring inside runners (runner-up Wells Bayou was also on the rail and ran significantly faster than he ever had before), but Silver Prospector ran a very fast race and certainly looked the part in the stretch. With no conclusive proof that he was running on a biased strip last time, it’s tough to discount his chances, though the projected wet track might bring him back to earth.

I may be unsure about the surface the Southwest was run on, but I have no such misgivings about the Smarty Jones track, which is why my top pick in this race is Three Technique (#6). There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical of him heading into that race, but he turned in a strong effort as he was wide throughout and closed some ground over a strip that was heavily favoring speed and the rail. Like Nadal, he has the pedigree to excel at longer distances, and Jeremiah Englehart has been sending out live runners at the meet.

Main:  1,6       Backup:  3,4

Order of preference:  6-1-4-3

Volatility:  Average

 

Race 11

If Cynical Girl (#5) repeats her last race, she’s going to be awfully tough to beat. She happened to hook a freak first-timer that day from the barn of John Sadler, but she still ran very well and considerably faster than her competition. That said, she’s not a complete cinch in this spot. She will most likely have to deal with a sloppy track for the first time and there’s a chance she may get caught behind horses as there’s a good deal of speed drawn to her outside. That’s not the kind of trip you want for an inexperienced filly who’s going to be a heavy favorite.

A handful of fillies are exiting the same maiden race on February 17 at Oaklawn and while I don’t really love any of them, none are entirely without a chance. The first five spots in that race were occupied by first-time starters, including three of the fillies entered in this race, and it didn’t come back with a particularly fast number.

I’m more inclined to look at others with experience as an alternative to the favorite, and the two I like best are both making their 3-year-old debuts after some lackluster results as juveniles. Classy Beast (#1) and Weekend Fun (#10) didn’t do anything to distinguish themselves at 2, but they’ve been working well and still have as much upside as any of the first or second-time starters. It’s interesting that Classy Beast shows up in this spot at all considering she’s a Florida-bred, and I like that her connections are showing confidence in her by keeping her at this level. Weekend Fun is ideally drawn and has the speed to make the front under conditions that could favor such runners.

Main:  5      Backup (priority):  1,10,12

Order of preference:  5-10-1-12

Volatility:  High

 

Most Likely Winner

Race 11:  Cynical Girl (#5)

Value Single

 

Race 10:  Three Technique (#6)

 

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