With Gulfstream Park out of the picture on Wednesday, Oaklawn Park has seized the opportunity and occupied the vacancy with a nine-race card. Right on cue, our in-house handicapper is on the case with picks for the whole card and analysis of his best value plays for the day.
If you're interested in seeing picks elsewhere around the country on Wednesday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
With the lead-footed Turnstone (#2) the 2-1 morning-line favorite and Encanta (#1), who has been off for nearly two years, not far behind at 7-2, it becomes apparent that Black Kat Taps (#3) is a standout in this race and could potentially offer value even though her form is clearly superior to her competition. Since a dominant maiden win late in 2019, Black Kat Taps has struggled mightily to pick up another victory, but that should change here as she makes her first start with trainer Tom Amoss. Amoss has been struggling at the meet, however he’s in a great position here with Black Kat Taps as she drops in class following a troubled trip on turf on February 25 at Fair Grounds. Her prior race on the main track at Fair Grounds was one of the best of her career, and may have been even better than the 66 Beyer Speed Figure she earned for the effort, which already would make her very tough to beat. If she gets back to that race I don’t think she loses the opener.
Recent debut winner Sea to Success (#4) is the horse to beat in this race. After a slow start to the meet his trainer John Sadler has really picked things up lately, and Sea to Success seems to be a product of that turnaround as he enters off a 4 ½-length victory on March 14 that netted him a 72 Beyer. He’s meeting winners for the first time here, but his recent bullet work indicates that he may be set to take a step forward in this spot, which would make him plenty dangerous.
I respect Sea to Success, but I have to give Jackman (#1) the nod as my top pick considering he’s going to be twice the price. Speaking of trainers who have been rejuvenated at the meet, this horse was a very savvy claim by Karl Broberg, whose barn has gotten very live all of a sudden after a dawdling start to the meet. After showing literally nothing in two starts at Woodbine as a juvenile, Broberg reached in to claim this horse for 10k two starts ago when Jackman broke his maiden, and that proved to be a shrewd move as he improved noticeably in his first start off-the-claim for Broberg while stepping markedly up in class. Jackman did not get an ideal trip in that race, pressing a very fast opening quarter-mile, but he held well to be second with a competitive 71 Beyer. The fact that the ultra-aggressive Broberg elects to protect him in this spot tells you everything you need to know, and if Jackman is able to work out a more favorable trip he can easily post the mild upset in this race.
Auction Fever (#7) isn’t necessarily a value play in this race, but I do believe she’s a very likely winner and could potentially end up as an overlay due to some questionable contenders. Although her last two races aren’t particularly inspiring on paper since she made a pair of belated runs to finish a distant third on each occasion, those efforts came against vastly better competition and earned her speed figures that tower over this field. I’ve been singing the praises of her trainer Cipriano Contreras all meet long, and I believe this is an ideal spot for him to add to his tally.
My insistence on Auction Fever also stems from a complete distaste for the rest of the field, which is ostensibly led by Matera (#2). You always have to be a little worried about such a well-bred Brad Cox-trained filly, especially as her owner has shipped her cross-country for this race, however Matera has done little on the racetrack to suggest she can be competitive here without dramatic improvement. I’m equally skeptical of Brittle and Yoo (#1), who could take money for John Sadler but whose best races have come on turf at much shorter distances. If anything, the presence of these two should ensure an honest pace in front of Auction Fever, and also that she ends up a somewhat fair price.
Jumper (#4) is a worthy favorite in the day’s feature as he comes off the best race of his career here on March 6. That race seemed to come more or less out of nowhere for this 5-year-old son of City Zip, but it’s very possible that despite running almost exclusively on turf and synthetic tracks to begin his career that he’s just a bona fide dirt horse. He did hint at that kind of ability with his former trainer Tom Drury last fall at Churchill Downs, and it’s of particular interest that he ran well on the Churchill main track going a mile and a quarter. This race is still quite a stretch-out in distance even from that, but given his recent form and past success in longer events I believe he’s going to be a tough customer as he makes his third start for the underrated Chris Hartman.
I’ll be using Jumper, however I believe Strong Tide (#3) is a major player at two or three times the price of the favorite, and as such is the day’s ‘Best Value.’ This horse doesn’t have a race on dirt as fast as Jumper’s last, but I have even more confidence in his ability to thrive at this distance after his decent run in the G3, 1 ½-mile John B. Connally at Sam Houston. That race did come on turf, though I’m not sure that matters as Strong Tide is just as adept on dirt and ultimately I’m viewing it more as a demonstration of his stamina. Furthermore, Strong Tide came back and ran a solid race at Oaklawn in his last start, which should set him up nicely for this. If he ends up anywhere near his 8-1 morning-line odds he’s going to be a strong play.
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