Oaklawn Park has surged forward in recent years

Oaklawn Park has surged forward in recent years

February 20, 2018 3:00 AM


New York and Southern California horse racing have been the most popular circuits for many years. During the summer months, Saratoga and Del Mar get diehards and casual players to follow diligently, and the racing is fantastic. But in recent years the product presented on both coasts, outside of the summer boutique meets, has been pretty bad.

One track that has surged forward is Oaklawn Park. If New York and Southern California were considered A tracks, Oaklawn was typically thought of as a B+ track. Not any longer. Oaklawn has been carding the best racing for at least three years running.

It’s not uncommon for the Hot Springs, Arkansas track to have 10, 11 or 12 horses in their races. For a horseplayer, this is the holy grail. Large fields cause large payouts and that is what this game is all about.

In addition, Oaklawn has what I like to call “handicapable races.” These are races that bring in all kinds of angles like trainer intent, class, breeding and trip study. At many other tracks, the same group of horses are beating each other, usually in small fields, and the puzzle isn’t very intriguing.

While many venues have cut purses, Oaklawn just announced a 10% increase. Despite the large fields of quality racing, the handle still lags behind Aqueduct. On Sunday, Aqueduct had $4.2M in total wagering while Oaklawn had $2.9M.

Aqueduct had three four-horse fields, four six-horse fields and two eight-horse fields. They had one 6-1 winner on the card and all other winners were under 4-1. I do not understand the fascination with NY racing. In my opinion it is virtually unplayable.

On Monday, Oaklawn had two $500,000 races. For some reason the grading committee only has the Razorback and Southwest Stakes as Grade 3 events. That has to change given the deep quality fields they’ve had every year.

Oaklawn Park is the very best day in and day out racing run all year long. Sooner or later the loyal followers of both coasts will catch on.

Derby wide open

Good Magic and Bolt D’Oro are top considerations for the Kentucky Derby based on their superb two-year-old form. Top outfits like Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen are loaded once again. There are a lot of colts who could easily move forward in the coming 2.5 months and be a serious Derby contender. The recent results of the Risen Star at Fair Grounds only complicate matters (20-1 winner over 40-1 runner-up).

Those looking to bet futures on the Derby should be looking for huge prices. One to consider is 125-1 shot Lone Sailor. He made his return on Monday at Fair Grounds for trainer Thomas Amoss. His two-year-old form was sneaky good and he’s reportedly working great for the comebacker.

Top Play

Race 7 at Oaklawn Park on Thursday. It is a maiden special weight for three-year-old fillies. No. 1 SHE BEAST is a first time starter for trainer Ronald Moquett and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. She’s been working very well for her debut. Her sibling is The Big Beast. He was a Grade-1 winning sprinter for these owners. SHE BEAST is 3-1 on the morning line. Post time is 2:14 PT.