Oaklawn Park Betting: Eight Rings, Bellafina Headline a Pair of 6-Furlong Sprints by Richard Rosenblatt
On a weekend when the thoroughbred world would be finalizing travel plans and start streaming into Louisville for an early start to Kentucky Derby Week, horseplayers should be pretty content staying home and checking out a pair of intriguing 6-furlong sprints at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.
When the Derby was rescheduled from May 2 to Sept. 5, Oaklawn officials made a switch of their own, moving their centerpiece race, the Arkansas Derby (G1) from April 11 to May 2.
So while the Arkansas Derby is shaping with a Kentucky Derby-caliber field, let’s get back to Saturday’s featured, but ungraded, sprints.
First, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sends out Eight Rings for a much-anticipated 3-year-old debut in the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes, which drew a field of nine.
In the following race, Santa Anita Oaks (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint runner-up Bellafina makes her 4-year-old debut in the $125,000 Carousel Stakes, which drew field of eight.
Eight Rings is the 5-2 morning-line favorite and drew the No. 7 post. Joel Rosario will be the rider.
Eight Rings returns after nearly six months away, and his comeback doesn’t look to be an easy one. Among the challengers are 3-1 second choice Long Weekend (3-for-4 for trainer Tom Amoss) and a pair of 3-year-olds from Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Little Menace (4-1) and Echo Town (9-2).
All three are strictly sprinters, while Eight Rings has a victory in the American Pharoah (G1) at 1 1/16 miles, and a shorter distance may not be his best distance.
However, Baffert believes it’s the right call. Eight Rings was given a short winter break, and then posted nine workouts – eight at Santa Anita, and the most recent at Oaklawn. The feeling is run short now, then build up to longer distances later.
Little Menace, second to Long Weekend in the 6-furlong Gazebo, a local stakes, in his previous start, has two victories and two seconds in four career starts. Echo Town has won 2-of-3, and will be ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr.
A solid effort from Eight Rings could put the son of Empire Maker on Baffert’s long list of Derby contenders, among them being Charlatan and Nadal (likely Arkansas Derby bound), Authentic, Azul Coast and Thousand Words.
The Carousel will be the first race for Bellafina since a second-place finish behind Hard Not to Love in the La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita on Dec. 28.
The Simon Callaghan trainee, a daughter of Quality Road, worked 4 furlongs in 47.80 at Oaklawn on April 18. Joe Talamo, who will be aboard the 8-5 favorite leaving from the No. 1 post, called the work “unbelievable” The filly arrived from California earlier in the week.
Amy’s Challenge, with a record of 6-3-2 from 14 career starts, is the 4-1 second choice, followed by Midnight Fantasy at 5-1 and Mia Mischief at 9-2.
Mia Mischief, trained by Asmussen with Santana in the irons, has won her last two races – a pair of 6-furlong sprints – so look for the 5-year-old mare to put in a solid effort.
During her 3-year-old campaign, Bellafina strung together victories in the Santa Ynez (G2), Las Virgenes (G2) and the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) before finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks as the favorite.
“Believe me, I’ve watched her run quite a few times out there in California,” said Talamo. “She’s nice, really nice.”
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Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.