By Noel Michaels
Oaklawn’s Friday penultimate race card of the season, on what was supposed to be Kentucky Oaks Day, will be highlighted by a trio of stakes races topped by the $400,000 Fantasy (G3), which is normally an Oaks prep race.
The Fantasy comes on the final Friday of racing and wagering at the track, and will be a key leg in the highly-playable 50-cent late Pick 4 sequence on the last four races, beginning in Race 7.
Here’s my recommended Friday late Pick 4 ticket at Oaklawn. Take a shot, and best of luck!
This one is at 1 1/16 miles for state breds. The 11-horse field sets the tone for big field sizes throughout the late Pick 4. Nevertheless, the race looks like one of the more straightforward races on the card because it features a couple of standouts, which is good news for players looking for a chance to trim down their tickets.
Two horses stand out in the field: #3 K J’S NOBILITY (5-2) and #4 HAMAZING VISION (9-2). K J’s Nobility is the star, having won three of his last four races and a total of six lifetime races at Oaklawn, including a three-length stakes win last time out.
Led by K J’s Nobility’s two wins, trainer Cecil Borel has sent out mostly live runners at this year’s Oaklawn meet with seven winners and 10 in-the-money finishes from his 15 starters (47 percent wins).
If there is a question mark here for K J’s Nobility, it’s the 1 1/16-mile distance since this horse’s three recent races have all been at six furlongs.
He did win at one-mile at Ellis Park with a big speed figure last summer, however, and ran a bang-up effort for second in this same race last year, beaten that day only by horse for the course Hoonani Road.
If for any reason K J’s Nobility can’t get the distance, the most likely beneficiary will be Hamazing Vision, who is 2-for-2 at this meet against state breds for leading trainer Robertino Diodoro.
For deeper tickets, #1 PROMISING SHOES, who was a half-length behind Hamazing Vision two races ago, and #9 BANDIT POINT and #10 GLACKEN’S GHOST, who ran third and fourth, respectively, in this race last year, could also be played.
This one’s for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles who are a rung below the horses we’ll see in the Fantasy in Race 9. A capacity field of 14 horses is entered, which doesn’t make narrowing the field easy.
This race represents the best opportunity in the sequence to knock off the favorites. One of the most interesting horses in the race is #10 ANTOINETTE (8-1) going out for Bill Mott with John Velazquez aboard. Antoinette started as a turf horse, but then won an off-the-turf stakes race at Aqueduct last fall which seems to have shifted Mott’s focus on this filly to the dirt.
She returned from a 3 ½-month layoff last time out with a third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and figures to improve further in her second race off the layoff.
Another horse that should improve in her second race off a layoff is #5 DAPHNE MOON (4-1), who did not make an impact in a pair of tough New York Graded stakes races last fall but looked much-improved off nearly a four-month layoff last time with a win and a solid speed figure at this distance here at Oaklawn for Jeremiah Englehart.
The horse to beat could turn out to be Steve Asmussen’s #8 COMICAL (15-1), the winner of last year’s Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga and the runner-up in last fall’s Chandelier (G1) at Santa Anita.
She’s 0-for-2 in 2020 but seems to be rounding into form and gets Joel Rosario aboard. A couple of others to consider for bigger tickets include #3 GINGHAM, who exits a distant second-place finish in the Las Virgenes for Bob Baffert, and #9 ICE PRINCESS, who is cross-entered in the Fantasy for trainer Danny Gargan, who has been winning at around a 40 percent clip overall for the past year or so.
The headliner in the Fantasy Stakes’ 14-horse field is none other than Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) champion #10 BRITISH IDIOM (5-2).
Brad Cox is the trainer and the jockey is Javier Castellano as British Idiom seeks to rebound from her first career loss last time out when second behind Finite in the Rachel Alexandra (G2).
She looks like the standout here and could certainly be singled if you want to go deeper in the other legs of the Pick 4. If you want to take a shot at beating British Idiom, you’ll have plenty of live options, but the best of them will be the sensational #2 VENETIAN HARBOR (2-1), who has won her last two starts by a combined 20 lengths at Santa Anita for trainer Richard Baltas.
Last time out she went fast to get out to a big lead in the one-mile Las Virgenes (G2), and then never looked back for a nine-length wire-to-wire score.
The nightcap is a 12-horse allowance optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs where you’ll probably want to go at least four deep.
Horses you’ll want to have on your tickets are led by #7 WHOLEHEARTED (5-2) who has won two of her last three races and has been in the money 10 outings in a row, including all four of her recent starts for leading trainer Diodoro. Ventured to Will Rogers Downs for a stakes win last time, and also won at Oaklawn three races ago.
In Wholehearted’s only recent loss, which came when third at Oaklawn on March 27, #10 UNIQUE FACTOR (12-1) finished ahead of her that day in second. That race was Unique Factor’s only recent spring outing, so toss out the route loss last time out and put her on your tickets, as well.
Two layoff horses are very interesting. One horse with a big chance is #6 SPEND SPEND SPEND (7-2) trained by Baltas. Last seen in August, she hit the board twice at Del Mar for a different trainer and is capable of running a big speed figure if ready.
She has a strong of sharp workouts pointing for this return. Another potentially live layoff horse is #8 LA CHANCLA (4-1), who won big in a Saratoga six-furlong allowance last summer. She shows up off the layoff for new trainer Steve Asmussen and certainly could be ready to roll.
Let’s take an economy swing at this Pick 4 by going 2 x 3 x 2 x 4 for a .50 denomination, which will result in a ticket costing $24.
Use #3 K J’s Nobility and #4 Hamazing Vision in Race 7, and then #5 Daphne Moon, #8 Comical, #10 Antoinette in the second leg, #2 Venetian Harbor and #10 British Idiom in the third leg, and then round it out in the final leg with #6 Spend Spend Spend, #7 Wholehearted, #8 La Chancla, and #10 Unique Factor.
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Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.