In the biggest day before the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Oaklawn Park has two $1,000,000 races with the running of the Oaklawn Handicap (Gr. 2) and Apple Blossom Handicap (Gr. 1). There aren’t any million dollar races left on the schedule before May 1 at Churchill Downs following Saturday. Neither of these are prep races for the Kentucky Derby, with the standings and eligibility for the race solidified.
Essential Quality finishes at the top of the standings with 140 points, while Hot Rod Charlie and Super Stock round out the top-3. It should be an intriguing race at Churchill Downs. Bob Baffert is another position where he won’t be going into the race with the favorite to win. No word on what Baffert is doing with Concert Tour yet. He qualified for the Kentucky Derby, but his performance in the Blue Grass Stakes might point him elsewhere.
Oaklawn Park has 12 races with a total of $2,513,000 in prize money available to be won in Hot Springs. Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl are going to be featured in what should be a thriller in the Apple Bottom. Head below for our free Oaklawn Park selections and Apple Blossom Handicap pick for April 17, 2021.
Race 9 – Oaklawn Handicap
Post Time: 4:49 p.m. CST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The Oaklawn Handicap (Gr. 2) is a million dollar event on the main track at Oaklawn. This should be a good one covering 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt. Fearless and Express Train have to be considered to win this event. Fearless is 4 for 7 in his career, and is coming off the first graded win of his career.
He was a winner on February 27 in the $200,000 WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile Stakes (Gr. 2). Fearless beat Avant Garde by ¾ lengths for his first graded win after losing in the New Orleans Classic Stakes (Gr. 2), 5th, and Stephen Foster Stakes (Gr. 2), 6th. Fearless was bought for $725,000 in September of 2017, and sold for $125,000 in 2020.
The other three wins for Fearless in his career have been in two allowance optional claiming events and a maiden special weight. The Oaklawn Handicap is closer to the New Orleans Stakes where he finished 5th. Express Train should be able to put a lot of pressure on him. He is 3 for 9 in his career with entries in four straight graded events, finishing 8th, 2nd, 1st, 2nd.
In his most recent outing, Express Train placed 2nd behind Idol by a half length for a $400,000 purse in the Santa Anita Handicap (Gr. 1). He was clear by 2 lengths in the stretch, but was caught in the 1 ¼ mile event. Dropping in distance should help a lot on Saturday. Prior to that event, Express Train won the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes (Gr. 2) by 3 ¼ lengths in a 1 ⅛ mile race. I like Express Train to edge the field out in a mad dash in the stretch.
Post Time: 5:29 p.m. CST
Race 10 is a $108,000 event on the main track covering 6 furlongs. Nine horses are expected to run in Race 10, with Seven Nation Army and Welder going to be tough runners to beat. Seven Nation Army is 7 for 25 in his career, and was on a nice run from August 22 to February 6, finishing in the top-2 in four out of five and top-3 in every race.
He placed 2nd behind Boldor by 1 length in the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes on February 6. That was an encouraging start, but Seven Nation Army finished 4th on March 11 in a $90,000 event. From encouraging to discouraging a month later. Which Seven Nation Army are we going to see today? If it’s the horse we saw on February 6, then expect Seven Nation Army to be close.
Welder has one of the highest win rates you are going to see from active horses with at least 30 races on their resume. He is 26 for 38 for an insane win rate. Welder finished 61st in wins in 2018, 63rd in 2019, and 65th last year.
He is on a four-race winning streak, including three stakes races. In his most recent outing, Welder beat Share the Upside by ¾ lengths in a $34,000 event. Preceding that win, Welder won the $70,000 Silver Goblin Stakes by 5 ½ lengths. I don’t believe he was fully urged in the $34,000 race and held off some. Give Welder some credit to win Race 10.
Race 11 – Apple Blossom Handicap
Post Time: 6:09 p.m. CST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
Race 11 is a $1,000,000 event on the dirt covering 1 1/16 miles. This is an epic showdown between Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl. I give Letruska a chance, but she could be out of her league against Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl.
I could see Letruska having the lead going into the stretch, and then weakening as Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl approach in the stretch. Swiss Skydiver, who I’ve backed several times before, has gone 7 for 13 in her career. Her biggest win was on October 3 in the $1,050,000 Preakness Stakes (Gr. 1) at Pimlico.
It was the fifth win in seven attempts, and seven in a row at least placing 2nd. Her effort on November 7 in the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Distaff didn’t go as planned, though. Swiss Skydiver finished 7th, while Monomoy Girl ran away for a 1 ¾ length win over Valiance.
Monomoy Girl is on fire with six straight wins, and an overall win rate of 14 for 16 in her career. She hasn’t done worse than 2nd, the last time happening on September 22, 2018 in the Cotillion Stakes (Gr. 1). Monomoy Girl is coming off a 2 length win over Our Super Freak by 2 lengths in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (Gr. 3). That was more of a workout than anything for Monomoy Girl.
She could have won by more than 2 lengths if she was interested. Monomoy Girl is coming off a strong 4-furlong workout with a time of 47.60 seconds on April 11. Swiss Skydiver will be running without Lasix for a $100,000 bonus. She’s done well before without it, but not against the freak Monomoy Girl. I am hoping money goes in on Swiss Skydiver to keep Monomoy Girl’s odds favorable enough for better value.