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Check out our predictions and odds for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park!
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
Round three of the rivalry between two of the best females in the country is set for Saturday as Secret Oath and Clairiere top a small field of four in Saturday’s $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Trained by the legendary D. Wayne Lukas, Secret Oath has been nearly unbeatable at Oaklawn Park, with four wins in five starts at the Hot Springs oval.
Most recently, the 4-year-old daughter of Arrogate was an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn in her first start of the season.
The winner of last year’s edition of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks suffered her only loss there when she was third against the boys in last year’s Arkansas Derby.
Chief among her rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom will be Clairiere. The 5-year-old mare has amassed nearly $2.2 million in earnings in her excellent career.
A multiple Grade 1 winner, the regally bred daughter of Curlin was a late-running second to Secret Oath last time in the Azeri.
She’s also been narrowly defeated in the last two editions of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff for her Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Rounding out the field for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom will be Hot and Sultry, who was fourth in the Azeri, and I Feel the Need who has won once in eight career starts at Oaklawn Park.
An impressive winner of the prestigious Kentucky Oaks last spring at Churchill Downs, this 4-year-old daughter of Arrogate seems to be even more at home at Oaklawn Park. Of her four wins locally, three were stakes races and her average margin of victory has been nearly seven lengths.
A sharp winner over her top rival last month, she once again will look to get the early jump on Clairiere, just as she did in the Azeri. Both are top class mares, so the result could come down to favorable tactics.
Clairiere is always tough, but because of her fondness for the track and a bit more push-button acceleration, I am going with this D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly. She is the top pick.
Second in this race last year, the oldest mare in the field has been pure class ever since she won in her debut at Churchill Downs 2 1/2-years ago. After two near misses in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she will look to build to another shot later this year.
Like Secret Oath, she made her seasonal debut in the Azeri, but last early and encountering some traffic along the way, she never really threatened. Still, she showed her class to get up for the place.
As is true in every race in which she runs, the multiple Grade 1 winner has a big shot to come home a winner on Saturday. Unfortunately, the pace scenario does not suit her quite as well as Secret Oath. For that reason, I like her rival just a bit more here.
A daughter of Speightster, this is the only other horse in the field with any chance in the Apple Blossom. Last out, she was only a half-length behind Clariere at the finish of the Azeri.
Trained by Norm Casse, she certainly does not have the class of the top two, but she is sharp and has some talent. More importantly, she is the only one in the field with early speed, which gives her a nice tactical advantage.
I don’t expect her to win, but if the top two pay too much attention to each other and leave her all alone early, she could get very brave.
The clear outsider of the group, this 4-year-old daughter of Keen Ice has only one win in eight career starts.
All of her races have come at Oaklawn Park, and although she has rallied pretty well in her last two outings, they came against much different competition than she will face here.
It looks like trainer Burl McBride is happy to have his filly run around the track on Saturday and pick up a pretty nice fourth-place check. Anything better than that would be a big surprise.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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