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Check out our predictions and odds for the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park!
D W Lukas
LE DA VIDA
I Correas IV
W B Calhoun
HOT AND SULTRY
R Santana Jr
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
$40 Exacta - Clairiere over Secret Oath = $40
$20 Exacta - Secret Oath over Clairiere = $20
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Clariere (7/5).
Making her first start since a heartbreaking defeat in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff last fall, Clairiere comes back as the mare to beat in Saturday’s Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
A regally bred daughter of Curlin, the 5-year-old bay has amassed over $2.1 million in earnings in her first three seasons on the racetrack for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
In six starts last year, she won three times including the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park where she defeated the champion Malathaat.
Her season ended when her top rival got the best of her in the final strides of the World Championships at Keeneland. Defeated by only a head, Clairiere is the top-rated older female in the country still in training this year.
Chief among her rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Azeri will be Secret Oath. Also making her first start since the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she led into the stretch at Keeneland, before fading to fifth.
Three times a winner at Oaklawn Park last winter, the 4-year-old daughter of Arrogate earned her biggest career victory last spring in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Trained by the legendary D. Wayne Lukas, Secret Oath twice took on the boys last year, finishing third in the Arkansas Derby and fourth in the Preakness.
After a big run in the 2021 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, this classy daughter of Curlin returned in March of 2022 to steamroll a field of allowance foes.
That return win set her up for an excellent campaign that fell just short of a championship when narrowly defeated once again in the World Championships. Working on the same amount of rest this year, the 5-year-old mare looks to pick up right where she left off in the Grade 2 Azeri.
With plenty of speed in the race to set up her late run, the Grade 1 winner should prove tough to beat on Saturday. It’s not an easy spot, but her class should tell. She is the top pick.
A chestnut daughter of the champion Arrogate, this 4-year-old was the toast of Oaklawn Park last winter with a trio of romping wins which earned her a spot against the boys in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.
Third as the favorite that afternoon, she bounced back to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in impressive style. Perhaps all the racing wore on her and she was not quite as good in several big races after that, but she wasn’t exactly running poorly either.
Given a freshening, she should be ready to fire on Saturday for trainer D. Wayne Lukas over a track that we know she likes. I’m expecting a strong effort here, but when all is said and done, I like her older rival just a bit better.
Probably the biggest threat to the top two, this Brad Cox-trained filly will also be making her first start of 2023 on Saturday.
A good looking winner of consecutive graded stakes in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Indiana Oaks (G2), she closed out her 3-year-old campaign with a disappointing loss in the prep for the Cotillion. Away for more than six months, she has found a difficult spot for her return.
She has also found a race with plenty of speed and classy mares ready to pounce on the leaders. It would come as no surprise if she added more graded stakes wins this year. I just don’t expect this to be the spot where she regains her winning ways.
A graded stakes winner as a 2-year-old, this daughter of Connect has failed to find the winner’s circle in her last five stakes attempts. Having said that, the Bret Calhoun-trained filly has not been running poorly in most of those attempts.
She was easily dispatched of by Secret Oath in last spring’s Kentucky Oaks, but has returned to find a solid form of late. Last out, she was second to a good mare in the Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic.
Perhaps if the top two don’t return with their best, she can make a big run here, but more likely she will have to settle for a minor award on Saturday.
Trained by Robertino Diodoro, this speedy Candy Ride mare has never been better. In three consecutive stakes races at Oaklawn Park, she won twice before grudgingly giving way to finish second in the last.
If circumstances were a little different, we would be talking about her as a real threat on Saturday, but in a race with plenty of early speed and some serious class ready to pounce, it looks like she has found a field that is probably a little more than she wants in the Grade 2 Azeri.
Adding to the speed of this Grade 2 affair is this lightly raced runner from the barn of Norm Casse. She comes from a hot barn, and she has never finished worse than second in five career starts, but she has found a difficult spot for her graded stakes debut.
A daughter of Speightster, she was able to win the listed American Beauty Stakes over the track, but that came at 6-furlongs.
She is sharp and has some talent, but with other speed in the field, I am hard-pressed to believe that she can stave off the top mares that will be coming at her in the stretch run.
A stakes-winning daughter of Malibu Moon, this Brendan Walsh-trained mare joins Clairiere as a confirmed late runner.
Of course, the problem is that she is not quite as good as the race favorite. She has won two of her last four races, and if the speed falls apart on Saturday, she could be one to come and pick up some of the pieces.
Having said that, it’s hard to imagine her winning this edition of the Azeri, considering all the class that is entered to her inside.
When this daughter of Gemologist first arrived from her native Chile, she looked bound for graded stakes after two nice allowance scores in Kentucky.
Unfortunately, in three subsequent stakes attempts in Arkansas, she has fallen short of early expectations. Not only has she been beaten in three consecutive races over the track against lesser than she will see on Saturday, but she has been clearly defeated by Lovely Ride in each.
It’s hard to expect her to suddenly defeat that rival this time, let alone the likes of Clairiere and Secret Oath.
What: Azeri Stakes (Grade 2)
Location: Oaklawn Park
Time: Saturday, March11 -- 5:54 pm Eastern time
How to Watch: FanDuel TV
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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