Essex Handicap Predictions, Picks, Betting Odds 2022 (Oaklawn Park)

Essex Handicap Post Position and Odds

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
D Cohen R Diodoro
B J Hernandez Jr D Stewart
F Geroux B Cox
J Rosario B Cox
F Arrieta S H Davis
D Cabrera F Villafranco
R Santana Jr R Brisset
R A Vasquez M Maker

Essex Handicap Picks, Best Bets

If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Warrior’s Charge (3/1).

Here are my plays ($50 in total)

$5 Exacta Box – Warrior’s Charge, Plainsman and Beau Luminarie = $30

$10 Exacta Part Wheel – Warrior’s Charge over Plainsman and Beau Luminarie = $20

Essex Handicap Oaklawn Park

Plainsman will look to make it two straight graded stakes victories at Oaklawn Park when he headlines a field of eight older males in the $500,000 Essex Handicap on Saturday at the Hot Springs, Arkansas oval.

A 7-year-old son of Flatter, the Brad Cox-trained Plainsman was a determined winner of the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn five weeks ago in his seasonal debut. Also a winner of the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs last fall, the consistent veteran closed out his 6-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

Chief among his competition will be his stablemate Warrior’s Charge, who is coming into the Grade 3 Essex off an emphatic 9 3/4-length score against allowance company seven weeks ago. Also a graded stakes winner at Oaklawn Park, the millionaire is not as consistent as Plainsman, but when he is on his game, he is a very tough horse. A competitive fourth in the Preakness a few years back, the son of Munnings was second in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster behind Maxfield last summer.

After the Cox pair, it’s hard to ignore the Robertino Diodoro-trained Thomas Shelby. The Curlin gelding set the early pace in the Razorback and was a tenacious rival for Plainsman. Breaking from the rail on Saturday, look for him to be a major pace presence once again. Once a claimer, the 6-year-old has been knocking on the door in recent stakes races at Oaklawn, beaten less than a length in three straight.

Essex Handicap Predictions and Analysis


A graded stakes winner and a participant in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby earlier in his career, this son of Flatter enjoyed his best season yet at the age of 6.

A determined winner of the Grade 3 Razorback last month at Oaklawn Park, he looks to be picking up right where he left out last year, which finished with a solid third-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. He has enough tactical speed to be involved early, but has demonstrated the ability to pass horses in the stretch.

With top rider Joel Rosario back to ride him again, he looks like the horse to beat in here, but I have the feeling his stablemate might be sitting on a big one.

Warrior’s Charge

After a disappointing 2021 season in which he was winless in eight starts, this son of Munnings broke through in a big way with a near ten-length runaway win last time at Oaklawn Park.

Despite not winning last year, there were some very good efforts including a second to Maxfield in the Foster and a head-bob miss to Thomas Shelby at Keeneland.

Also trained by Cox, it will be interesting to see which entry mate takes the race to Thomas Shelby early. I have a feeling that it might be this one, and after a confidence building victory over a track that he clearly likes, I expect him to run well on Saturday.

He is the top pick.

Thomas Shelby

Most of his career success has come against lesser, but in the last three he proved that he belonged with stakes quality horses.

After competitive performances in both the Tinsel Stakes and Fifth Season, he ran a big race to fight Plainsman to the wire in the Razorback.

With his good early speed look for him to go right out after the early lead on Saturday. From there he will likely face serious challenges from both of the Cox runners.

He will not be one of my top picks, but it would come as no surprise if he once again proved a stubborn horse to pass in the stretch of the Essex.

Beau Luminarie

This hard-knocking son of I Want Revenge has strung together a sustained string of solid races.

In fact, he finished in the money in all eleven races he ran in last year. After a brief freshening since a third-place finish in the muddy Tinsel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, I look for him to return with a strong performance on Saturday for trainer Rudolphe Brisset.

With all three of the horses listed ahead of him wanting to be on or near the lead, this one can sit off the pace and come running on the turn. He also has the ability to sit a little closer than some of the other closers in the field. Of the ralliers, I like him best.

Rated R Superstar

This millionaire has finished first or second nine times in his career at Oaklawn Park and at 9-years-old, the old pro is still going strong.

A son of Kodiak Kowboy, he was just a bit late with his closing rally when fifth last time in the Razorback, but was finishing full or run. Before that, he rolled home late to win the local Fifth Season at odds of 25-1.

Once again, he will be a horse to fear with his strong late kick, but I do slightly prefer the chances of Beau Luminarie, who can stay a little closer to the early pace before making his run.

Popular Kid

A winner of the Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial Stakes at Remington Park two starts back, this 8-year-old gelding made a nice impression on his recent return to Oaklawn Park with a solid third-place finish behind Plainsman and Thomas Shelby.

Well travelled and very experienced, the California-bred enjoyed a solid season last year with four wins, two seconds and two thirds in 11 starts. Most of that came against cheaper, but he did defeat Rated R Superstar last fall.

He’s a nice horse, who knows his way to the winner’s circle, but he has never before won anything like this. I can’t completely throw him out, but I do like others better.

Title Ready

From the barn of Dallas Stewart, this 7-year-old late runner has had his moments over a racing career which has seen him win nearly $700,000, but the good performances seem to be fewer and farther between of late.

At his best, this son of More Than Ready can come with a pretty solid late run, like when he won the Grade 3 Louisiana at Fair Grounds early last year.

His recent performances do not inspire confidence, but you never know when he can bounce back with something better. If he does, he is a threat to make some noise in the stretch, but I do like others better.

Hanalei’s Houdini

This one could be a dangerous longshot on Saturday.

Trained by Mike Maker, who has had plenty of success with reformed claimers in his career, this son of Jersey Town is making strides since being claimed four starts back.

His last performance, in which he missed by a neck during a troubled trip in the Jennings Stakes at Laurel Park, was very good and his best yet.

This will be his biggest test in his career, but he is clearly better than ever and could hit the board in the Essex.

How to Watch the Essex Handicap

Essex Handicap Race Information
What Essex Handicap (Grade 3)
Location Oaklawn Park
Time Saturday, March 19 — 6:10pm Eastern time
How to Watch TVG
Purse $500,000

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

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.

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