Thanks to the split of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) into two divisions, Oaklawn Park will be able to offer an exciting all-stakes Pick 4 on March 16 that includes both halves of the much-anticipated Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.
I’ve put together a Pick 4 play that includes a strategy I rarely utilize—using “ALL” in the most competitive leg. The rest of the sequence looks predictable enough that spreading deep in one leg to catch a big price could be worth the extra cost.
Let’s take a quick look at each race in the sequence:
Race 7: Azeri Stakes (gr. II)
The classy, consistent four-year-old #2 Midnight Bisou is the 6-5 favorite here off a win in the Houston Ladies’ Classic (gr. III) at Sam Houston, but she had to work surprisingly hard to run down a couple of big longshots. She can win, but I would definitely want to include #5 Elate, a two-time Grade 1 winner making her seasonal debut. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro hasn’t run since finishing second by a neck in a very strong renewal of the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga in August, but she did win the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) last summer off a similarly long layoff, and she’s run faster on the Beyer and BRIS speed figure scales than Midnight Bisou.
Race 8: Rebel Stakes Division 1 (gr. II)
As mentioned in my separate preview of this race, #9 Improbable figures to sit a perfect trip and looms as a clear standout on class and speed figures. Conditioned by Bob Baffert, who has won the Rebel six times since 2010, Improbable has been training up a storm for his three-year-old debut and looks like a logical single.
Race 9: Essex Handicap
The California shipper #3 Sonneteer likes Oaklawn Park, and while he could only finish fourth in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) here last month, he ran into traffic trouble while rallying in the homestretch and might have finished closer with a clean run. He’s a logical player at a decent price (5-1), but this race looks wide-open—truthfully, you can make a case for just about anyone winning on their best day. This is where I’ll use the “ALL” button and hope to catch a big price.
Race 10: Rebel Stakes Division 2 (gr. II)
The reigning two-year-old champion #5 Game Winner is an obvious choice to give Baffert a Rebel double, but his pre-race work tab has been a bit less steady than that of Improbable, and I wonder if this workmanlike colt will be a bit short of his absolute best on Saturday. If that is indeed the case, then #6 Omaha Beach—a nine-length maiden winner at Santa Anita last month—could be the one to capitalize and post an upset. I’ll use both in the Pick 4.
$1 Pick 4: 2,5 with 9 with ALL with 5,6 ($18)