Projected speed in King Cotton the key to Oaklawn Pick 3

Profile Picture: James Scully

February 7th, 2020

The $125,000 King Cotton S. is the feature on Saturday’s nine-race program at Oaklawn Park, and Grade 1-winning sprinter Whitmore will be favored among eight horses in the 6-furlong test. Many will note how the gelding returned from a layoff to capture the Hot Springs S. at Oaklawn in 2019, but the pace was hot and contested.

Several like to race up close, in the King Cotton field, but #1 Share the Upside has the potential to be the controlling speed, in his first outing since August. The gelding showed his affinity for Oaklawn last year, when he registered a trio of triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings from a 2-1-0 record, and has won off a freshening previously.

He had a pair of 5-furlong bullet works in preparation for trainer Steve Asmussen, and I anticipate Share the Upside will shake loose early from his outside post. He can get his 5-year-old season off to an encouraging start with a gate-to-wire stakes win.

The 7-year-old Whitmore has tons of back class, but he is exiting a disappointing seventh in the Cigar Mile (G1) in December. He could be vulnerable at short odds.

I will play Share the Upside to win in the King Cotton, which is the eighth race Saturday, and single the frontrunner in the Pick 3 that starts with the sixth race. Here are my thoughts on the first two legs in the sequence.

Race 6

#1 Calf Moon Bay is my top choice. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, she finished a respectable third when she made her stakes debut in the Las Virgenes (G2) a year ago, but didn’t run again until November, when she returned with a good second to Motion Emotion in the Zia Park Oaks. Calf Moon Bay should improve off the tightener, and she is well drawn on the rail with jockey Martin Garcia.

#2 Blessed Again, who broke her maiden by three lengths and recorded a 12-length, entry-level allowance victory at Oaklawn last year, will also be included. Her Brisnet Speed numbers fit, and the 4-year-old filly has run well with time between starts.

I will try to beat 5-2 morning-line favorite La Renoleta, an Argentinian import who could need a race in her first start since June.

Race 7

#3 Communicator merits serious respect for trainer Brad Cox and has registered 95 and 93 Brisnet Speed ratings in his last two outings at Aqueduct, but the maiden winner is no cinch in his first Oaklawn appearance.

I will also add #1 New Mexico, who will show speed from the rail for Asmussen; #9 Franknjymme, who drops in class and could give Reeve McGaughey his first training win; and #11 Jack Van Berg, who should show speed from the outside for new trainer Ingrid Mason.

$4 Pick 3: 1,2 with 1,3,9,11 with 1 ($32)