On Friday October 20th, Remington Park will present its renewal of Oklahoma Classics Night, which offers over $1 million in purses through 10 different State Bred and Starter Stakes, all for Oklahoma Breds. The first Classics night was presented at Remington in 1993, and this year’s edition has several returning champions as well as emerging faces on the scene. Though 2016 Super Derby Champion Texas Chrome nor the ill fated Okie Ride are part of this year’s program, there’s still plenty of star power from horses like Shotgun Kowboy, Steel Cut, and Gianna’s Dream to nationally known trainers like Steve Asmussen and Michael Maker.
Chris Kotulak, who is now in his 7th year as the Remington Park Track Announcer, recently spoke with me about this night celebrating the Oklahoma Bred. Since admittedly I know little about Oklahoma racing I needed an on hand expert opinion on what to expect Friday night. As far as which races will be the best to watch from a competitive and wagering standpoint? “Race 4 , Oklahoma Classics Lassie Stakes, there’s three in here to really watch. CREATE A STAR, BUSTIN A MOVE, and SYDNEY FREEMAN could all be nice fillies and on the scene for awhile. Also, I think the Oklahoma Classics Turf in the last race may even be more wide open than the Lassie!” As far as a horse people should keep their eye on this night? Chris thinks STEEL CUT is a clear standout in the Distaff race 5. “She’s earned almost a quarter million dollars since being claimed for $10K and won last year’s edition”
So what exactly is the importance of days like Oklahoma Classics Night, Maryland Million Day, and the like? State-bred races are not without its share of critics, who claim that they weaken the competition in races. Mr. Kotulak thinks “Nights like this are monumental in the success of any state-bred breeding program. They give a breeder incentive to breed in state and an owner incentive to target their horse(s) for Classics night race. It can often be the highlight of a horse’s career, to win a Classics race. Nights like these are a tremendous causeway towards horses racing deep into, and even extending, their career. Many horses have run on Classics night 4,5, even 6 times.”
Remington is considered one of the most fan friendly tracks in the country, and is always rated high on the H.A.N.A. (Horseplayer Association of North America) list for best tracks in North America for horseplayers, currently they rate 6th. When asked what Remington offers others Don, or what is it they’re doing right? Chris responded “Field size and quality of product is paramount in offering races that bettors appreciate. In my 7 seasons here we’ve experienced our share of short fields. We lost a few barns that stabled here, but that seems to be corrected as we have the stock of Danny Caldwell owned horses, plus trainers like Steve Asmussen, the Von Hemel’s, and Bret Calhoun among the most notable. I know that management is very aware of maintaining low takeouts on its wagers.”
Inspired by tonight, I’ve decided to try my hand at analyzing and handicapping the biggest night of the year for Oklahoma Breds. So I hope you enjoy what follows. Many thanks to Chris Kotulak for the information!
RACE 1 Oklahoma Classics Starter Allowance Stakes: I think 3-MY BROTHER DON could be a single/key for any wager here, though I will be presenting a Pick 5 where I will go 2 deep for this race. While ‘Don’ hasn’t won in almost 10 months since his last race at Remington, he did win this race last year and has been freshened since his near miss on turf at Ellis in July. Has 6 wins in 16 starts at Remington and is 3 for 5 at the 7 furlong distance. Is also first off the claim for Scott Young (27%) and he’s 24% +90 days off. He and jockey Floyd Wethey Jr are hitting 32% together their last 56 starts. 5-ALPHA AND OMEGA has been facing tougher lately than most in Optional Claimers and has mostly been running on the Turf lately as well. Trainer Clinton Stuart is 29% 3rd off the layoff with a +$1.48 ROI. I will be using him as well on the P5 ticket. Interesting i don’t have the morning line favorite in here in 4-FINE, who has also been facing tougher and comes in off a win at Presque Isle on synthetic.
RACE 2 Oklahoma Classics Juvenile: I really don’t have a strong opinion here, but was able to narrow it down to 4 horses in here; top pick FITE N TOCC, DAAHER’S SUCCESS, KIRK OF DIAMONDS, and RIGHT CLICK. Will use all 4 in the Pick 5.
RACE 3 Oklahoma Classics Turf Distaff: There’s no doubt in my mind that 2-GIANNA’S DREAM is a clear standout and single in this race and I will do just that. After being claimed by Mike Maker at the 2016 Saratoga meet, she has won 5 of last 9 including last year’s edition of this race and a G3 placing. More than likely will be on the lead early unless they decide to stalk. 5-DIVA’S RULE is probably the main challenger, both for the early lead and the win. Went gate to wire last here in the prep for this and has done well in both her turf starts.
RACE 4 Oklahoma Classics Lassie: Chris Kotulak wasn’t kidding about this race being competitive. And while I did include all 3 of the fillies Chris mentioned, none are my top pick, which belongs to 4-MY SWEET EMMA. Emma is shipping from Canterbury where she broke her maiden in debut, then was simply overmatched in Shakespeare Juvenile, well beaten but still 3rd of 8 vs the boys after challenging a brisk pace. Should be up near the pace early tonight. Longshot 5-REST also set a fast pace in debut vs boys October 6th, getting passed in stretch but still beating 10 others. Doubt 20-1 happens with Gaffalione and Asmussen. 7-CREATE A STAR win debut like a pro over BUSTIN A MOVE , which SYDNEY FREEMAN did as well in her last race. Including all 3 of these as well on the Pick 5 ticket.
RACE 5 Oklahoma Classics Distaff: I know Chris mentioned he thinks 4-STEEL CUT is a standout here, my top pick is 7-SUNDAY NIGHT MISS, who won the prep for this coming from slightly off the pace to win going away. Is making 3rd start in form cycle and only 8th start of career, so is still getting better. Trainer C.R. Trout is 6 of last 14 3rd off the layoff and 38% with winners of their last race. Definitely including STEEL CUT on the ticket though. Won this race last year, and has a great record at Remington and the distance. However is coming in off a 3 month layoff, and trainer Wesley Hawley is only 2 of last 40 90+ days off. Think it’s between these 2.
Pick 5 ticket: 3,5/3,4,5,6/2/1,4,5,7,8/4,7 a $40 ticket, not alot, but I’m doubting this pays a ton with possibly 3 standouts in the sequence.
RACE 6 Oklahoma Classics Sprint: 3-EUROBOND was well beaten last year in this race, but has made a remarkable transformation his last two starts since being claimed by Federico Villafranco. Has 4 wins from 6 starts at Remington, and is probably the speed of the speed here. 6- NR. N will probably be stalking top choice, his last time on dirt a dominant 4 3/4 length win at Lone Star. Has 2 wins at Remington and has been near perfect at 6 furlongs (4-3-1-0). 9-WELDER will be challenging for the lead early from outside but is first off the claim for low % trainer Boyd Finnell.
RACE 7: Oklahoma Classics Cup: While I hate to eat chalk, I don’t see 2-SHOTGUN KOWBOY losing here. While he hasn’t won since February, has been facing much better than this field and is 6 for 8 here and 3 for 7 at the distance. Has tactical speed and coming in for high % trainer Trout. 8-Z ROCKSTAR was 2nd in this race last year and is 3rd off the layoff for Donnie Von Hemel (19%) and coming off a 2nd in an Optional Claimer last out. 10-CURMIT is a lightly raced 3 year old Curlin colt for Steve Asmussen who will probably be sitting just off the pace and anything out of his barn here has to be at least considered. 1-MAKIN THE DOUGH has never been out of the money in 5 dirt starts. Is another improving 3 year old and Trainer Roger Engel is 32% 2nd off the layoff. Was 2nd in the 7 furlong prep for this last month. Going 2 deep in the Guaranteed Late Pick 4 that starts here. 2 + 8.
RACE 8 Oklahoma Classics F&M Starter Allowance: 10-BERNARDINA goes turf to dirt and route to Sprint for Karl Broberg, who is 25% with the former and 27% with latter. 8-CHEYENNE BLUES has really hit best form since being claimed by Asmussen 3 back. Cuts back from 1 mile, which she destroyed a field of 9. Much tougher company. 1-RIBBON OF DARKNESS at first glance doesn’t look like she belongs, but is first off claim for Villafranco (30%) and has won almost half her career win total at Remington from just 30% of career starts. Using all 3 for P4.
RACE 9 Oklahoma Classics Distaff Sprint: 3-MISCHIEVOUS MISTY prepped for this on turf but has been very competitive on dirt in sprints. Cones in for Bret Calhoun, who is 25% with beaten favorites. 7-EURO K SHOTGUN comes in for Trout and has 4 wins from 6 starts at Remington and 2 for 4 at distance. Will probably be stalking the early speed, of which there’s plenty. That could set it up for 11-HAILSTORM BREW, who was well beaten at 2 turns last out. Is entered for Trout, who is 9 for last 20 2nd off the layoff. Is good at the track and distance. Using all 3 in Pick 4.
RACE 10 Oklahoma Classics Turf Classic: 1-PACIFIC TYCOON
Using all 5 in Pick 4.
Pick 4: 2,8/1,9,10/3,7,11/1,3,4,6,8 $45 ticket for a $.50 play!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this stab at Handicapping!