Favorites, Long Shots and Possible Bets for Oaklawn’s Apple Blossom Handicap
Horse racing continues to be the only non-virtual, unscripted sport to run during the coronavirus crisis. That’s likely to change in the next two months.
The PGA Tour plans on teeing it up on June 11th. The Governor of Florida says his state is open for sports leagues and contact sports like UFC and WWE. In the meantime, many are pointing at horse racing as the model for how sports could operate when doors are unlocked; no fans, only essential personnel on the grounds, and regular testing for the players, coaches and refs. Until the PGAers tee it high and let it fly, horse racing remains the best option for bettors.
Oaklawn Park’s Apple Blossom Handicap is the top race for players this weekend. A large field of 14 lady horses will race 1 1/16 miles on Oaklawn’s main track for a purse of $600,000. It’s a competitive crew as we can make a winning case for at least half of the field, which should lead to a nice payout for winning tickets.
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Let’s look at some of the top contenders, value plays, and some betting options.
Top Contenders for the Win
COME DANCING (Post Position (PP) 3 – Morning Line Odds (ML) 3-1) hasn’t raced since the Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Sprint on November 2, 2019. She was one of the favorites to win at 2/1 odds. Unfortunately, she ran one of, if not the worst race of her life. The poor performance and long layoff between races suggest she may have been injured or needed an extended period to recover.
The six-year-old has been training well coming into the Apple Blossom Handicap and has a history of strong efforts in her first race off the sidelines. COME DANCING has two wins and a second by a neck the last three times she has raced following a rest. Horseplayers will know right away if she’s ready to go, as she’s done her best work when she is close to the lead early.
SERENGETI EMPRESS (PP: 11 ML 4-1) won her last race with ease, running away from a field of seven at Oaklawn Park. It was her first race since late January with some of her fastest fractions, which is even more impressive considering the track was sloppy. Usually, wet tracks make for slower times.
Thomas Amoss’ trainee likes to race on/near the lead and will need to overcome an outside post disadvantage with other speed horses to her inside. She’s been up to the challenge twice in her last 10 starts. She finished second by a ½ length when she started from the 10 spot in a field of 10 and won leaving from gate number 12 in a 13 horse field.
CE CE (PP: 14 ML 7/2) has three wins, a second by a neck and a fourth in her five career starts. She’s on a two-race win streak and neither were close, winning by 3 ¼ and 4 ¼ lengths. This will be her third start after an eight-month racing hiatus.
The third race after a layoff is a classic handicapping angle as horses should be near/at peak form. It’s a successful angle for CE CE’s trainer Michael McCarthy. He wins third starts at a healthy 26%. Breaking from the most outside post shouldn’t hurt her chances, as she tends to start in the middle of the pack and makes her move to the wire late.
OLLIE’S CANDY (PP: 1 ML 12-1) finished a well beaten third to CE CE in her last start, which was her first outing since the Breeders’ Cup in September. She’s never raced outside of California and sometimes a trip across the country can negatively impact a horse’s performance.
Her chances to win will be dependent on the pace of the race. She tends to come from behind the pack and needs for the horses upfront to run too fast. If the frontrunners run the first quarter in 23 seconds or less it will work to her favor, more than 23.5 seconds and she could be in trouble.
POINT OF HONOR (PP: 5 ML 10-1) has three wins and three seconds in seven starts. She’s making her second start after nearly seven months in the barn. Her last start was OK, but her numbers were well below many of the top contenders in this field. She’ll be dangerous if she runs to her back-class but will need to step it up to find her way into the winners’ circle.
COOKIE DOUGH (PP: 10 ML 10-1) is one of the frontrunners in the field and likes to be the pilot or co-pilot. She has struggled lately when other fast horses press her early, which will be the case today. She won her last start, which was her first since mid-December. Her trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. is a beast following a win as he follows a W with another at 32%. Today’s distance appears to be COOKIE DOUGH’s strength with two wins and a third in three starts. She has one win in 10 races at any other distance.
GO GOOGLE YOURSELF (PP: 12 ML 12-1) is a horse for the course and the distance. She’s won both of her races at Oaklawn and has four wins, three seconds, and two thirds in nine races at the distance. One hundred percent at in-the-money for both numbers is impossible to overlook. However, her speed numbers are a touch below the top tier contenders. She’ll need to run her absolute best to lean into the tape first.
LADY APPLE (PP: 13 ML 15-1) unquestionably loves Oaklawn and the distance. She has three wins in four races at Oaklawn and five wins in six races at the distance. Her last race was the lone miss for both. She finished fifth behind the winner by 20 lengths in last race on a sloppy-wet Oaklawn track and appears to be no fan of running a mile or more on an off track. She finished eighth by 25 lengths in her previous wet trip at 1 ¼ miles at Saratoga. The weather forecast calls for a sunny Saturday, so track conditions should be to her liking.
Expert Picks for the Apple Blossom
According to our analysis, the winner is likely to be either SERENGETI EMPRESS or CE CE. We give SERENGETI EMPRESS the slightest of nods.
LONG SHOT WIN:
LADY APPLE. There is enough working in her favor that we think there might be potential value picking her at 15-1.
This is where you might want to mix and match your picks based off the tiers we like. We’d recommend an exacts with SERENGETI EMPRESS and CE CE to win, with OLLIE’S CANDY, COME DANCING, COOKIE DOUGH, SERENGETI EMPRESS, CE CE, GO GOOGLE YOURSELF or LADY APPLE to finish second.
BACK UP EXACTA:
This is in case neither SERENGETI EMPRESS nor CE CE win, but finish second instead. If that happens, we’d recommend an exacta with COME DANCING or LADY APPLE to finish first, with either SERENGETI EMPRESS or CE CE coming home with the silver.
That’s all for our 2020 Apple Blossom Handicap Picks and Preview. Now head to TVG and make your selections before the race begins. Good luck!
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