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.
Flatter’s 7-year old son, Plainsman is a winner of the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap held at Oaklawn in his season debut. The Grade 3 Ack Ack winner at Churchill Downs in fall last year, the veteran of six years completed his season by finishing third in the Grade 1 Cigar mile at Aqueduct.
Chief will be Warrior’s Charge. Warrior’s Charge came into the Grade 3 Essex after a dominant 9 3/4 length score against allowance company seven week ago. The millionaire was also a winner of Oaklawn Park’s graded stakes. He isn’t as consistent as Plainsman but he can be a tough horse when he’s on his game. The son of Munnings finished fourth in last year’s Preakness. He was also second in Grade 2 Stephen Foster behind Maxfield.
After the Cox couple, it is hard to overlook the Robertino Diodoro trained Thomas Shelby. Curlin’s gelding was the pacesetter in the Razorback, and was an aggressive rival to Plainsman. He broke from the rail Saturday and should be back in pace. The 6-year-old claimer has now been out in force in stakes races at Oaklawn. He was beaten by less than one length in each of his last three runs.
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.
He was a determined winner in the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn Park last month and he appears to be returning where he left off last year. Last year’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct saw him finish third. Although he has the speed and tactical ability to get involved in the early stages, he has shown the ability to move past horses during the stretch.
With Joel Rosario, the top rider, back in the saddle, this horse looks great, but it seems like his stablemate may be on the big side.
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.
Although he did not win last year’s race, there was some good effort including a second place to Maxfield in Foster and a miss to Thomas Shelby at Keeneland.
Also trained by Cox it will be fascinating to see who takes the race for Thomas Shelby. It’s possible that this is it. After a win at a track he loves, I believe he will run well Saturday.
He is my top choice.
Thomas Shelby Most of his career successes have been against less-skilled horses, but he showed that he belongs with top quality stakes horses in three of the most recent races.
After winning the Tinsel Stakes, and Fifth Season races, he won a large race in which he fought Plainsman down to the wire at the Razorback.
With his speed and early pace, he should be able to chase the lead early on Saturday. He will be facing serious competition from the Cox runners.
He will not be my number one pick, but I would expect him to prove a tough horse in the Essex stretch.
Beau Luminarie This hardworking son of I Want Revenge is a steady string of strong races.
He finished in the money for all 11 races last year. Rudolphe Brisset will be able to see him perform well on Saturday after a short rest since his third place finish at Oaklawn Park’s muddy Tinsel Stakes.
With all three horses ahead wanting to lead the race, this horse can run on the turn and sit at the front. He can also sit closer to the horses than the rest of the field. He is my favorite rallyer.
Rated This millionaire finished either first or second at Oaklawn Park nine times. At 9 years old, the pro still has a lot to go.
He is the son of Kodiak Kowboy and was just five minutes late in his final rally last time at Razorback. But he was running full or even run. Before that, he rolled home late to win the local Fifth Season at odds of 25-1.
He will once again be a horse you should fear due to his powerful late kick. However, I prefer Beau Luminarie’s chances, as he can keep a bit closer to the pace in the beginning of his run.
Popular Kid This 8-year old gelding won the Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial Stakes, Remington Park in two runs back. He made an impression at Oaklawn Park recently with a third-place finish to Plainsman or 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. Although he was beaten by cheaper horses, he also won Rated R Superstar.
He’s an excellent horse who knows how to get into the winners circle. However, he’s never won something like this before. Although I don’t want to throw him out completely, I prefer others.
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.
This son of More Than Ready is capable of a solid run late, such as when he won Grade 3 Louisiana at Fair Grounds in early 2013.
His recent performances don’t inspire confidence but you never know what he might do to make a comeback. He could make some noise on the stretch if he does. But I prefer others.
Hanalei’s Houdini This one might be a risky longshot Saturday.
This son from Jersey Town has made great strides since his claim four years ago.
His performance in the Jennings Stakes, at Laurel Park in which he narrowly missed by a neck, was his most impressive yet. This will be his most difficult test yet, but he’s clearly in great form and should hit the boards in 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