2023 G3 Bayakoa Stakes Preview + Full-field Analysis

February 2, 2023

A Mo Reay wins the Pago Hop Dec. 31 at Fair Grounds (Hodges Photography)

By Ross Blacker

While the eyes of the Thoroughbred world will be focused on Derby Preps in both Hallandale Beach and Arcadia on Saturday, there is an appealing graded stake taking place in Hot Springs. Seven fillies and mares will go postward in the Grade III Bayakoa going 8.5 furlongs on the Oaklawn Park dirt.

The race does present some appealing betting opportunities as there is no standout clear-cut favorite among the seven entered in the race where the winner will claim their share of the $250K purse. Let’s take a look at the field:

1- A Mo Reay | Geroux/Cox | 5/2 ML

Coming off a win on an off-track in New Orleans, this gal enters the race off a career-best Beyer (88) in the listed Pago Hop Stakes. Will be breaking from the one hole so figure she will have to be part of the early pace scenario. Has shown ability in the past to stalk the early pace.

Makes the second start of her career for the Cox barn after a private purchase and the first part of her career spent with Todd Pletcher. Horse seems to be coming into form with three efforts all over 80 on the Beyer scale, two of which were on turf. Yes, there are some questions about this one and given the connections, the price will be short. In these types of spots over the past 5 years at Oaklawn, Cox has won twice from 13 starts and hits the board 46% of the time. Prefer others.

2- Guana Cay | Arrieta/Foster | 20/1 ML

Longest shot on the board, first off the claim for trainer Eric Foster. Horse actually has run four times over this strip with two wins and a second under previous conditioner Cipriano Contreras. Another one that has an inside post that likes to be up with the leaders early. Despite the long odds today, this one not allergic to winning as she has had her picture taken 7 times in 21 starts, earning a little over $300K.

This is obviously a class test that the connections feel comfortable taking seemingly because of this gal’s previous success at Oaklawn. The claim to graded stakes angle isn’t one Foster has ever taken and lifetime he is 0-for-7 in Hot Springs, hitting the board twice. He does get the services of one of the track’s best riders in Francisco Arrieta but I feel that there’s just too much to overcome in this spot.

3- Ice Orchid | Santana Jr./Ortiz | 4/1 ML

Ice Orchid makes her way to the gate for the G3 Honeybee, in which she was 2nd (Coady Photography)

The first of two entries for trainer Johnny Ortiz who is off to a less-than-stellar 3-for-39 this meet. This four-year-old has never been off the board in Hot Springs winning once, her maiden score last February. They then tried the Honeybee, finishing a distant second to Secret Oath.

Has a pretty versatile running style as she can either be close early or rate and come from behind. Santana has ridden this one six previous times so he knows what makes her tick. Have to feel as though the other Ortiz entrant, Graysonmacho Gal, was put in the entry box to make the pace and set things up for this one. Ran a career-best 89 in the Pippin, the local prep for this one where she finished second behind Lovely Ride while turning back Le Da Vida, both runners in today’s proceedings.

This one obviously is familiar with the surroundings and seems to be getting better and better with each race. Should represent some value as well. Santana and Ortiz are 0-for-3 when teaming up in graded stakes at Oaklawn but have connected at a 19% win clip in the past five years and hit the board 46% of the time. Strongly considering.

4- Power River | Cabrera/Norm Casse | 5/1 ML

Makes the trek from New Orleans for her first-ever appearance in Hot Springs for trainer Norm Casse. This one has been the model of consistency, hitting the board in each of her last 10 trips to the starting gate. Could very well be part of the early story and given her recent history could be there late. On paper, this is a slight step up for her as she’s never faced graded-stakes company before.

The last try was against a short field and the winner came back to run fourth at the signal-less Sam Houston this past weekend. This is not a field full of monsters and I feel this one fits very nicely with this bunch. Cabrera is a guy that knows his way around the track and when he teams with Casse, they hit 38% of the time, although it is just an eight-race sample size and seven of the eight runners went off at 4/1 or less. Notable that Geroux has ridden this horse in her last four starts but no surprise that the Frenchman elects to stick with his main man Cox in this spot.

However, in looking at past Oaklawn results the surface of this track is unique and having races over it is certainly an advantage. As such, not having races over the strip could be deemed a disadvantage. While I am tempted given the price, which could even float up from 5/1 going to pass.

5- Graysonsmacho Gal | Gabriel Saez/Ortiz | 15/1 ML

Graysonsmacho Gal’s most recent win came in September of 2021 at Ellis Park (Coady Photography)

As mentioned this one was probably entered to ensure an honest early pace and make one of the race favorites, Lovely Ride, earn everything she gets in the first four furlongs or so. Hopefully, this gal has done lots of work in the gate with longtime starter Blue Knott and the veteran Oaklawn gate crew as she has had past gate troubles as recently as three back. Did break fine last time at Oaklawn in the Pippin, the local pre, but just had nothing.

She has not crossed the wire first since an 11th win opposite allowance company at Ellis in September of 2021. Ironically, earlier in that Ellis meet, she dusted a four-horse field by 17 in the slop under today’s rider Gabriel Saez.

While many bettors do subscribe to the “other” angle, opting to back the higher-priced horse of a certain trainer given this one’s form and allergy to winning lately I just don’t see that as a prudent strategy. There is enough class and early speed in this race to guard against this daughter of Mucho Macho Ran running away and not stopping. Pass.

6- Le Da Vida (CHI) | Cheminaud/Correas | 7/2 ML

Nacho Correas is known for winning with South American imports where they are bred in Argentina or Chile. This one is Chilean-bred and won a pair of races after arriving stateside for Correas and today’s rider Vincent Cheminaud. Despite having a 401 wet number, did not like the slop two back at Oaklawn. Came back to run an 88 and finish third in the Pippin.

I always say that track knowledge and familiarity is key in these Oaklawn races and this gal has it despite not winning. Has been prepping for this spot at Correas’ Keeneland base. With the amount of speed signed on here, I see at least two horses vying for the lead, the pace will be honest enough that Cheminaud and this gal will be able to close. Plus, it’s a small field so the likelihood of traffic trouble is lessened.

Interestingly enough, this is just Correas’ second-career graded stakes starter at Oaklawn. The first was eventual Breeder’s Cup winner and Eclipse Award finalist Blue Prize (ARG) who finished third in the Grade II Azeri in 2018.

Getting back to this one’s chances, I went back and watched the Pippin replay and she was coming in the end and was strong on the gallop out which bodes well for this spot. The value also should be there, relatively speaking, so I fancy this gal’s chances quite a bit to hit the board.

7- Lovely Ride | Torres/Diodoro | 3/1 ML

Lovely Ride captures the Pippin in her 2023 debut (Coady Photography)

At least recently, this one has been a horse for course, winning her last two starts on this strip. Is the field’s leading earner ($508K) and has the best last-out Beyer (91). In fact, she is the only one in this field to ever run over a 90 on the Beyer scale.

Did it on the front end in both of her last two wins, one in the slop and one on fast going. Breaks from an outside post and with plenty of room to the first turn, gunning and clearing should not be an issue for the circuit’s leading jockey Cristian Torres.

This five-year-old by Candy Ride has seemingly found her stride and is rounding into form. Would not be surprised if she wins and the connections stay on this local road with the Azeri and potentially Apple Blossom. Granted, this gal will have to improve to warrant entries and consideration into those spots.

The road starts Saturday as she is drawn outside for a trainer that seems to win everything he sends over and under a jockey that has won $400K in purses more than any rider on the grounds. It seems as though this could be the start of big things for this horse and I want to jump on the bandwagon, albeit slightly belatedly, and make her my pick.

Race Shape: There are three horses in this race that are destined to be on top from the break: Powder River, Graysonsmacho Gal, and Lovely Ride. Given the distance and the track complexion (and the ability of these horses), I do not envision a suicidal early pace, thinking it will be something like 23 and mid-47. From there, everyone else in the field with one exception is a stalker, the exception being the lone closer in the Bayakoa, Le Da Vida. I don’t envision a total pace meltdown here so don’t feel as though this spot lends itself to that kind of scenario. However, with that said, Le Da Vida hasn’t exactly been double-digit lengths behind in her races so she will be somewhat in the picture throughout.

Picks: As mentioned, I feel like this could be the start of a big 2023 campaign for Lovely Ride and am somewhat surprised at the morning line. To me, anything north of 2/1 or even 9/5 would warrant a win bet on this horse.

As far as which horses to use in any multi-race wagers, I’d obviously include Lovely Ride on all of my tickets and heavily lean on Le Da Vida as well. Ice Orchid would be the third horse I’d use on some tickets if playing more than one. A Mo Reay would be the “if she wins, we lose” type of horse for me in this situation.

@jonathanstettin Another great look back by Jonathan at the king of the claimers Oscar Barrera.

@tombramel View testimonials