HOT SPRINGS, Ark.– The Oaklawn Mile continues to make the grade.
Debuting in 2019, in conjunction with Oaklawn extending its season to May, the Oaklawn Mile for older horses will be run as a Grade 3 event for the first time Saturday. This year’s projected field will feature Grade 1 winner Roadster, Grade 2 winners Cezanne and Law Professor and Grade 3 winners Fulsome, Silver Prospector and Mo Mosa.
Probable post time for the Oaklawn Mile, which goes as the ninth of 13 races, is 4:40 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at noon, with the infield open, weather permitting. Saturday’s card also features the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1), $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies and the $200,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters.
Cezanne is the early favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who seeks his first Oaklawn Mile victory after finishing second in 2020 with future Eclipse Award winner Improbable (champion older dirt male).
A 5-year-old son of Curlin, Cezanne exits a 2 ½-length victory in the $200,000 San Carlos Stakes (G2) at 7 furlongs March 5 at Santa Anita. Cezanne didn’t debut until June of his 3-year-old year and the San Carlos marked only his second start since last April because of “minor issues,” Baffert said.
Purchased as a 2-year-old for $3.65 million, Cezanne has won 4 of 6 starts overall. His abbreviated 4-year-old campaign – one race – resulted in a 9 ¾-length victory in the $100,000 Kona Gold Stakes (G3) at 6 ½ furlongs last April at Santa Anita.
Cezanne finished third, beaten three lengths, in the $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes (G3) Jan. 29 at Santa Anita. The 6-furlong race was his 2022 debut. Cezanne will be racing outside California for the first time Saturday and around two turns for the first time in almost two years.
“Cezanne, he’s a horse that timing’s been sort of not been right for everything,” Baffert said. “Gave him the time off. Came back and ran in that stake. I’d like to see how he ships. He’s been wanting to go long. He’s been running sprints and stuff. This will be a good test for him and we’ll see how he handles it.”
The projected 10-horse Oaklawn Mile field from the rail out: Runnin’ Ray, Martin Garcia to ride, 124 pounds, 8-1 on the morning line; Mo Mosa, Ramon Vazquez, 124, 20-1; Market Analysis, Luis Contreras, 124, 12-1; Cezanne, Flavien Prat, 124, 5-2; Roadster, Francisco Arrieta, 117, 5-1; Silver Prospector, Jose Lezcano, 117, 8-1; Dark Vader, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 12-1; Fulsome, Florent Geroux, 124, 4-1; Necker Island, Mitchell Murrill, 124, 6-1; and Law Professor, John Velazquez, 124, 8-1.
Like Cezanne, the Oaklawn Mile will be the first start outside California for Law Professor. Trained by Michael McCarthy, Law Professor won the off-the-turf $200,000 Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes (G2) Dec. 26 at Santa Anita, was second to Express Train in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles Feb. 5 at Santa Anita and fifth in the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) at 1 mile on the turf March 5 at Santa Anita in his last start.
Express Train returned to capture the $650,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) at 1 ¼ miles March 5. McCarthy sent champion Ce Ce to win Oaklawn’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 12 and finished second, beaten a nose, in last year’s Oaklawn Mile with Rushie.
“Bringing back a horse who I certainly think fits,” McCarthy said. “Race in the off-the-turf Mathis Brothers Mile was very good. Certainly, no shame to run second to Express Train in the San Pasqual that day. Wish we were drawn a little bit farther inside, instead of being stuck out there in the middle of the racetrack. But John Velazquez worked him the other day and was very pleased. I hope we get a nice setup and good position going into the first turn and turn up the backside and go from there.”
Roadster won the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) in 2019 for Baffert, but is now with trainer Michael Stidham. Roadster will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the $100,000 Polynesian Stakes at 1 mile Sept. 18 at Laurel.
Fulsome will be making his 4-year-old debut for two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Fulsome won the $300,000 Oaklawn Stakes at 1 1/8 miles last May, then added victories in the $150,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) May 29 at Churchill Downs and the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) Aug. 24 at Parx. “Doing great,” Cox said. “Likes Oaklawn. Hopefully, gets a good setup. Might be a little bit sharper off the layoff than usual, but we’re hopeful that he’ll relax and come with a run and he can get there.”
Silver Prospector won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles in 2020 at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Mo Mosa won the $400,000 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) May 31 at Lone Star for trainer Mike Maker.
Necker Island is a major stakes winner for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. Market Analysis has recorded two powerful allowance/optional claiming victories at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Runnin’ Ray makes his stakes debut for trainer Joe Sharp after a front-running allowance victory Feb. 19 in his last start. Runnin’ Ray covered 1 mile in a meet-best 1:37.05.
The Carousel is headed by multiple Grade 2 winner Frank’s Rockette for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and breeder/owner Frank Fletcher of North Little Rock.
The 8-5 program favorite, Frank’s Rockette won the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters last year at Oaklawn before finishing second in the Carousel in her next start. A victory Saturday would make Frank’s Rockette, a 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, a millionaire.
Probable post time for the Carousel, which goes as the fifth race, is 2:19 p.m.
Oaklawn Press Release