2023 Oaklawn Handicap Odds & Betting Picks

There’s a treat in store at Oaklawn Park on Saturday when a strong, tight field lines up for the million-dollar G2 2023 Oaklawn Handicap, with course specialist Last Samurai taking on G1 winners Proxy, Classic Causeway and Stilleto Boy – plus the upwardly mobile Charge It – in an absolute cracker. On the undercard, three-time course winner Klassy Bridgette meets the progressive Merlazza and Santa Fe Gold in the ungraded Valley of the Vapors.

Oaklawn Handicap

G2, $1,000,000, 1m 1f dirt, 4yo+, 5.06pm CT

A million bucks is a lot of money and it has drawn a strong and very interesting field for the 2023 Oaklawn Handicap, the marquee event at the Arkansas circuit on Saturday, including three G1 winners and the hero of the hour 12 months ago, who has become a firm track favourite.

Last year Last Samurai (2-1) came into the Oaklawn in only moderate order but came out of it a thoroughly dominant winner, springing a 12-1 upset when clearing away to score by four lengths. His form declined through the year, but a change of barn – current trainer Wayne Lukas has won the Oaklawn a record four times – has revitalised him and he has excelled here on his last two starts.

He did all his best work late when taking the G3 Razorback at a mile-sixteenth, and after racing closer to the speed in the G3 Essex at the same distance put away the front-running Classic Causeway (6-1) without fuss, getting the job done by a length and clearly superior. That took his record at this venue to four-for-nine, and he hasn’t been out of the first two on his last five starts here.

Those performances have earned him top weight today, but he spots only 1lb to the G1 winners Stilleto Boy (8-1) and Proxy (4-1), who come on from the G1 Santa Anita Handicap over ten furlongs when they filled the exacta, separated by just a neck.

Stilleto Boy is an infuriating animal – four-for-21, on the board 16 times – but when he gets things right he shows considerable talent, as he did at 13-1 odds in the Big Cap when rallying hard to grab the dollars in the last three jumps, with Proxy closing even more strongly when coming from much further back.

Before that he led early in the G1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park and wouldn’t go away, finishing a well-beaten longshot third but a length and a quarter ahead of Last Samurai and another half-length clear of Proxy. He’s the only one here racing Lasix-free and can’t be discounted.

Proxy is another who hits the board much more often than he wins, and his victory in the G1 Clark Stakes over a mile-eighth at Churchill Downs, when he got there late (Last Samurai fourth), was his stakes breakthrough at the ninth attempt. That was the only time he has raced near the speed recently, and he’s prone to getting too far back in his races.

Romping G3 Dwyer winner Charge It (8-5) has long had a big reputation and will appreciate stretching back out after being done for speed when runner-up in the G2 Gulfstream Park Mile. That Dwyer win was gained against poor opposition, though, and he looks like an underlay at these skinny odds – although his potential still remains and he’s the only one here with serious scope for improvement.

Senor Buscador (15-1) won a very weak stakes at Sunland Park over a mile-sixteenth – he was 1-10, which says it all – and has never looked like he wants to stretch out this far, while Rated R Superstar (20-1) is a good old boy but was well back in the Razorback and the Essex and doesn’t win this at the age of ten.

2023 Oaklawn Handicap Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Rated R SuperstarDavid Cabrera+2000
Last SamuraiCristian A. Torres+200
Stilleto BoyKent J. Desormeaux+800
ProxyJoel Rosario+400
Senor BuscadorRicardo Santana, Jr.+1500
Classic CausewayFrancisco Arrieta+600
Charge ItLuis Saez+160

The one most likely to run his race is last year’s winner LAST SAMURAI, who is holding his form very well, reserves his best for this track and can go back-to-back.

Valley of the Vapors Stakes

Ungraded, $150,000, 1m dirt, 3yo fillies, 4.30pm CT

There is not much previous stakes form in evidence among the field for the Valley of the Vapors, but there are several fillies who have already shown their liking for this track.

Foremost among them is Klassy Bridgette (5-2), who is three-for-four here and stretches out to two turns for the first time today. She had last weekend’s G2 winner Key Of Life back in third when taking down a six-furlong stakes on a sloppy track here in February, but then ran below that level behind the same horse in a similar contest on a fast surface here last month.

Perhaps she’s ready to go longer now, but her main market rival Merlazza (8-5) has already shown her aptitude for stretching out with a dominant score in a Fair Grounds allowance over a mile-sixteenth, when she drew off to win by three lengths. She makes her stakes debut today and looks ready for it.

There are four fillies who broke their maidens at this track and make their stakes debuts today, with Exponential Star (5-1) at the top of that list after an impressive win at 18-1 odds over a mile-sixteenth, easing away by two and a quarter lengths from subsequent course maiden winner Unstable Princess (12-1).

Then there’s Stellar Lily (8-1), who beat Unstable Princess into third – four and three-quarter lengths the deficit – in a maiden over course and distance in February, but was only fourth in an allowance next time. Pink Ace (20-1) achieved less when getting it right first time in a maiden claimer here over six furlongs last month, but she’ll no doubt move forward with that under her belt.

Santa Fe Gold (8-1) is unbeaten in two this year, both at Sam Houston, but it’s hard to know what she achieved when winning a restricted stakes over a mile, although she was visually very impressive in going gate-to-wire by eight and a quarter lengths. This is a fair bit tougher but she’s progressive.

Three starts ago T Max (10-1) was runner-up in a Churchill Downs stakes behind Hoosier Philly, but she has failed to build on that since then and may need an easier spot to get going again, although first-time Lasix could help.

2023 Valley Of The Vapors Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Stellar LilyLuis Saez+800
MerlazzaJoel Rosario+160
Santa Fe GoldDavid Cabrera+800
Klassy BridgetteFrancisco Arrieta+250
Unstable PrincessCristian A. Torres+1200
T MaxRicardo Santana, Jr.+1000
Pink AceMitchell Murrill+2000
Sunset PaynterRamsey Zimmerman+3000
Exponential StarIsaac Castillo+500

Stakes-winner KLASSY BRIDGETTE has already won three times at this circuit, should appreciate stretching out to a mile and can regain the winning thread.

Keep up with Horse Racing Tote and anticipate the latest 2023 Kentucky Derby Odds.  We offer the major US and Europe Racetrack entries . Remember to Sign-up and get up to a 10% horse rebate.

Daily Horse Betting Rebate

Take advantage to our free Horse Betting Guide and become a winner today. We offer a guide for all levels!

Find us on Social Media for instant 2023 Oaklawn Handicap news!