The Essex Handicap & Whitmore Stakes Recap

Track favorite Last Samurai was the headline act at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, the five-year-old winning his second Graded stakes of the year in the valuable G3 The Essex Handicap, and he was backed up by the in-form sprinter Tejano Twist, who made his breakthrough at Graded level when coming fast and late to take the G3 Whitmore.

The Essex Handicap

G3, $500,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 4yo+

Oaklawn Park is home sweet home for Last Samurai, who put two wins together for the first time in his life when seeing off the threat of Classic Causeway and Forza Di Oro to take The Essex Handicap, the feature at the Arkansas circuit on Saturday.

The even-money favorite maintained his sparkling form this year after stalking the 12-second fractions laid down by second-choice Classic Causeway, back on dirt after a long spell on turf. The front-runner was still out there as they turned for home, but Cristian Romero had Last Samurai running hard and he took the lead at the eighth-pole, driving on to win by a length with Forza Di Oro two and three-quarter lengths further back in third.

“He’s just starting to find himself,” said veteran trainer Wayne Lukas. “His confidence level is way up now and mine is beginning to get there.”

This was Last Samurai’s fourth win from nine starts at Oaklawn, all those victories coming in stakes. The five-year-old will bid to improve that record when he returns for the $1m G2 Oaklawn Handicap over a mile-eighth on April 22.

Essex Handicap Payouts

1. Last Samurai$4.00$2.80$2.40
2. Classic Causeway$4.20$3.60
3. Forza Di Oro$4.60

WINNING TIME: 1m 43.17s

Essex Handicap Race Video


Last Samurai wins the 2023 Essex Handicap #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Sports #FYP #Horse #Horses

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Whitmore Stakes

G3, $200,000, 6f dirt, 4yo+

There’s a first time for everything, and so it was for Tejano Twist, who finally got the job done at Graded level when sizzling through the stretch to put away Miles Ahead and Edge To Edge in the Whitmore.

Francisco Arrieta kept the 9-5 favorite well away from the early pace of barn mate Edge To Edge and second-choice Cogburn, but lit a fire under his mount around the turn and the response was dramatic. Tejano Twist ran right by Edge To Edge at the sixteenth-pole and won going away by a length and a half, as Miles Ahead rallied late on the rail to take the place slot by three-quarters of a length.

“He broke well – for him – and kicked hard,” said in-form trainer Chris Hartman. “I thought Edge To Edge might have it at the top of the lane but Tejano had plenty left.”

It was Tejano Twist’s fourth win in his last five starts, and he was runner-up on the other occasion. Hartman is planning to bring him back for the G3 Count Fleet Sprint over course and distance on April 15.

Whitmore Stakes Payouts

HorseWin PlaceShow
1. Tejano Twist$5.80$3.20$2.60
2. Miles Ahead$5.60$4.20
3. Edge To Edge$4.60

WINNING TIME: 1m 09.27s

Whitmore Stakes Race Video


Tejano Twist wins the 2023 Whitmore Stakes #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports

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