During a week that has been full of ups and downs with the situation at Santa Anita, it was a pleasant sight to see Oaklawn with a full crowd in the grandstand and on the apron. The sun was out, the rain was gone and it was a beautiful day for racing.
$350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2)
To kick off the day, the Azeri featured some of the best mares in the game with Eclipse award winners and finalists and grade one winners.
TAPA TAPA TAPA went straight to the front out of the one slot and SHAMROCK ROSE quickly went to the rail behind her. TAPA TAPA TAPA kept her position until the start of the turn when SHAMROCK ROSE pressed and overcame her for the lead around the turn. Down the stretch, MIDNIGHT BISOU found a hole to get to the rail and ran away with the lead. On the outside ELATE rallied late but was unable to catch MIDNIGHT BISOU, settling for second with SHAMROCK ROSE finishing third.
$750,000 Rebel Stakes Division 1 (G2)
Due to the suspension of racing at Santa Anita and the San Felipe Stakes, an important Kentucky Derby prep race, being canceled, the Oaklawn Jockey Club decided to split the Rebel Stakes into two divisions. The first division featured a field of nine, which included the unbeaten Baffert trainee, IMPROBABLE.
At the start CLASSY JOHN and LONG RANGE TODDY went straight to the lead. CLASSY JOHN set a fast first quarter at :23.77, maintaining the lead by a head give or take as the rest of the field pressed to catch up. EXTRA HOPE overcame briefly but PROUD NATION came from behind and rallied hard down the stretch only to have his hopes for the Rebel win stolen by LONG RANGE TODDY in amazing comeback run down the stretch. Behind Toddy, was IMPROBABLE for the place and GALILEAN for the show.
$350,000 Essex Handicap
The Essex is an ungraded stakes for four year olds and up. The field of nine broke cleanly with a couple of bumps and some hesitations from a couple of the starters. DALMORE went straight to the lead to set fractions of :23.27 and :47.33. NANOOSH stalked him with SNAPPER SINCLAIR and CHRIS AND DAVE behind. GIANT EXPECTATIONS began moving up in the backstretch and around the turn. Down the stretch, they were three wide with SNAPPER SINCLAIR, GIANT EXPECTATIONS and RATED R SUPERSTAR all fighting for the win. In the end, it was RATED R SUPERSTAR, SNAPPER SINCLAIR and GIANT EXPECTATIONS for the win, place and show respectively.
$750,000 Rebel Stakes Division 2 (G2)
The second division of the Rebel featured Baffert's other top trainee and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner GAME WINNER.
In a fast and clean break, OMAHA BEACH shot to the front with MARKET KING also vying to take the lead from the inside. MARKET KING and JERSEY AGENDA set the pace with OMAHA BEACH also working to get ahead of the front runners. The favorite GAME WINNER sat mid-pack, overcoming MARKET KING but not able to get ahead of OMAHA BEACH. The pair raced hard to the very end of the stretch for a tough photo finish. GAME WINNER finished second with MARKET KING finishing third.
The Rebel was a big step up in class for OMAHA BEACH, who had just come out of a maiden race, winning for the first time February 2nd for trainer Richard Mandella. The colt made his first three starts on the turf before Mandela put him on the dirt.