Weekend Lineup Presented By Del Mar Ship & Win: Tough Group Meets Up In Oaklawn Handicap - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Weekend Lineup Presented By Del Mar Ship & Win: Tough Group Meets Up In Oaklawn Handicap

Cristian Torres shares a moment with Last Samurai after their win in the Razorback

Despite winning both local prep races for the Oaklawn Handicap, D. Wayne Lukas trainee is just fourth choice on the morning line for Saturday's Grade 2, $1 million contest in Hot Springs, Ark. He'll face four other millionaires in the 1 1/8-mile test, including program favorite Charge It who adds blinkers for Todd Pletcher.

There are also potentially future Triple Crown implications on the line in Oaklawn's Bath House Row Stakes, which offers the winner a berth in the Preakness Stakes.

Keeneland's G2 Elkhorn on Saturday ought to be a fun race to watch, with 9-year-old veterans Channel Maker and Red Knight facing eight younger rivals in the 1 1/2-mile turf marathon. Channel Maker, voted 2020 Champion Male Turf Horse, won the Elkhorn last year but is third choice on the morning line behind Mike Maker trainees Red Knight and Value Engineering.

Santa Anita resumes live racing for its first-ever Hollywood meet on Friday, and offers a 1 1/8-mile older horse dirt test on Saturday in the G2 Californian. Bob Baffert trainee Defunded is the headliner in that event.

Also opening this weekend is live racing at Woodbine, with nine races Saturday, while racing at Laurel Park has been canceled until further notice.

This weekend's steeplechase action features a Grade 2 highlight at Middleburg, the Temple Gwathmey Hurdle featuring multiple Grade 1 winner Snap Decision.

The live Thoroughbred racing season breaks from the gate at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack (FLGR) this upcoming Monday, April 24.


4:44 p.m. – Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland

Defending champion Channel Maker, who won the 2020 Eclipse Award as North America's champion turf male, headlines a field of 10 4-year-olds and up entered for Saturday's 38th running of the $350,000 Elkhorn (G2) going 1½ miles on the turf.

Trained by Bill Mott, the 9-year-old Channel Maker will attempt to become the fourth horse to win the Elkhorn in consecutive years. The others were Musketier (GER) in 2010 and 2011, Kim Loves Bucky in 2002 and 2003 and the Mott-trained African Dancer in 1998 and 1999.

Seventh in the W.L. McKnight (G3) in his 2023 debut, Channel Maker will be ridden Saturday by John Velazquez and break from post position one.

Red Knight, who won the W.L. McKnight in his most recent start, will be one of two entries in the Elkhorn for four-time race winner Mike Maker. Red Knight, who won the 2020 Sycamore (G3) here in the fall of 2020, will be ridden by Gerardo Corrales and break from post five.

Maker, who won the Elkhorn with Dark Cove (2013), Da Big Hoss (2016), Bigger Picture (2019) and Zulu Alpha (2020), also will send out Value Engineering. Winner of the Mac Diarmida (G2) in his most recent start after a runner-up finish in the McKnight, Value Engineering will break from post two under Tyler Gaffalione.

Elkhorn Entries

6:06 p.m. – Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park

Last Samurai can become just the third horse to sweep Oaklawn's three most lucrative two-turn races for older horses in the same year with a victory in Saturday's $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles.

Last Samurai won the 2022 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for trainer Dallas Stewart and now-deceased Arkansas owner Willis Horton. Returning to Hot Springs late last year with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Last Samurai has made three starts at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, finishing second, beaten a neck, in the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 17 and winning the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18 and the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles March 18.

In addition to Last Samurai, Saturday's field also has four other millionaires (Rated R Superstar, Stilleto Boy, Proxy and Classic Causeway) and three Grade 1 winners (Stilleto Boy, Proxy and Classic Causeway) entered.

Program favorite Charge It adds blinkers for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Oaklawn Handicap in 2007 with Lawyer Ron and again in 2015 with Race Day. The speedy Charge It finished second in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles last April at Gulfstream Park and completed an abbreviated 2022 campaign (foot issue) with a 23-length victory in the $250,000 Dwyer Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 mile July 2 at Belmont Park. He also ran 17th in the Kentucky Derby, just his fourth career start.

Charge It, as the odds-on favorite, exits a runner-up finish in the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) March 4 at Gulfstream Park.

Oaklawn Handicap Entries

8:00 p.m. – Grade 2 Californian at Santa Anita Park

A close third as the favorite in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 4 and second in the G1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28, Bob Baffert's Defunded heads a field of six older horses going a mile and one eighth in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita.

A 5-year-old gelding by Dialed In, Defunded, who showed the way to deep stretch when ridden by Juan Hernandez in the Big 'Cap, was beaten three quarters of a length. With Hernandez back aboard on Saturday, Defunded will be seeking his third graded stakes victory in what will be his 16th career start.

Trainer Craig Dollase's Midnight Mammoth, a freakish gate to wire winner of a second condition allowance going a mile and one sixteenth here on March 19, could duke it out early on the lead with the top choice if jockey Kyle Frey seeks to once again employ front-running tactics. A 5 ¼ length winner at 11-1, Midnight Mammoth, who was claimed for $50,000 by owner Jeffrey Sengara on March 3, earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure first off the claim and will hope to improve upon that in the Californian.

Most recently well beaten on turf in the G1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 4, Brazilian-bred Royal Ship will be making his second start off a layoff for Richard Mandella as he tries to reverse a skein of three double digit defeats—in the Kilroe, the G1 Awesome Again and three starts back, in the G1 Pacific Classic Sept. 3 at Del Mar.

Californian Entries

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