Equibase Analysis: Silver Prospector Can Shine In Essex Handicap - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Equibase Analysis: Silver Prospector Can Shine In Essex Handicap

Silver Prospector and Stewart Elliott winning the 2022 Steve Sexton Mile

This Saturday's $500,000 Grade 3 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park brings together a field of 10 sprinters with nine million dollars in career earnings between them.

Leading the field in that category is 2022 Essex winner Rated R Superstar at $1.8 million, entering the race off a fourth place finish in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap last month. The Razorback was won by Last Samurai, which boosted his earnings to $1.6 million. Next is Silver Prospector, no slouch with $1.1 million in career earnings including the 2020 G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. Classic Causeway has banked $1.1 million, the bulk of that when winning the G1 Belmont Derby on the grass last summer.

Call Me Fast enters a stakes for the first time and while trying for his third straight win at the meeting. Also entering graded stakes competition for the first time is Vittorio, who finished second in his most recent race which followed eight months off. Forza Di Oro led from the start in the G3 Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds in late January before fading to third and attempts to improve off that effort in his third race off a layoff.

The remaining three entrants appear a bit overmatched. They are Keystone Field (seventh in the Razorback in his most recent race), Necker Island (third in an allowance race last month) and Tawny Port, whose last win came in the G3 Ohio Derby last June.

Main win contenders:

Silver Prospector has won more than one-quarter of the main track races he's entered, six of 23 to be exact, including two at Oaklawn. Those two wins are the reason he may be the one to beat in this year's Essex Handicap. The first of the pair of wins over the track came in the 2020 Southwest Stakes at the distance of the Essex when he earned a then career-best 107 ™ Equibase® Speed Figure. Following poor efforts in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, Silver Prospector skipped the Kentucky Derby and took five months off. Winning his first start back, it appeared the horse was ready for the big time but then he went on a nine race losing streak. That ended in the Steve Sexton Mile Stakes last May where Silver Prospector earned a career-best 113 figure. He then lost three straight to end his 2022 campaign and took three and one-half months off.

Trainer Steve Asmussen added blinkers for the Fifth Season Stakes in January of this year but coming back from that time off, Silver Prospector wasn't ready to run his best. However, in his most recent start on February 11, Silver Prospector bounced back with a fine effort to win by nearly four lengths under Ricardo Santana, Jr., who rides again. Making his third start off a layoff and having improved to a 103 figure last month, it appears Silver Prospector is in line to repeat his big 113 figure from last year's Steve Sexton Mile effort and that could be good enough to win the 2023 Essex Handicap.

Last Samurai won the Razorback Handicap last month and did so authoritatively with a career-best 119 ™ figure. As a 5-year-old it is quite a feat to run faster than at any previous point in his career, so we might not expect that fast a race to be repeated. However, considering Last Samurai won the Oaklawn Handicap last April with a 108 figure and just missed in the Tinsel Stakes this past December, with a 106 figure, either of those efforts repeated here would give him a strong chance to win a stakes race for the second time at the meeting.

Rated R Superstar enters this year's Essex on a very similar pattern to when winning the race last year. In 2022, he finished fifth of eight in the Razorback Handicap one month earlier with a 104 figure before earning a career-best 115 figure winning this race. This year Rated R Superstar finished fourth of eight in the Razorback last month with a 100 figure. If he shows the same improvement as last year we can expect him to run fast enough to earn a 111 figure. That would be very competitive with both Silver Prospector and with Last Samurai if both run as expected, leading to a very close, and very exciting finish in this year's Essex.

The rest of the field, with their best representative ™ Equibase® Speed Figures, is Call Me Fast (103), Classic Causeway (112 – on turf), Forza Di Oro (105), Keystone Field (103), Necker Island (108), Tawny Port (105) and Vittorio (107).

Win Contenders:

Silver Prospector
Last Samurai
Rated R Superstar
Note: For any exacta tickets played, consider Vittorio for the second (runner-up) position.

Essex Handicap – Grade 3
Race 9 at Oaklawn Park
Saturday, March 18 – Post Time 5:54 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Sixteenth
Four Year Olds and Upward
Purse: $500,000

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