04/12/2011 12:24PM

Oaklawn Park: Field of five for Apple Blossom

Benoit & Associates
Miss Match will be hoping for a fast pace in Friday's Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Watch your back for Miss Match.

That’s a word of caution for the four fillies and mares she will take on Friday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Miss Match snuck up on the Santa Margarita field last month at Santa Anita, winning the Grade 1 at 45-1.

“There was a lot of speed up in front of her, and that helped,” said Neil Drysdale, who trains Miss Match.

Drysdale said he will be hoping for more of the same in the Apple Blossom, which drew a field of five when entries were taken Tuesday. He might get his wish. Switch, who was part of the pace in the Santa Margarita, will start as the 119-pound co-highweight with Havre de Grace, who breezed five furlongs in a bullet 57.80 seconds in her final prep for the Apple Blossom.

The field also includes Absinthe Minded, the front-running winner of the $100,000 Bayakoa at Oaklawn in February who will break from the rail, and Belle Watling, the Chilean superstar who has raced close to the pace in both of her starts in North America.

The Apple Blossom is one of two Grade 1 races at Oaklawn, with the Arkansas Derby the other. Last year, Oaklawn put the races on back-to-back cards over its closing weekend and drew more than 100,000 spectators between Zenyatta’s win in the Apple Blossom and Line of David’s score in the Arkansas Derby.

The races will be showcased the same way this year, and with the strong Apple Blossom field and a forecast for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70s, there should again be a packed house in Hot Springs.

The Apple Blossom, which last year was run as a 1 1/8-mile stakes, has been returned to its traditional configuration as a 1 1/16-mile handicap. Miss Match comes into the race off a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for her win in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita. It was her second Grade 1 victory, following the Argentine Oaks at 1 1/4 miles in 2008.

“Nine, 10 furlongs is her best distance,” Drysdale said.

But with a mare whose thriving right now and no upcoming races for her division at home in Southern California, the decision was made to ship for the Apple Blossom.

“She’s doing very well,” Drysdale said.

Miss Match also won at a mile earlier this year, in an allowance at Golden Gate. Garrett Gomez, who had been lined up to ride Blind Luck in the Apple Blossom, will now keep his regular seat on Miss Match after Blind Luck’s connections made the decision to pass the race. Miss Match will break from post 2 and is weighted at 116 pounds for the Apple Blossom.

The complete Apple Blossom field from the rail with riders and weights is Absinthe Minded, Terry Thompson, 112; Miss Match, Garrett Gomez, 116; Havre de Grace, Ramon Dominguez, 119; Belle Watling, Hector Berrios, 114; and Switch, Joel Rosario, 119.

The race will go as the 10th on Friday, with an approximate post of 6:07 p.m. Central. The race will share a card with the $75,000 Bachelor for 3-year-olds at six furlongs, which drew a field of 10 on Tuesday.

DRF MORNING LINE: Get out of the gate fast every day - sign up for DRF's free newsletter