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Oaklawn Park: San Pablo ships in for Essex Handicap
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – San Pablo has invaded from Florida to lead a field of five older horses in the $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn on Saturday. The race also drew the first three finishers from last month’s Fifth Season, which Donoharm won by a neck over Skyring. Win Willy was another half-length back in third in an effort that moved him within $32,113 of $1 million in career earnings.
The Essex is the first major race in Oaklawn’s handicap series. It continues with the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback on March 9 and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn on April 13.
San Pablo is the 120-pound highweight for the Essex, which will be run over a mile and a sixteenth. He comes into the race off back-to-back wins, in the $97,000 Swatara at Penn National on Nov. 21 and the $73,000 Queens County at Aqueduct on Dec. 8.
“We were looking for an opportunity for him and it worked out the travel arrangements were easy,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains San Pablo for Dan Bearden. “There was a flight going that way.
“We have the Oaklawn Handicap in the back of our minds. This gives us a chance to see how he likes Oaklawn Park.”
Chris DeCarlo has the mount from post 3.
“If there’s not much pace, he can make it,” Pletcher said of San Pablo. “Otherwise, he can sit off it.”
Donoharm will be seeking his fifth straight win in a streak that started at Monmouth in August. He began putting things together last May, when he won a $50,000 maiden claiming race by seven lengths at Churchill Downs.
“When you go back and see where the trend started, when he broke his maiden so easily at Churchill, that was his first race after being castrated,” said trainer Bret Calhoun. “I think that made a difference. And pedigree-wise, he’s supposed to get a little better with age. I think he has.”
Skyring closed from midpack in the Fifth Season and was just edged by Donoharm.
“He was unlucky to lose last time, I thought,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Win Willy hit traffic along the rail in the Fifth Season, and put in a second run in the stretch when clear. The start was his first since November.
“I thought he ran a winning race,” said trainer Mac Robertson. “The rail probably wasn’t the place to be. They go in 50 [seconds for the half-mile] and you’re last, you kind of have no choice. You’ve got to try to save some ground, and it didn’t work out. He got a little tired, too. He probably needed the race.”
Seth Martinez has the mount Saturday.
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