03/14/2015 6:00PM

Race Day outbattles Midnight Hawk in Razorback

Coady Photography
Race Day (left), under John Velazquez, outfinishes Midnight Hawk, ridden by Victor Espinoza, by a neck in the Razorback Handicap.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rising star Race Day turned in the biggest performance of his career on Saturday at Oaklawn Park, outgaming Midnight Hawk by a neck to score a victory in the Grade 3, $250,000 Razorback Handicap.

The lightly raced Race Day ($6.20), who invaded from Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher, has not finished worse than third in seven career starts. He finished a close third in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month in his stakes debut.

Under John Velazquez, Race Day was quite keen as he stalked graded stakes winner Midnight Hawk – who snapped a seven-race losing streak with a sharp optional claiming score last month at Santa Anita - on the outside through moderate early fractions of 23.87 and 48.26 seconds.

Race Day ranged up on the leaders outside around the final turn, and put a head in front exiting the bend. But Midnight Hawk doggedly refused to concede, and the two slugged it out the length of the stretch, with Race Day prevailing by a neck under steady urging from Velazquez.

“There was a lot of pace in his last race at Gulfstream and he didn’t get a good break,” Velazquez said. “Today, he broke well. I loved the way he was running into the first turn. When he came down the lane, he put up a good fight.”

With a light drizzle falling, Race Day stopped the clock in 1:44.88 for 1 1/16 miles over a track officially rated good. The surface was downgraded to sloppy moments after the race.

Behind Race Day and Midnight Hawk, it was seven lengths back to Golden Ticket, who rallied well to show after trailing by a large margin early. The order of finish was completed by Carve, Tapiture, and Ride On Curlin.

Race Day began his career running for breeder WinStar Farm, making his first four starts for that outfit. He was purchased for $285,000 by Ghost Bloodstock out of a horses of racing age consignment at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, and now races for Matthew Schera, for whom he has won twice from three outings.

“We all flew down, a bunch of friends came,” Schera said. “We felt we had a good shot. The last race, he had a little bit of traffic problems, and we know he is a good horse."
The Razorback is the local prep for the Grade 2, $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap, set for April 11.