Head to Head: Handicapping the 2023 Martha Washington

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2023 Martha Washington
Photo: Dustin Orona Photography / Remington Park

The $200,000 listed Martha Washington Stakes is the first of three Oaklawn Park qualifying races for the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1). It offers Oaks points to the top five finishers on a 20-8-6-4-2 basis. The Honeybee (G3) on Feb. 25 and Fantasy (G3) on April 1 complete the series.

The sensational Rachel Alexandra (2009) used the Martha Washington as a stepping stone to greatness in the Kentucky Oaks and Preakness, and last year's heroine Secret Oath also captured the Oaks.

The 1 1/16-mile contest is billed as race 5 of 11 and has a 3:20 PM EST post time. There's an 80 percent chance of rain.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast, sort out the contenders from the pretenders.



1.   Wet Paint (9-2)

In her last race, Wet Paint maintained a smooth gallop behind the pacesetter but lost focus at the head of the stretch while putting that one away, turning her head to the outside and slowing. Once clear, she got back on track but couldn't hold off the winner. Again, she turned her head through the stretch, passing horses in her maiden win but didn't lose focus. She wore blinkers in both starts. Wet Paint's speed figures are middling, but she enters for the high-percentage winning team of Cox/Prat. Exotics.


In terms of surface, you name it, Wet Paint has done it. She debuted on the turf, where she was no factor and finished 10th. She then broke her maiden at second asking in the slop at Horseshoe Indianapolis. She was most recently second in an optional claimer over Turfway Park’s all-weather track. All three races were contested at a mile, and Wet Paint’s Brisnet Speed Rating improved with each start. But the final times for those races were very slow, so despite all the upside that comes from trainer Brad Cox, I just can’t get behind this filly. Pass.


2.   Key to Success (20-1)

Key to Success is a popular filly at the claiming box. But her only success was a nose victory in a $30,000 maiden claimer. In addition, her speed ratings are some of the lowest in the field. Pass.


It appears the key to success has not been found with this daughter of Cupid. She has one win in five starts and has barn-jumped a couple of times. For the most part, her Brisnet Speed Ratings have improved with each start, culminating with a career-best 82 last out when finishing second in an optional claimer here at Oaklawn. Trainer Michael Puhich owns rather dismal stats. He’s batting zero in non-graded stakes races and in second off the claim starts. He’s winning at only a 6 percent rate with the second start with the trainer. Pass.


3.   Defining Purpose (6-5)

When Defining Purpose is good, she's very, very good, but so far, that only happens every other race. She sandwiched a distant fifth-place finish in the Golden Rod (G2) between a maiden victory and a 5 1/4-length win in Oaklawn's Year's End Stakes, besting Take Charge Briana and Taxed in the process. In her favor, Cross Traffic's daughter's speed ratings improved in each start. So the $200,000 question is: Will the McPeek trainee break her win/lose cycle in the Martha Washington? Contender.


This is an interesting filly in that her past performances are nearly identical. She ran fifth in her debut and her third start, the Golden Rod (G3), losing both by 6 1/4 lengths. She then won her second start by six lengths and the Years End Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths. But her speed ratings have improved with each start, culminating with an 89 last out. That gives her both the best dirt speed and the highest last-race speed rating in the field. Additionally, she’s raced exclusively at a mile or longer and owns a win over this track. Trainer Ken McPeek is winning at a 21 percent rate in non-graded stakes. Contender.


4.   Take Charge Briana (6-1)

By Curlin, out of an unraced full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Brandi, Take Charge Briana has the best pedigree in the field. But so far, neither she nor her three half-siblings have lived up to expectations. The Wayne Lukas trainee is a one-run type who passes tired horses, generally picks up a check, but rarely wins. Exotics.


With seven lifetime starts, this daughter of Curlin is the most experienced runner in the field, but she has only one win. It took her three attempts to break her maiden, finally getting the job done in a seven-furlong event at Saratoga. Since then, she finished 10th, beaten 20 lengths, in the Alcibiades (G1); fourth in the Myrtlewood and third behind Defining Purpose in the Year’s End Stakes. She also ran in the Golden Rod (G2) but was pulled up and vanned off because of what ended up being a small cut in her mouth that made her very sensitive to the bit. After her third-place finish in the Years End, jockey Cristian Torres stated that he wished the race had been longer. She’ll get that extra distance here, but the Oaklawn stretch isn’t always kind to closers. Exotics.


5.   Olivia Twist (2-1)

A big fish in a small Remington Park pond, Olivia Twist gets a class and distance check. The daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Mshawish is a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Skippylongstocking and listed winning sprinter Moonilte Strike. The Todd Fincher trainee's speed ratings are comparable to the rest of the field, and we know she likes to win. Contender.


Trained by Todd Fincher, Olivia Twist is undefeated in three career starts, all at Remington Park. She won those races by a combined 19 1/2 lengths, the most recent of which was the Trapeze Stakes. Fincher is striking at a 22 percent rate with last-race winners and at a 33 percent rate with shippers. Jockey Cristian Torres has been hot recently and combined with Fincher has been winning at a 50 percent rate (two starters). The downside here is that the final time for her last two races, both contested at a mile, was slow. She has not needed to be particularly fast yet, but she’ll need to show a bit more here. Contender.


6.   Taxed (15-1)

By Collected out of a stakes-placed daughter of Yankee Gentleman, Taxed has a sprinter-miler pedigree. She's a speed-fade type whose lone victory was against $50,000 maiden claimers at a mile. She has an excellent mud pedigree, all three half-siblings hit the board, and her sire is represented by five mud routers, with only one finishing out of the money. If she moves forward over the mud, will she be able to carry her speed an extra half-furlong? She's worth a live long shot look.

By Collected, Taxed has one win from four starts, a 2 3/4-length triumph in a mile maiden claimer in her third start. Last out she was 4th in the Years End behind winner Defining Purpose and third-place finisher Take Charge Briana. Taxed had the lead five furlongs in but weakened in the stretch to round out the superfecta. Trainer Randy Morse is winning at only a 7 percent clip in non-graded stakes, and Morse and jockey Joe Talamo have not won together in 14 starts. I expect to see a similar performance to the Years End here. Exotics.


Final thoughts

Laurie: Only two Martha Washington winners didn't capture their prep race. In that time, three favorites won and three placed.

The confirmed pacesetter is Taxed. War Paint will either go with that one or draft in behind. The others have shown tactical speed. But if there's a speed duel up front, it could play to Take Charge Briana's strengths.

Olivia Twist's final furlongs in her last two races were in the 13-second range, but she won by open lengths. She won her five-furlong debut in 58.66 seconds, so she has speed. Her regular jock Cristian Torres is the current leading rider winning at 24 percent.

Wet Paint is the only one in the field with experience over a sloppy track. Unfortunately, she's lost focus looking for other horses in the stretch, and I don't think the blinkers are helping. She's been racing on raw talent and can win if she pays attention.

I like Take Charge Briana for the lower exotics, but was swayed by Taxed’s strong mud pedigree.

Ashley: Not a very exciting field. None of these six fillies appear to be major players on the Kentucky Oaks trail at this point, but that can obviously change over the next few months.

Olivia Twist, whose name I adore, is undefeated but will be seeing a tougher class of foes than what she experienced at Remington. She can be fast when she needs to be but does not seem to expend more energy than she needs to. Defining Purpose already has beaten a third of the field, but if she continues with her current pattern, then this is not her race to win. Ignore the pattern, though, and you have a filly that already has a sparkling win at this track.

It comes down to those two, with everyone else running for third.





#5. Olivia Twist (2-1)

#5 Olivia Twist (2-1)

#1. Wet Paint (9-2)

#3 Defining Purpose (6-5)

#3 Defining Purpose (6-5)

#6 Taxed (15-1)

#6 Taxed (15-1)

#4 Take Charge Briana (6-1)


Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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