Saturday plays: Last Samurai can be upset by 1 horse in Essex

Saturday plays: Last Samurai can be upset by 1 horse in Essex
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Even though Last Samurai enters the Grade 3, $500,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn in sharp form, he drew post 10 as the favorite in a two-turn route, and that combination seems unsavory from a gambling perspective.

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This analysis of the Essex focuses on a familiar gray horse drawn on the rail who can defeat Last Samurai on his best day.

Oaklawn race 9: Essex Handicap (G3)

After running some flat races following the transfer to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Last Samurai turned a corner and seems like a sharp horse after finishing fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream and winning the Razorback Handicap (G3) on this course by 1 1/2 lengths over the speedy West Will Power.

For the Razorback effort, Last Samurai earned a career-high 125 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and a repeat will win here. But Last Samurai also will need to overcome the wide post in this two-turn route.

One other viable contender is Silver Prospector on the rail.

Silver Prospector does not always turn in good races. Drawing the rail helps, though, since he has a history of running well with an inside trip at Oaklawn.

Although it feels like a long time ago, Silver Prospector won the 2020 Southwest Stakes (G3) on this course after enjoying the pocket position on the backside and tipping out in the stretch in order to catch Wells Bayou.

One year later Silver Prospector also enjoyed a rail trip in the Razorback Handicap (G3) and finished second to Mystic Guide. Despite losing by six lengths, Silver Prospector still earned a career-high 123 on TimeformUS. Mystic Guide went on to capture the Dubai World Cup (G1) in his next start.

In recent times, Silver Prospector has been rounding back into form after winning a local optional claimer Feb. 11 by 3 3/4 lengths. He earned a 115 on TimeformUS for the win and makes his third start off the layoff here, which could result in him reaching his previous peak.

If Silver Prospector can secure the pocket trip again, it will help. But it also will help if the wide trip takes the punch out of Last Samurai.

At a value price Silver Prospector deserves a spot on tickets. Last Samurai is not ignorable either, even though the value is questionable.

Win: 1, at 9-2 or longer.

Exacta box: 1,10.

As a bonus, here is a long-shot selection for the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3).

Oaklawn race 8: Whitmore Stakes (G3)

On paper, there is plenty of pace on tap with horses such as Edge to Edge, Pirate Rick and Cogburn present. All three of them want the lead.

As long as none of the pacesetters is scratched, Miles Ahead offers intriguing value at 15-1 as a closer who is rounding back into form.

Miles Ahead shows past races fast enough to win this one.

Last July, Miles Ahead made use of stalking tactics in the Kelly’s Landing Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs and lost by only a neck to Aloha West, the winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Then in the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes, Miles Ahead won by a nose over Isolate, who previously won the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga.

For the runner-up effort to Aloha West, Miles Ahead earned a 121 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and he can win this race by matching it.

In his most recent start, Miles Ahead rallied mildly for third in the King Cotton Stakes over the slop while earning a 111 on TimeformUS. Notice the winner Gunite enjoyed tracking a slow pace before taking control.

Tejano Twist briefly threatened Gunite before flattening out in the stretch run. Miles Ahead plugged away in third and missed catching Tejano Twist for second by 1 3/4 lengths, and that is not that big.

Miles Ahead makes his third start off the layoff in this spot, and most horses round into their best form in their second or third start back. On fast dirt with a good trip, Miles Ahead can make up the difference against Tejano Twist and possibly his figure peak as well.

At double-digit odds, Miles Ahead is an attractive gelding to bet on.

Win-place: 3, but only at double-digit odds.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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