Stealcase Draws Rail in Essex

John Oxley’s Stealcase has taken a liking to Hot Springs and his connections are hoping that will pay off when he starts as the 7-2 morning line favorite and 118 pound highweight in Saturday’s $100,000 Essex Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile race will be the third start of the meet for the Lawyer Ron horse, who drew post one of 10.


“It was a last minute decision,” said trainer Mark Casse. “We had initially planned on passing the race, but he’s training well and maybe he has a little edge over some others who have been stabled at Hot Springs, but have not been able to train as much over the last week or two because of the weather. He’s gotten some conditioning just by racing. He’s a pretty fit horse after having two starts already.”


Stealcase finished third here in the Fifth Season Stakes January 14 and then won a $57,500 allowance/optional claimer by two lengths as the 2-1 favorite on January 26. It was his first win in six starts since capturing the 2012 Ontario Derby (G3).


“It was nice to see him back in the winner’s circle,” said Casse. “He’s a horse that we always thought a lot of, and he’s been disappointing, but maybe that will change now that he’s getting on (in age). He was a bit of a head case but maybe that’s changing now that he’s maturing. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that he stays happy.”


Among Stealcase’s main challengers is a horse that is no stronger to Oaklawn’s winner’s circle. Win Willy, now in his sixth season at Oaklawn, has been a fan favorite since upsetting the 2009 Rebel Stakes (G2) at odds of 56-1 and winning the 2011 Oaklawn Handicap (G2). He was second in the 2011 Essex and third in the 2013 running of the race. He most recently returned from a six-month layoff to finish fifth in a one-mile allowance race Jan. 31.


“He needed that race last time out,” trainer Mac Robertson said. “He trained good after his last race and I expect him to move forward.”


The Essex field also features stakes winner Right to Vote, the impressive winner of that allowance race over Win Willy as well as fellow Essex starters Stachys and Mavericking; stakes winner Jaguar Paw, and Fair Grounds shippers Flashy Sunrise, Street Spice and Voodoo Storm.


The complete field for the $100,000 Essex Handicap, in post position order with riders, weights and morning line odds: Stealcase, Eurico Da Silva, 118, 7-2; Stachys, Luis Quinonez, 115, 12-1; Jaguar Paw, Calvin Borel, 115, 4-1; Street Spice, Alex Canchari, 114, 6-1; Right to Vote, Ricardo Santana Jr., 116, 4-1; Dreaming Blue, David Mello, 113, 20-1; Flashy Sunrise, Ramon Vasquez, 20-1; Mavericking, Israel Ocampo, 116, 8-1; Win Willy, Seth Martinez Jr., 116, 5-1, and Voodoo Storm, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 115, 12-1.


The Essex will be the seventh of 10-live races Saturday at 4:09 p.m. The card will also feature the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes that had to be postponed a week after the races were cancelled last Saturday due to weather. That race, the ninth of 10 at 5:09 p.m., also drew a field of 10, three more than the original race. Trainer Chris Hartman will send out the heavily favored entry of Black Bear and Alsvid, listed at 3-2 on the morning line.




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