Race 9 at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, March 16 | Post Time 6:29 PM Eastern Time (5:29 Central Time)

Essex Handicap | Purse $350,000 | One and One Sixteenth Miles | Four Year Olds and Upward


Sonneteer (3) has only won twice in his 23 race career but for those that may not recall, 12 of those were as a maiden including FOUR stakes races. He was so highly regarded as a three year old he ran in the California Derby (fourth), Rebel Stakes (second at 99 to 1), Arkansas Derby (fourth) and Kentucky Derby (16th). Late in his three year old year he broke his maiden and finished third in the Super Derby. In his four year old debut in January, 2018 Sonneteer won the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn at the distance of the Essex, earning a career best 114 Equibase Speed Figure. In his most recent start on February 18, Sonneteer was finishing very nicely up the inside, moving from 11th to fifth and was about three lengths back when he ran into a roadblock and lost critical momentum. At that point, Eramia pretty much knew the cause was lost and rode him out for fourth. The 99 figure doesn’t do justice to the effort and with potential for a hot pace to run into courtesy of Giant Expectations, making his third start off a seven month layoff, Sonneteer can post the upset win provided Eramia doesn’t run into any traffic jams in the stretch.

Heavy Roller (6) enters the race off a career best effort last month. The win came at Oaklawn on a sloppy track but if the effort which resulted in a seven length win and 112 Equibase figure wasn’t the result of the wet track he could be very dangerous. Heavy Roller was moved privately to the Sharp barn between his November 22 start and his January 12 race at Fair Grounds and won that 2019 debut by a nose in a nice effort then improved for the big win last month. He has earned four of six career wins on a fast dirt track and Cabrera rides back after being in the saddle for the first time, so the gelding deserves a lot of respect for the vast improvement he’s shown since changing trainers.

Dalmore (1) doesn’t like wet tracks one bit so his last effort in the slop at Santa Anita can be ignored as can his horrible effort last summer at Saratoga. However his runner-up effort in the Richard Small Stakes at Laurel in November (106 figure) and third place effort (beaten a neck for second) in the Sunshine Millions Classic in January (104 figure) would be competitive here if repeated. He also run very well last summer when second in the Cornhusker Handicap with a 109 figure. With the rail and tactical speed he may be on an easy lead from the start and hold on to win.

Hence (2), owned by Calumet the same as Sonneteer, is trained by Steve Asmussen, same as Snapper Sinclair (7), and has a couple of efforts over the last 18 months which, if repeated, might make him competitive, while Chris and Dave (5) just won over the track at the distance (106 figure), although in a starter allowance race. Rated R Superstar (9) closes from last nearly all the time and rarely wins, with a 2 for 12 record this year and last as evidence. However, last April he won the Ben Ali Stakes with a 109 figure.  Honestly, with all four having a shot to win it may be tough to bet exactas as there would be many combinations to play. However, depending on the odds of Sonneteer, Heavy Roller or Dalmore, the total cost may be worth the risk.


Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Bet both Sonneteer (3) and Heavy Roller (6) to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.

For a smaller amount, Dalmore (1) to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Sonneteer (3), Heavy Roller (6) and Dalmore (1) over Sonneteer (3), Heavy Roller (6), Dalmore (1), Snapper Sinclair (7), Hence (2), Chris and Dave (5) and Rated R Superstar (9).

Optionally: Sonneteer (3), Heavy Roller (6) and Dalmore (1) over ALL.

$1 Doubles from the first division of the Rebel Stakes (Race 8) to the Essex Stakes:

Race 8 – Galilean (8), Long Range Toddy (2), Easy Shot (4), Improbable (9) and Extra Hope (1)

Race 9 - Sonneteer (3), Heavy Roller (6) and Dalmore (1)

Race 8 – Galilean (8) and Long Range Toddy (2)

Race 9 – All

$1 Doubles from the Essex Stakes to the second division of the Rebel Stakes (Race 10):

Race 9 – Sonneteer (3), Heavy Roller (6) and Dalmore (1)

Race 10- Omaha Beach (6), Our Braintrust (7) and Game Winner (5)

Race 9 – All

Race 10- Omaha Beach (6)