COX PAIR LOOK TOUGH IN SATURDAY’S ESSEX HANDICAP
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing
email@example.com or 501-363-4305
COX PAIR LOOK TOUGH IN SATURDAY’S ESSEX HANDICAP
By Robert Yates
Photo credit: Coady Photography
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, March 17, 2022) – Already millionaire multiple Grade 3 winners, stablemates Plainsman and Warrior’s Charge finally meet for the first time in the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Essex, which goes as the ninth of 10 races, is 5:10 p.m. (Central). First post is 1 p.m., with the infield open, weather permitting. The card also features the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older sprinters.
Plainsman, 7, and Warrior’s Charge, 6, are both trained by two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox and have strong Arkansas connections.
Plainsman, the 2-1 program favorite and 122-pound height weight, races for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, the winningest owner in Oaklawn history. Warrior’s Charge is co-owned by Ten Strike Racing, which was founded by Marshall Gramm and Arkansas native Clay Sanders and considers Oaklawn its home track. Plainsman won the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 12 at Oaklawn in his last start. Warrior’s Charge won the 1 1/16-mile Razorback, a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 23, in 2020. Warrior’s Charge, the co-7-2 second choice in the program, exits a powerful 9 ¾-length allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28.
Plainsman and Warrior’s Charge are expected to enter stud in 2023. Each horse has 10 career starts at Oaklawn. Warrior’s Charge has recorded four victories and bankrolled $674,200 in Hot Springs. Plainsman has three victories and $521,992 in earnings.
“Both horses deserve the opportunity,” Cox said. “They’re both doing good. They both won the Razorback, so that’s kind of cool. Now, we need one of them to step up and win the Essex and be 1-2. We’ll see. They’re both doing really well.”
The projected eight-horse Essex field from the rail out: Thomas Shelby, David Cohen to ride, 118 pounds, 7-2 on the morning line; Title Ready, Brian Hernandez Jr., 117, 12-1; Warrior’s Charge, Florent Geroux, 119, 7-2; Plainsman, Joel Rosario, 122, 2-1; Popular Kid, Francisco Arrieta, 116, 6-1; Rated R Superstar, David Cabrera, 118, 8-1; Beau Luminarie, Ricardo Santana Jr., 118, 8-1; and Hanalei’s Houdini, Ramon Vazquez, 117, 10-1.
The speedy Thomas Shelby bids for his first career stakes victory after three near misses at the meet for 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro and M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), Oaklawn’s leading owner the last four years.
Thomas Shelby finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length by stablemate Lone Rock, in the inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 18; was third, beaten three-quarters of a length by Rated R Superstar, in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses at 1 mile Jan. 15; and was second, beaten a neck by Plainsman, in the Razorback.
“As hard as he ran last time, and the way he keeps getting better and better at it – it’s not like he’s 3 years old – and gives 110 percent effort, he’s definitely a horse that deserves a nice stake win, that’s for sure,” Diodoro said.
Thomas Shelby broke from post 6 in the Tinsel and Razorback and from the rail in the Fifth Season. Thomas Shelby beat Warrior’s Charge a nose in an Oct. 24 allowance race at Keeneland and finished well ahead of him in the Tinsel.
“Not as concerned with (the rail) routing,” Diodoro said. “I hate it sprinting, but routing it’s OK.
Danny Caldwell’s millionaire Rated R Superstar won the Fifth Season in his 9-year-old debut and finished fifth in the Razorback in his last start. The gelding won the 2019 Essex for co-owner/trainer Cipriano Contreras and finished second, beaten a neck, last year by future Grade 1 winner Silver State in his second start after being claimed by trainer Federico Villafranco on behalf of Caldwell, a four-time leading owner at Oaklawn.
Beau Luminarie and Title Ready finished third and sixth, respectively, in the Tinsel. Title Ready finished eighth in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park in his last start for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Trainer Rodolphe Brisset said Beau Luminarie was freshened following the Tinsel, walking 30 days, before returning to the work tab in late January. He has had seven published workouts this year at Oaklawn in advance of his 2022 debut.
“We were happy with his last work,” Brissett said of half-mile drill in :48.20 March 11. “The weight, I think, is not bad. He’s got 118. It’s not an easy spot to bring him back off the layoff, but we’ve got to start somewhere. If he runs 1-2-3, we could have strong look at the Oaklawn Handicap. If he needs a race, then we can go back to Keeneland.”
Brisset won the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap in 2019 with Quip.