Hot Springs Stakes and Essex Handicap

Compiled by Robert Yates

Contact: Chris Ho, Vice President of Marketing,, 501-623-4411 ext. 4201

Saturday, March 16, 2024

NASH - Photo Credit: Coady Media
Hot Springs Stakes - 2nd Running

FIRST MISSION - Photo Credit: Coady Media
Essex Handicap (G3) - 76th Running

They came, they saw and, boy, did they ever conquer.

Godolphin, a worldwide breeding/racing juggernaut, two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Brad Cox and nationally prominent jockey Florent Geroux teamed to sweep Oaklawn’s stakes doubleheader Saturday with even-money favorites.

Roughly a half-hour after Nash dominated the one-mile $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes for 3-year-olds, First Mission delivered an emphatic encore in the nine-furlong $600,000 G3-Essex Handicap for older horses.

The Essex was a bounce-back performance for First Mission ($4.20), who was exiting a disappointing ninth-place finish in his 4-year-old debut, the $3 million G1-Pegasus World Cup Invitational Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park. A Grade 3 winner last year, First Mission was never involved in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus and beaten 20 ½ lengths.

In the Essex, previously run at 1 1/16 miles, First Mission was a forward factor from the start and stalked front-running Great Escape on the outside before taking command on the second turn. First Mission, who finished five lengths ahead of War Campaign, ran the distance in a meet-best 1:49.76 over a fast track.

First Mission, a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, won for the fourth time in seven starts to increase his career earnings to $822,110.

The Hot Springs was just as easy for Triple Crown nominee Nash ($4), who made a sweeping four-wide move on the second turn enroute to a 5 ½-length victory over Carbone. Nash’s winning time over a fast track was 1:38.49.

Nash had competed against some of the country’s leading Kentucky Derby prospects this winter at the Fair Grounds. The son of Medaglia d’Oro was exiting a runner-up finish behind unbeaten Tuscan Sky in a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 17.

The Hot Springs was Nash’s first career stakes victory and second in six starts overall. He has $264,500 in career earnings. Racing resumes Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (CDT), shortly after the post-position for next Saturday’s $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby and $750,000 G2-Fantasy Stakes.


Winning Jockey (Florent Geroux/First Mission): “Great trip from the outside. He broke good and I tried to establish a good position. Looked like there wasn’t a crazy amount of speed. And from the outside (post 8), I was able to get over pretty easily without asking him too much. From there, at the three-eighths pole, I could see everybody trying to ask their horses and from there he (First Mission) was just cruising. He won very easily.”


Winning Jockey (Florent Geroux/Nash): “I think we know what he wants, a little bit shorter in distance, a middle distance. I would say a flat mile, seven-eighths. But a flat mile would hit him right between the eyes for what he wants. But since he was so impressive at Churchill going a mile and a sixteenth as a 2-year-old, you want to chase the (Kentucky) Derby. It’s very understandable. We tried a few times and tackled some very good horses down there in Louisiana. So, now a little bit of class relief, better distance for him, and he got the job done today.”