For Immediate Release

March 19, 2022


HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, March 19, 2022) – The 9-year-old veteran Rated R Superstar, who was a multiple graded stakes winner before being claimed by his present connections for $50,000 in January 2021, proved he can still run with the best of them with his second stakes victory of the meet in Saturday’s $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3). It was the first career graded stakes win for four-time leading Oaklawn owner Danny Caldwell and trainer Frederico Villafranco.

Under a confident ride by David Cabrera, Rated R Superstar, who earlier in the meet won the Fifth Season Stakes, raced in sixth early as Plainsman and Thomas Shelby battled on the front end through fractions of the :23 1/5 and :47 for the first half mile. The winner was four wide turning for home, gained command inside the furlong marker and kicked clear late to win by 2 ¼ lengths over Plainsman in 1:43 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track. Beau Luminarie came flying late and just missed second by neck for third. Thomas Shelby fought hard to finish a neck back in fourth.

Rated R Superstar, who had won the 2019 Essex Handicap for other connections, improved his career record to 11-10-8 in 59 starts and has now made $1,589,014 in career earnings. In his second start following his claim by Caldwell, he finished second in the 2021 Essex. He returned $18.60, $6 and $3.80 at odds of 8-1.

Live racing resumes Sunday with a 1 p.m. first post.

Essex Quotes:

Winning Owner Danny Caldwell, Rated R Superstar: “We got a clean trip down the stretch. I knew at the top of the stretch, I looked at my wife and said, ‘We’ve got a chance.’ The first thing I told (trainer) Federico (Villafranco) when I walked into the paddock, I said: ‘There’s closers coming in today, so it gives us a good shot.’ The horse was doing good. I was at the barn yesterday and he tried to bite me, so I knew he was doing great. He’s a classy horse. Like I’ve said, I’m blessed to have him in our stable. He’s been a blessing to us. As long as he wants to run, we’re going to let him run and if he’s doing really good, we’re going in the Oaklawn Handicap.”

Jockey Joel Rosario, second on Plainsman: “He ran his race. It looked the same, like last time (Razorback Handicap). The horse was in front of me (Thomas Shelby) and it looked like we were to go first and second and have a little sprint for the last furlong. He ran his race.”

Jockey David Cohen, fourth on Thomas Shelby: “He hesitated at the start. If you look back on his races, sometimes he has a tendency to do that. I was able to get him into the race and establish a position in the first turn. And from that point on, I thought that it was our race and he handled it pretty well. He snuck away at the top of the lane and grinded out a good finish.”