Three of the main players from last month’s New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) will return for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), a wide-open event for older horses at Oaklawn Park on April 4.
The Oaklawn Handicap is race 10 on the 11-race card that also includes the $500,000 Apple Blossom (gr. I) for fillies and mares.
Among those who shipped in from Louisiana are Secret Getaway and It's a Bird, who finished second and third, respectively, in the March 14 New Orleans Handicap. Also hoping to rebound off an eighth-place finish in that race is Honest Man, the betting favorite who had trouble handling the Fair Grounds slop.
The other starters for the nine-furlong Oaklawn Handicap are Catmantoo, Prom Shoes, and Jonesboro, third, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the March 7 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn, and Brazilian-bred Runforthedoe who won a group I event in Argentina last season and was second in allowance company last month at Santa Anita.
Sand and Cee Stables’ Secret Getaway was the pacesetter in the nine-furlong New Orleans ‘Cap and took a one-length advantage into the stretch. He was eventually overtaken in deep stretch by Macho Again, who won by a length. The 4-year-old son of Skip Away—Chief’s Honey was also runner-up in the Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 10 in his season debut.
Trained by Michael Stidham, Secret Getaway last hit the winner’s circle in November when taking the Tenacious Handicap in the slop at Fair Grounds. Clifton Berry gets the call on Secret Getaway, who was bred in Kentucky Parrish Hill Farm.
Edmund Gann’s It's a Bird pressed the pace in the New Orleans ‘Cap and put himself in a winning position in the final furlong before giving way late. Prior to that, the 6-year-old Birdonthewire horse captured the $1-million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park under Julien Leparoux, who will get the mount once again. In 2008, the dark bay won the Spend a Buck Handicap (gr. III) for his only graded stakes score. With a win on Saturday, It’s a Bird will surpass the million dollar mark in earnings.
“He has been doing well since his last race; he put in a nice workout the other day in preparation for the Handicap,” said trainer Marty Wolfson. “The track at Fair Grounds was really sticky, and he shipped in for that race. It seemed as if the track benefited the horses that had been training there. He still ran a good race.”
Honest Man’s effort in New Orleans was disappointing considering his dominating victory one race prior in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) over the same course. But after being in a good spot turning for home, the son of Unbridled's Song flattened out badly. Trainer Larry Jones is hoping his horse will bounce back, and there is no reason to think otherwise. Honest Man has run off the board in only one other race since January of 2008, a span of eight starts. Overall, he is 7-1-2 from 14 lifetime tries. Jones' first call rider Gabriel Saez is back in the irons.