Discreet Hero Tops Essex Handicap Field

The first leg of Oaklawn Park's stakes program for older runners will kick off with Saturday's $100,000 Essex Handicap (gr. III). Discreet Hero will be seeking his first 2005 victory as the 115-pound topweight in the 1 1/16 mile-event.

Trained by Bernie Flint for the partnership of himself, his wife Terri (L.T.B., Inc.), and Richard Williams, Discreet Hero will face a field of nine competitors.

A son of Honour and Glory, Discreet Hero, now 7, ended 2004 with a bang when he consecutively won the Mountaineer Mile Handicap at Mountaineer Park and Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway Park. But his first two starts of the year haven't been as smooth. The gelding placed third in a race at Turfway Park and enters the Essex off a seventh-place finish as the favorite in a Jan. 23 allowance race at Oaklawn.

Bred in Kentucky by Paul and Cynthia Busby, Discreet Hero will break from the middle. Jockey Calvin Borel, who is seeking his 4,000th win this weekend, has the mount.

Discreet Hero will be up against River Mountain Rd., who won that Jan. 23 race by a neck. Trained by Bob Holthus, who won the Essex in 1989 with Proper Reality, River Mountain Rd. is the second starting topweight carrying 114 pounds. River Mountain Rd. hadn't won since scoring in the Jim Rasmussen Memorial Stakes at Prairie Meadows last May.

Owned by Harry Rosenblum, the gelding son of Deputy Commander will break from post eight under jockey John Mckee, who has been aboard for the last three starts. Hugh Harlingten bred River Mountain Rd. in Kentucky.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2004 Essex with Private Emblem, does not have a starter in Saturday's event.

Essex Handicap (gr. III), $100,000, 1 1/16 miles, 4-year-olds and up, Oaklawn, Saturday, Feb. 12, estimated local post time: 5:02 p.m.

PP -- Horse, Weight, Jockey
1 -- Mauk Four, 112, Jeffery Burningham
2 -- Crowned King, 112, Chandra R. Rennie
3 -- Absent Friend, 112, Roman Chapa
4 -- Wally's Choice, 113, Luis S. Quinonez
5 -- Discreet Hero, 115, Calvin H. Borel
6 -- Separato, 113, Jeremy Rose
7 -- Arbitrate, 112, Terry J. Thompson
8 -- River Mountain Rd, 114, John McKee
9 -- Northern Scene, 109, Willie Martinez
10 -- Saintly Look, 113, Rafael Mojica Jr.