Crafty Shaw Solid Pick to Repeat in Essex

Defending champion Crafty Shaw heads a field of 10 for Saturday's featured $100,000 Essex Handicap (gr. III), the first hundred-grand stakes of the 2003 season at Oaklawn Park.

Under the tutelage of Peter Vestal, Crafty Shaw, to be ridden by James Lopez while carrying top weight of 120 pounds, has become one of the toughest runners in the mid-South. He will be a solid favorite to retain his crown in the 1 1/16-mile Essex. At this point the 5-year-old son of Crafty Prospector--Her She Shawklit has taken ten of his 21 starts and earned $521,455 for owner Charles Cella.

Crafty Shaw lost by only a head to Lido Palace in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs Nov. 29. Prior to that he won the Shaefer Mile at Hoosier Park. Last year, he had a four-race winning streak that included the Essex.

Joining Crafty Shaw in the field is Irish Acres Farm's Colorful Tour, a multiple Illinois-bred stakes winner from the barn of P. Noel Hickey. The homebred chestnut son of Tour d'Or sports a winning streak of three, including an allowance prep win for the Essex at Oaklawn on Feb. 1.

$100,000 Essex Handicap (gr. III), 4 & up, 1 1/16 mile
# Horse, Weight, Jockey
1 Makors Mark, 114, Kuntzweiler
2 Crafty Shaw, 120 , Lopez
3 Colorful Tour, 116, Quinonez
4 Maysville Slew, 115, Thompson
5 Dust On the Bottle, 113, Doocy
6 Bright Sea, 112, Murphy
7 Big Numbers, 115, Court
8 Ask the Lord, 113, Theriot
9 Rare Cure, 113, Lovato
10 Premeditation, 116, Bourque