Jockey Corey Lanerie found the rail to be the best spot to place Hawaakom for a stretch run in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) on the Feb. 19 Presidents' Day card at Oaklawn Park, and the strategy paid off as the pair posted a 3 1/4-length upset victory.
Longshots Rocking the Boat and Futile took the field through six furlongs in 1:13.04 over a muddy, sealed track before being overwhelmed leaving the far turn by Leofric, the 7-2 second choice, racing down the middle of the track. While Leofric, Futile, and Rocking the Boat battled on the front end through the stretch, Lanerie and Hawaakom rallied from near the back of the field and squeezed the rail before sneaking through for the victory.
Final time for the 1 1/16-mile contest was 1:45.14, as the winner returned $20.80. Leofric held second, with Rocking the Boat third. Favored Untrapped was unable to break out of traffic in the stretch and finished fourth.
The victory was the first in graded company for both Haawakom, who finished second to eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the 2017 edition of the Razorback, and co-owner and trainer Hawley.
"Lanerie up the rail! I couldn't believe it," Hawley said. "What a great ride. We'll probably wait and come back for the Oaklawn Handicap."
An 8-year-old Jazil gelding who began his career racing for breeder Shadwell Stables, Hawaakom has won nine of 40 career starts, with 15 placings and earnings of $925,405. Haawakom was claimed by Hawley for $15,000 on Nov. 27, 2014 and he previously won the West Virginia Governor's Stakes and Louisiana Stakes. His six stakes placings include a third in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
"He loves the inside," Lanerie said, indicating the tight quarters along the rail was somewhat precarious. "A couple times I came to a couple holes I was a little scared of, but my horse showed me all the courage and never hesitated, and he did all the work."
"For one second I thought we had it, but the winner was just too fast from the rail," said jockey Luis Saez, who rode Leofric. "I didn't really see him until he was passing, but my horse ran a great race."
"Great effort," said Leofric's trainer Brad Cox, who sent out three winners on the Feb. 19 card at Oaklawn previous to the Razorback. "Luis (Saez) gave him an excellent ride. It was a strong finish down the lane. I thought maybe we had it at the sixteenth pole and then I saw that horse moving up on the inside. Obviously, he appeared to be much the best."
A claim of foul by the rider of Untrapped against Leofric was dismissed by the stewards.