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TVG's expert handicapper Emily Shields previews the Oaklawn Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday - a race that contains a number of Kentucky Derby hopefuls

Oaklawn Park, Race 11 - PICK: Thousand Words

The $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday doesn’t carry any actual points towards the 2020 Kentucky Derby – now rescheduled for September 5 – but it has drawn a diverse group of runners all seeking to head to Churchill Downs anyway.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who has a superb record over the Hot Springs, Arkansas course, sends out Thousand Words. The $1 million son of Pioneerof the Nile was unbeaten in his first three starts, taking the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) in December and the Robert B Lewis (G3) in February, but then he finished fourth in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) behind stablemate Authentic. Joe Talamo will climb aboard for the first time, and Baffert has noted Thousand Words should love the increase to nine furlongs here.

On the rail is Basin (7-2). The son of Liam’s Map was a Grade 1 winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga at two, but then was off from September 2 until March 14 when he ran third in the Rebel Stakes here in his first try around two turns. Steve Asmussen trains the two-time winner, who will have Florent Geroux aboard.

Asmussen trains three of the horses in the race, including Shoplifted (10-1) and Gold Street (20-1) on the outside. Gold Street, by Street Boss, was a two-time stakes winner in his last three starts, including the Smarty Jones over a flat mile here in January, but ran ninth with traffic trouble in the Southwest (G3) here February 17. Shoplifted, an $800,000 purchased by Into Mischief, was the winner of the Springboard Mile in December, but has run third and fourth in two stakes tries here since. Asmussen’s main rider Ricardo Santana, Jr. gets aboard this one.

Taishan (8-1) is a California export who was a huge maiden winner at Santa Anita in November. He then ran fourth in the Sham there before shipping to Oaklawn in February. He was fifth in the Southwest but bounced back to take an allowance race by nearly five lengths in the slop on March 14. Richard Baltas trains the son of Twirling Candy; Joel Rosario will ride.

Some outsiders worth considering are Flap Jack (20-1), winner of the Arlington Washington Futurity in September who was off until March 7 and ran sixth, beaten just five lengths, in the Gotham. Digital (8-1) was fifth in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds but had a sharp maiden win at that track in December. Todd Pletcher’s Farmington Road (6-1) puts blinkers on after breaking his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs and running fourth in the Risen Star. Martin Garcia will ride.


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