The Apple Blossom Handicap is annually one of Oaklawn Park’s signature races, drawing some of the best fillies and mares in training from around the country to compete for early-season positioning on the road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in the fall.
This year, the Apple Blossom had its purse reduced from $750,000 to $600,000 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the U.S. economy. Nevertheless, the race drew a full, competitive field of 14 and will anchor a card that is certain to draw a lot of attention from bettors since the Hot Springs, Ark., track is only one of a handful offering live racing on Saturday.
The 2020 Apple Blossom Handicap will be televised live on “America’s Day at the Races” on FS1 and also on “Trackside Live,” shown on TVG and also simulcast on NBCSN.
1. Ollie’s Candy (12-1): The first of four California shippers in the Apple Blossom, Ollie’s Candy has the class to win this race having knocked heads with some of the best fillies and mares in the sport over the past year, and she’s 4-for-7 in her career on dirt. Joel Rosario, who won the 2014 Apple Blossom, has been red hot since arriving to ride at Oaklawn and should have her in a good position to make a late charge after saving ground from the inside post.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: John Sadler
2. Coldwater (50-1): This mare also ships in from California on the heels of her first career start on dirt, a one-mile starter allowance in February at Santa Anita Park that she won by a head. She had raced on turf through 10 starts before that and will be making her first stakes appearance in a very tough spot. An outsider.
JOCKEY: Walter De La Cruz; TRAINER: Peter Eurton
3. Awe Emma (20-1): She rebounded very well from a disastrous start in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn – she reared at the start and lost her rider – to win a one-mile allowance-optional claimer here by a length on April 5. She concedes a class advantage to several foes in the Apple Blossom but should be considered for the trifecta and superfecta based on her 4-for-6 career record at the Hot Springs track.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie; TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
4. Come Dancing (3-1): Expectations are high as this classy mare makes her first start for “The Coach” in the Apple Blossom. She won four graded stakes last year, doing her best running in one-turn races. Jockey Florent Geroux has been very successful in limited starts at Oaklawn this meet. If she can summon her career-best form from 2019 she’s got a big shot Saturday … but this is a very tough comeback assignment.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: D. Wayne Lukas
5. Point of Honor (10-1): An interesting play at good odds, this filly should improve after a disappointing first effort of 2020, when she was a well-beaten second in a Tampa Bay Downs handicap last month at 3-5 odds. She won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and finished second in two Saratoga Grade 1s in her final three starts last year, and picks up talented young rider Drayden Van Dyke Saturday.
JOCKEY: Drayden Van Dyke; TRAINER: George Weaver
6. Street Band (15-1): Last year’s Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes winner is a pace-dependent closer and should get a decent setup in the Apple Blossom. She’s finished behind Serengeti Empress in both of her 2020 starts but soundly defeated her last year in the Cotillion. Regular rider Sophie Doyle may have her positioned farther back Saturday than she was in her last start, when she pressed Serengeti Empress early and came up empty late.
JOCKEY: Sophie Doyle; TRAINER: Larry Jones
7. Queen Nekia (20-1): The first of two Saffie Joseph Jr. trainees in the Apple Blossom has stepped up her game in her two 2020 starts, winning an allowance-optional claimer, and running a close third behind stablemate Cookie Dough in a Grade 3 race at Gulfstream Park. Picking up Oaklawn-based David Cohen is a plus, as is this filly’s pace-stalking running style. One to consider for the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.
JOCKEY: David Cohen; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
8. Saracosa (30-1): She ran a nonthreatening third behind Serengeti Empress in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes in her first start for a new trainer and was even farther behind Lady Apple, Serengeti Empress, and Street Band in the Grade 2 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes in her first 2020 start. Martin Garcia, enjoying a very good first full meet at Oaklawn, retains the mount Saturday. A deserved longshot.
JOCKEY: Martin Garcia; TRAINER: Cipriano Contreras
9. Horologist (15-1): This well-traveled filly should be part of the early pace in the Apple Blossom and could provide some much-needed pressure to Serengeti Empress. Whether she’ll hang around to the end is another question as her best career races by far have come at Monmouth Park in her native New Jersey and at Laurel Park. She did finish a decent third in last year’s Cotillion Stakes behind Street Band.
JOCKEY: Tyler Baze; TRAINER: Richard Baltas
10. Cookie Dough (10-1): She posted a sharp three-quarter-length win in her most recent start, the Grade 3 Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park, which was her first for Saffie Joseph Jr. This filly draws right next to Serengeti Empress and should challenge her for the lead from the outset under aggressive California-based jockey Abel Cedillo. Even if she doesn’t win, she should be a big factor in this race.
JOCKEY: Abel Cedillo; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
11. Serengeti Empress (4-1): This talented, if one-dimensional, filly tallied her first win since last year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks with a front-running, 6 ¼-length romp in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes on March 14. That win came in the slop, and while the forecast on Saturday calls for only a 20% chance of rain, she’s proven on fast tracks as well. She’ll try to control the pace again under red-hot Joe Talamo but lines up against a much tougher field in the Apple Blossom with several others very likely to challenge her early.
JOCKEY: Joseph Talamo; TRAINER: Tom Amoss
12. Go Google Yourself (12-1): Consistently underrated at the betting window, she enters the Apple Blossom having won three of her most recent four starts, including her 2020 debut in the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn by a neck. She’ll face tougher on Saturday but is 2-for-2 at this track, 4-for-7 at the distance, and has shown a lot of grit in recent stretch duels that usually work out in her favor. Ignore her at your peril.
JOCKEY: Brian Hernandez Jr.; TRAINER: Paul McGee
13. Lady Apple (15-1): Look through her recent form and it’s easy to see – this stakes-caliber filly doesn’t like a wet track. Throw out her recent loss by 20 lengths to Serengeti Empress in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes and last summer’s no-show eighth in the rain-drenched Alabama Stakes and she’s 4-for-5 in graded stakes tries. She did break her maiden on a sloppy track last spring at Oaklawn and is overall 3-for-4 at Hot Springs and 5-for-6 at the distance. Oaklawn mainstay Ricardo Santana Jr., who won this race in 2014, stays aboard. A definite threat.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
14. Ce Ce (7-2): The outside post may work against her, but this California shipper was very impressive in winning the Grade 1 Beholder Mile going two turns at Santa Anita Park last month. She’s 2-for-2 so far in 2020 and shapes up as a big threat Saturday if she can work out a good, stalking trip under Victor Espinoza, who won this race in 2017 and rode American Pharoah to glory at Oaklawn with two stakes wins in 2015.
JOCKEY: Victor Espinoza; TRAINER: Mike McCarthy
THE PICK: Go Google Yourself
LIVE LONGSHOT: Go Google Yourself
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