This week in horse racing: Keeneland runs up score

By Jeremy Plonk  ( 

April 19, 2022 11:50 AM

The last two Saturdays have produced the largest single-day handles in the history of venerable Keeneland. Two weeks ago for the Blue Grass Day card, the $28.1 million daily standard was set. Last Saturday with the Jenny Wiley Stakes Day program, the track handled $27.3 million in bets, second-most since its inception in 1936. What’s in store for this weekend, which anchors the track’s only five-day week of the 15-day spring meet? Saturday’s $350,000 Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes on turf and $300,000 Grade 3 Ben Ali on dirt await horseplayers who can’t seem to get enough.

Even with the Kentucky clamor, it’s Arkansas’ Oaklawn Park where the national spotlight shines Saturday with a pair of $1 million races — the Grade 1 Apple Blossom for fillies and mares and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap for older colts and geldings. Last year’s champion older mare Letruska meets last year’s champion sprint mare Ce Ce in a must-see Apple Blossom. The Oaklawn Handicap pits an east-west matchup between Fearless and Idol on neutral grounds.

Handicappers following Oaklawn stakes races in the current 2021-22 meet have witnessed the following trends:

Stakes favorites: 36.7% wins, 63.3% top 3

Average $2 winning stakes payout: $15.52

Top stakes jockeys: Joel Rosario (2-7, 29%), Luis Quinonez (2-9, 22%), David Cabrera (4-19, 21%, currently injured), Ramon Vasquez (4-20, 20%), Florent Geroux (3-17, 18%) 

Top stakes trainers: Larry Jones (2-3, 67%), Federico Villafranco (2-4, 50%), D. Wayne Lukas (2-9, 22%), Brad Cox (4-20, 20%)

What to Watch for This Week

Laurel Park in Maryland has its second of back-to-back Saturday Stakes Spectacular programs, featuring four more lucrative stakes races, including several preps for races on the Preakness Stakes weekend undercard … Santa Anita will be closed this week for a turf-course freshening and resumes racing April 30 … The former Indiana Grand racetrack reopened earlier this week under the new banner Horseshoe Indianapolis Racetrack and Casino. John Dooley, race caller at Fair Grounds and the former Arlington Park, takes over on the mic as a familiar but new voice.

Friday Weekend Firestarter

Oaklawn Park’s hottest jockey last week, Ricardo Santana Jr., teams back up with trainer Brad Cox in Friday’s Race 4 with the aptly named Best Bet (5-2 ML). The Santana-Cox tandem won all three starts together last week — at 8-5, 3-1 and 9-2 odds. The duo is 5-for-8 dating to March 26. Let’s get the weekend rolling with a win bet on No. 4 Best Bet.

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage:

— Turf Paradise: 50%

— Hawthorne: 44%

— Oaklawn: 41%

— Golden Gate Fields: 37%

— Mahoning Valley: 37%

Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.)

— Turf Paradise: 57%

— Oaklawn: 57%

— Hawthorne: 56%

— Will Rogers Downs: 55%

— Laurel Park: 45%

Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher)

— Keeneland: 8

— Laurel Park: 5

— Gulfstream Park: 4

— Evangeline Downs: 3

— Fonner Park: 3

America’s hot jockeys last week

— Ricardo Santana Jr. (7-13, 54%)

— Assael Espinoza (5-12, 42%)

— Kevin Roman (6-15, 40%)

— Luis Negron (6-15, 40%)

— Harry Hernandez (8-22, 36%)

America’s hot trainers last week

— Martin Valdez-Cabral (4-6, 67%)

— Mike Stidham (4-7, 57%)

— Jamie Ness (9-18, 50%)

— Eduardo Ramirez (8-17, 47%)

— Isai Gonzalez (5-9, 44%)

Tournament Time

Xpressbet provides an online satellite option to Keeneland’s $3,500 Grade One Gamble tournament Saturday. Berths into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas are among the prizes along with an estimated $40,000 to the winner. Contest players should also note the April 29-30 Golden Gate Fields-Santa Anita Challenge, beginning with an $80 Friday feeder contest that week and a $500 buy-in that Saturday that includes cash prizes and an NHC berth. For details visit

Statistics courtesy of

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