Race of the Week: Oakland Stakes at Golden Gate Fields | Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Lead:
We turned $90 into $272 last week and look to roll the profits into Golden Gate Fields' $50,000 sprint feature this Saturday, the Oakland Stakes.  A field of 10 has entered in what goes as Race 8 on the card and boasts the last two winners of this event.

Field Depth:  
Defending champion TOP HARBOR and 2021 Oakland winner RAGER are the stakes winners in this lineup. LOVE CANDY is stakes-placed as are UNRAPTURED and HONEYMOONZ OVER. It's a total class standout for TOP HARBOR having contested stakes races in 9 of his last 10 starts.

HONEYMOONZ OVER takes a back seat to no one early and will be gunning for it with UNRAPTURED and STAR RACER drawn next door on each side and having early gas. The X-factor is Charles Town dash alumnus CAIRO CALLING on the outside, who potentially could turn up the heat as well. This will be a fast pace, regardless, and give a horse with finishing kick a solid chance.

Our Eyes:
Here are my horse-by-horse notes.

1-LOVE CANDY: Bull Dog Stakes runner-up on dirt at Fresno may appear out of place cutting back from 9 furlongs to 6, but was a Golden Gate winner over this trip two starts back in 1:09-1/5, fast enough to be competitive for a share. Will need to work out a rallying rail trip.

2-TALBOT BAY: Eight straight superfecta finishes for this maiden claiming graduate, including 4 wins on the local synthetic. But he's never tested this class to know if his late-running style will be enough.

3-ALEXANDER'S DREAM: Handled Oakland rival Talbot Bay in allowance company last time out with a dueling victory near the front, but this pace promises to be even more heated. Claimed four times since in the last 11 months, he's been rock-solid over this track and rarely misfires. He's inside the other speed in this race and likely takes additional pressure.

4-ROBIE: Consistent check-getting has been second or third in 7 of his last 9 starts, but that 1-for-13 ledger on the win end over the local main track is hard to accept while taking on tougher competition than he's used to facing. Yet to shave 1:10 over this trip and that's likely not fast enough.

5-TOP HARBOR: As good of a sprinter as Northern California has in recent years, he's 8: 5-2-1 over the local main track and an impressive 10: 5-5-0 lifetime at 6 furlongs. Hard to imagine the defending champ in the Oakland won't factor with a good pace set-up for his stalking, rallying style.

6-RAGER: Third straight Oakland appearance for the 2021 race winner, who was then off a year before reappearing in the '22 edition when no match for Top Harbor off that kind of break. He's hit the superfecta in 8 of 9 starts since then, however, and his closing style appears to be as effective as ever at age 6. Jockey Aburto Jimenez has been riding lights-out and takes over in the saddle for the first time.

7-UNRAPTURED: Unable to keep pace with Top Harbor in three stakes matchups since April, this speedster comes off the best race of his career in a sizzling 1:08-3/5 locally September 3. He's freshened with only one race since July and does have some pace versatility compared to the other front-runners. May be most dangerous of those firing early.

8-HONEYMOONZ OVER: 20-time winner has captured 15 of 41 on the local Tapeta and keeps kicking strong at age 8. He knows one way, full throttle, and it's a game of catch him if you can. He's only 5 for 26 over 6 furlongs and best going shorter.

9-STAR RACER: Away since April 1 when notably bet to 4-5 favoritism over return rival Top Harbor in a Golden Gate allowance. That nose defeat snapped a 3-race winning streak. Six perfect-spaced workouts since early October indicate he's a candidate to run well here fresh. A definite threat on his best.

10-CAIRO CALLING: Specialist from Charles Town's 4-1/2 furlong dashes makes his first start since leaving high-powered trainer Jeff Runco. Likely part of a hot pace if he takes to the synthetic for the first time. Sire Cairo Prince has a strong 21% win rate and slightly profitable ROI with all his runners at Golden Gate on the main track since 2019 (more than 100), according to Betmix.

Most Certain Exotics Contender:
TOP HARBOR has 11 straight exacta finishes overall and has never missed the exacta in 10 starts at 6 furlongs.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
Don't see any big bombs here on top, but LOVE CANDY could rally inside for a minor share at a price.

Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$25 exacta part-wheel TOP HARBOR over STAR RACER, UNRAPTURED and RAGER ($75). Additional $10 exacta TOP HARBOR over STAR RACER. $5 trifecta part-wheel TOP HARBOR with STAR RACER, UNRAPTURED, RAGER with LOVE CANDY ($15).

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