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.
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.
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).