Oaklawn runners add to shipping stew at Will Rogers

They start out with a dozen and end with a dozen on Tuesday at Will Rogers Downs.

Oaklawn ended Sunday, and for now, horsemen stabled in Arkansas have few options at this coronavirus moment. Will Rogers and Fonner Park are the only Midwest tracks racing right now, and Fonner clearly is the less desirable destination. Will Rogers already had seen unusually large fields and now they figure to be larger than ever – just like on Tuesday.

The full 12-horse fields that bookend the 10-race card are two of six races that attracted a dozen entrants. In all, 109 horses – no also-eligibles – were entered on the program.

Horses that last started at Oaklawn are plentiful, but Will Rogers has been drawing an ever-widening band of attention from horsemen, literally nationwide. Mid-Atlantic-based trainers Scott Lake and Gerald Brooks both have runners on the Tuesday program.

The card includes two allowance races, a first-level Oklahoma-bred sprint allowance, carded as race 3, and an open first-level allowance over one mile, which serves as featured race 9.

Race 3, contested at 5 1/2 furlongs, drew eight entrants, and the horse on the outside, Speaker Van, seems the likeliest winner. Speaker Van is among the many Tuesday entrants with a recent Oaklawn start, but this is an Oklahoma-bred who raced last summer and fall at Remington Park and has been at Will Rogers long enough to post an easy half-mile work there May 3. Donnie Von Hemel trains Speaker Van and two racing weeks ago picked up a win and a second-place finish with Oklahoma-bred 3-year-olds who shipped from Oaklawn for stakes races, his only starters at the meet. Speaker Van cuts back from a two-turn race, where he failed to stay the trip, and ran more than well enough in two previous Oaklawn sprints this meet to win Tuesday’s start. He ought to get a clean outside trip behind a quick, contested pace.

Figure is the top pick to take featured race 9, which is restricted to older fillies and mares. Figure switched circuits, barns, and distances in her most recent start, a second-place finish at this class level and distance April 6 at Will Rogers, having previously raced in New Mexico sprints for trainer Joel Marr. Figure moved into the Will Rogers stable of trainer Ray Ashford Jr., who is having another productive Will Rogers meeting with a record of 4-9-1 from 34 starters. The previous two Will Rogers meets combined, Ashford got 31 horses into the exacta from 63 runners, and Figure lost last time to a horse named Karate Hottie, who came right back to win a second-level Will Rogers allowance race with a career-best 76 Beyer Speed Figure.

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