The Essex Handicap Returns to OP for First Time Since 2007

The 3rd Running of The Essex Handicap-G3

Saturday, March 18, 2023

OP Race #2 $500.000

4+ Handicap Weights 11/16

Course Record-1:40.34 (Jesse James-2012)

Stakes Record-1:42.31 (Go Between-2007)

#1 Come To Poppa (South Shore Stables/A. Bocachica 119): Colt started his sophomore campaign with back-to-back KYD prep wins, but he’s riding a twelve-race losing streak into this.  Started his ’23 campaign with 7th-place finish going three-quarters in a SA allowance, but that was his first start on this new engine.  Draws the rail and he’s a 3x runner up at the G1 level.   

#2 System Shock (Smokey Stover/J.R. Velazquez 119): Gelding is 0-6 since June and enters here off of a 5th-placed try over a “good” SA surface in ’23 bow.  Form is a bit all over the place as he’s been in front a few times early and he’s been well, well back too.  He’s yet to beat black-type runners, but he’s drawn well here, and trainer took a big one here last weekend.

#3 Be Lucky (Parkers Pride/E.A. Gonzalez 119): Claimed for $35.000 back in December, he won his first start for this outfit before trying G3 runners last month down here.  Split the field that day to be 6th; however, this one has earned a check in over two-thirds of his races.  Like the fact that the trainer sends him right back here in a similar spot and he has some serious early foot.

#4 Strong Kommand (Maxmillion Farm/E. Maldonado 119): 6yo started his ’23 campaign in winning fashion with a 5.5f score in a SA allowance.  Pilot retains the mount for the third consecutive race, and you have to like that 7f move three weeks back.  Only two wins from 18 tries when routing, but he has hit the board an additional six times.

#5 Galapagos (Night Rider Stables/J.J. Castellano 119): 5yo came off the bench firing in his ’23 debut with a highly rated HOU allowance score.  The fact that he’s only raced four times since 2021 tells us that the trainer has taken his time with this guy, so you know he’s seen something that he likes.  Takes a big step up for this, but he looked like an improved horse last time we saw him.

#6 Buy Low Sell High (Asgar/D.E. Centeno 119): 4yo gelding used a late rally to grab the runner-up honors here in last month’s G3 and comes back here for his 2nd start for 2023.  If you throw out the GP ’22 finale it’s hard to find a bad race on his page and have to like him routing for just the 2nd time here.  If he gets some pace, and avoids traffic, he should be rolling late.

#7 Eight West Party (TwinTowersRacing/T. Gaffalione 119): 5yo horse is a stake-winner on turf, but he’s only beaten maidens on the main track.  This will only be his third start on dirt in just over two years, but he did try winners several times before making the move to the lawn.  The new engine is still in its infancy but moves like this may become more familiar should this one pace, a positive result.  

#8 Twilight Flame (Mb Stables/L. Saez 119): 6yo gelding is all racehorse as he’s been pretty consistent regardless of trip or company.  He may not win all of the time, but he’s been a very good earner as he readies for his 30th start.  He is usually part of the early pace, and he almost wired that SA allowance to start his ’23.  War horse has cashed a lot of checks facing similar foes.

#9 Eagle Mountain (Fractious/R.M. Hernandez 119): Brought a winning bid of $40.010 in the December auction before making his barn debut with a credible 3rd last month in a SA allowance.  Should be a fitter horse this time around, and the trainer has had time to see how he will act on this engine.  Been more successful sprinting, but he did finish ITM in a 12f G3.

#10 Seydoux II (Arindel/E. Jaramillo 120): 5yo gelding broke a 12-race losing streak with his victory in the $100.000 Haynesfield last month.  He’ll carry an extra pound compared to his nine rivals because of that score, but this post is a much bigger concern than the weight.  Have to like the fact that he won his first start on this engine and the trainer wheels him right back in here.

Final Analysis: Don’t take a short price.  After a 15-year absence on the schedule, The Essex Handicap-G3 shapes-up as anyone’s race.  9-8-10-1 is how we’ll play it, but wouldn’t be shocked by any result.  Good luck to everyone!

Categories: Grade III, Races, STAKES ARTICLES

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