After chipping away at his hefty claim price, Pioneer Spirit can blast his connections into the black with a strong performance in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Monday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Razorback, the eighth of 10 races, is 4:09 p.m. (Central). The Razorback has drawn a strong field of 11, including Grade 1 winner Math Wizard, Grade 2 winner Bravazo, millionaire Snapper Sinclair, multiple Grade 3 winner Campaign and Pioneer Spirit, the 7-2 program favorite for trainer Robertino Diodoro and owners Lawrence P. Roman, Heads Up Racing Stable LLC (Todd Fitch) and Lucky Dog Stables (Robert Green & Larry Nafe).
“Grinding away at it,” Diodoro said.
Diodoro credited Cody Autrey, racing manager for the trainer's biggest client, M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), for assembling an ownership group at the 11th hour to claim Pioneer Spirit, third in last year's $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for trainer Brad Cox.
“We were really watching, especially Churchill during the fall meet,” said Diodoro, Oaklawn's current leading trainer. “Somehow, I missed that he was in for the tag until the night before. I was sitting up in the clubhouse at Turf Paradise and reading the Form for the next day at Churchill and saw Pioneer Spirit was in for $150,000. If this horse was for sale privately or at the, say, Keeneland mixed sale, he's going to go for well past $150,000. It was, 'Let's get three guys in and go.' It fell into place pretty quick.”
Pioneer Spirit has won four of his last five starts – all by less than a half-length. His victories in the Tenacious and Fifth Season (Razorback entrant Bankit was second) were by a head.
“It can be a little hard on the ticker, I guess,” Diodoro said.
Math Wizard, the early 4-1 second choice, returns to Hot Springs after finishing fourth in last year's inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds. Math Wizard won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 21 at Parx and finished fifth in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Guest Suite (12-1) won the first division of the Fifth Season by a neck over Snapper Sinclair. Another Razorback entrant, Exulting, won the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile last year for trainer Mike Maker. Joevia (8-1) ran third in last year's Belmont Stakes.
Warrior's Charge (9-2) returns to stakes action for the first time since finishing fourth in last May's Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Warrior's Charge recorded two powerful victories at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting and was an allowance winner of his Dec. 18 comeback race at Fair Grounds. Warrior's Charge will be making his 4-year-old debut for Cox and co-owners Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables.
“The horse is really thriving and happy,” Cox said. “He's doing well right now.”
The Razorback field from the rail out: Exulting, Richard Eramia to ride, 115 pounds, 15-1 on the morning line; Math Wizard, Javier Castellano, 118, 4-1; Bankit, Ricardo Santana Jr., 118; 10-1; Joevia, Junior Alvarado, 116, 8-1; Pioneer Spirit, David Cohen, 120, 7-2; Warrior's Charge, Florent Geroux, 117, 9-2; Guest Suite, Walter De La Cruz, 116, 12-1; Rated R Superstar, Tim Thornton, 115, 30-1; Campaign, Rafael Bejarano, 117, 6-1; Snapper Sinclair, Julien Leparoux, 118, 8-1; and Bravazo, Joe Talamo, 117, 10-1.
The Razorback is a major prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 18.
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