They're calling it "The Shootout at the Oaklawn Corral." It's a little campy, but it is fitting for tomorrow's $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, in which the nation's three hottest older runners will square off for the first time.
The Oaklawn Handicap, third race in the American Championship Racing Series, pits Unbridled, Farma Way and Jolie's Halo. Each enters off impressive recent victories.
The 1 1/8 -mile race will be simulcast from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., to Pimlico Race Course and the Laurel inter-track facility. It can be seen on a one-hour delayed program on ESPN at 6 p.m.
Unbridled, the 8-5 morning-line favorite and 124-pound top-weight, drew post 5 in a field of eight. Like Farma Way and Jolie's Halo, he is a 4-year-old.
"It's a no-win situation," trainer Carl Nafzger said, referring to the weight assignment. "If you win, then you have to carry even more in later races. If you lose, well, you don't want to lose."
The race presents contrasts in style. Unbridled won his only 1991 outing, the Deputy Minister Handicap, with his typical late rush. Jolie's Halo (No. 1, 3-1) is a confirmed front-runner who has won all six of his starts. And trainer Wayne Lukas maintains that Farma Way (No. 4, 5-2), despite a tendency to lay very close to the lead, has the versatility to race farther back in the pack.
"We're going to cause fits," Lukas said, "because we've got the most versatility. We can just let the race unfold, then see what we want to do."
Riding assignments: Pat Day on Unbridled, Gary Stevens on Farma Way, and Robin Platts on Jolie's Halo.
Jolie's Halo won the first of the 10 ACRS races (the Donn Handicap), and Farma Way the second (the Santa Anita Handicap). The fourth race is the $750,000 Pimlico Special on May 11.
The Oaklawn Handicap field is filled out by Silver Survivor (20-1), Festin (8-1), De Roche (8-1), Bedeviled (20-1) and Primal (20-1).
John Ed Anthony, an Arkansas native whose Loblolly Stables silks will be carried by De Roche, said, "I like the way this race has been promoted. I can't think of anything better than waiting in the bushes at Oaklawn all winter, then bushwhacking the big horses."
Meanwhile, Summer Squall equaled a track record at Keeneland yesterday when winning a 6 1/2 -furlong allowance. The 4-year-old will run once more at Keeneland before going in the Pimlico Special.
NOTES: The Racing Times makes its debut today. Pimlico/Laurel will give away the Saturday edition of the past-performance paper today and tomorrow. Thereafter, it's $2.50. . . . The Blue Grass Stakes will also be simulcast to Pimlico/Laurel tomorrow. Fly So Free is the 2-5 morning-line choice to defeat five others. . . . Jacinto Vasquez, a likely future Hall of Famer, rode in two races yesterday at Pimlico, where he says he will ride on a regular basis. . . . Thirty Six Red, who finished first but was disqualified when making his 1991 debut in a Keeneland allowance on Wednesday, will run next in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby day, not the Pimlico Special. . . . Gala Spinaway is a heavy choice to beat just four others in tomorrow's $75,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico. Haymaker, who reportedly bled while training yesterday morning, won't go. . . . Maryland 3-year-olds He Is Risen and Tank go in tomorrow's Garden State Stakes. . . . Lukas has four of the five top-weights in Sunday's $125,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Pimlico, but racing secretary Larry Abbundi said none will make the trip, leaving Reputed Testamony the high-weight. . . . Brendan's Henry won the $20,500 Pimlico feature yesterday, marking his fourth victory in seven career starts. Mario Pino rode. . . . Mike Luzzi, who won three races yesterday, has crept to within three winners of Edgar Prado (28-25) in the Pimlico jockeys' race.