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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Close Hatches returns in Azeri

Brisnet



The Rebel undercard at Oaklawn Park on Saturday features a pair of solid races for older horses, the Grade 2, $200,000 Azeri for fillies and mares and the Grade 3, $200,000 Razorback Handicap, both at 1 1/16 miles.

The Azeri, a prep for next month's $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, marks the return of Close Hatches, one of the leading three-year-old fillies last season. The Bill Mott trainee scored big wins last term in the Cotillion, Mother Goose, and Gazelle, and concluded her campaign with a second behind dual champion Beholder in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.

Looking to possibly steal the Azeri is On Fire Baby, who did that very thing as a 12-1 shot in last year's Apple Blossom. The Smoke Glacken mare made just three starts following that upset score and not has raced at all since October.

Don't Tell Sophia is a four-time stakes winner at Oaklawn and placed in both the Azeri and Apple Blossom last season. The six-year-old was much the best earlier in the Oaklawn meeting when taking both the $100,000 Pippin and $100,000 Bayakoa for a second straight year.

Flashy American, who captured the Iowa Distaff and Locust Grove last summer, is another viable candidate. The Azeri field is rounded out by Dixie Strike, Sister Ginger, and Magic Union.

There appears to be plenty of speed in the Razorback Handicap, a prep for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 12. The charismatic gray Taptowne, who finished first or second in eight of 10 starts last season, will break from post 1, while Essex Handicap winner Right to Vote will break to his immediate right. Farther outside is the speedy Govenor Charlie, the Baffert-trained winner of last year's Sunland Park Derby who finished second in January 18 Strub at Santa Anita following an eight-month layoff.

Called to Serve will make his first start in over a year in the Razorback. Now in the Asmussen barn, the gelding ended 2012 with powerful wins in the Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct and Broad Brush at Laurel, but hit the sidelines after a distant third to Game On Dude in last year's Santa Anita Handicap.

Making his stakes debut in the Razorback is the Todd Pletcher-trained Golden Lad, who has taken three straight allowances at Gulfstream. The field is rounded out by Essex runner-up Street Spice and California stakes winner Majestic City.