Oklahoma Classic scouting report

Updated: September 25, 2009, 10:00 PM ET
By Jeremy Plonk | HorseplayerPro.com

Join Jeremy and Remington Park's track announcer Saturday night for a live chat during the entire Oklahoma Classics card (HorseplayerPRO.com, 7:30 p.m. ET).

Saturday, Sept. 26, Remington Park

The Low-Down: It promises to be a great night with six stakes events, full fields and a $100,000 finale featuring the defending champion, MARQ FRENCH. In its 16 previous renewals, the Oklahoma Classic has seen an astounding total of 11 odds-on winners, including MARQ FRENCH's popular score a year ago. But this year's field of nine matches the biggest ever to contest the Classic and provides some value potential.

Our Eyes: MARQ FRENCH will be making his fifth appearance in the Oklahoma Classics program, winning the Sprint in 2006 and last year's Classic in his previous four showings. The majority of his career has been spent sprinting, and certainly the question mark here will be distance, even if he is 2-for-2 at the trip lifetime. The 7-year-old has been unable to carry his speed around two turns in each of his last two starts, which happen to be his only routes since winning last year's Classic. MARQ FRENCH certainly is in the right hands. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel has won a record 17 races on the Oklahoma Classics program all-time, including five renewals of the headlining Classic. Jockey Cliff Berry has won the Classic three of the last four years, and his 18 all-time Classics program wins trail only Don Pettinger's 21 scores.

AISLE TWO finished third to MARQ FRENCH in last year's Classic, and though he's suffering through a long losing streak right now, the 6-year-old most recently outfinished his more fancied rival by just over a length in the grassy Red Earth Handicap around two turns. And don't forget that AISLE TWO ran second in this race two years ago as well. Certainly he'll be a much bigger price with low-percentage connections battling the Goliaths of Classics night.

REGENT LEADER split AISLE TWO and MARQ FRENCH when running fourth last month in the Red Earth. Since, he's gone on to a strong-closing third in an open-company allowance that ought to translate very strongly to this spot. Meanwhile, SHARE COPPER and REGENT LEADER have traded punches with nearly equal success throughout their careers, and SHARE COPPER appears to be rounding into a big effort after nearly four months on the sidelines.

An interesting new shooter to the Classic scene could be last year's Juvenile runner-up RUN OFF RIVER. Devoid of any early speed whatsoever, he's been a consistent, deep-closing sprinter throughout his local career. He stretches out for his first route attempt after an allowance placing 12 days ago. The way RUN OFF RIVER runs his races, he only puts about a good three furlongs into each race and should be capable of a quick bounce-back.

The Bottom Line: In what looks to be a rather paceless race, the quick MARQ FRENCH should be able to dictate the tempo and holds the class edge. That's a tough combo to unlock. If there was more speed involved, I'd be inclined to swing against him, or if there's a strong headwind facing the horses heading up the backstretch Saturday night. MARQ FRENCH gets the trifecta key play on top, while my wise guy horse is RUN OFF RIVER. I'll use RUN OFF RIVER in the second and third spots in the trifecta, working with AISLE TWO, SHARE COPPER and REGENT LEADER as the other exotics players. That's only a $6 play with some price potential.

Horseplayer PRO Alerts - live "horses to watch" e-mailed to your inbox every morning. This service is a simulcast player's dream. For a free one-week trial, e-mail us at staff@horseplayerpro.com.


Get more handicapping picks, analysis and tools at Horseplayerpro.com!

In addition to being a longtime contributing writer to ESPN.com's Horse Racing section, Jeremy Plonk is the editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine.