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Barbadian trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. (CMC image)

Joseph wins million-dollar Oaklawn Handicap

April 22, 2024

HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas, CMC – Barbadian trainer Saffie Joseph Jr earned himself honours in the US$1.25 million Grade II Oaklawn Handicap when favourite Skippylongstocking dismissed the field to capture the feature on the 12-race programme last weekend.

The five-year-old bay horse, under jockey Jose Ortiz, stalked stable mate County Final for most of the mile and an eighth trip on Saturday before taking command off the final turn and dominating the stretch run to hit the wire two lengths clear in a time of one minute, 49 seconds.

Highland Falls, the Godolphin-owned 3-1 choice who challenged briefly in the stretch, finished second while another 3-1 bet Red Route One, came in third.

The victory for Skippylongstocking meant back-to-back graded stakes wins following on from his success in the GIII Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs last month.

“He broke really clean. The horse next to me went to the lead and I was happy to track him, and my horse was relaxed every step of the way so I was very happy,” Ortiz said afterwards.

“When I asked him to roll, he responded very well.

“I just want to say thank you to Saffie and the owners for being able to ride him.”

The gray County Final, at odds of 60-1, sprinted to the lead as Ortiz tucked in behind on the outside with Skippylongstocking and 7-1 chance Octane tracked down on the inside, the field pulled through fractions of 23.21 seconds for the quarter and 47.62 for the half.

County Final led the field by a length on an easy canter down the backstretch before Ortiz made his bid approaching the final turn.

While County Final faded in the dart to the wire, Highland Falls found running but Skippylongstocking never wavered en route to the finish.

The victory marked the sixth graded career win for Skippylongstocking and also earned him a berth in the  $250 000 Grade III Pimlico Special Stakes on May 17 which is the Preakness Stakes weekend.

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