HOT SPRINGS -- A Triple Crown opportunity is on the line.
Six colts and one gelding are expected to start the $300,000, 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Stakes for 3-year-old horses at Oaklawn today.
In addition to a $180,000 winner's share of the purse, the horse who finishes first will earn automatic entrance into the Grade I Preakness Stakes -- the second race of the Triple Crown-- at Pimlico in Baltimore on May 15.
Post time for the Oaklawn Stakes is scheduled for 6:18 p.m.
Scarred, from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, with David Cabrera the listed rider, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a short field long on contenders.
"I like my chances in there," Cabrera said. "He looks really live."
Cabrera has yet to race with Scarred, a son of Into Mischief and maternal grandson Afleet Alex, winner of Oaklawn's 2005 Arkansas Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
Cabrera said he had done his homework.
"I have been watching the replays, and I think we have a big, big chance for it," Cabrera said. "[Amsussen] always puts them where they belong."
Scarred was a winner in his first career start, at Churchill Downs, on Nov. 5, 2020. He won at 1 mile at Oaklawn in 1:37.57 on March 25 in his last start.
The 3-1 second-choice is Fulsome, trained by 2020 Eclipse Award champion Brad Cox. He will make his second career stakes start, with Martin Garcia his expected rider. A win for Fulsom would further Garcia's chance to ride in his fourth career Preakness and his first since 2013.
Among Garcia's favorite stories is the one of his first Preakness start. It came in 2010 aboard Lookin at Lucky, from the southern California barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The joy of Garcia's story, from his perspective, is not so much that Lookin at Lucky won the race, but that Garcia was unaware of the race's significance. He had heard of the Triple Crown, but he did not know of the Preakness' role in the series.
Garcia laughed as he told the story two days before he rode Gold Street to a win in the 2020 Smarty Jones Stakes.
"I knew it was a big race, but I didn't know how big," he said.
He rode in the Preakness twice more, with next-to-last finishes on Midnight Interlude in 2011, the year Shackleford won, and on Governor Charlie in 2013, 32 lengths behind the winner Oxbow.
"Now I know it's a very important race," Garcia said.
Fulsome won his last start on a sloppy track at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., on April 10. It was Folsom's first dirt start.
Warrant, also trained by Cox, will make his first stakes start at morning-line odds of 4-1.
Unanimously, trained by Asmussen with Francisco Arrieta his listed rider, and Causeway Jones, trained by National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame member Jerry Hollendorfer, are the 9-2 fourth choices.
Rocco Bowen is expected to ride Causeway Jones.
"When a Hall of Fame trainer leads over a horse, you know that horse is ready to win," Bowen said. "You know that for sure. You still have to hope things go right, but you know he's leading over a horse who's ready."
Bowen said the field offers nearly every horse an opportunity.
"Everyone in there can win," Bowen said. "That's a fun part of horse racing, especially when you handicap a race. Every horse, you could make an argument for. It's good for the bettors. It's good for the fans. When you have a race like that, you know the crowd gets electrified when the horse comes down the racetrack."
Causeway Jones has raced from the lead in three of his career starts, including his last, a second-place finish at 1 mile on March 25.
"I think if I can get away with some soft fractions and get a comfortable lead, I can keep the lead," Bowen said. "When other horses get too close to him, I think he doesn't show his best. If he gets a clear lead and builds up his confidence, I think he can go the whole way."
Bowen has never ridden in a Triple Crown race.
"If I win, I have a shot," Bowen said. "My name's in the hat."