HOT SPRINGS -- A top-heavy field of six is entered in today's feature at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.
Sarah Harper, Hot and Sultry, and Perfect Happiness are, in order, the 7-5, 9-5, and 7-2 morning-line top choices in the $150,000 6-furlong American Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares 4 years old and up. The American Beauty is the sixth of 10 races scheduled at Oaklawn today.
Post time for the American Beauty is set for 2:55 p.m.
"I think there's three horses right off the bat that would be the logical favorites," said Ron Moquett, trainer of Sarah Harper. "But the reason we run the race is because humans have opinions; horses have the facts."
Sarah Harper, a 5-year-old mare by Australian-bred Vancouver and a maternal granddaughter of Scat Daddy, was ridden in her last start by Rafael Bejarano to second in the eight-horse field of Oaklawn's 5 1/2-furlong Poinsettia Stakes on Dec. 17. Bejarano is also listed to ride Sarah Harper in the American Beauty. She has worked 4 furlongs three times since the Poinsettia, topped by breezes of 47.80 on New Year's Day and 48.60 on Monday.
"I'm going to let Rafael make the decision how to ride her based on what happens at the break," Moquett said. "I would feel confident if she was on the lead. I'll feel confident if she's sitting third or fourth right off of them. I like the way she's training, and I realize these horses are close enough matched that it would do us a service to be in a good position and have an efficient trip."
Sarah Harper (10 3-1-4, $282,593), is 4 1-1-1 at Oaklawn. She finished seventh of nine at 8-1 in last season's American Beauty, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner in a crowded finish.
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's Hot and Sultry finished second in her last start, 2 1/4 lengths behind Yuugiri in a 6-furlong allowance race at Oaklawn on Dec. 30. That start came after a nearly sixth-month break for the filly. Yuugiri was the winner of Oaklawn's 2022 Grade III 1 1/16-mile Fantasy Stakes.
Hot and Sultry is a 4-year-old daughter of Speightster trained by Norm Casse. David Cabrera is set to ride her in the American Beauty.
"We're very excited about her," Casse said. "Not really sure exactly what she's best at, if she's a sprinter or a router. I think that the jury is still out on that, but this race came up, and it just feels like a really good chance to hit the board in a stake with her, possibly win."
William Henderson's and Victor Mendiola's Perfect Happiness (22 3-9-3, $336,962), a 6-year-old by Majesticperfection, has not won in four starts from trainer Chris Hartman's 35-horse Oaklawn barn but has finished second through fourth in each start since Hartman claimed her last season.
"I just wanted to take a spin with her and see," Hartman said. "We haven't been able to win a race with her. She's always been competitive in races, but we haven't been able to knock her home yet."
In her last start, Perfect Happiness, 9 2-1-1 at Oaklawn, finished third in the 5 1/2-furlong Pan Zareta Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Dec. 3.
Hartman is currently second in Oaklawn's trainer standings for the 2022-23 meet with 14 wins. Through Friday, horses trained by Hartman have won 38.9% of their Oaklawn starts this season.
"It's been a good start," Hartman said. "Hopefully, we hold it out until the end."
I'm the Boss of Me, Arron Sones' and Harrison Sones' Lisette, and Randy Patterson's and Randy Morse's Arkansas-bred Connie K are the other American Beauty entrants.
Connie K (13 5-3-1, $352,725), a 5-year-old daughter of Street Strategy trained by Morse, has a 6 3-3-0 record in Oaklawn starts. At 12-1 on the morning line, she leads the American Beauty field in career wins and earnings.
Jon Court, set to ride Connie K in the American Beauty, has ridden six of her career starts.
"If things go right, she always performs her best," Court said. "We need things to go right."