Hot Springs, Ark. (Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015) – Golden Lad, winless since the Razorback Handicap (G3) last March, returned to Oaklawn from his South Florida base and was equally impressive in winning Saturday’s $100,000 Essex Handicap by 1 ¾ lengths over 4-5 favorite Ride On Curlin. Before an estimated crowd of 24,000, the winner completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:44 over a fast track. He returned $10.00, $4.00 and $3.40 at odds of 4-1.

Golden Lad, breaking from the outside post under leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr., quickly settled behind the first flight of horses as Rocket Time led through fractions of :23 2/5 and :47 3/5 for the first half mile. He began to gain momentum turning for home and easily passed Ride On Curlin late for the win. Longshot I Got It All, who had broken through the gate before the start, closed well to take third by a nose over For Greater Glory.

Jockey Jon Court, aboard Ride On Curlin, lodged an objection against Santana Jr., alleging interference at the start of the race, but it was not allowed by the stewards and the results stood.
“When we left the gates and he dropped out in front of me, there were three jumps where I had to steady and I was tangled up in his hind legs,” said Court. “He cost me a couple of lengths when I needed to get position. I had to overcome that and then then he beats me a length for the win. He just needed to be a little bit clearer coming over in front of horses.”

Golden Lad, who races for E. Paul Robsham Stable LLC, has now won 6 of 11 starts and has earned $327,420. The 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro was coming off a fifth-place finish in the $150,000 Hal's Hope Jan. 10 at Gulfstream Park, his first start since running eighth in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) May 16.

“We were disappointed in his first race back,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher via phone. “He may have been a little fresh off the layoff. We thought coming back here to Oaklawn would be a good idea.”
Pletcher said a return to Oaklawn is likely for Golden Lad. The $250,000 Razorback is March 14 and the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) is April 11.

“It's a little too early to tell,” said Pletcher. “We may just wait for the Oaklawn Handicap. We would like to bring him back to Oaklawn.”

Live racing resumes Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. first post highlighted by the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3). There will also be a special Presidents Day Monday card featuring the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and the $55,000 Progressive Cash Giveaway. First post Monday is 1 p.m.

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