LA MACCHINA PULLS ESSEX HANDICAP UPSET
Hot Springs, Ark. (Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016) – Trainer Otabek Umarov said after the race that he doesn’t look at the odds board and while others dismissed former claimer La Macchina at 11-1, he was not surprised to see his stable star win Saturday’s $100,000 Essex Handicap.
With jockey Channing Hill aboard, La Macchina was content to race in last place while Texas Bling led the short, but well-matched field of six through early fractions of :24 and :48 2/5 for the first half mile. The pacesetter was overtaken by Ain’t Got Time entering the stretch, but proved no match for the winner in the end. La Macchina won by a half-length in 1:45 1/5 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track.
“He really fired nice coming down the lane,” said Hill. “This horse really stepped up from his last race that he won here in late January. I’ve got to give (trainer) Otabek (Umarov) a lot of the credit. He did a fantastic job getting the horse to this level. I can’t say much except he kicked hard when he needed to and got the job done.”
Carve, the 8-5 second choice, was stuck behind horses until the end, but managed to inch up for third. He was followed by Sharm, 6-5 favorite Cougar Ridge and Texas Bling. Midnight Hawk was scratched.
O’zbekiston Racing’s La Macchina, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon gelding, is now a perfect two for two at Oaklawn and overall, has won 3 of 12 career starts. He now has career earnings of $129,350.
Live racing resumes Sunday at 1:30 p.m. with a nine-race card highlighted by the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares. On Monday, the track will host a special Presidents Day card featuring the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $55,000 Progressive Cash Giveaway.
Winning trainer Otabek Umarov – “Actually, I told the jockey to just stay back a little bit because the [long race], it's tougher, so I wanted to make sure he had enough gas for the home stretch.”
Winning jockey Channing Hill – “He really fired nice coming down the lane. This horse really stepped up from his last race that he won here in late January. I’ve got to give (trainer) Otabek (Umarov) a lot of the credit, he did a fantastic job getting the horse to this level. I can’t say much except he kicked hard when he needed to and got the job done.”
Jockey Corey Nakatani, aboard beaten favorite Cougar Ridge – “I was in a pretty good spot and was going fairly easy as quick as the track was. He just felt like he that he needed a race over the outing, the track surface. You have good days and bad days and today wasn’t one of his better days.”