HOT SPRINGS, AR (March 19, 2022) Rated R Superstar is acting like a youngster. The 9-year-old gelding won his second stakes race of the Oaklawn Park meet Saturday in the Grade 3, $500,000 Essex Handicap.
“He was biting and playing this morning,” said owner Danny Caldwell. “I knew the horse was feeling good, so I knew we had a shot.”
Caldwell and trainer Federico Villafranco celebrated their first graded win in the Essex, while it was the richest career victory for jockey David Cabrera. The celebration came before an estimated ontrack crowd of 37,500, according to figures from Oaklawn.
Rated R Superstar had opened his season in January with a 25-1 win in the $150,000 Fifth Season. He paid $18.60 in the Essex.
“He got that break last year that he really needed and he seemed to come back out of it better than he was,” Caldwell said. “We just kind of freshened him up, let him be himself, and let the horse tell us when he was ready.”
The Essex was the second of two stakes on the card. Bob’s Edge won the Grade 3, $200,000 Whitmore, which was formerly the Hot Springs Stakes.
Rated R Superstar was content to let the pace go as Thomas Shelby and Plainsman dueled through fractions of 23.20 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.18 for the half-mile and 1:11.54 for six furlongs.
Rated R Superstar advanced along the rail on the final turn, angled out into the stretch, and managed to push past the dueling leaders just after the eighth pole. The eventual winner went on to cover the 1 1/16 miles distance on a fast track in 1:43.12.
Plainsman finished 2 1/4 lengths back in second, while it was another neck in third to Beau Luminarie.
It was the second career Essex win for Rated R Superstar, who also captured the race when he was 6. This year, the Essex was run as a newly graded race, just like the Whitmore.
Rated R Superstar on Saturday improved upon his second-place finish in last year’s Essex.
“He ran a big race in the Essex to get beat by Silver State,” Caldwell recalled of the neck loss. “He ran a huge race last year. I knew he had this in him. He’s run good for his previous owners and trainers, and he’s run good for us.”
Caldwell claimed Rated R Superstar in January 2021at Oaklawn for $50,000.
The horse earned $300,000 Saturday to improve his career record to 11 wins from 59 starts for earnings of $1,589,014.
Caldwell said that as long as Rated R Superstar continues to do well, the plan is to advance to the Grade 2, $1 million Oaklawn Handicap on April 23.
“I think he deserves a shot,” he said. “I know it will be a tough field again. He loves to run, so we’ll give it a shot.”