Gary Barber’s African Oil marked himself as a horse to watch this summer when he made a powerful move to the lead on Monmouth Park’s final turn, jumped the last fence with a half-length advantage, and drew away from Western Exchange to win a $35,000 optional allowance hurdle by 4 1/2 lengths on Friday.
Caves Farm’s Western Exchange, ridden by Tom Foley from the back of the ten-horse field, briefly engaged African Oil after the last but could not keep pace with the winner and finished second, 7 3/4 lengths clear of Northern Bay. Dogwood Stable’s Street Fight finished fourth.
B More Hopeful Racing’s So Outspoken cut out the early pace under Mark Watts but began to fade heading into the final turn, where Clarke Ohrstrom’s Umbraggio took a brief lead. Bernie Dalton put African Oil into contention with an inside move and took the lead going into the final fence as the early leaders faded.
Western Exchange, running last midway down the backstretch the final time, made a bold move to draw close to African Oil at the last before Dalton drove the French-bred winner to a daylight lead in deep stretch.
Trained by Kate Dalton, African Oil went off as the 5.70-to-1 third betting choice and ran the optional allowance’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:23.77 on turf rated as good. Hot Sand, the 2.30-to-1 favorite, fell at the final fence. Arrakis refused at the start, and a stewards’ inquiry resulted in no change in the finish order.