A two-time stakes winner against fellow Florida-breds, Lure Him In will look for his first graded stakes victory Saturday at Oaklawn Park in the $600,000 Essex (Grade 3). The mile-and-one-eighth test has a field of nine 4-year-olds and older with Lure Him In labeled at 6-1 on the morning line.

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. also has Lure Him In entered to run in the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds Saturday where he is 10-1 in the program.

Lure Him In won the $95,000 Sunshine Classic for Florida-bred older horses going a mile-and-a-sixteenth at Gulfstream Park two starts back on Jan. 20 and has since finished second to Black Belt in an upper-level, $62,500 optional claiming at the same distance at Gulfstream on Feb. 17.

His other stakes victory came in January of 2022 when he won the $100,000 Sunshine Turf for older Florida-breds that was switched to a mile-and-an-eighth on the synthetic course at Gulfstream.

A 7-year-old gelding who races for owners C2 Racing Stable LLC, Doube B Racing Stables, Paul Braverman, Timothy Pinch and Mach 1 Stables, Lure Him In also has graded stakes-placed credentials having finished third in the 2021 Tokyo City won by Tizamagician on the Santa Anita turf in March of 2021.

The Essex will be his first try against stakes company since finising out of the money in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday won by O’Connor (Chi) going a mile-and-a-sixteenth at Gulfstream in December.

Lure Him In is a 7-year-old son of Journeyman Stud’s Khozan out of Alluring Lady, by Indygo Shiner. He has won eight with nine seconds and seven thirds in 42 starts with earnings of $486,058.

Edwin Gonzalez will ride Lure Him In from post two.

Trainer Brad Cox will saddle First Mission for the Essex with hopes the 6-year-old son of Street Sense improves off his ninth-place finish behind winner National Treasure in the $2.9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational last out at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.

A winner of the Grade 3 Lexington going a mile-and-a-sixteenth at Keeneland in April of last year, First Mission won a second condition, $80,000 optional claiming at Keeneland in October and was second to Trademark in the Grade 2 Clark at Churchill in November.

The lightly-raced First Mission has won half of his six career starts with two seconds with earnings of $489,110.

Florent Geroux has the riding assignment on the 5-2 morning line favorite and they will depart from the outside post nine.

Other contenders include the Phillip Sims-trained War Campaign, winner of the $200,000 Tinsel over a sloppy nine furlongs at Oaklawn in his last race on Dec. 16; and Magic Tap for trainer Steve Asmussen. Magic Tap was last seen as the runner-up to Florida-bred Octane in the Grade 3 Razorback going a mile-and-sixteenth at Oaklawn on Feb. 24.

Emmanuel Esquivel rides War Campaign from post six and Keith Asmussen has the mount on Magic Tap in post five.

Rounding out the field are Ain’t Life Grand with Martin Garcia named to ride, Wizard of Westwood and jockey Ramon Vasquez, Time for Trouble with Rafael Bejarano aboard and Cristian Torres rides Seize the Night.

Return to the March 22 issue of Wire to Wire