Moments after Kimari delivered a big performance in her 2020 debut, trainer Wesley Ward outlined much bigger plans he had for his world traveler and dual-surface stakes winner.
Kimari, in her return to dirt, was a 1 ¾-length winner of the $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn. Ridden by Channing Hill, Kimari ($7.80) powered past favored Frank’s Rockette on the outside in deep stretch to win for the fourth time in six lifetime starts for owner Ten Broeck Farm Inc. (David Mowat).
Ward said the tentative plan for Kimari is to return to England for the Commonwealth Cup (G1) June 19 at the Royal Ascot meeting, with the year-end objective being the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
“She’s going to be just a pure sprinter, dirt or turf,” Ward said after his first career Oaklawn victory. “We’ll probably try to stick a little bit to the grass to keep her sound because the ultimate goal would be the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. I’ve told them all along that I feel so strongly about this filly. Plus, Keeneland (site of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup) is my home base and hers as well, so we would like to go against the boys. It’s a 6-furlong (dirt) race. I think she’s really going to jump up as we get through the season, and numbers-wise she’ll be right up there as a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against the boys.”
A daughter of Munnings, Kimari was making her first start since finishing fourth against males in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
Kimari was already a two-time stakes winner on grass and finished second, beaten a head, in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) last June at the Royal Ascot meeting. In her only previous dirt start, Kimari crushed males by 15 front-running lengths in her career debut last April at Keeneland. Based on two swift workouts in March at Gulfstream Park West (formerly Calder), Ward said he decided to return Kimari to dirt and targeted the $150,000 Beaumont Stakes (G3) April 5 at Keeneland for her 3-year-old debut. Kimari, however, was rerouted to Oaklawn after Keeneland canceled its spring meeting because of COVID-19.
“Since we gave her the winter off, she came back completely sound,” said Ward, noted for his success with 2-year-olds, particularly sprinting. “I took her to Calder, which I think is the best dirt surface, as far as being very, very safe and horses coming back sound from their breezes. I gave her a work from the gate. She worked (5 furlongs) in :58 flat. That’s the first horse I’ve ever had do that there. Just was a real eye-catching breeze. After that day, I switched from thinking about running her on the grass at Keeneland to the dirt at Keeneland.”
Kimari, nine days later at Gulfstream Park West, worked 6 furlongs in 1:12.20.
“I knew the dirt wouldn’t be an issue,” Ward said.
Racing Saturday over a sloppy, sealed surface, Kimari covered 6 furlongs in 1:10.57. The victory raised her career earnings to $351,646. She was a $152,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale purchase.
Ward said in a text message Sunday morning that Kimari emerged from her victory in “great” shape physically. She was scheduled to return Sunday to Keeneland. Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015, saddled Kimari in Ward’s absence.
Jockeying for Position
A triple Saturday pushed Martin Garcia into second in the rider standings after 42 days of the scheduled 57-day season.
Garcia won the seventh race aboard Cardamon ($20.40) for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, eighth race aboard Finnick the Fierce ($14.40) for trainer Rey Hernandez and the 10th race aboard Don Vito Corleone ($52.60) for trainer Rick Hiles.
Garcia entered Sunday with 38 victories, two less than leader Joe Talamo. Defending champion David Cohen and six-time local leader Ricardo Santana Jr. were tied for third with 36 victories. Santana was scheduled to resume riding Sunday after missing the previous eight racing days (COVID-19 self-quarantine).
Garcia had been a fixture in Southern California before relocating to the Midwest last fall with his new agent, Jay Fedor.
“He’s the happiest jockey I’ve ever worked for,” Fedor said last month. “He loves everybody. He loves his job.”
Fedor said Garcia will ride at Oaklawn until its scheduled end, May 2, before returning to Churchill Downs.
Calling the Hogs
Woopigsooie is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in a two-turn entry-level allowance race April 11, trainer John Ortiz said Saturday afternoon.
A son of multiple Oaklawn stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup Sprint champ Secret Circle, Woopigsooie hasn’t started since finishing second in the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity Sept. 7 at Arlington Park. Woopigsooie recorded his seventh published local work since early February Saturday, covering 5 furlongs in 1:02.60 over a sloppy track.
“I think he’s going to do like his daddy – he’ll take to this track,” Ortiz said. “I’ve worked him over the mud, so, hopefully, I get a muddy track. He loved the track today. This track is always muddy, it seems.”
Ortiz said Woopigsooie, if he wins his 3-year-old debut, he will be pointed towards the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2.
“That’s the goal,” Ortiz said. “I think he’s that type of quality of horse. He’ll tell us. He might need a race or two, but only time will tell.”
Ortiz trains Woopigsooie for John Fox (Woo Pig Stables) of Bryant, Ark. “Woo Pig Sooie” is the popular chant of University of Arkansas athletics.
Post positions are scheduled to be drawn Wednesday for Saturday’s $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles and the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses. The top three finishers in the Oaklawn Stakes, known last year as the Oaklawn Invitational, receive an automatic berth into the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2. Oaklawn officials flipped the dates of the Oaklawn Stakes and Arkansas Derby because of the COVID-19 crisis that has led tracks across the country to suspend or cancel racing. Early Oaklawn Stakes probables include Grade 1 winner Basin for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Sir Rick (Robertino Diodoro), Mr. Big News (Bret Calhoun) and Shared Sense (Brad Cox). Early Oaklawn Mile probables include millionaire Grade 1 winner Tom’s d’Etat for trainer Al Stall, millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Mr. Money (Calhoun), multiple stakes winner Pioneer Spirit (Diodoro) and M G Warrior (Cox). Trainer John Servis said in text message Sunday morning that he was working on logistics in order to send multiple Grade 3 winner Mischevious Alex and multiple stakes winner Diamond King, both based in south Florida, for the Oaklawn Stakes and Oaklawn Mile, respectively. Calhoun said in a text message Sunday morning that Digital is possible for the Oaklawn Stakes. Trainer Richard Baltas said Thursday afternoon that Taishan was under consideration for the Oaklawn Stakes and the Arkansas Derby. … Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott recorded his 4,988th career victory in Saturday’s seventh race with Cardamon ($20.40) for breeder/owner Juddmonte Farms, Inc., according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Mott, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986, is trying to become the seventh North American-based trainer to reach 5,000 career victories. By Pioneerof the Nile, Cardamon is a half-sister to millionaire multiple Grade 1 Emollient, who was also campaigned by Mott and Juddmonte. Mott later finished second in Saturday’s $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters with Frank’s Rockette. … One-eyed Triple Crown nominee Finnick the Fierce ($14.40) won Saturday’s eighth race, an entry-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles, after the original winner, Winning Impression, was disqualified and placed fifth for stretch interference. … Leading apprentice Kelsi Harr recorded her ninth winner at the meeting in Saturday’s first race aboard Gray Sky ($10.40) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. It was Harr’s 23rd career victory and second at the meet for Lukas. … Sky Promise, winner of the inaugural $125,000 Temperence Hill Stakes March 13, is pointing for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles May 2, trainer Robertino Diodoro said in a text message Sunday morning.
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, April 4, 2020) – Ten Broeck Farm Inc.’s Kimari came flying home late and got up in the final strides to win Saturday’s $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths over 7-5 favorite Frank’s Rockette.
Kimari raced in sixth early as Edgeway set the early pace through early fractions of :21 3/5 and :45 1/5 for the first half mile while being tracked closely by the favorite. Frank’s Rockette grabbed the lead at the top stretch, but could not hold off the winner, who rallied four wide under jockey Channing Hill. Kimari completed the six furlong race for 3-year-old fillies in 1:10 3/5 over a sloppy track.
“I’ll be honest with you, at the top of the lane, I wasn’t 100 percent sure how much horse I had, especially compared to how much (jockey Martin Garcia) had because Martin hadn’t gotten after her (Frank’s Rockette) yet,” Hill said. “Once I started reeling her in, and once my filly got to her, it was over from there. This filly has a lot of class. Obviously, she’s got a ton of talent, but she also has the class to match.”
Kimari, a Munnings filly, returned $7.80, $4.20 and $3.20 as the 5-2 second choice in the field of nine after the scratch of Flat Out Speed. The winner, who was making her first start since finishing fourth against males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) last November, improved her record to four wins from six starts and has now earned $351,646.
“I was really, really super confident going into this race,” trainer Wesley Ward said via phone. “I’m kind of a positive guy, anyways, but after seeing those two works (in March at Gulfstream Park West), I knew it would take a really, really tough filly to beat her. Take nothing away from the others in there, but I was really confident. The owner (David Mowat’s Ten Broeck Farm) and Ben McElroy, who bought her and manages her, they were a little apprehensive when we drew the one hole because she always gets away just a little slow. I kind of laid it all out there and assured them, ‘Don’t worry about anything.’ I was a little nervous that I might have stuck my foot in my mouth, but thank God I didn’t.”
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. first post. While no fans are permitted to experience racing onsite during this time, they can to watch and wager through OaklawnAnywhere.com or any ADW of their choice.
Millionaire Grade 1 winner Street Band is scheduled to work Monday or Tuesday in advance of a scheduled start in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 18, trainer Larry Jones said Saturday morning.
Street Band will be breezing for the first time since finishing fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths by Serengeti Empress, in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. The Azeri, run over a sloppy, sealed surface, continued Street Band’s pattern of following up a strong performance with a disappointing one, Jones said.
Among the country’s leading 3-year-old fillies of 2019, Street Band won the $400,000 Fair Grounds (G2), then finished sixth in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), won the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3), then finished third in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) and won the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (G1) before finishing eighth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
“She does not prefer the mud track and it was also the every-other race that was her time to throw a bad race,” Jones said. “So, if that was her bad race, it will be very similar to the Alabama, when she came out of it and won the Cotillion. We’re right on Street Band’s schedule. It may not be Larry’s schedule, but, apparently, it’s Street Band’s schedule.”
Jones said Sophie Doyle, Street Band’s regular rider, is scheduled to have the mount for the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom, one of the country’s most prestigious two-turn events for older fillies and mares.
Jones saddled Havre de Grace to win the 2011 Apple Blossom, one of her five stakes victories that year en route to Horse of the Year honors. She won the Azeri in her seasonal debut.
Jones has won the Fantasy, Oaklawn’s biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies, three times and said he may have a starter in the $400,000 Grade 3 event May 1 in unbeaten Quick Decision, who cleared her first allowance condition sprinting Thursday.
Ridden by Terry Thompson, Quick Decision ($17.20) came from just off the pace to post a three-quarter length victory for Jones and longtime client Brereton Jones, who bred and owns the daughter of Istan. Quick Decision, who has never raced around two turns, broke her maiden Feb. 17.
Larry Jones said the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy is now in play after it was moved from its original date, April 10.
“We’re going to take a look at it and see, but that is what we’re going to start training toward,” Jones said. “There aren’t a lot of other options right now. That’s stepping off the deep end pretty quick, or could be, but we’ve just have to go take our shots.”
Jones won the Fantasy in 2003 with Ruby’s Reception, his first career graded stakes victory, in 2008 with Eight Bells and in 2011 with Joyful Victory.
Nominations to the Fantasy close April 23.
Projected Fantasy starters British Idiom and Shedaresthedevil each worked a half-mile over a sloppy surface just after the track opened Saturday morning for trainer Brad Cox. British Idiom, the country’s champion 2-year-old filly, went in :51.60 under exercise rider Gustavo Abrego, the brother of Jorgito Abrego, who oversees Cox’s Oaklawn division. Shedaresthedevil went in :49.40 under exercise rider Edvin Vargas.
Co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Shedaresthedevil won the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 in her last start. The Honeybee is traditionally the final major local prep for the Fantasy.
Oaklawn Offers California Trainers a Good Option
Several Southern California-based trainers are happy they set up divisions at Oaklawn in 2020 and Sunday’s ninth race at Oaklawn is a good example of the influence these California trainers are having on the program.
Two entrants, Ginobili and Rager, have traveled roughly 1,600 miles for an entry-level sprint that will be over in roughly 70 seconds. In a perfect world, Ginobili and Rager could be running against others in their backyard, Santa Anita.
“It’s crazy,” Rager’s trainer, Andrew Lerner, said Friday afternoon. “The hard part is if you don’t run them, the owners, understandably, they don’t want to be paying day rate at the track. It’s expensive and I get that. But if you put them on a farm for two months, then you’ve got to bring them back and they’re not as fit. You’ve got to kind of backtrack and you take a few steps back. It’s a weird position to be in for everybody.”
Faced with that weird position, Lerner said he vanned Rager, stakes-placed on turf, to Oaklawn a little over a week ago. Trainer Richard Baltas, already with a small string at Oaklawn, now has seven horses on the grounds after Ginobili was flown to Arkansas Friday.
Baltas is among seven Southern California-based trainers with divisions this year at Oaklawn, the others being Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Doug O’Neill, John Sadler, Phil D’Amato, Peter Miller and Peter Eurton.
“We were lucky that we had horses stabled there and a barn set up,” Baltas said Thursday afternoon. “We’re happy and pleased that we came to Oaklawn.”
Baltas will have the 5-2 program favorite in Ginobili, who exits a runner-up finish in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) Feb. 9 at Santa Anita. Nadal, a three-quarter length winner of the 7-furlong race, returned to capture the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and remains unbeaten in three lifetime starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The Rebel is traditionally Oaklawn’s final prep for the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) May 2.
“He should be salty in there,” Baltas said. “I don’t know how the race came up, but I know my horse is pretty good.”
Rager (15-1) will be adding blinkers for his return to dirt. The Into Mischief colt ran second in the $75,000 Baffle Stakes Feb. 7 at Santa Anita and, in his last start, eighth in the $100,000 Pasadena Stakes at a mile Feb. 29 at Santa Anita. Rager, in his only dirt race, was last of four in the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3) Nov. 16 at Del Mar.
“This horse is a turf sprinter, I think,” Lerner said. “But he’s really not had a chance, an opportunity, to sprint on dirt. I think he’s a sprinter and after he broke his maiden first time out on turf, we put him in the Bob Hope, but those were some tough horses and it was a tough task. He’s really kind of had a lot of tough races and we’ve figured out that he’s just a sprinter. But I still think he can run on the dirt. I think he’s better on the turf, but this is our only opportunity, only race, I guess.”
Rager is co-owned by NHL player Erik Johnson. Lerner – with his first career Oaklawn starter – and Johnson teamed to win a March 8 claiming race with Canadian Game.
Lerner said he trains approximately 40 horses and hopes to send more to Oaklawn before its scheduled closing, May 2, adding he might have a much greater presence in 2021.
“You see more trainers going there and having strings there – Phil and Doug, and different guys, and obviously, Jerry’s been there,” Lerner said. “I think next year you’ll see even more guys over there. They’re going to split their strings up from California. (Oaklawn) has good purses over there, good races. You’ve got great jockeys, a lot of SoCal jockeys that went over there. I’m strongly considering having a string of 15 or 20 over there next year.”
Post time for Sunday’s ninth race is 5:09 p.m. (Central).
Pirate’s Punch ran the fastest 1 1/16 miles of the season (1:42.48) in a five-length allowance victory in Friday’s eighth race for older horses. Tyler Baze rode the winner for trainer Grant Forster. … K J’s Nobility will be pointed for the $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship for Arkansas-breds at 1 1/16 miles May 1, trainer Cecil Borel said Tuesday morning. K J’s Nobility, runner-up in last year’s Arkansas Breeders’ Championship, won the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for state-bred sprinters March 28. … Night Ops, winner of the $350,000 Essex Handicap for older horses March 14, worked a half-mile in :51.20 over a sloppy track Saturday morning for trainer Brad Cox. … Multiple stakes winner Mr. Jagermeister worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 Saturday morning in preparation for the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses April 18. Mr. Jagermeister is trained by Valorie Lund.
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 3, 2020) – A field of 10, including 5-2 program favorite Frank’s Rockette and four previously undefeated horses, is entered in the $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the 6-furlong Purple Martin, which goes as the ninth of 10 races, is 5:09 p.m. (Central). Racing begins Saturday, the 42nd day of the scheduled 57-day season, at 1:05 p.m.
A homebred for North Little Rock, Ark., businessman Frank Fletcher and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Frank’s Rockette was among the country’s most accomplished 2-year-old fillies after finishing second in a trio of graded events, including the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (G1) Sept. 1 at Saratoga and the $400,000 Frizette Stakes (G1) Oct. 6 at Belmont Park. Frank’s Rockette exits a front-running seven-length victory in the $75,000 Amy Limit Stakes Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park in her 3-year-old debut.
“Looks like it’s come up a good race,” said Mott, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986. “I know there are some fillies in there that look like they don’t know how to get beat. Wesley Ward has a filly that’s run in good company. It looks like a very competitive race.”
Frank’s Rockette, who normally sits just off the pace, is scheduled to break from post 8 under Martin Garcia. Mott said he believes the outside post will be advantageous for Frank’s Rockette, a daughter of super sire Into Mischief because several other speed horses are drawn inside.
“I think that will work out,” Mott said. “I mean I’m not dissatisfied with it – put it that way.”
Edgeway, the early 3-1 second choice, earned a robust 94 Beyer Speed Figure in her only start, a front-running five-length victory Feb. 29, for trainer John Sadler and owner Hronis Racing LLC (Kosta Hronis). Wesley Ward, a trainer noted for success with young stock, is scheduled to send out Kimari, a multiple stakes winner on turf, for her 3-year-old debut. In her only dirt appearance, Kimari was a front-running 15-length winner of her career debut last April at Keeneland. She then finished second in the $138,100 Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at famed Ascot Racecourse in England.
Ring Leader won her first three sprint starts, including the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Feb. 15, before suffering her first career loss in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles March 7.
“Tough race, but I think she’s going to run pretty good,” said Mac Robertson, who trains Ring Leader for longtime client Joseph Novogratz (Novogratz Racing Stables Inc.). “There are a couple of horses shipping in, but we’re here and probably ready for them. Lots of speed.”
Also entered are unbeaten Bootytama (3 for 3) for trainer Molly J. Pearson, unbeaten Lexi On the Move (2 for 2) for leading Oaklawn trainer Robertino Diodoro and unbeaten Iowa-bred Flat Out Speed (3 for 3) for trainer Lynn Chleborad. Flat Out Speed was a multiple stakes winner as a 2-year-old for 2010 Oaklawn leading owner Allen Poindexter, who also bred the daughter of Flat Out in partnership.
“She is at a little bit of a disadvantage because she hasn’t had a race in her since the first of September,” Chleborad said. “I would, truthfully, have liked to have seen two more works in her before I ran her, but she has no conditions and we need to see if she can step up her game and run with these horses.”
The projected Purple Martin field from the rail out: Kimari, rider to be announced, 119 pounds, 4-1 on the morning line; Ring Leader, Joe Talamo, 122, 6-1; Flat Out Speed, Alex Canchari, 122, 20-1; Edgeway, Tyler Baze, 117, 3-1; Bootytama, Stewart Elliott, 117, 12-1; Lexi On the Move, David Cohen, 122, 8-1; Lady Glamour, Julie Burke, 117, 15-1; Frank’s Rockette, Martin Garcia, 119, 5-2; Kiss the Girl, Joe Rocco Jr., 122, 15-1; and Wasabi Girl, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 15-1.
Recount’s March 22 victory at Oaklawn was noteworthy because the gelding surpassed $700,000 in career earnings. It was noteworthy for jockey Alex Canchari, too, only for a much more personal reason.
Recount represented Canchari’s first victory since his older brother, jockey Patrick Canchari, was critically injured several days earlier in an automobile accident in Arizona.
“It was for him,” Alex Canchari said. “There’s been two times in my life that I’ve cried after a race. One was when I won my first race at Santa Anita and when I won that race the other day because I really felt like he was riding with me. I came from behind in that race, and I had such a clear trip. That was a special one.”
According to a GoFund page created March 18, Patrick Canchari was headed to work when he was involved in the March 17 accident. He was transported to HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center in Phoenix and diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and a fractured C4 vertebra (neck), sedated and placed on a ventilator. Canchari, 29, had ridden three winners this year at Turf Paradise in Phoenix before the accident.
Alex Canchari said his family is in Arizona, but have been unable to see Patrick because the hospital is on government “lockdown” (COVID-19). Alex Canchari has remained in Hot Springs and continues to ride, although he took off all his mounts March 19 because he was “devastated” over the accident. The brothers hail from a racing family and grew up in the shadow of Canterbury Park in suburban Minneapolis.
“We did everything together,” Alex Canchari said. “I used to do my online school when he was an apprentice and I used to watch every race at Hawthorne. I would sit in the grandstand and watch all his races and we lived in the dorms together. We got our first jobs at the track when I was 10 years old and he was 12. We grew up playing hockey every day. He taught me everything.”
Canchari said Thursday morning that his brother is scheduled to be transported to a rehabilitation facility in the next few days, adding he “opened his eyes” and “looked at us” during a Facetime video call Wednesday.
“That’s a good sign,” Alex Canchari said.
Jockeying for Position
The view at the top of the Oaklawn jockey standings is crowded, with four riders separated by three victories following Thursday’s action, Day 40 of the scheduled 57-day season.
Joe Talamo rode one winner Thursday to take a 37-36 lead over six-time local riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. Defending champion David Cohen is third (35) and Martin Garcia (34) fourth. Talamo and Garcia are riding regularly at Oaklawn for the first time after previously being based in Southern California during the winter and early spring.
“That would be cool,” Talamo said last Saturday morning when asked about winning the riding title in his Oaklawn debut. “It’s under interesting circumstances, obviously. You know, Ricardo has been off and David Cohen was gone for five days, so, obviously, that factors into it. But that would be awesome. But more than anything, I just want to try to keep doing what we’re doing and just keep getting good opportunities. The rest will take care of itself.”
Talamo has a meet-high six stakes victories and entered Friday No. 2 in purse earnings ($2,448,688). Santana tops all riders in purse earnings ($2,592,640). Santana is scheduled to resume riding Sunday (COVID-19 self-quarantine).
Teaming for a Win
Kelsi Harr had ridden 22 winners in her career through Thursday, but until last week none had been for the trainer who helped mold her riding career.
That changed March 27 when Harr guided favored Millie’s an Angel ($3.20) to a front-running 2 ¼-length victory in the second race for trainer Al Cates of Hot Springs. Harr, Oaklawn’s leading apprentice jockey this year, has been an exercise rider for Cates for the last eight years. The duo had been 0 for 21 together – all at Oaklawn – in the afternoon.
“I was thrilled,” Cates said last Saturday morning. “She was really thrilled because she’s been wanting to win one for me so bad, I know. We thought we had a couple of shots before, but it didn’t work out.”
Harr only works for Cates from November until May because they normally head to different venues after the Oaklawn meeting ends. Harr is based at Canterbury Park in suburban Minneapolis, where she began her riding career in the summer of 2018. Cates is a fixture at Louisiana Downs.
Harr entered Friday with eight victories at the meet. Two other apprentice riders, Chel-c Bailey and Charles Roberts, each had three victories.
Never (Bet) Against the Family?
Fans of “The Godfather,” will have something to root for in Saturday’s 10th race at Oaklawn. That’s because Don Vito Corleone – a 4-year-old Midshipman gelding for trainer Rick Hiles – is scheduled to make his career debut in the maiden special weights event at 1 1/16 miles.
The more famous Don Vito Corleone, of course, was the fictional character played by screen legend Marlon Brando in the 1972 classic crime film.
Hiles said Thursday morning that he didn’t know of any juicy backstory involving the gelding, other than co-owners E. McCarroll Holdings and Sylvia J. Norris originally wanted to name him “Don Vito.”
“I think they said, ‘Well, let’s just put Corleone on the end,’ ” Hiles said. “That’s all I know.”
Bred by the University of Kentucky, Don Vito Corleone has a series of sharp works, dating to late January at Oaklawn, in advance of his career debut.
“He’s a pretty good horse,” Hiles said.
Hiles is the longtime president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Triple Crown nominee Answer In, unraced since a third-place finish in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 17, is entered in Saturday’s eighth race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance, for trainer Brad Cox. Also entered is Triple Crown nominee Finnick the Fierce for co-owner/trainer Rey Hernandez. Finnick the Fierce finished second in the $300,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs. Kentucky Jockey Club winner Silver Prospector returned to capture the Southwest. … Ginobili, runner-up to Nadal in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) Feb. 9 at Santa Anita in his last start, is entered in Sunday’s ninth race, an entry-level allowance sprint, for Southern California-based trainer Richard Baltas. Nadal returned to win the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14, one of Oaklawn’s four Kentucky Derby points races. Baltas, who has a division of horses this year at Oaklawn, said Ginobili would be flown Friday to Arkansas. … Through Friday, the 40th day of the scheduled 57-day season, 279 claims had totaled $5,249,750.
PHOTO ATTACHED – Credit Robert Yates, Oaklawn
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas called Nadal and American Theorem “house guests” after they shipped into his Oaklawn barn shortly before the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 14.
Lukas took both Southern California-based horses to the track to train during their brief stay in Hot Springs and watched Nadal remain unbeaten in three lifetime starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Lukas recently welcomed another house guest to his Royal Glint barn, but Come Dancing will be sticking around much longer. And this time, Lukas will be calling the shots as the trainer of record for Come Dancing, a millionaire Grade 1 winner who is scheduled to make her 2020 debut in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 18, Lukas said Tuesday morning.
Previously with New York-based trainer Carlos Martin, Come Dancing arrived at Oaklawn about “10-12 days ago,” Lukas said, and recorded her first published local work toward the Apple Blossom Tuesday. Under Yoni Hernandez, an exercise rider for Lukas, Come Dancing breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00.60. The track was rated muddy on a chilly, overcast morning.
“Carlos Martin sent her in in beautiful shape, so my job is to keep her happy and move her forward,” Lukas said.
Lukas said fellow trainer Dale Romans suggested Martin, grandson of the late Hall of Fame trainer, Frank “Pancho” Martin, send Come Dancing to Lukas in Arkansas. Romans also trains for breeder/owner Marc Holliday (Blue Devil Racing Stable)
“Usually when the show up in the barn, there’s a problem and they want you to correct it,” said Lukas, who annually winters at Oaklawn. “They don’t usually come in looking like she does and working like she does.”
Come Dancing, a five-time stakes winner, hasn’t started since finishing sixth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) – her only career race outside New York – Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The 6-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon had been poised for an Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter after winning the $500,00 Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga and the $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) Sept. 22 at Belmont Park. Overall, Come Dancing has won 8 of 14 career starts and earned $1,064,950.
“She’s impressive,” Lukas said. “I’ve had a number of, something like 19 Eclipse-champion fillies, and she fits the mold.”
Lukas said Come Dancing’s training will be straightforward for the Apple Blossom, among the country’s most prestigious two-turn races for older fillies and mares.
“She’ll get a couple of more works,” Lukas said. “We’ll school her and stand her and do all the usual.”
Lukas won the Apple Blossom in 1983 (Miss Huntington), 1987 (North Sider) and 2004 (Azeri). Miss Huntington represented the first of Lukas’ 322 career victories to date at Oaklawn.
Martin’s late father, Jose, trained three Eclipse Award winners, including Wayward Lass, who, in 1981, finished third in Oaklawn’s $200,000 Fantasy Stakes (G1) en route to champion 3-year-old filly honors.
“I knew them all through my association with New York racing,” Lukas said of the Martin family.
Jon Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, said in a text message last Thursday that he is targeting a comeback at the end of the meeting, scheduled for May 2.
Court, 59, hasn’t ridden since Feb. 13, when he was injured before a race that afternoon.
Court referred all other questions about his injury and rehabilitation to “Big Steve” Krajcir of Hot Springs, the jockey’s longtime agent. Krajcir said Court is recovering at home in Louisville, Ky., and may try to get on a few horses at Keeneland “to get fit again.”
“He wants to come back right before the end of the meet and ride a couple of live horses and then go to Kentucky from there,” Krajcir said Friday morning.
Krajcir said Court was hospitalized after suffering a collapsed lung and broken ribs in the accident going to the gate for the fourth race Feb. 13. Court was aboard first-time starter Line of Faith.
“They were warming up and the horse got away from the pony and went to bucking and threw him off,” Krajcir said. “He landed right on his back.”
According to Equibase, racing’s official data organization, Court ranked 63rd in North American history through Tuesday with 4,181 career victories. Court is among the winningest riders in Oaklawn history with 688 victories, including 33 stakes. He won the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2010 aboard Line of David for trainer John Sadler and 2011 aboard Archarcharch for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs.
Millionaire Grade 1 winner Tom’s d’Etat worked a half-mile in :48.60 Sunday morning for trainer Al Stall and owner G M B Racing. Unraced since winning the $600,000 Clark Handicap (G1) Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs, Tom’s d’Etat is pointing for the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses April 11, according to G M B Racing. … Post positions were to be drawn Wednesday for Saturday’s $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters. Leading Purple Martin contender Frank’s Rockette arrived Tuesday night from her south Florida base, according to Kathy Howard, racing manager for the filly’s breeder/owner, Frank Fletcher of North Little Rock, Ark. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Frank’s Rockette is multiple Grade-1 placed and won the $75,000 Any Limit Stakes Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park in her last start. … Unbeaten Nadal returned to the work tab for the first time since his victory in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 14, covering a half-mile in :49.60 Monday morning at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Nadal (3 for 3) is a candidate for the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2.