Charlatan, Nadal give Bob Baffert an Arkansas Derby sweep

NADAL WINS 2ND DIVISION OF ARKANSAS DERBY
CHARLATAN WINS 1ST DIV OF THE ARKANSAS DERBY

Bob Baffert once again ruled the first Saturday in May, this time in Arkansas.

The Baffert-trained Charlatan and Nadal — both heavy favorites — won their respective divisions in the $500,000, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and established themselves as top early contenders for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Charlatan took the lead out of the gate and didn’t look back in romping to victory in Division One.

The 2-5 favorite, Charlatan improved to 3 for 3 in his career. Ridden by Martin Garcia, Charlatan covered the 1⅛ miles in 1:48.49 and paid $2.80. Basin, who chased Charlatan in second place much of the race, finished six lengths back. Gouverneur Morris was third.

A son of Speightstown, Charlatan set fractions of 22.88 seconds for the quarter-mile, 46.08 seconds for the half-mile and 1:09.68 for three-quarters and never was seriously threatened.

Charlatan was making his stakes debut after winning his first two races at Santa Anita Park by a combined 16 lengths. He earned 100 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.

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“I can say I am really lucky to ride him,” Garcia said. “Mr. Baffert and the owners had a lot of choices. They pick me. I just did my job. He just took me to the winner’s circle. They told me we were smoking. I went in 1:09, and he was just galloping. He did it all within himself. I felt someone coming at the (three-eighths pole), and I let him go. He just took off. That’s a sign of a really good horse.”

In Division Two, Nadal and jockey Joel Rosario set off pacesetter Wells Bayou, took the lead in the second turn and held off late charges by runner-up King Guillermo and third-place Finnick the Fierce to win with a time of 1:48.34.

The 4-5 favorite, Nadal paid $3.80 and earned 100 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.

A son of Blame, Nadal improved to 4 for 4 in his career. He previously won the Grade 2 Rebel on March 14 at Oaklawn.

 

Oaklawn Park Daily Results and Activity

Results

Saturday, May 2
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Starter Allowance – $40,000 $32,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Maiden Special Weight $60,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Allowance $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Maiden Special Weight $60,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $75,000 $62,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $60,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming – $100,000 $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 8 Allowance $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 9 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $62,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming – $80,000 $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 11 Arkansas Derby $500,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 12 Oaklawn H. $600,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 13 Arkansas Derby $500,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 14 Starter Allowance – $10,000 $50,000 Overnight Overnight

 

ARKANSAS DERBY

Peter Redekop

Peter Redekop’s, Annueau d’Or runs today in the 1st Division of the Arkansas Derby.  He is 6-1 on the morning line. Bob Baffert undefeated trained Charlatan is the even money in the race.

Bob Baffert

Baffert’s other undefeated 3 yr old Nadal is the morning line favorite in the 2nd Division.

The races are shown on NBC Sports Today

 

Michael Puhich
Entries
May 2 – Oaklawn Park

Compelling Smile Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming $100,000
Background Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming $80,000

Results
May 1 – Oaklawn Park
Profound Legacy finished 4th beaten 5 1/4 lengths Race 10 View Chart    
Kerri Raven
Entries
May 4 – Will Rogers

Blue Dancer Race 5 Claiming $10,000
May 5 – Will Rogers

Chatterman Race 5 Starter Allowance $7,500
Blaine D. Wright
Entries
May 2 – Oaklawn Park

Anneau d’Or Race 11 Arkansas Derby (Gr 1)

ARKANSAS SPLIT IN TWO DIVISIONS TODAY AT OAKLAWN PARK

ELEVENTH RACE Probable Post 5:29 CDT 
1 1/8 Miles. 3-Year-Olds. ArkDerby (Grade 1). Purse: $500,000

 PP   HORSE   PR. RIDER   WT.   COMMENTS   PR.ODDS 

 1   Charlatan   Garcia M    118       1-1 
 4   Gouverneur Morris   Velazquez J R    118       9-2 
 8   Anneau d’Or   Hernandez J J    118       6-1 
 6   Shooters Shoot   Talamo J    118       8-1 
 11   Basin   Santana R Jr    122       8-1 
 9   Winning Impression   Leparoux J R    118       15-1 
 2   My Friends Beer   Cannon D    118       20-1 
 7   Wrecking Crew   Prat F    118       20-1 
 10   Crypto Cash   Lanerie C J    118       20-1 
 3   Mo Mosa   Carmouche K    118       30-1 
 5   Jungle Runner   Baze T C    122       30-1 

 

THIRTEENTH RACE Probable Post 6:43 CDT 
1 1/8 Miles. 3-Year-Olds. ArkDerby (Grade 1). Purse: $500,000

 PP   HORSE   PR. RIDER   WT.   COMMENTS   PR.ODDS 

 5   Nadal   Rosario J    122       5-2 
 4   King Guillermo   Camacho S    122       3-1 
 11   Wells Bayou   Geroux F    122       7-2 
 3   Storm the Court   Prat F    122       6-1 
 7   Silver Prospector   Santana R Jr    122       10-1 
 8   Fast Enough   Baze T C    122       12-1 
 10   Farmington Road   Castellano J J    118       12-1 
 1   Finnick the Fierce   Garcia M    118       15-1 
 9   Taishan   Cohen D    118       15-1 
 2   Saratogian   Talamo J    118       50-1 
 6   Code Runner   Elliott S    118       50-1 

MAN IN THE CAN UPSETS ARKANSAS BREEDERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

MAN IN THE CAN UPSETS ARKANSAS BREEDERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, May 1, 2020) – JRita Young Thoroughbred LLC’s Man In The Can proved he’s the best male Arkansas-bred at Oaklawn when he stepped up against older horses and won Friday’s $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship by a neck over 4-5 favorite KJ’s Nobility.

Coming off the victory in the six-furlong Rainbow Stakes April 17, Man In The Can was forwardly placed under Joel Rosario and stalked Souixper Charger through opening fractions of :22 3/5 and :46 1/5 through the first half mile. He shook his early rival and had just enough to hold off the late closing KJ’s Nobility in a final time of 1:43 1/5 over a fast track. Prospector Fever was third.

“He broke well,” Rosario said. “In the stretch, I think he was looking towards the inside and lost focus for a minute. I just tried to keep him moving forwarded.”

Man In the Can, a homebred son of Can The Man, improved his record to three wins from four starts and has now earned $178,893. He returned $11.80, $4.40 and $4 at odds of 9-2.

Live racing resumes tomorrow for the final day of the 57-day live race meet with a first post of 12 noon. The 14 race card is highlighted by two runnings of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) and the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2). 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.

Quotes:

Winning trainer Ron Moquett, Man In The Can: “I actually thought that he would be a little farther off the pace because of the post position. The only thing that I told Joel (Rosario) is I think that he’s going to like going around two turns – just remember he’s never done it, so you’re going to have to make all the decisions for him. When he broke so well, Joel decided to take advantage of it and sit right off of the pace and come home in a pretty good time.”

Jockey Calvin Borel, second on KJ’s Nobility: “No excuse. I thought I had dead aim on him (Man in the Can) turning for home. The track’s a little fast. I just didn’t get by him. My little horse ran hard. No excuse.”

Todd Pletcher Well Represented in Quest for Sixth Arkansas Derby

 

Todd Pletcher Well Represented in Quest for Sixth Arkansas Derby

Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Arkansas Derby a record five times and he’ll have two chances to increase that total when he sends out Gouverneur Morris and Farmington Road in Saturday’s split $500,000 Grade 1 race at 1 1/8 miles.

Gouverneur Morris is the 9-2 second choice in the program in the first division, while Farmington Road is an early 12-1 in the second division.

Gouverneur Morris (2 for 4 overall) will be making his local debut after finishing fourth in his last start, the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) March 28 at Gulfstream Park, for his high-profile connections of Pletcher and co-owners Team Valor International and WinStar Farm LLC. Gouverneur Morris was beaten 5 ¼ lengths by Kentucky Derby points leader Tiz the Law. Both are sons of WinStar’s hot young stallion, Constitution.

Gouverneur Morris, in his two-turn debut, also finished second to unbeaten Maxfield in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 5 at Keeneland.

“He’s run against the best of his generation or a lot of the best, and he’s accounted himself well,” Pletcher said Tuesday afternoon. “We feel like he has every right to take a step forward.”

Gouverneur Morris, a $600,000 2-year-old in training purchase, has alternated wins and losses throughout his brief racing career. He was a nine-length debut winner Sept. 2 at Saratoga, ran second in the Breeders’ Futurity, was a 1 ¼-length allowance winner of his 3-year-old debut Feb. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs, then ran fourth in the Florida Derby.

Late-running Farmington Road earned an automatic ticket to the Arkansas Derby with a runner-up finish in the $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes at 1 1/8 miles April 11. The son of Quality Road raced in blinkers for the first time and was beaten a half-length by Mr. Big News after a sluggish break.

“We decided after the race in the Oaklawn Stakes just to leave him there since he was guaranteed a starting position,” Pletcher said. “Just came back with one easy half-mile breeze and we’ll hopefully get a little cleaner start this time, hopefully, a little better tactical position. He would also be one who would benefit from a good, honest pace. Hopefully, he can make a good sustained run like last time.”

Farmington Road added blinkers after finishing fourth, beaten 4 ½ lengths, in the first division of the split $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds. The 1 1/8-mile race marked the stakes debut for Farmington Road, who races for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners (Aaron Wellman), Chrysalis Stables (Stephanie Clark) and Robert LaPenta. Pletcher and Eclipse teamed to win the 2014 Arkansas Derby with Danza. Clark campaigns multiple Oaklawn allowance winner M G Warrior. LaPenta co-owns seven-time Oaklawn stakes winner Whitmore.

Pletcher said he doesn’t believe blinkers “made a whole lot of difference” in the Oaklawn Stakes, but opted to leave the equipment on for the Arkansas Derby.

“He’s a horse that just wants to settle back and make one run,” Pletcher said. “The blinkers didn’t change that, but I think they did have him, perhaps, a little more focused.”

Although Farmington Road landed in the tougher race – the second division includes unbeaten Rebel winner Nadal, Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou and champion Storm the Court – there is also more speed, on paper, than the first division.

“If there’s a good, honest pace early, it will certainly enhance his chances,” Pletcher said.

In addition to Danza, Pletcher won the Arkansas Derby in 2000 (Graeme Hall), 2001 (Balto Star), 2013 (Overanalyze) and 2018 (Magnum Moon). Pletcher also finished second in the 2010 Arkansas Derby with Super Saver, who would give the trainer his first Kentucky Derby victory three weeks later.

Tacitus has Traveled the World to Run in Arkansas.

A homebred for famed Juddmonte Farms, Inc., Tacitus is the 9-2 second choice in the program for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn. A royally bred 4-year-old gray son of Tapit, Tacitus will be making his first start since finishing fifth in the world’s richest race, the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, Feb. 29 in Saudi Arabia.

Tacitus remained in the Middle East and was shipped to the United Arab Emirates for the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 30, but the race was canceled (Covid-19).

“We kind of had to scramble to get the horse back here to the States,”  Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s son and traveling assistant, Riley Mott, said during training hours Friday morning. “We had to really scramble to find a flight back for the horse because everything was shut down, kind of mayhem. Finally got the horse back to New Jersey. They were able to fly him there in late March.”

Following a brief quarantine period, Mott said Tacitus joined his father’s string at Belmont Park in New York and resumed training. The menu is lean on immediate options during the Covid-19 era.

“Obviously, the horse is liked geared up, ready to run in Dubai,” Mott said. “Had to come home. Didn’t really know what to point for, as is the case for everybody. We just said if we can put in like two or three good works in New York, we could maybe have him ready to come here.”

After breezing 5 furlongs in 1:04.19 April 27 over Belmont’s training track, Mott said Tacitus was flown Tuesday to Arkansas for the Oaklawn Handicap, a race his famous father won in 1995 with future Horse of the Year Cigar and again in 1996 with Geri.

“Never what we had planned on running in, but I’m sure that’s the case for half the field,” Riley Mott said.

The consistent Tacitus (first, second or third in 8 of 10 career starts) has bankrolled $2,677,500. His resume includes victories in the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs and the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct and a third-place finish in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) Sept 28 at Belmont Park to conclude his 3-year-old campaign.

Tacitus is out of champion Close Hatches, who was also campaigned by Juddmonte and Mott, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986. Mott saddled Close Hatches to victories in Oaklawn’s $200,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) and $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) in 2014 en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion older dirt female.

“Similar in that they’re kind of scopey, elegant-looking horses,” Riley Mott said of Close Hatches and Tacitus. “They’ve probably got a little bit of the same demeanor. That’s good. She was a champion. I think he took a little bit of his mother and a little bit of his dad in Tapit. He’s got a lot Tapit in him. He’s been a fun horse to train.”

Bill Mott recorded his 4,989th career victory in Thursday’s eighth race with Blamed ($8.20), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Blamed was saddled by Riley Mott.

Sadler Looking to Close Out Meet with a Bang

Southern California-based trainer John Sadler holds victories in a couple of Oaklawn’s signature races – 2010 Arkansas Derby (G1) (Line of David) and 2017 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) (Stellar Wind) – but before 2020, had never had never kept a division at the Hot Springs track. He enters the final two days of the season with 15 wins, good enough for sixth in the trainer’s standings, and could add to his stakes total should Hronis Racing LLC’s Combatant win Saturday’s $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2).

 

“We’ve really enjoyed it,” Sadler said. “Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, I couldn’t get there as much as I would have liked. As far as an overall meet, we’ve had a good meet. We could have had a great meet. Ollie’s Candy (second, Apple Blossom Handicap) and Flagstaff (third, Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3)) had tough beats. They were really close. Ran bang up races. Overall, I’m very happy. It’s been a great experience. I can’t say enough good things about the Cella family.”

Combatant was a top 3-year-old at Oaklawn in 2018, finishing “on the board” in three of Oaklawn’s four Kentucky Derby preps and fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) while trained by Steve Asmussen. Combatant closed out his 4-year-old season with a victory in an allowance race at Churchill Downs and then entered the Keeneland November sale where he was purchased by his present connections for $220,000. He quickly rewarded them with a third in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) Feb. 1 and a win the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) March 7.

“He put in a good third in the prep for the Big Cap and then ran really well in the Big Cap,” Sadler said. “He’s a horse that is doing really well right now. He was a good horse when we got him. He was coming off a win at CD. We got him out here. My thought is there’s always room in the handicap division. He’s not disappointed us. He’s training great.”

Combatant will be cutting back from a 1 ¼ miles to 1 1/8 miles, but Sadler doesn’t think that will be a problem for the Scat Daddy horse.

“A mile and one eighth is good for him,” Sadler said. “He’s proven he can go farther. He’s shortening up a bit and that’s the handicapping factor, but you usually get a good pace (at Oaklawn). We have a good rider (Joel Rosario). “We’re just hoping we can catch a good pace upfront. We came close a few years ago with Accelerate. We put on a good show with him and City of Light. I don’t think this horse will disappoint.”

Baffert’s Baby

Nadal and Charlatan (split Arkansas Derby) aren’t the only unbeaten heavy program favorites Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has Saturday at Oaklawn.

Baffert is also scheduled to send out Gamine (7-5) in the seventh race, an entry-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. A $1.8 million 2-year-old in training purchase, Gamine makes her two-turn debut after a 6 ¼-length victory March 7 at Santa Anita. The daughter of super sire Into Mischief earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 87 for her flashy career debut. Gamine was steered to Oaklawn after Santa Anita suspended racing March 27.

“I was trying to get her in at Santa Anita and I couldn’t get her in because a lot of people knew about her, so the race wouldn’t fill,” Baffert said Tuesday afternoon. “She had been ready to run for a month. I wanted to run her back short one more time. I’d like to have run her seven-eighths or something, but then they quit running here. I was going to run her short there, but her date wouldn’t have been good enough to get in. Then, this race came up. I would have preferred like a mile, but we need to get going. We’ll see what she does going two turns for the first time.”

Gamine tuned up for Saturday’s race by recording a 5-furlong bullet workout out of the gate (:59.20) April 24 at Santa Anita. She led at every point of call in her blowout debut victory.

“I think she’s a nice filly,” Baffert said. “We gave a lot of money for her. She broke her maiden the right way. Until they do it, they’ve got to do it. She has to go two turns.”

Probable post time for Saturday’s seventh race is 3:16 p.m. (Central).

Tom and Chelsey

While the Covid-19 crisis has fractured the racing industry, the virus brought Tom’s d’Etat and trainer Chelsey Coady together in late March at Oaklawn, where the millionaire Grade 1 winner has taken the track’s 2019 promotional slogan to heart: “Stay Until May.”

Tom’s d’Etat returned to the work tab Friday morning, breezing a half-mile in :48.80 under Joe Talamo immediately after the first surface renovation break. Clockers caught the son of Smart Strike galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 over the fast track.

Stall had hoped to have Tom’s d’Etat back at Churchill Downs around May 1, but that was before the track postponed its stable opening, again.The new date, a staggered May 11 start, means the horse’s stay in Hot Springs will be extended several more days.

“I’m not sad,” Coady said. “I’m not complaining.”

Tom’s d’Etat had been scheduled to make his 2020 debut in the $200,000 Ben Ali Stakes (G3) April 11 at Keeneland before the Lexington, Ky., venue canceled its spring meeting. Stall then rerouted Tom’s d’Etat to Oaklawn, and because of restrictions, threw the keys to Coady, who regularly gallops the horse and saddled him for his victory in the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile April 11. Coady, 26, was an assistant/exercise rider for trainer Buff Bradley before going out on her own before the 2019 Oaklawn meet.

“I love him,” Coady said of Tom’s d’Etat. “I’ve been around a lot of great horses, definitely when I was an assistant. We had Brass Hat, Groupie Doll, The Player, Divisidero. But this horse, by far, is the most special. It’s cool. He’s great.”

Stall, who annually winters at Fair Grounds, said he had no reservations about sending Tom’s d’Etat to Coady because they knew each other and had a similar arrangement at the 2019 Oaklawn meet. Coady said she only had a handful of horses in 2019, so it was easier to oversee ones that Stall shipped into her barn to run.

“It never crossed my mind, as far as moving him from one place to another,” Stall said. “She’s a top rider and he’s easy to ride, anyway, and he had done all the heavy lifting at Fair Grounds, like company works and things like that. We actually breezed him one time at Oaklawn. We canceled our last workout due to track conditions the weekend before the race. She gets along with him great. You’ve obviously seen him galloping around with her all the time. We worked together last year, towards the end of Oaklawn. This is our second go-around.”

Tom’s d’Etat, in his 7-year-old debut, won the Oaklawn Mile by three-quarters of a length over Grade 1 winner Improbable. Despite a wide trip and jockey Joel Rosario never going to the whip, Tom’s d’Etat ran the distance over a wet-fast surface in a meet-best 1:35.83. Tom’s d’Etat was making his first start since winning the $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.

Immediately following the Oaklawn Mile, Stall said Tom’s d’Etat would target still-scheduled races at the Churchill Downs spring meeting – $150,000 Blame Stakes May 30 and the $700,000 Stephen Foster (G2) June 27. Both races are 1 1/8 miles. The Stephen Foster is a “Win and You’re In” event for the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland, the year-end goal for Tom’s d’Etat.

“Al’s such a great guy,” Coady said. “For someone to just trust another person with your best horse says a lot. He makes it easy. I’ve saddled a lot of good horses, but it was without spectators, too. There wasn’t a lot of pressure. The horse was just so classy. There was nothing to worry about. It was exciting. It felt like one of our wins.”

Coady spent approximately six years under Bradley before going out on her own and saddled her first winner (Fish Trappe Road) Aug. 9, 2019, at Belterra Park. Coady recorded her third career winner, and first at Oaklawn, with Arkansas-bred Babadook March 6. She also gallops her own horses.

“You can definitely feel a difference,” Coady said. “I have, personally, a lot of cheaper horses – some of them I love to pieces. But definitely horses like him (Tom’s d’Etat), he could do this … everybody says they could do it with a monkey on their back. He could do it with a monkey on his back. He is 7 years old and he knows everything he’s supposed to do. He knows himself. He knows his body. He knows what he’s capable of, but he’s smart enough that he never, ever does anything. He does just enough.”

Owned by G M B Racing (Gayle Benson), Tom’s d’Etat has a 10-2-1 record from 17 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,326,572. Benson owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

Coady said she began the Oaklawn meeting with roughly six horses and will leave with maybe eight when the 57-day season concludes Saturday. Along with Bradley, Coady said Stall has been instrumental in shaping her career. Coady also oversaw preparations and saddled multiple stakes winner Bobby’s Wicked One for Stall in the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 18. She continues to gallop Bobby’s Wicked One, too, because he’s in a holding pattern and unable to ship to Churchill Downs.

“Al’s very giving,” Coady said. “We share mutual owners and he’s more than happy to share the wealth, so to speak. He’s a great guy.”

Finish Lines

Leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr. rode three winners Thursday to increase his lead over runner-up Martin Garcia to 57-53 with two days remaining in the meeting. Santana is seeking his seventh local riding title. Garcia and Joe Talamo each rode two winners Thursday. Talamo entered Friday with 52 victories to rank third in the standings. … Robertino Diodoro leads perennial champion Steve Asmussen 51-46 in the trainer standings entering the final two days of the meeting. Asmussen is seeking his fifth consecutive local training title and record-tying 11th overall (all since 2007). … Recent Apple Blossom winner Ce Ce “is doing great,” trainer Michael McCarthy said Friday morning, adding her immediate racing future remains unclear because of Covid-19. The Southern California-based McCarthy has returned to Hot Springs to start five horses over the final two days of the meeting. … Grade I winner Eight Rings emerged in good order from his fifth-place finish as the odds-on favorite in last Saturday’s $100,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday afternoon. “He looked fine afterwards,” Baffert said. “They outfooted him away from there and after that he just lost interest. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board with him. Might be a little too short for him, too.” Eight Rings was making his first start since finishing sixth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

COMBATANT, IMPROBABLE AMONG 14 ENTERED IN OAKLAWN HANDICAP

COMBATANT, IMPROBABLE AMONG 14 ENTERED IN OAKLAWN HANDICAP

HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, May 1, 2020) – It’s not far-fetched to think that more than half of the 14-horse field entered in Saturday’s $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) will be among the starters in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland based on the quality of the field. There are 10 Graded stakes winners and 13 total stakes winners among the field.

Hronis Racing LLC’s Combatant, installed as the 4-1 morning line favorite, was among the top 3-year-olds at Oaklawn in 2018, finishing second or third in three of the track’s four Kentucky Derby prep races and finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1). After running mostly in allowance races as a 4-year-old, he was sold to his present connections at the 2019 Keeneland November sale and quickly rewarded them with two strong efforts, including a victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) March 7.

“He put in a good third in the prep for the Big Cap and then ran really well in the Big Cap,” trainer John Sadler said. “He’s a horse that is doing really well right now. He was a good horse when we got him. He was coming off a win at Churchill Downs. We got him out here (to California). My thought is there’s always room in the handicap division. He’s not disappointed us. He’s training great.”

Like Combatant, WinStar Farm LLC and SF Racing LLC’s Improbable is based in Southern California, but has also done some of his best racing at Oaklawn. Last year, he was a narrow second to Long Range Toddy in the first division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) and returned several weeks later to finish second to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby (G1). The post time favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes made his 4-year-old debut in the Oaklawn Mile April 11 and finished second after drawing the far outside post, which he will once again have to overcome Saturday.

“The thing is about it, you hate to be out there (post 14), but once they draw you just can’t worry about that,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “The thing is, a lot of times he’s had the (similar outside post), he got in there and he acted up in the gate. We’ve schooled him a lot. The starter’s really worked well with us. He knows the horse now, but he’s smart that horse. In the mornings, bombs would go off underneath him in there and he wouldn’t move. We’ll see what he does. I think he ran a great race last time. If he runs that race back, it puts him right there. He got beat by a really good horse.”

Despite his rivals for affinity for the Oaklawn track, the home court advantage probably falls to Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stable LLC’s Warrior’s Charge, who has won three of five starts locally and placed third in his other starts. Last year, he was an impressive maiden winner Rebel Stakes day and returned four weeks later with an eye-catching allowance win. He kicked off 2020 with a front-running victory in the Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 17 and has been training forwardly at Oaklawn since.

“He’s doing really well,” trainer Brad Cox said. “I like the setup of the race. Huge field. It’s a Grade 1. That’s a solid, solid, deep group of horses, improving horses. He’s still a young horse, having only raced eight times, and has accomplished a lot and beat a lot of good horses. If he gets a good trip, I don’t think the mile and an eighth is an issue at all and I think he’s going to run a big race. He loves Oaklawn and he loves two turns and he’s going to be a factor. He’s a very, very nice horse.”

Tacitus, who was among the top 3-year-olds last year, makes a return to U.S. racing after finishing a close fifth in the $20 million Saudi Cup Feb. 20 and an aborted trip to Dubai after the $12 million Dubai World Cup was canceled March 22.

Also entered in the Oaklawn Handicap are Gulfstream Mile (G2) winner Mr Freeze, Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) winner Identifier, New Orleans Handicap (G2) winner By My Standard and Sky Promise, winner of the inaugural 1 ½-mile Temperence Hill Stakes at Oaklawn March 13.

The Oaklawn Handicap field from the rail out: Chess Chief, Brian Hernandez Jr., 114 lbs, 30-1 morning line odds; Trophy Chaser, Samy Camacho, 115, 12-1; Bravazo, Miguel Mena, 115, 30-1; Mr Freeze, Joe Talamo, 118, 6-1; Identifier, Stewart Elliott, 116, 20-1; Warrior’s Charge, Florent Geroux, 118, 8-1; Combatant, Joel Rosario, 120, 4-1; Sky Promise, Orlando Mojica, 114, 20-1; Tacitus, John Velazquez, 121, 9-2; Captivating Moon, Julien Leparoux, 113, 20-1; Tax, Kendrick Carmouche, 117, 15-1; By My Standards, Gabriel Saez, 118, 9-2; Night Ops, Javier Castellano, 116, 15-1, and Improbable, Martin Garcia, 119, 8-1.

Oaklawn Park Daily Results and Activity

Results

Friday, May 1
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $8,000 $17,500 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Claiming – $16,000 $18,200 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Allowance $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Claiming – $8,000 $17,500 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Claiming – $32,000 $30,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $60,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship S. $165,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 8 Gardenia S. $80,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 9 Fantasy S. $400,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $62,000 Overnight Overnight

 

Wells Bayou Running for the Home Team

Wells Bayou Running for the Home Team

Wells Bayou is running in a Derby on the first Saturday in May, just not the one at Churchill Downs. But for his local owners, the second division of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) is the next best thing.

“We would love to win the Arkansas Derby,” Lance Gasaway said.

Gasaway and his father, Clint, both southeast Arkansas natives and residents, own 80 percent of Wells Bayou, who will be making his first start since a front-running 1 ½-length victory in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) March 21 at Fair Grounds. Under normal circumstances, Wells Bayou would have made his next start in the Kentucky Derby. But owing to the new virus, Covid-19, Churchill Downs postponed its spring meeting and moved the 1 ¼-mile Run for the Roses to Sept. 5. Oaklawn responded by shifting its signature race, the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, from April 11 to offset the giant void for horsemen.

The Arkansas Derby was split for the first time since 1960 after drawing 22 entrants, including Wells Bayou, who began his 3-year-old campaign with a sharp entry-level allowance score in his two-turn debut Jan. 26 at Oaklawn before finishing second in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17. The 1 1/16-mile Southwest is Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races.

Wells Bayou had been on the fence for the repositioned Arkansas Derby before trainer Brad Cox decided to pull the trigger last weekend.

“To be honest with you, there’s no other options out there right now,” Cox said. “We had prepared him as if we were running and when it came down to entering, once again there were no other options. We thought just thought: ‘Continue the process of developing this horse, and we think this is going to be a good move.’ ”

The Gasaways, on the advice of bloodstock agent Liz Crow (BSW Bloodstock), purchased Wells Bayou for $105,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-old in training sale. Crow brokered a deal before the Louisiana Derby to bring in BSW clients Sol Kumin (Madaket Stables) and Marc Lore (Wonder Stables) as partners in the son of champion Lookin At Lucky.

While Kumin is one of the country’s most visible owners (he also has a piece of first-division Arkansas Derby favorite Charlatan), Wells Bayou has put the Gasaways in the national spotlight for the first time. The Louisiana Derby came exactly five years after Lance Gasaway, 57, won his first race as an owner in a $15,000 claiming event at Oaklawn with Character Zero. Clint Gasaway, 82, named Wells Bayou after a small community about 70 miles southeast of Little Rock.

“It has a little school there and that’s where my dad went to school,” said Lance Gasaway, who lives in nearby Star City. “He wanted to name the horse, Wells Bayou. Everything is just farm country down there.”

Lance Gasaway grew up in Gould – about 3 miles northeast of Wells Bayou – before starring at wide receiver in the mid-1980s at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He was inducted into the UAM Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, roughly two years after entering Thoroughbred ownership.

Gasaway said his interest in horses was sparked by attending Oaklawn growing up and now, in partnership, he owns approximately a half-dozen horses, including two purchases at the 2020 OBS March sale (a $170,000 Liam’s Map filly and a $50,000 Midnight Lute colt); Spokane Eagle, a two-time winner this year at Oaklawn; and a broodmare, Ma’am, an allowance winner in 2018 at Oaklawn. Ma’am was the first horse Gasaway said he had with Cox. Wells Bayou, obviously, is their best collaboration to date.

“We had confidence in Wells Bayou from Day 1,” said Gasaway, whose other business interests include a family farm (rice, cotton, corn and soybeans) in Gould. “We watched him win his first race up there at Keeneland and Brad had told me this horse was going to get better and better. He’s a Lookin At Lucky colt and he said they’re usually later maturing. He’s done just exactly like Brad said. He’s just steadily improved, gotten better and better.”

Wells Bayou has a 3-1-0 record from five lifetime starts and earnings of $845,293. Wells Bayou ranks second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 104 points, including 100 for his Louisiana Derby victory. He also earned four points for his runner-up finish in the Southwest.

Like the Louisiana Derby, the Arkansas Derby offers 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Wells Bayou is the 7-2 second choice in the program for the second division of the Arkansas Derby.

Asmussen Fully Loaded in Fantasy and Arkansas Derby

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has a pair of starters in Friday’s Fantasy Stakes (G3) and both divisions of the Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday as he looks to add to his impressive resume of Oaklawn Stakes victories. He has won the Fantasy three of the last four years and has also won the Arkansas Derby three times.

In the Fantasy, Asmussen will saddle Susan Moulton’s Fire Coral, who is 2-for 2 this year at Oaklawn, and Ed & Susie Orr’s Alta’s Award, who is coming off a second in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7. Neither filly fared well in the draw with Fire Coral getting post 11 and Alta’s Award drawing post 14 of 14 in one of the strongest fields in recent memory with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner British Idiom and Grade 2 winner Venetian Harbor among the starters.

“Obviously, this running of the Fantasy is extremely deep,” Asmussen said. “I’m disappointed in both our draws. Both will be forwardly placed and with 14 horses it will be a little hard to get the positions we want.

“Both fillies have been running well and running well at Oaklawn, so they deserve this opportunity. They have trained very consistently and are doing well physically. We’re anxious to see how they stack up. The one thing about the racing here at Oaklawn, you won’t be kidding about how good you are after this race.”

In the first division of the Arkansas Derby, Asmussen will be represented by Jackpot Farm’s Basin and Calumet Farm’s Jungle Runner. Basin is coming off a third in the Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and a fourth in the Oaklawn Stakes April 11.

“We definitely haven’t gotten the best of Basin yet this year,” Asmussen said. “This is his third start off the layoff, so it’s time to get it done. The weather looks good this weekend after catching off tracks in his other two races. There’s certainly more there.”

Jungle Runner, who won the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington as a 2-year-old, has not started since running fifth in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park Feb. 23.

“He’s a horse I’ve had a little trouble with attitude wise,” Asmussen said. “If he gives any kind of effort, he can be very competitive in there. He hasn’t given us his best to this point. He’s a stakes winner and physically capable. We just need to see more of an effort out of him.”

Asmussen is hoping Ed & Susie Orr’s Silver Prospector can return to the form he showed winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17 after a disappointing sixth in the Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14. He drew post 7 in what many consider the harder division of the Arkansas Derby.

“The second division is pretty loaded,” Asmussen said. “The first half looks a little more wide open. There are some extremely accomplished horses in the second division, but he’s one of them. He’s a graded stakes winner himself. He’s training beautifully. It think it’s another situation where everyone that is training well showed up.”

Asmussen will also send out Calmut Farm’s Code Runner in the second division of the Arkansas Derby.

Finish Lines

Oaklawn Mile winner Tom’s d’Etat is scheduled to work Friday morning, according to Chelsey Coady, who has been overseeing the millionaire’s training for more than a month for trainer Al Stall.The Grade 1 winner’s move to Churchill Downs – Stall’s base after the Fair Grounds meeting – has been delayed because of Covid-19. The year-end goal for Tom’s d’Etat, Stall said, is the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Coady, also a trainer, has been regularly galloping Tom’s d’Etat since his arrival in Hot Springs late last month and saddled him for his victory in the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses April 11. … Apprentice jockey Chel-c Bailey said Thursday morning that she doesn’t know where she’ll ride after the Oaklawn meeting ends because of racing’s uncertain landscape. Bailey entered Thursday with three career victories, all at the meet. … Through Sunday, Day 54 of the scheduled 57-day meeting, 348 claims had totaled $6,381,250.

BAFFERT RUNNERS FAVORED IN BOTH ARKANSAS DERBYS

BAFFERT RUNNERS FAVORED IN BOTH ARKANSAS DERBYS

HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, April 30, 2020) – Oaklawn has split three of its four Kentucky Derby prep races once during the last decade, and so far it’s a split decision for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

The Southern California-based Baffert swept both divisions of the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) in 2012 with Secret Circle and Castaway. Baffert finished second in both divisions of last year’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2), losing close decisions with Grade 1 winner Improbable and Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male Game Winner.

Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1) is split and, once again, Baffert has the program favorite in both divisions in unbeaten Nadal (5-2) and unbeaten Charlatan (even money).

“We’re just fortunate and just grateful that they split it and we get to run them there and keep them separated,” Baffert said. “I really did not want to run them together.”

That became official last Sunday when 22 horses were entered, leading Oaklawn to split its signature race for the first time since 1960. Originally scheduled to be run April 11, the Arkansas Derby now occupies the traditional date of the Kentucky Derby and has lured several high-profile 3-year-olds, including champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court, Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou, Tampa Bay Derby winner King Guillermo, Southwest winner Silver Prospector, Grade 1 winner Basin and Baffert’s unbeaten duo.

The 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby anchors a 14-race program, the final day of the 57-day meeting. Racing begins at noon (Central). The $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses will be sandwiched by divisions of the Arkansas Derby. Probable post time for the first division, race 11, is 5:29 p.m. The second division goes as race 13, with probable post time 6:43 p.m. Ideal weather is expected, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s.

Each division of the Arkansas Derby is worth $500,000 and will award the full complement of 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which has been moved to Sept. 5 (Covid-19). Oaklawn responded by flipping the dates of the $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes for 3-year-olds – known last year as the Oaklawn Invitational – and the Arkansas Derby.

Charlatan (first division) has won his two career starts, both this year at Santa Anita, by a combined 16 lengths after leading at every point of call. Charlatan won his career debut sprinting by 5 ¾ lengths Feb. 16 and dominated entry-level allowance opponents by 10 ¼ lengths in his two-turn debut March 14. The son of Speightstown, a $700,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, drew the rail for his stakes debut and a new rider in Martin Garcia.

“I hate the 1 hole,” Baffert said. “I never do like it. He’s got to break. From the 1 hole, you’ve got to use them up a little bit harder early, just like you would if you were on the outside.”

Nadal (second division) returns to Oaklawn after a front-running three-quarter length victory in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14, the traditional final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby. Nadal – a $700,000 2-year-old purchase – passed his first-two turn test after being pressed through demanding fractions by No Parole and fellow Southern California shipper American Theorem to move to 3 for 3 overall.

Charlatan and Nadal each have multiple bullet workouts at Santa Anita in advance of the Arkansas Derby. Nadal earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96 for his Rebel victory, while Charlatan received robust Beyers of 105 and 106 for his two victories.

“He ran a big number, so it gave him a little extra time,” Baffert said, referring to the Arkansas Derby’s new date. “They’re both doing fantastic. I think Nadal, for some reason, he doesn’t get the respect that he should be getting. He’s a really top horse.”

Nadal, a son of champion Blame, drew post 5 and is scheduled to carry equal top weight of 122 pounds, including jockey Joel Rosario. Nadal broke from the rail in the Rebel, which was run over a sloppy track.

“He’s in the middle there,” Baffert said. “Last time, we were on the inside and had to get away from there and go and then we got hooked up early by American Theorem. He came to us and they went fast. To me, I think he showed us that day what he’s really made of. And they came to him. He had every reason to stop and he just kept going. Jimmy Barnes (Baffert’s traveling assistant) said he was really tired when he came back. I feel pretty good. He’s got to get away from there. He’s fast. Does he have to be on the lead? I don’t know if he needs to be on the lead, but from the inside he had to get involved.”

Baffert is seeking his third Arkansas Derby victory after winning the race in 2012 with Bodemeister and 2015 with eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Charlatan’s biggest threat could come from Gouverneur Morris, whose trainer, Todd Pletcher, has a record five Arkansas Derby victories. Gouverneur Morris, the early 9-2 second choice, exits a fourth-place finish behind Kentucky Derby points leader Tiz the Law in the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) March 28 at Gulfstream Park. Gouverneur Morris is 2 for 4 overall, with his other loss a runner-up finish behind unbeaten Maxfield in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 5 at Keeneland.

“He’s had three good breezes since he ran in the Florida Derby, so we’re happy with the progress he’s made,” Pletcher said. “This will be his third start off the layoff and we’re hoping for a good, honest pace. I think he’s a horse that’s looking to kind of settle and make a run. It was difficult to do that last time at Gulfstream, with the track being kind of speed favoring and not much pace on in the race. Kind of had to chase them a little bit the whole way. I thought he finished with good interest. He’s come back and done well since then, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Also entered in the first division are Anneau d’Or, second behind Storm the Court in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, and Basin, winner of the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 2 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Basin, in his 3-year-old debut, ran third in the Rebel and was fourth in the Oaklawn Stakes.

“We definitely haven’ gotten the best of Basin this year,” Asmussen said. “This is his third start off the layoff, so it’s time to get it done. The weather looks good this weekend after catching two off tracks. There’s a lot more there.”

Anneau d’Or and Jungle Runner, another first-division entrant for Asmussen, will remove blinkers Saturday.

Wells Bayou (7-2) is the early second choice behind Nadal in the second division. Trained by Brad Cox, Wells Bayou exits a front-running 1 ½-length victory in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) March 21 at Fair Grounds.

Wells Bayou began his 3-year-old campaign with a sharp entry-level allowance victory in his two-turn debut Jan. 26 at Oaklawn before finishing second in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17. The Southwest is Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. A son of champion Lookin At Lucky, Wells Bayou drew post 11 for his return to Oaklawn. He will be ridden by Florent Geroux.

“I would have probably preferred to have drawn down to the inside with this horse,” Cox said. “He’s probably going to do something … it’s weird, this horse always draws down toward the inside, so this is going to be something different for him. I don’t think he’s going to be fast enough to break and clear. We’ll see how it unfolds. That will be Florent’s job. But I do know the horse is doing extremely well and he’s going to bring his ‘A’ race. But, once again, I don’t think he’s going to get the trip that he got in the Louisiana Derby. But I do know that he can get the distance and if he runs his race, he’s going to be a factor in the end.”

Storm the Court (6-1) is seeking his first victory since his front-running triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which secured an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male. Storm the Court, who will be making his first start outside California, finished fourth behind Nadal in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) Feb. 9 at Santa Anita and third behind Authentic, another unbeaten Baffert trainee, in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) March 7 at Santa Anita.

“He’s got natural speed and he doesn’t have to be on the lead, which I don’t think he’s going to be,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “But he generally breaks pretty good and we’ll let him run out of there and see how it unfolds.”

King Guillermo (3-1) is coming off a sharp 4 ¾-length victory in the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 7 at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Juan Carlos Avila and owner Victor Martinez, a five-time MLB All-Star. Silver Prospector (10-1) won the Southwest for Asmussen before finishing sixth in the Rebel. Farmington Road and Taishan earned automatic berths in the Arkansas Derby by finishing second and third, respectively, in the Oaklawn Stakes.

Although 11 horses are entered in each division, connections of four horses – Shooters Shoot and Wrecking Crew (first division) and Saratogian and Fast Enough (second division) – have informed the Oaklawn racing department they will be scratched. At press time Thursday, official scratch cards for Shooters Shoot and Wrecking Crew had already been submitted. Cards for Saratogian and Fast Enough are expected to be submitted Friday.

The Arkansas Derby (first division) field from the rail out: Charlatan, Martin Garcia to ride, 118 pounds, even money on the morning line; My Friends Beer, Declan Cannon, 118, 20-1; Mo Mosa, Kendrick Carmouche, 118, 30-1; Gouverneur Morris, John Velazquez, 118, 9-2; Jungle Runner, Tyler Baze, 122, 30-1; Anneau d’Or, Juan Hernandez, 118, 6-1; Winning Impression, Julien Leparoux, 118, 15-1; Crypto Cash, Corey Lanerie, 118, 20-1; and Basin, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 8-1.

The Arkansas Derby (second division) field from the rail out: Finnick the Fierce, Martin Garcia, 15-1, 118; Storm the Court, Flavien Prat, 122, 6-1; King Guillermo, Samy Camacho, 122, 3-1; Nadal, Joel Rosario, 122, 5-2; Code Runner, Stewart Elliott, 118, 50-1; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 10-1; Taishan, David Cohen, 118, 15-1; Farmington Road, Javier Castellano, 118, 12-1; and Wells Bayou, Florent Geroux, 122, 7-2.

Jungle Runner and Code Runner, both campaigned by Asmussen and Calumet Farm, were supplementary nominees.