Field Taking Shape for Next Saturday’s Arkansas Derby
The Oaklawn racing department listed six probables Saturday morning for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10. Post positions for the 1 1/8-mile race, Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points event, will be drawn Tuesday.
Expected Arkansas Derby entrants are Caddo River for trainer Brad Cox, Concert Tour (Bob Baffert), Get Her Number (Peter Miller), Hozier (Baffert), Last Samurai (Dallas Stewart) and Super Stock (Steve Asmussen).
The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Concert Tour remained unbeaten in three career starts with a front-running 4 ¼-length winner of the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 13 at Oaklawn. It was a record-extending eighth Rebel victory for Baffert, who also finished second in the 1 1/16-mile race with Hozier.
Super Stock, Caddo River and Get Her Number ran fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively, in the Rebel, which is Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race.
A Tex Sutton Equine Air Transport flight carrying Southern California-based Concert Tour, Get Her Number and Hozier is scheduled to arrive Wednesday.
Caddo River won Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race, the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 22, by a record 10 ¼ lengths. A homebred for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, Caddo River completed major preparations for the Arkansas Derby with a 5-furlong work, in company, over a fast track Saturday morning at Oaklawn under Francisco Arrieta.
Caddo River, who breezed with stablemate Night Ops, a multiple-stakes winning older horse, covered the distance in 1:00.20 and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:13.40. The half-mile split was :47.80.
“He worked well,” said Jorgito Abrego, who oversees Cox’s Oaklawn division.
Anthony has won the Arkansas Derby a record three times (1980, 1987 and 1992).
The Arkansas Derby is one of four stakes April 10 at Oaklawn, the others being the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs, $400,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses and the $250,000 Carousel for older fillies and mares at 6 furlongs.
Whitmore, an Eclipse Award winner as the country’s champion male sprinter of 2020, and C Z Rocket are scheduled to renew their rivalry in the Count Fleet. Whitmore and C Z Rocket ran 1-2, respectively, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland. C Z Rocket turned the tables on Whitmore in the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 13. Whitmore is seeking his fourth Count Fleet victory.
One Oaklawn Mile probable, Blackberry Wine, worked a half-mile in :46.60 Saturday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Joe Sharp.
Multiple graded stakes winner Frank’s Rockette is expected to head the Carousel. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Frank’s Rockette won the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 30 at Oaklawn in her 4-year-old debut. The daughter of Into Mischief is a homebred for prominent North Little Rock, Ark., businessman Frank Fletcher.
Post positions for the other three stakes also will be drawn Tuesday.
Champion Whitmore worked a half-mile in :48 over a fast track Saturday morning at Oaklawn, the gelding’s final major move for the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older sprinters April 10. Whitmore races for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.
Whitmore, under his regular breeze rider, retired jockey Greta Kuntzweiler, worked in company with stablemate Galilee and galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:00.80.
“It was textbook,” said Laura Moquett, who regularly gallops Whitmore and assists her husband.
Whitmore is seeking his fourth Count Fleet victory. Whitmore began his 2021 campaign with a runner-up finish in the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 13 at Oaklawn. Whitmore clinched an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter of 2020 with a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
John Ed Anthony and Jerry Caroom aren’t the only Hot Springs owners making an impact in the standings this year at Oaklawn.
Starfish Stable LLC, the small racing and breeding operation of Linda Robbins, blew up the tote board again Thursday when Hamazing Song ($115.20) won the ninth race by a nose under Elvin Gonzalez. It was the fourth double-digit winner at the meet for Starfish (all with homebreds), following Heated Argument ($76) Feb. 6, Blanco Bronco ($110) Feb. 25 and Amelia’s Bonnet ($15.20) March 4.
“They (bettors) don’t trust us much, do they, because we lose as many as we win,” Robbins, jokingly, said Friday morning. “We lose more than we win.”
It’s already been a huge bounce-back season for Starfish, which was winless in 26 starts last year at Oaklawn and won only two races overall.
Hamazing Song’s victory was bittersweet, Robbins said, because it was the first since the March 15 death of her longtime confidante, David “Doc” Jolly, an equine veterinarian who owned nearby Step Ahead Farm & Training Center. He was 85. The race preceding Hamazing Song’s victory had been named in Jolly’s honor.
“Shoot, he was my mentor since I was probably 13,” Robbins said. “He was a big reason why I moved back to Arkansas, especially Hot Springs, because he’s the one that told me about how good the breeders’ program was. He knew I was thinking about relocating somewhere.”
Robbins grew up on the western outskirts of Little Rock, Ark., and spent roughly 30 years as a practicing equine veterinarian in Kentucky before returning home to begin developing her farm, Starfish Stallions, a little more than a decade ago.
Starfish now has four stallions and approximately a dozen broodmares on approximately 140 acres just southwest of Hot Springs. Robbins’ broodmare band includes multiple stakes winner Ministry – the best horse Starfish has raced to date – and Ministry’s dam, Heated Debate.
Robbins stands Ordained – Starfish’s first stallion – Grade 3 winner Hamazing Destiny, multiple Grade 3 winner Five Iron and a new stallion, Stephanoatsee, a stakes-winning half-brother to 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford. All four stallions stand for $1,500.
Starfish has seven horses in training and focuses strictly on the increasingly lucrative Arkansas-bred program. Jaime Gonzalez is Starfish’s longtime private trainer.
“It’s been an amazing meet,” Robbins said. “Just think, four out of seven (have won). We know to appreciate every minute of it because like next year, we could have nothing and then you’re under the radar. At the end of this meet, we won’t go anywhere. We’ll give these a well-deserved rest. The ones that maybe need to go have other careers, they’ll go have other careers and then we’ll get started on the 2-year-olds.”
Robbins said Heated Argument is pointing for the $150,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn. The 6-furlong Rainbow Miss is restricted to 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies. Ministry, Heated Argument’s half-sister, won the 2017 Rainbow Miss.
Anthony and Caroom entered Saturday tied for second in the standings with eight victories.
Ramon Vazquez rode four winners Friday, including three for trainer Robertino Diodoro and owner M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk). Vazquez won the second race aboard favored Shakes Creek ($4.80), fourth race aboard Ego ($11.20), eighth race aboard favored Reason to Soar ($4.80) and the ninth race aboard favored Raintree Starlet ($2.80). Shakes Creek, Reason to Soar and Raintree Starlet were for Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2020, and M and M Racing, Oaklawn’s leading owner the last three years. Ego represented the 125th local victory for Lynn Chleborad, the all-time winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history. … Seven-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. had a double Friday, pushing his career total in Hot Springs to 591. Santana won the fifth race aboard favored Ragatagtag ($3.60) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and the 10th race aboard favored Big On Broadway ($3.20) for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. … Orlando Mojica recorded his 2,499th career North American victory aboard Data Storm ($7.20) in Saturday’s first race at Oaklawn. … Champion Monomoy Girl, millionaire Owendale and 2020 Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou are scheduled to arrive Sunday at Oaklawn, according to Jorgito Abrego, who oversees trainer Brad Cox’s local division. Monomoy Girl, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, is scheduled to run in the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 17 at Oaklawn. … There is no live racing Sunday at Oaklawn, but the track will be open for training from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. (Central). Live racing resumes Thursday at 1 p.m. (Central).