Harr Reaches Oaklawn Milestone
Jockey Kelsi Harr
Photo credit: Coady Photography
Harr Reaches Oaklawn Milestone
By Robert Yates
Kelsi Harr became the first female rider in Oaklawn history to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at a meet when she guided Run Fearless ($29.80) to a 3 ¾-length victory in Friday’s ninth race.
The victory in the $90,000 maiden special weights sprint for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares, 3 and up, pushed Harr’s purse earnings at the 2021-2022 meet to $1,011,248, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Harr reached the milestone on Day 61 of the expanded 66-day season (Dec. 3-May 8). Run Fearless was her 15th meet victory.
“I feel like I’ve had a very good meet,” Harr, 29, said after training hours Saturday morning. “I don’t want to sound greedy, but I always want more. Don’t want to be done yet. There are two weekends of racing left and hopefully I get a few more.”
A native of tiny Slovak, Ark., about 45 miles east of Little Rock, Harr launched her professional riding career in 2018 and began riding regularly at Oaklawn the following year. Harr has increased her purse earnings each season at Oaklawn – $207,235 in 2019, $597,939 in 2020, $646,259 in 2021 and $1,011,248, through Friday, in 2021-2022.
Harr also has set a single-season career high for victories at Oaklawn in 2021-2022. She won 11 races in 2020 to finish as Oaklawn’s leading apprentice rider, but her win total dipped to eight at the 2021 meeting. Harr rode two winners in 2019 at Oaklawn.
“Just riding hard and getting opportunities from a lot of different trainers, from ones that have used me since I was a bug and then some others that just started to use me a little bit,” Harr said. “I don’t really know what I can credit it to. Just being blessed, I guess.”
Harr rode Run Fearless for owner/trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs and owner Val Yagos of Jacksonville, Ark. Run Fearless is by the late 2011 Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch and out of Pistolpackinpenny, winner of the $75,000 Downthedustyroad Stakes for Arkansas-bred female sprinters in 2015 at Oaklawn.
Fires, 81, trained Archarcharch, a multiple Oaklawn stakes winner, for Yagos and her husband, Bob, and Pistolpackinpenny for wife Penny. Run Fearless marked Harr’s second career victory for Fires,
“Jinks has always been very good to me,” Harr said. “He rode me when I had the bug. He’s always ridden me on a few horses every meet. Might have been just the second win I’ve had for him, but he’s always been in my corner, always been good to me and supportive and given me chances.”
Harr entered Saturday with 36 victories and $2,462,678 in purse earnings in her Oaklawn career. Cindy Noll (now Cindy Murphy) is the winningest female jockey in Oaklawn history with 183. She won 47 races in 1999, with her mounts earning $629,630.
Overall through Friday, Harr had 82 victories and $3,490,535 in her Thoroughbred career, according to Equibase. Harr also has seven career Quarter-Horse victories at Canterbury Park, where she and her longtime fiancée, trainer Robert N. Cline, are based after the Oaklawn meeting ends.
Harr and Cline will bid for their first career Oaklawn stakes victory in the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship May 7 with Bandit Point. The Arkansas Breeders’ Championship is for state-breds at 1 1/16 miles. Bandit Point finished third in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship in 2019, fourth in 2020 and fifth last year.
Bandit Point represented Harr’s first career mount and victory June 17, 2018, at Canterbury.
Another female rider at Oaklawn, apprentice Chel-c Bailey, surpassed $800,000 in purse earnings at the meet Friday. Bailey won the first race aboard Tropinka ($21.20) for co-owner/trainer Doug Anderson of Hot Springs. It was the 18th meet winner for Bailey and helped swell her purse earnings to $802,258. Bailey, who rides with a 7-pound weight allowance, is all but assured of being the meet’s leading apprentice rider.
The Great Race
Francisco Arrieta rode three winners Friday to pull within 62-55 of idle leader David Cabrera with five days remaining in the 2021-2022 meeting.
Arrieta won the second race aboard favored California Swing ($3) for trainer Robertino Diodoro, third race aboard Junesandra ($28.80) for trainer Coty Rosin and the fourth race aboard My Dams Atitude ($13.60) for trainer Ron Westermann.
Arrieta was named on 11 horses this weekend (Friday and Saturday). He rode 50 winners in his Oaklawn debut in 2021 to finish third in the standings behind perennial champion Ricardo Santana Jr. and Cabrera.
Cabrera was the runaway leader at the 2021-2022 meeting before sustaining head, neck and upper back injuries in an April 8 spill. He is out indefinitely.
Santana entered Saturday with 56 victories. He was named on 13 horses this weekend (Saturday and Sunday). Santana has won eight Oaklawn riding titles, all since 2013.
Sunday’s featured eighth race, a $108,000 allowance for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, has drawn Grade 2 winner Silver Prospector, Grade 3 winner Background, Oaklawn stakes winner Caddo River and stakes-placed Thomas Shelby, who was scratched from the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 23. … Four-time defending champion M & M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk) recorded a victory in Friday’s second race with California Swing ($3) to pull into a tie with John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs for leading owner at the meet. Each entered Saturday with 16 victories. … Runaway Will Rogers Downs riding leader, apprentice Kylee Jordan, recorded her seventh victory of the meeting in Friday’s sixth race with Shacks Way ($32.60) for trainer Greg Compton. … Royally bred and favored Tap for Me ($4.80) cleared her first allowance condition in Friday’s featured eighth race, a $106,000 allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and nationally prominent breeder/owner Mandy Pope. Tap for Me, a 4-year-old by super sire Tapit out of champion Groupie Doll, represented a meet-high 55th winner for Asmussen and his 810th overall in Hot Springs. Asmussen has all but clinched his 12th Oaklawn training title and is poised to become its all-time winningest trainer at the 2022-2023 meeting. The late Bob Holthus (867) is Oaklawn’s all-time winningest trainer. … Tap for Me represented the 12th meet victory for jockey Isaac Castillo, who made his Oaklawn debut April 7 after previously being based at Tampa Bay Downs. Tap for Me was Castillo’s seventh victory for Asmussen.