Richards Still Waiting to Make Smarty Jones Decisions
Trainer Rodney Richards said he plans to meet with Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel before announcing a decision on next-race plans for Black Ops and unbeaten American Dubai. Both 3-year-olds, Richards said, are under consideration for Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn, a 1-mile race that is the first of three major local preps for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16. The other option is an entry-level allowance/optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 21, Richards said.
Richards sent out both horses for 5-furlong workouts immediately following the renovation break early Tuesday afternoon. American Dubai went in a blistering :59 – easily the fastest of 29 works recorded at the distance – while Black Ops was credited with 1:01. Borel, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001, breezed both horses.
“Everything looks great,” Richards said Wednesday morning. “I hate to run them against each other, so one will run in one race and one will go in the other.”
Richards said he’s “pretty much got an idea” about which direction he’s going, but wants more feedback from Borel before announcing a decision.
American Dubai (by E Dubai) was a 2 ¾-length sprint winner of his only career start Nov. 13 at Churchill Downs. In his two-turn debut, Black Ops (by Hard Spun) broke his maiden Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/16-mile race was his second career start.
American Dubai and Black Ops are owned by Richard Keith, an oil and gas company executive from Hobbs, N.M.
Projected Smarty Jones starter Gray Sky worked a half-mile in :50 just after the track opened Wednesday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Synchrony, who is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Smarty Jones, will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.
Knights Key Readies for Smarty Jones
Trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs said Joe Rocco Jr. will ride unbeaten Knights Key in the Smarty Jones.
Knights Key completed major preparations for the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn with a 5-furlong work just after the track opened late Sunday morning.
Knights Key covered the distance in 1:02 over a muddy surface for trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:14.60.
In his only career start, Knights Key, a son of Giant’s Causeway, overcame a sluggish break in a last-to-first sprint victory Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs.
Sunday marked the fourth work at Oaklawn for Knights Key since his arrival in early December.
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark., purchased Knights Key for $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Yearling Sale. Alex Lieblong is a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission.
A full field is expected for the Smarty Jones, Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope said.
The Smarty Jones, first run in 2008, closed with a record-equaling 44 nominations. It also had 44 nominees last year.
Working Sunday just before Knights Key was Sassy Miss Sue, who covered 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 in preparation for her scheduled career debut opening weekend.
Sassy Miss Sue, a 3-year-old full sister to Grade I winner and millionaire Tiz Miz Sue, is also trained by Hobby.
Lukas’ New Winter Home
Add Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas to the Trivista trainers.Lukas said Sunday morning that he and wife Laurie are closing on a home in the picturesque Trivista neighborhood, which abuts Oaklawn’s north parking lot.
Citing Oaklawn’s rapidly growing purse structure, trainer Kenny McPeek purchased a home in Trivista during the 2015 live meeting.
“We have rented, but there’s always that undecided thing of where you’re going to end up,” D. Wayne Lukas said. “We thought, ‘Hell’… it’s not an elaborate home by any means or anything. It’s kind of fun for my wife and I to fix it up.”
Lukas, 80, has wintered in Hot Springs for almost a decade after consolidating his stable. He was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1987 and 2011.
Lukas’ 40-horse string for the 2016 meeting includes multiple stakes winner Brewing, stakes winner Super Saks and Gray Sky, who is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18.
Lukas said Gray Sky, a Nov. 28 maiden winner on the Churchill Downs II “Stars of Tomorrow” program, will probably be ridden in the Smarty Jones by two-time Oaklawn riding champion Terry Thompson.
Lukas has entered another 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hope, Z Royal, in Saturday’s $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds.
Lukas said Super Saks remains on target for the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 23 at Oaklawn, while Brewing is still slated for $100,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 30 at Oaklawn.
Super Saks broke her maiden by 11 lengths at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting and won the $80,000 Dream Supreme Stakes Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs in her final start at 3.
Lukas also trains Take Charge Tressa, an unstarted 3-year-old half-sister to champion Take Charge Brandi.
Take Charge Tressa (by War Front) was a $1.25 million yearling purchase by Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark.
Take Charge Tressa was up to a half-mile in her workouts in August at Saratoga before suffering a stress fracture in a hind leg, Lukas said, adding the filly could make her career debut around Feb. 1 at Oaklawn.
Horton and Lukas teamed for an Eclipse Award in 2014 with Take Charge Brandi (champion 2-year-old filly).
At the same time he’s overseeing his equine investment at Oaklawn, Lukas said he will also be busy overseeing improvements to his new non-equine investment in Trivista.
“We’re going to remodel it and do some things,” Lukas said. “It’s kind of fun to get involved in that. It’s in a great location, where I can get back and forth. I can go get coffee while they’re harrowing the track.”
Peitz Making Plans
Trainer Dan Peitz said he plans to be active during the first two weekends of racing at Oaklawn, possibly starting as many as seven horses.
Peitz said Sunday morning that he plans to run 2015 Oaklawn maiden winner Raagheb in Saturday’s $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses and Sawsan in Sunday’s $100,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares.
Sawsan, a 4-year-old daughter of Tapit, is coming off a Dec. 28 maiden victory at Fair Grounds.
“I’m going to try to do the Mufajaah thing again and try to get some black type with her,” Peitz said with a laugh.
Mufajaah, another daughter of Tapit, won the 2015 Pippin in her 4-year-old debut for Peitz.
Peitz said Tiz Funny, a 3-year-old Tiznow colt, is pointing for a maiden-allowance sprint Saturday.
Tiz Funny, third in a strong Nov. 6 maiden-allowance sprint at Churchill Downs, is out of Ha Ha Tonka, who broke her maiden for Peitz at the 2011 Oaklawn meeting.
Peitz said Shathoor, a 5-year-old half-brother to champion My Miss Aurelia, is pointing for an early season maiden race.
Shathoor recorded a 5-furlong bullet (1:01) Saturday morning.
“Everybody seems to be working pretty dang good here,” Peitz said.
Jockeying for Position
The next chapter in jockey Didiel Osorio’s career begins Friday at Oaklawn, where the promising young jockey is scheduled to ride two horses on the opening-day program.
Osorio, the leading rider at the 2015 Ellis Park meeting, rode two winners Jan. 3 at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky before he and his agent, Joe Santos, both 21, made the 10-hour drive to Hot Springs, arriving at 5:20 a.m. Jan. 4.
Osorio was working horses approximately 1 ½ hours later, Santos said.
“We love it here,” Santos said.
Osorio grew up in the same house in suburban Panama City, Panama, as three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. He said he was an exercise rider for six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen at the 2013 Oaklawn meet.
But, it was trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, Santos said, who was instrumental in getting Osorio to test the deeper waters at Oaklawn.
Moquett was one of Oaklawn’s leading trainers in 2015 and has provided Osorio with two of his three career stakes victories to date – both last year aboard the recently retired Heykittykittykitty.
“Moquett, he’s been, honestly, pushing us, just telling us we need riders and need someone hungry like Didiel,” Santos said.
In addition to Moquett, Santos he expects to ride for trainers Ignacio Correas, Genaro Garcia, Matt Kordenbrock and John Hancock at the meeting.
“We know a good amount of people,” Santos said. “Riding full time in Kentucky and having success over there – hopefully, we can just break in.”
Santos, the son of Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos, is also a full-time student at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.
Joe Santos said he’s 1 ½ years away from graduating – he’s majoring in broadcast communications – and will take summer school classes when he returns to Louisville following the end of the Oaklawn meet April 16.
Santos said he has represented Osorio since January 2014.
Oaklawn will run its first stakes for 3-year-old fillies Friday – the $100,000 Dixie Belle – but Cosmic Evolution wasn’t among 26 nominees to the 6-furlong race.
Instead, trainer Lon Wiggins said he is targeting a February entry-level allowance sprint at Oaklawn for Cosmic Evolution, who is already a stakes winner after breaking her maiden in the $100,000 Debutante June 27 at Churchill Downs.
Wiggins said he hopes to use the allowance race as a stepping stone to a first start around two turns, possibly the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles March 12.
“I honestly don’t know if she’s a world beater,” Wiggins said. “But from Day 1, she has always galloped out really, really good, like distance would not be a problem for her.”
Cosmic Evolution, a daughter of 2002 Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, won 2 of 3 starts last year.
After finishing second in her May 21 career debut at Churchill Downs, Cosmic Evolution won the Debutante in her next start and completed her abbreviated 2-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies Stakes Aug. 1 at Mountaineer.
“In the spring, she was just a little ahead of the game,” Wiggins said. “She was smarter than most horses, plus she was talented. Did everything right.”
Wiggins said he stopped on Cosmic Evolution because of inflammation of a leg bone.
The layoff, Wiggins said, was beneficial because it allowed Cosmic Evolution to “fill out” and “get a little taller.”
Cosmic Evolution resumed training in the fall and has had six published workouts since Nov. 13, including five at Oaklawn.
Cosmic Evolution breezed a half-mile out of the gate in a swift :46.80 Monday afternoon under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.
“She did everything you would want one to do when you turn them out,” Wiggins said.
Cosmic Evolution was broken at Diamond D Ranch in Lone Oak, Texas, where two other recent multiple Oaklawn stakes winners – 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Promise Me Silver – also received their early training.
Wiggins said Cosmic Evolution went to the track to gallop just “7-9 days” after the breaking process began.
“When they put the saddle on her back for the first time, it was like she had had it on all her life,” Wiggins said.
Rachel Alexandra made her first 10 career starts for trainer Hal Wiggins, the father of Lon Wiggins.
Hal Wiggins is now a steward at Fair Grounds.
New Oaklawn track announcer Pete Aiello is the scheduled guest speaker for the annual “Oaklawn Kickoff Banquet” Wednesday night at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock, Ark. … Oaklawn’s 2016 media guide is now available at www.oaklawn.com (media link at the top of the home page). … There is a special first post time for Friday’s opening-day program (12:35 p.m., Central). … Friday’s $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies has drawn a field of eight, including Durango, a winner of 2 of 3 career starts, and Marquee Miss, who debuted with a victory in the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes in August at Arlington Park. …Fans will receive an American Pharoah bobblehorse (while supplies last) with a $2 donation to the Arkansas Racetrack Chaplaincy for Monday’s special holiday program. Gates open at 11 a.m., first post is 1:05 p.m. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Spring Included worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 Wednesday morning for trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs. Spring Included is pointing for the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 23. … Multiple stakes winner Hebbronville worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 Wednesday morning for trainer Lynn Whiting, who said he’s pointing the 4-year-old for the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 30 at Oaklawn. … There will be a special 12:30 p.m. first post opening day.
Source: Oaklawn Park