Track Reports

Oaklawn Preview Part 1 of 6: Ten Trainers to Watch for in 2016

American Pharoah - OAKLAWN PARK - 04-11-15 - R11 - OP - Photo credit: Christine Aplin
Christine Aplin

Chris Hartman

In what has to be considered a major upset last year Chris Hartman knocked off three time defending training champion Steve Asmussen to win the his first Oaklawn training title.  Hartman went on to a huge 2015 after winning 34 races at Oaklawn in 129 starts.  He will once again be loaded with several claiming horses, but also has attracted a few new owners with higher quality horses.  We’ll see if he can once again knock off Steve Asmussen who will be the favorite to win the title.

Steve Asmussen

He had won the trainers title three years in a row before Chris Hartman knocked him off last year.  Asmussen still had a solid meet, winning 30 races in 190 starts.  Lets face it…he can win this title again if he wants to do so.  Asmussen will overwhelm you with numbers, and this year he also looks to be loaded with quality horses as well.  He had another solid two year old season, and I’m sure many of those horses will be competing at Oaklawn.  Also the older mare Untapable will continue to be in training, and will most likely run towards the end of the meet at Oaklawn. There is no reason to think he won’t return to his title winning way this year, and is the heavy favorite to do so.

Wayne Catalano

The “Cat Man” didn’t overwhelm anyone with numbers last year at Oaklawn (only 53 starts) but it was quality over quantity.  Catalano seemingly had a horse in every 3 year old maiden race during the meet, and most of the times they were well bred and expensive horses owned by Gary and Mary West.  He ended up winning 11 races while hitting at a 21% clip, and you would imagine he’ll have the same type of horses ready to go for this meeting.

D Wayne Lukas

After back to back flashy years in 2013 and 2014, Lukas regressed somewhat in 2015 so you can bet he’ll be hungry for a big 2016.  Lukas didn’t have a great year at Oaklawn last season either, but I expect more this year. His barn is loaded with three-year olds, and most of them are still maidens. He brings in Gray Sky and Z Royal as Arkansas Derby candidates as well as the well traveled Mr. Z, and talented runners Sharm, Brewing, and Super Saks. As always, expect for Lukas to be active in the Oaklawn three year old series as he looks to turn yet another colt into a Kentucky Derby prospect.

Chris Richard

You can always count on Richard to have a solid meeting at Oaklawn, and this year might be his best yet.  He’s always been backed by the powerful Maggi Moss, and two years Midwest Thoroughbreds sent some horses his way. With these two successful owners on his side, plus a few new ones, perhaps he could challenge for the training title.  Also for the firs time ever Richard has a potential Kentucky Derby prospect in the Ghostzapper colt Unexplained.  If the horse can stay healthy he could take Richard to even greater heights.

Federico Villafranco

He’s backed by owner Danny Caldwell which says everything you need to know! Caldwell is coming off an owners championship at Oaklawn the last two years, as well as titles at Prairie Meadows and Remington Park in back to back years.  He’s been preparing for this meet for months, and you can bet the DRC team will want to take the crown home once again. Can he win enough to get trainer Villafranco the training title?  He was close last year to doing just that.  It will be a challenge…but they’ll try to get it done!

Ron Moquett

Nobody wants to win races at Oaklawn more than this guy! Moquett considers Oaklawn his home track, and is always successful here.  He trained the late running Far Right last year who took home The Smarty Jones and Southwest Stakes, before finishing second in the Arkansas Derby to eventual Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah.  Far Right ended up becoming Moquett’s first Kentucky Derby participant, and is still in training heading into 2016.  He’ll have another shot this year at the Derby with Whitmore who looks to target many of the same races Far Right did last year. No matter if Whitmore makes a run at the Derby or not,  you can ben Moquett will be ready to fill the entry box when opening day rolls around

Brad Cox

This guy is a rising star in the game! After Midwest Thoroughbreds dumped him three years ago it looked bleak, but Cox has built his stable back better than ever. He’s got several claimers like always, but also has high quality clients and horses that will be ready to compete at the higher levels.  This year he’s brought an expanded stable to Oaklawn in hopes of winning the training title.

Randy Morse

If you are a fan of looking at horses in the paddock then this is probably your favorite trainer. Nobody brings horses over that look any better than this guy does! Morse is not all about looks though. He is always in the top 15 of the trainer standings at Oaklawn, and also makes a similar impact anywhere he goes.  A model of consistency in a game that is hard to be consistent in.

Donnie K Von Hemel

The list of horses Von Hemel has campaigned at Oaklawn has been very impressive the last few years, but this new crop of three year olds could be the most talented and deep crop he’s ever had.  The most impressive colt in the barn is Synchrony who could be Von Hemel’s number one Kentucky Derby prospect.  He also has Suddenbreakingnews, who was second in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park last time out.  It doesn’t stop with the boys though…3 year old filly My Master Plan is undefeated heading to Oaklawn after an impressive Remington Park meet.  All in all Von Hemel is loaded for a big 2016 meet.

Others to watch for: Steve Hobby, Ingrid Mason, Al Cates, Robertino Diodoro, Lynn Chleborad, Kelly Von Hemel, William Martin, Mac Robertson, J. R. Caldwell, and Kenny McPeek

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