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HOT SPRINGS, AR – WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and Starlight Racing’s Grade 1 winner Improbable is set to make his 2020 debut in this Saturday’s $150,000 Oaklawn Mile Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The Oaklawn Mile is one of two stakes events on a 12-race card headlined by the $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes.
After starting his career with three straight victories as a juvenile, including the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity Stakes (G1), Improbable shipped to Oaklawn Park to make his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel Stakes (G2). A second-place finish there preluded another runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1), which earned the Bob Baffert trainee enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby (G1). Improbable was moved up to fourth in the Run for the Roses after the original winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified.
Joining Improbable on his trek from Southern California is top Baffert jockey Drayden Van Dyke, who spent much of his youth on the Oaklawn Park backside. Van Dyke will have to work out a trip from the get-go, as the 4-year-old son of City Zip drew the dreaded far outside 14 post.
Improbable’s jockey won’t be the only familiar face that he sees on Saturday because Long Range Toddy, the colt who defeated him in the Rebel, is returning as well. Similar to Improbable, Long Range Roddy won three straight as a juvenile, including the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. Following the Rebel, Long Range Toddy failed to return to the winner’s circle in five subsequent starts, hitting the board just once when finishing third in the Ohio Derby (G3). This will be his first start for new trainer Dallas Stewart.
Other Southern California-based horses traveling east for the Oaklawn Mile are Lord Guinness, Kershaw, and Fight On. Coincidentally, these shippers drew the farthest four outside posts. Jockey Ruben Fuentes (aboard Lord Guinness) joins Van Dyke as the two west coast-based riders making the journey.
Mr. Money, making his local debut for trainer Bret Calhoun, represents another familiar challenger to Improbable. The 4-year-old son of Goldencents rattled off four straight Grade 3 stakes scores last summer, then narrowly missed taking the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) by a neck while finishing a length ahead of Improbable. Mr. Money ended 2019 by finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), 1 3/4 lengths behind Improbable in fifth.
Perhaps the toughest challenge of all will come from G M B Racing’s Tom’s d’Etat, making his seasonal debut after ending 2019 by winning the Fayette Stakes (G2) and the Clark Handicap (G1). Jockey Joel Rosario has never lost in four prior starts aboard the Al Stall, Jr., trainee, and will look to extend that mark to five on Saturday when they break from post 3.
Here is the full field for Saturday’s Oaklawn Mile:
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