Local Arkansas Derby Runners Prepare to Work
Two of Oaklawn’s leading candidates for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) are scheduled to work this weekend, their final moves in preparation for the April 16 race. Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Suddenbreakingnews should breeze in the next three days, while Whitmore will go an easy half-mile Saturday or Sunday, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said.
Suddenbreakingnews won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn before finishing fifth in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19, the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby. He worked a half-mile in :48.80 last Friday at Oaklawn.
“I thought it was a good work,” Von Hemel said Thursday morning. “He was very relaxed going from the pole and stretched out nice down the lane. I think it was all good.”
Whitmore was runner-up in the Southwest and Rebel for Moquett, who co-owns the Pleasantly Perfect gelding with Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta. Moquett said Whitmore’s half-mile breeze last Saturday at Oaklawn was his final major work for the Arkansas Derby.
Whitmore went in company with 4-year-old Far Right, a multiple Oaklawn stakes winner who is scheduled to run in Saturday’s $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Asked what he is looking for from Whitmore this weekend, Moquett said, “a half in :51.”
“That’s what I want,” Moquett said. “That just means working him with a slower horse.”
Whitmore, who normally breezes in company, went in :48.60 last Saturday.
Moquett said Tisdale, a two-time winner at the meeting, remains under consideration for the Arkansas Derby and $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn.
Gray Sky, who finished sixth in the Rebel, will be ridden in the Arkansas Derby by Ramon Vazquez, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning. Vazquez, Oaklawn’s second leading rider this year, guided the Lukas-trained Mr. Z to a third-place finish behind American Pharoah in the 2015 Arkansas Derby. He also rode Mr. Z to a 13th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Just a Fantasy
Stonestreet Stables’ Terra Promessa is the 3-5 program favorite for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy, which begins the annual Racing Festival of the South, is 5:09 p.m. (Central). It is the ninth of 10 races.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Terra Promessa has won 3 of 4 career starts, including the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 12 at Oaklawn. She is scheduled to break from post 2 under three-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. and carry equal top weight of 121 pounds.
Completing the compact field from the rail out: Taxable, Corey Nakatani to ride, 117 pounds; Cosmic Evolution, Ramon Vazquez, 121; Florida Bird, Alex Canchari, 117; Impasse, Channing Hill, 117; and Ready to Confess, Luis Quinonez, 117.
Taxable, also trained by Asmussen, is unbeaten in two career starts and the 5-2 second choice in the program. She was a two-length winner of her 3-year-old and two-turn debut March 11 at Oaklawn.
The Fantasy offers 170 points, including 100 to the winner, toward starting eligibility for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs. The runner-up will earn 40 points, with the third- and fourth-place finishers earning 20 and 10 points, respectively.
Weather permitting, the infield will be open Saturday.
Weight is Over
Subtle Indian was assigned top weight of 120 pounds for the $400,000 Count Fleet Handicap (G3) Sunday at Oaklawn.
Post positions for the 6-furlong Count Fleet were to be drawn Thursday.
Subtle Indian is 3 for 3 at this year’s Oaklawn meeting, including the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 5 in his last start.
Also scheduled to run in the Count Fleet are Cautious Giant (116 pounds assigned), Cinco Charlie (116), Gentlemen’s Bet (116), W.B. Smudge (116) and Speightsong (114).
Gentlemen’s Bet, third in the 2013 Count Fleet, will be ridden Sunday by Didiel Osorio, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Thursday morning.
The Last Stall
Harbour Island will return to stakes action in the $150,000 Carousel for older filly and mare sprinters April 14 at Oaklawn, trainer Al Stall said Wednesday afternoon.
Harbour Island, a 4-year-old My Pal Charlie filly who races for her breeder, Spendthrift Farm (B. Wayne Hughes), is coming off a half-length victory Feb. 27 at Oaklawn. The race was restricted to horses that have never won three races or a $40,000 claiming price.
“The next allowance condition doesn’t fill all the time,” Stall said. “She was second in a stakes there. It’s a complete roll of the dice, but it’s one worth taking.”
Harbour Island ran second in the $100,000 Instant Racing last year at Oaklawn and ninth in the $175,000 Rachel Alexandra (G3) last year at Fair Grounds in her only stakes tries. Stall said the Carousel could be the final career start for Harbour Island before she enters the breeding shed. The filly has a 3-3-0 record from eight career starts and earnings of $137,090.
Harbour Island is the final scheduled starter of the Oaklawn meeting for Stall, whose small string has compiled a sparkling 7 for 19 mark.
Harbour Island is the only remaining horse on the grounds for Stall.
Oaklawn’s meeting ends April 16.
Ramon Vazquez will ride Z Royal in the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning. Z Royal finished 11th in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn in his last start. … Synchrony will make his next start in the $150,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) April 16 at Keeneland, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Thursday morning. Von Hemel said Shaun Bridgmohan will again have the mount on Synchrony, unraced since finishing sixth in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. … Black Bear, unraced since finishing third in the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 15, 2014, at Oaklawn (leg injury), worked 5 furlongs over a fast track in 1:00.20 Thursday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Chris Hartman. … All three of trainer Joe Sharp’s starters at this year’s Oaklawn meeting have been claimed. … Oaklawn surpassed $6 million in claims Wednesday, the 47th day of the meeting.
Source: Oaklawn Park