Z Royal to Take Shot in Southwest; Field Taking Shape
Lightly raced Z Royal will make his next start in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds Feb. 15 at Oaklawn, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Friday morning. He added that Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will ride Z Royal for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race, the second major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.
Z Royal, who races for his breeder, Zayat Stables, LLC (Ahmed Zayat), finished fifth in his 3-year-old debut, the $200,000 LeComte Stakes (G3) Jan. 16 at Fair Grounds. He had been under consideration for the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn, but Lukas opted for the LeComte, at a mile and 70 yards, because of the longer stretch.
Mile races at Oaklawn (the distance of the Smarty Jones) begin and end at the sixteenth pole. The Southwest, like all 1 1/16-mile races at Oaklawn, will end at the regular finish line. The Southwest is worth a record $500,000 in 2016 after being $300,000 the previous three years.
“The stretch is longer, and the race fits better,” Lukas said. “Half-million dollars. A lot of good things.
Z Royal, a chestnut son of Eskendereya, has won 1 of 3 starts, breaking his maiden Nov. 14 at Churchill Downs when stretching out from 6 ½ furlongs to a mile. Lukas said plans are pending for fifth-place Smarty Jones finisher Gray Sky, who was beaten 3 ¾ lengths by Discreetness in his stakes debut.
“I thought his race was OK, but I think he needs to get a little more seasoning,” Lukas said.
Lukas said he’ll “probably” shop for a conditioned allowance spot for Gray Sky.
Projected Southwest starter Synchrony worked a half-mile in :47.60 after the break Friday morning for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. Synchrony ran third in the Smarty Jones.
Co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Friday morning that he’s still leaning toward running Whitmore in the Southwest. The gelding, racing in blinkers for the first time, won an entry-level allowance sprint Jan. 16 at Oaklawn. Moquett said he plans to breeze Whitmore Saturday morning.
Projected Southwest starter Bird of Trey worked a half-mile in :49.40 Thursday morning at Oaklawn for trainer John Servis. Bird of Trey won the $100,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes Dec. 5 at Parx.
Stakes Next For Far Right
Far Right is under consideration for two upcoming stakes races at Oaklawn following his runner-up finish in his 4-year-old debut Thursday, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Friday morning.
Far Right, in a third-level allowance/optional claimer at mile, finished a fast-closing second, beaten a half-length by Mal Guapo, on a card dominated by front-end speed.
“He outran most everything, but he couldn’t outrun the track,” Moquett said.
Moquett said Far Right is under consideration for the $100,000 Essex Handicap Feb. 13 and $300,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 19. Both races are 1 1/16 miles. The major spring objective for Far Right, Moquett said, is the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 16.
A multiple stakes winner the 2015 Oaklawn meeting, Far Right was making his first start since July 18, and first against older horses, Thursday. Following an awkward start, Far Right dropped 13 lengths behind after the opening quarter-mile and was still eighth after three-quarters of a mile. He finished full of run after moving six-wide turning for home under Didiel Osorio.
“That bias won’t show people what he really did, when you consider he had to stop and swing wide,” Moquett said. “There wasn’t anybody making up more than 2 ½ lengths all day.”
Moquett said his wife/assistant, Laura, took Far Right to a round pen Thursday night and “let him play.”
“He was happy,” Ron Moquett said.
Far Right was the top locally based 3-year-old at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting, winning the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) before finishing second to future Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
Far Right ran 15th in the Kentucky Derby and was freshened after finishing sixth in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G2) July 18 at Indiana Grand.
“Very happy to have him back,” Moquett said. “He brings a lot of excitement to the barn. We always need a horse like that to run a race like that to get everybody pumped up.”
Ready to Confess recorded a 5-furlong bullet (1:00.40) Friday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel in preparation for the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 6. The Martha Washington is the first major local two-turn prep for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9. … Von Hemel said Rose to Glory will make her 4-year-old debut in Friday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, a third-level allowance/optional claimer for older fillies and mares at a mile. Rose to Glory is also entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston. … The major local goal for Grade I winner Noble Bird is the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 16, trainer Mark Casse said. Noble Bird, who worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 Thursday at Oaklawn, won the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) June 13 at Churchill Downs. Noble Bird also won an allowance/optional claiming race at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting … Take Charge Tressa, an unstarted 3-year-old half-sister to champion Take Charge Brandi, has been retired because of nagging physical problems, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Friday morning. She is scheduled to be bred.
Source: Oaklawn Park