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Upstart to Return in Razorback
Multiple stakes winner and millionaire Upstart is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 19 at Oaklawn, trainer Rick Violette said Wednesday afternoon.
Unraced since a fifth-place finish in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) Sept. 19 at Parx, Upstart has had a steady work pattern this winter at Palm Meadows Training Center in south Florida in preparation for his 2016 debut.
Violette said he chose the Razorback because the timing wasn’t right to run Upstart in the $500,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) last Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
“I was a couple of weeks behind,” Violette said. “This looks like a pretty good spot. We’ll find out if he likes the race track and if we want to head back for the [Oaklawn] Handicap.”
Upstart, a New York-bred son of Flatter who races for Ralph Evans and WinStar Farm, has a 3-3-2 record from 11 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,250,280.
Upstart, as a 2-year-old, beat state-breds in the $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga. He then won the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G2) in his 3-year-old debut before finishing second in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 28. Both races were at Gulfstream Park.
Upstart ran three times last year against Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, third in the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational (G1) Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park and fourth in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 29 at Saratoga. American Pharoah finished second in the Travers, his only loss in 2015.
Violette, who has also trained major stakes winners Read the Footnotes, Dream Rush, Samraat, Citadeed and Nijinsky’s Gold, has never started a horse at Oaklawn. The trainer said if there are no setbacks following a work Friday or Saturday, Upstart will board a flight March 17 to run in the Razorback.
“It’s a lot of money, it’s a good race, a good place to run,” Violette said.
Violette said he’s still working to secure a rider for the 1 1/16-mile race.
A former assistant to David Whiteley, Violette is president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and has 818 career victories since saddling his first winner in 1977, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Locally based horses pointing for the Razorback include Far Right, Carve, La Macchina and Looks to Spare.
Ricardo Santana Jr. doesn’t have the mount on Untapable for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 19, but Oaklawn’s three-time defending riding champion breezed the Eclipse Award winner for the first time in Hot Springs earlier this week for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Santana, Oaklawn’s runaway riding leader this year, was aboard Untapable for her 6-furlong move in 1:13 over a fast track Monday morning.
Santana said breezing Untapable, the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2014, was an “unbelievable” experience.
“It’s like one day you drive an ordinary car and tomorrow you drive a Ferrari,” Santana said. “When you touch the gas, it’s like, ‘Vroom!’ That’s one of the best fillies I’ve ever ridden.”
Santana, 23, has been closely aligned with Asmussen at the last four Oaklawn meetings, riding 101 winners for the trainer during that span. He is the runaway leader in victories (43) and purse earnings ($1,508,495) this year.
Untapable is scheduled to be ridden in the Azeri by Florent Geroux.
Trainer Brad Cox said he’s in no rush with Wabel, who ran the fastest 6 furlongs of the Oaklawn meet Saturday (1:09.03), and will point the 4-year-old Curlin colt for a second-level allowance race.
On behalf of owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Cox claimed Wabel for $50,000 out of a maiden victory Sept. 12 at Churchill Downs. It was the highest-priced horse Flurry has ever claimed, and an unexpected bargain.
At the 2014 OBS June 2-year-old and horses of racing age sale, Cox said he vetted Wabel and Flurry was the “legit” underbidder ($165,000) on the colt.
Wabel was purchased for $170,000 by Sheikh Abdullah Almaddah and began his career in Southern California with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert before being transferred to Wesley Ward.
“We really liked him at the sale,” Cox said. “We followed him, we watched him in California with Baffert. When he showed up at the entry box at Churchill, it was like, ‘Wow! – $50,000, we’ll take a shot.’”
Wabel finished second in his first two career starts in December 2014 before running fifth in his two-turn debut Feb. 28, 2015, at Santa Anita. Cox and Flurry pulled the trigger – again – when Wabel, now with Ward, resurfaced last fall in a maiden-claiming sprint at Churchill Downs.
“I don’t think you look at that horse on form and say, ‘Oh, wow, I want to go and spend $50,000,’ ” Cox said. “But we knew a little bit of his history because we had vetted him and watched him work. We knew Wabel way before we claimed him for $50,000.”
After breaking his maiden Sept. 12, Wabel ran second in his next three starts, including a Jan. 30 entry-level allowance race at Oaklawn, before winning Saturday’s fifth race, an entry-level allowance, by 5 1/4 lengths under Jon Court.
Cox said Wabel earned a career-high 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
“Super excited about that,” Cox said.
Wabel’s victory pushed his career earnings to $109,620. He has a 2-5-0 record from eight starts overall.
A field of six is entered in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the Honeybee, the eighth of nine races, is 4:38 p.m. (Central).
The 1 1/16-mile Honeybee is scheduled to match Marquee Miss, Nickname and Dorodansa, the 1-2-3 finishers, respectively, from the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 6 at Oaklawn.
Marquee Miss edged Nickname, a Grade 1 winner, by a half-length, with Dorodansa 1 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Marquee Miss also won the $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 15 at Oaklawn.
The Honeybee field from the rail out: Cosmic Evolution, Calvin Borel, 117 pounds, 10-1; Dorodansa, Chris Landeros, 115, 6-1; She’s a Bootsy Too, Ramon Vazquez, 117, 12-1; Nickname, Corey Nakatani, 119, 7-5; Terra Promessa, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 5-2; and Marquee Miss, Channing Hill, 122, 3-1.
Ingrid Mason, trainer of Marquee Miss, won the Honeybee, the final major local prep for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9, last year with Sarah Sis.
There was no training Thursday morning at Oaklawn because of persistent rain. … Four starters from the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn – Z Royal (eighth), Bird of Trey (11th), War Stroll (12th) and Luna de Loco (13th) – are entered in an allowance/optional claimer for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn. … Corey Nakatani ($1,004,827) became the second jockey to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at the Oaklawn meet Sunday. … Through 32 days racing at Oaklawn, 297 claims have totaled $4,319,500.
Source: Oaklawn Park
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