He’s won the trainers title two years in a row, and lets face it…he can win it 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 his best two year old season in recent memory, and I’m sure many of those horses will be competing at Oaklawn. There is no reason to think he won’t dominate here again this year, and is the heavy favorite to repeat as leading trainer.
D Wayne Lukas
It was an incredible 2013 for Lukas when it comes to quality wins, but as far as overall wins go he probably wasn’t too happy. Lukas won just ten races at Oaklawn last season, but I expect more this year. His barn is loaded with three-year olds, and most of them are still maidens. He also brings in Grade 1 winner Strong Mandate, as well as soon to be three-year old horse of the year Will Take Charge. Look for Lukas to be very active once again in the Oaklawn three-year old series.
Robertson has become a fixture at Oaklawn Park with last year being one of his best ever as he finished second in the standings with twenty-eight victories. He runs horses at all levels, and has a balanced barn from top to bottom. In a bit of surprise, it looks like he’s brought local Oaklawn legend Win Willy back for another try. The plans were to retire the horse after last year, but he’s had two workouts so far at Oaklawn and is planning on running in the Fifth Season Stakes. Win Willy’s half brother, Win Silas, is also on the grounds.
You can always count on Richard to have a solid meeting at Oaklawn, but this year might be his best yet. He’s always been backed by the powerful Maggi Moss, and now Midwest Thoroughbreds have sent some horses his way. With these two successful owners on his side perhaps he could challenge for the training title. Midwest Thoroughbreds and Richard should be a nice fit as he excels with low claimers. Richard also has had some moderate success at the bigger Stakes levels at Prairie Meadows and Kentucky Downs, but the competition will stiffen here.
Donnie K Von Hemel
The list of horses Von Hemel has campaigned at Oaklawn has been very impressive the last few years, but a new crop must now emerge as Alternation and Caleb’s Posse are both gone. However, the future may be bright as he comes off an impressive second place finish in the trainer standing at Remington. Von Hemel looks to have a nice group of three-year olds in his barn, especially on the filly side of things.
No matter the track or class of the race, Hartman has proven he can win. He’s another trainer with a wide variety of horses, ranging all the way to the 5k claimers to stakes competition. He was wildly consistent in 2013, and brings in top horses such as Black Bear and Alsvid to the 2014 meeting. Both those horses will probably look to compete in sprint stakes competition.
Nobody wants to win races at Oaklawn more than this guy! Moquett considers Oaklawn his home track, and is always successful here. Last year he finished eighth in the Oaklawn standings, but went on to have a big time year. He trained the speedy sprinter Gentleman’s Bet, who took him all the way to the Breeders Cup where he finished third in the Sprint. Gentleman’s Bet is back and training well at Oaklawn, and will definitely be one of the top older horses on the grounds.
Another local trainer who loves winning races at Hot Springs! When you think of Hobby one word comes to mind: consistency. Hobby always finishes in the Top 10 of the trainer standings, and has trained many stakes winning horses here. His stable star Tiz Miz Sue has been retired, but he has a large crop of younger horses ready to take her spot.
The last two years Cody Autrey has dominated opening weekend at Oaklawn, so you better keep that in mind. In 2012 he faded badly after dominating early, but in 2013 he was able to continue his success and finished fifth in the overall standings. The claiming game is his specialty, and you can bet he’ll have them spotted to win.
Smith won fifty races in 2013 which was his biggest output since 2003, and tied for fourth in the trainers standing at Oaklawn Park. He followed that up with a nice top ten finish at Delaware Park, and was also successful with his second string at Prairie Meadows. Smith trains the majority of Toby Keith’s horses, but also has other clients that won a lot of races in 2013.
I all but wrote this guy off after Midwest Thoroughbreds dropped him in 2012, but I won’t make that mistake again! Cox rebuilt his stable quickly, and won at a twenty-nine percent clip at Oaklawn in 2013. Overall he won at a twenty-five percent clip for the year, and has a bigger stable of horses to run at Oaklawn in 2014. Obviously this guy knows what he’s doing!
Numbers and claimers are Milligan’s game. Nobody has stared more horses over the last three years at Oaklawn than him, as he’s topped 180 starts in each of those meets. Overall Milligan started over seven hundred horses last year, and that trend should continue as he has a full barn once again at Oaklawn.
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.
It’s usually the Arkansas bred’s that Martin makes the biggest impact with. In 2011 he started training the majority of the Jayaraman horses, which has obviously been a big help. A must use in all state bred competition…
Whiting is an Oaklawn legend, and also trains for the track owner Charles Cella which is never a bad thing. He’ll once again bring in Cyber Secret for Cella, who won the Oaklawn Handicap and Razorback Handicap last year while going a perfect four for four at Oaklawn. Cyber Secret’s last race was a record-setting performance in the Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway, so we know he’s sharp and ready for a big meet.
Kelly Von Hemel
The Dudes’ favorite trainer! Kelly Von Hemel has the Racing Dudes karma working for him, which is really all he needs! He comes into this meet with two nice two-year old maiden winners in Quick Dagger and Rum Therapy. Both horses could play a factor in the three-year old divisions at Oaklawn this year. He also has world renown farrier Kelby Von Hemel shoeing all his horses! #Kelbowed
Don Von Hemel
The veteran trainer just continues to send out winners, and 2014 will be his fifty-eighth year as a trainer! His stable is smaller these days, but the quality is still there. This year he brings in Smack Smack, a three-year old colt who had success at both Remington Park and Prairie Meadows in two-year old stakes action. Smack Smack is owned by Toby Keith.
For the first time ever, Mark Casse will bring a string of horses to Oaklawn. Casse is a dominant trainer in Canada, and recently won the Woodbine training title by twenty-three races. He also is present at Gulfstream Park where he won twelve races last year. As with several other trainers on this list, what horses he chooses to bring to Oaklawn will determine his success. His top horses can come here and compete at a high level.
McPeek will once again be present at Oaklawn with a small string or horses. Expect him to bring a lot of quality three-year olds that will try to take advantage of the Oaklawn Stakes program. That’s exactly what he did last year, and he had a decent meet winning seven of forty-five starts.
Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage
For the last two years Hartlage has been best known for training super start filly On Fire Baby, and this year will be no exception. Last year On Fire Baby was able to win the Apple Blossom off of a major layoff, but will probably get more than one start in at Oaklawn this year. Hartlage also brings in an exciting three-year old colt in Wry, who won a Churchill maiden race in September.
Sims ran only forty-one horses at Oaklawn in 2013, but did win at a twenty-two percent clip so that shows you the quality of horses he brought. This year I expect he’ll bring a similar string of horses, and I also expect a similar type of result.
Romans came to Oaklawn with a very small string last year, and had decent success winning at a nineteen percent clip. With only 31 starters last year it’s hard to gauge what kind of impact he may have this year. Will he take Oaklawn serious?
He’s backed by owner Danny Caldwell, who admittedly said they weren’t quite prepared for Oaklawn in 2013. However, you can bet they are working hard for this upcoming meet and have already commented that they’ll be ready. Caldwell has had huge success in Oklahoma and understands the game, so I have no doubt they’ll win more races at Oaklawn this year. Definitely one to watch.
William “Jinks” Fires
It was a quiet year for Jinks Fires last year, but never underestimate this barn. It wasn’t long ago he trained Archarcharch to victory in the Arkansas Derby, so we all know he’s a capable trainer.
Calhoun didn’t run much at Oaklawn last year, so it will really just be a waiting game to see what he shows up with this year. If he brings a full barn, he can compete with anyone.