When talking about Oaklawn trainers, a person could go on all day about the strength of the stables. Oaklawn is home to some of the best trainers in racing year in and year out. I’ve profiled 20 trainers to watch for this year, and I do realize that I’ve probably left off some that could make an impact. With that begin said, here are profiles for the ones that I’ve selected to profile. I chose these 20 based on prior success, and also based on what I project them to do for the 2013 meet.
When it comes to winning training titles, there aren’t many better than Steve Asmussen. Asmussen operates stables throughout the country, and last year once again won the Oaklawn training title 36-32 over Allen Milligan. It’s always a bit of an unknown as to who Asmussen will bring to Oaklawn, but you can bet he’ll be right in the thick of things.
Last year nobody won at a better percentage than Jamie Ness. Cory Jensen has been the guy overseeing the operation for Ness over the last two years while at Oaklawn, and will most likely be returning. Midwest Thoroughbreds are the main clients of Ness, and depending on how many they want to send for this meet could determine whether Ness makes a serious run at the trainers title.
Al Stall Jr.
Al Stall brings in a small string of 20 or so horses, including the much hyped four-year old filly Applauding. He also trainers a big time three-year filly in Sign, who will be making her first start at the Fair Grounds. While there has been no mention of her running in Hot Springs, one would assume there is a slight chance she could make an appearance. Stall has had success all across the country over the last two years, so I expect his horses to fit in very well at Oaklawn.
It’s always a nice bonus if a soon to be eclipse award-winning trainer is sending horses to your track. Like Stall, Romans will be sending around 20 horses to Oaklawn this year. He says he has horses coming to fit into a variety of categories, and said the purse increases were a big factor in him sending this string to Arkansas. Romans knows how to place his horses to win, so his impact will be strong.
He may not overwhelm you with quality, but quantity is where he can beat a lot of guys. Milligan won the 2010 trainers title, and had strong showings in 2011 and 2012, where he finished 2nd. He’ll do the majority of his damage in claiming races.
This Hot Springs resident is a staple of Oaklawn Park. You can always count on Steve Hobby to be consistently on the board, and he always gets his fair share of victories. Hobby brings in the ever popular Tiz Miz Sue for another crack at the Apple Blossom, and also trains the highly regarded unstarted 3-year-old colt Marshall Raylan.
Donnie K Von Hemel
The last name Von Hemel and horse racing just go hand in hand. Donnie K is coming off a successful 2012, and looks to be in great shape heading into 2013. Last years Oaklawn stud, Alternation, is back for another year, as well as the ever solid older female She’s All In. Von Hemel has plenty of other horses to fill a variety of different races, and looks to have a few more three-year olds than normal to start the year.
Calhoun has always had success at Oaklawn, and last year was no exception as he won at a solid rate of 19 percent. His stable was temporarily slowed down by a suspension towards the end of 2012, but since returning he’s been winning in bunches. Expect another solid meet for him.
D Wayne Lukas
The old pro is back once again, and he’ll be looking to bounce back from a bad 2012 meet. The strength of Lukas usually comes down to his three-year olds, and this year he looks to have much better ones than last year. Oxbow, Titletown Five, and Will Take Charge are all horses that could make an impact in the Oaklawn three-year old series. Lukas won’t be strong enough to win the trainers title like he did in 2011, but he should be better than he was in 2012
Last year Richard had an outstanding meet winning at a 26 percent clip, and then followed that up with another solid showing at Prairie Meadows. His Remington meet was not as good, but I look for him to rebound with a good showing at Oaklawn. He’ll be particularly tough in the male sprint division, as he has both Outta Tune and Apprehender in his stable.
Anytime you train for the Jayaraman’s you will be taken seriously at Oaklawn. Martin has had solid success at Oaklawn since picking up some of their horses, and could be looking at another strong year. The bad news…the Jayaraman’s can be fickle to say the least, so we’ll see if he keeps their horses in his barn.
Win Willy was the horse that made Robertson famous around Oaklawn, but he’s had plenty of success other than just one horse. 2012 wasn’t his strongest year, but 2010 and 2011 where excellent meets for him. Win Willy returns for his seven-year old season, and Mac also brings in some talented with some younger horses as well.
Here is a guy that lives for Oaklawn. Moquett is an Arkansas resident, and his horses usually run well here. He only won 11 races last year, but it’s worth noting that he finished 2nd 25 times, so that shows how close he was to really having a big meet. It’s also worth noting that his stable is always large (and continuing to grow) so he’ll be able to run a lot of numbers. Out of all the trainers listed, he’s my sleeper pick to really have a big year.
Kelly Von Hemel
Kelly Von Hemel usually brings a portion of his regular stable to Oaklawn, but you can always count on a consistent showing from his horses. He’s coming off a super meet at Remington, so he might be one to watch early on as those horses look to be in great form. His horses usually out run there odds here, so he’s definitely one to watch if betting tri’s or supers.
Morse picked up several horse that were formerly trained by Bob Holthus last year which bumped his number of starts up quite a bit. He always has his horses looking better than almost anyone else on the back stretch. Morse only recorded 9 victories at Oaklawn last year, but I look for that number to increase in 2013
McPeek returned to Oaklawn last year and won 5 races in 33 starts. He’ll have a similar string again this year, with quality being the key to his stable. He’s expected to bring in star filly Pure Fun, who recently won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. She’ll compete in Oaklawn’s 3-year-old filly series.
Harty will be a new addition to Oaklawn this year, as he brings in Endorsement for a campaign in the older male division. He brings a small stable, but there is some quality there. Keep an eye on him early in the meet, as I believe he has some horses that will fit into those races nicely.
As we mentioned before, the Jayaraman’s can sometimes be fickle. Tim Ice campaigned Summer Bird to a great three-year old season for them, and looked to be heading up the ranks leading up to the next year until the Jayaraman’s took all their horses from him. Ice still hasn’t fully recovered from that, but his stable has slowly gotten better. He’ll bring in the highly thought of Brown Almighty to compete in Oaklawn’s three-year old series.
Ritchey is a consistent name when it comes to Oaklawn, and is famous for training the incredible Afleet Alex. While he hasn’t had one like him since, he does usually have horses that are competitive at Oaklawn. He knows how to get a horse ready to win, and should be respected in most races he enters.
Think quality over quantity when approaching the Grant Forster barn. He won’t overwhelm you with numbers, but when he sends one to the track they usually have a big shot at winning. Grant recently lost runners such as Mandurah and Brushed by a Star, so it will be interesting to see how his new wave of talent performs.