The Oaklawn three-year old series is the most exciting program you’ll see anywhere in the sport of horse racing. It’s what the track is known for, and its also what has made it become as popular as it is today. Recent horses such as: Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Curlin, Lookin At Lucky, Super Saver, Bodemeister, Will Take Charge, and Oxbow have used Oaklawn as a spring-board to Triple Crown success. This year Oaklawn will have four races that count towards the “Kentucky Derby Points” system that determines who makes the starting gate on the first Saturday of May. The first race will be the Smarty Jones on January 19th, followed by the Southwest Stakes on February 16th, the Rebel Stakes on March 14th, and the one million dollar Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 11th. In the last ten years Oaklawn Park has produced ten Triple Crown race winners. That’s a trend that we expect to continue in 2015.
As usual the D Wayne Lukas barn has another top prospect heading into the 2014 meet. Mr. Z comes to Oaklawn as accomplished as any three year old in the country. He’s placed in FIVE graded stakes events, and was also a decent fifth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. His most recent effort was a third place finish in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, where he was just barely beaten by the number one prospect for the Kentucky Derby at the moment; Dortmund. The class and ability is there, and the thought and pedigree seems to show that this horse will love going longer. It looks as though Mr. Z is pointing towards the Smarty Jones Stakes to kick off his road to the Kentucky Derby.
I Spent It is another that comes to Oaklawn with a lot of accomplishments, and he holds a victory over Mr. Z when he beat him soundly in the Saratoga Special Stakes. However his last two efforts weren’t quite as strong, especially when he finished a well beaten sixth in the Champagne Stakes last time out. He hasn’t raced since then, and it was clear something went wrong as that was no where near the same horse we had seen in previous starts. If he can return to form he could be tough, and you would think he also has the pedigree to get two turns. There has been no mention of any set plans for him as of yet as the colt just arrived to Hot Springs on Monday.
As always its that time of year to find a sleeper horse to watch for, and this year I have five in mind as we start the season. I’ll begin with Far Right, a horse that could have won the Delta Jackpot with a better trip. He was shut off towards the inside rail when he wanted to make his move, but still managed to finish third behind the before mentioned Mr. Z and the well regarded Ocho Ocho Ocho. The Truth or Else is another horse that is somewhat under the radar after being beaten by some nice horses in New York against Graded company. He’s just shown up on the grounds and is eyeing the three year old series. Others that have ran against tough competition but have yet to prove they can hang with the top class are Hebbronville and Private Prospect. Any improvement from these two could lead to nice things. Finally, you can’t forget D Wayne Lukas’ “other” three year old prospect, Majesitco. He’s done most of his running on turf, but Majestico has a dirt pedigree and nice early speed. It might be a long shot…but The Coach knows how to pull those off quite well!
Of course the shippers will always be a huge factor when it comes to these four big races at Oaklawn. Bob Baffert has been absolutely dominate here in the past, and this year he might come in and do it again. His barn is absolutely loaded with stars, and he’ll have to keep them all separate. The early rumor is that none other than American Pharoah is pointing for the Rebel Stakes as his first start of 2015. His presence in the race would boost what is already a well respected race to a whole new level. American Pharoah has a shot to win the Two Year Old Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards later this month.
The time has come for Oaklawn to produce its next big star, and you can bet it’s loyal fan base is ready for it to happen. One of the truly unique things about Oaklawn is its rabid fans, and the pride it takes in its star horses. The fans have been lucky enough to follow great horses, but it’s time for a new one to emerge. The mystery of who the next “big horse” will be is what makes this time of year special. It’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride…and also pick a winner or two! Who will become the next Oaklawn legend?