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3 Stars of the Week:
-1st star – Riley Tucker (KY) – For back to back weeks now our first star has been an older horse that has ran a courageous race. Last week Absinthe Minded dug deep to win the Pippin, and this week Riley Tucker ran his heart out to win the King Cotton. Riley Tucker, now seven years old, was making his 38th start of his career. His form in recent races had been slipping as he did not win a race in 2011, but Saturday was his day at Oaklawn. When Hamazing Destiny caught him in the stretch it looked to be over, but Riley Tucker found more, and prevailed by just over a length at the end. With this performance, one has to think the Count Fleet sprint later in the meet could be a long term goal.
–2nd star – Apprehender (KY) – I was ready to make this colt the first star of the week, but Riley Tucker’s gutty performance forced me to drop him down to number two. Making his first career start, Apprehender completely dominated a maiden special weight group, receiving a Beyer rating of 97 for the six furlongs route. The win put him in the starting gate for the Southwest Stakes, according to trainer Ingrid Mason. For me, this was the most impressive performance by any three year old so far this season at Oaklawn. Jockey Inosencio Diego never asked the horse to run a step; he just blew them all away on his own. Out of all the local Oaklawn colts, Apprehender might just be the one with the best chance to win the Southwest.
-3rd star – Hearts On Fire (KY) – Coming off a layoff and having to tackle Arienza, there were plenty of built in excuses Hearts On Fire could have used before the gates opened in Thursday’s feature race. Then when the gates opened Hearts On Fire missed the break, giving all of us watching little hope she’d be able to recover to beat a competitive field. As they turned for home she had put herself in an improved position, but still looked to be a longshot to win. She kept grinding though, and launched a bid on the insider rail, just putting her nose in front at the wire. You’d have to think trainer Donnie K Von Hemel will be thinking about a stakes race off this performance; she should only improve off this start.
Flop of the Week:
–Arienza (KY) – The hopes and dreams of many seem to be crashing down with this horse. I, for one, feel bad that this girl looks like she’ll never live up to those lofty and almost impossible expectations. The daughter of Azeri returned to the track she loves last Thursday, but finished a very disappointing 5th in an Allowance race. I’m not sure where they’ll go with her from here. There was talk about her going to the breeding shed to make babies, which is a move I wouldn’t do just yet. I would give her one more try over a dry surface. In my opinion she deserves one more shot. If she still shows nothing, then it might be time to retire her. Her value as a broodmare will still be pretty good.
Preview of Next Week:
-The Essex Hanicap. For 4 year olds and upward. One and one-sixteenth mile. $100,000 Purse.
Probable Contenders: Twice the Appeal, Alternation, Color Me Blue, and It Happened Again
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