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Papa Dudes 2021 Oaklawn Awards
Coady Photography

Papa Dudes 2021 Oaklawn Awards

It’s always a sad Sunday when the Oaklawn meet comes to an end because for the many devoted Oaklawn fans, myself included, a huge void will be in our lives for the next few days. It was a great meet as it always is and this column is the 1st Annual Papa Dude Oaklawn Awards. Read on and feel free to agree or disagree. For reference (it seems easy enough) Golden Mane = first, Silver Hoof = second, and Bronze Tail = third.

Race of the Year

The Golden Mane goes to the Apple Blossom Stakes (G1) won in thrilling fashion by Letruska over the champion Monomoy Girl and worthy challenger Swiss Skydiver. You will never see a better race anywhere, anytime.

The Silver Hoof goes to Super Stock’s thrilling victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) denying Bob Baffert another Oaklawn Park prep race victory. Watching Ricardo Santana Jr. making his move in the homestretch and tipping to the outside to get to the finish line first was awesome to see.

The Bronze Tail goes to Silver State for his victory in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Coming from next to last on the backstretch to victory over a strong field showed how much this horse likes to win.

Horse of the Year

The Golden Mane: C Z Rocket for his two narrow victories over local hero Whitmore. While I hated him for winning, I can’t deny he is deserving of Oaklawn Park Horse of the Year.

The Silver Hoof: Silver State narrowly finished 2nd in this award, something he hasn’t done on the race track in a long time, winning 3 races out of 3 tries including the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). I will accept any argument on putting him first instead of second as this was a close race this season.

The Bronze Tail: One for Richie for hitting the board in all 5 of his starts and winning 3 of them earning over $162,000 in the process. Sometimes you forget about the lower level horses; however, they are what make this game great.

Arkansas Horse of the Year

The Golden Mane: Tempt Fate is the easy winner finishing first in all 3 starts, all of which came against stakes company. Trained by Carl Deville, there is no argument on this one, so don’t even try.

The Silver Hoof: Kaboom Baby trained by Ernie Witt, won 2 races earning over $150,000.

The Bronze Tail: Young Bull for winning 3 straight races against claiming to end the meet.

Trainer of the Year:

The Golden Mane: Steve Asmussen. This is like predicting snow at the North Pole. If he wants to win the trainer title here, then he will do it. There are some who will argue that he should win because he has more horses than anyone else and that is certainly true. But, he wins maidens, claimers, allowances, and stakes races. He wins everywhere he goes and has proven there are very few better than him.

The Silver Hoof: Robertino Diodoro. The barn turned in another solid performance sending out 44 winners at the meet. If it’s a claiming race and he has a horse entered you better take notice. Also, he even got a horse into the Kentucky Derby this year, showing that his barn is starting to get higher caliber horses.

The Bronze Tail: Brad Cox. He finished with 29 winners that earned over $3,500,000. Everyone has him on their radar as the next great trainer, especially after running second and fourth in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1).

Honorable Mention: Cipriano Contreras. With his 17 wins that earned over a $1,000,000 he had his best Oaklawn meet ever.

Promising Newcomer: Aiden Green. She learned her craft by working for the Diodoro barn and hit the board on 25 out of 42 runners while charting 9 winners in an impressive Oaklawn debut. If a trainer can put up numbers like that here better watch out for them in the future.

Owner(s) of the Year:

Golden Mane: M and M Racing. Using the Diodoro and Green, they had 20 winners and earned over $613,000

Silver Hoof: Shortleaf Stable. This group won 11 races and pocketed over $843,000

Bronze Tail: Alex and Joann Lieblong. This dynamic duo had 10 winners that accumulated almost $700,000.

Jockey of the Year

Golden Mane: Ricardo Santana,Jr. Yes, I know he races for Steve Asmussen so naturally he should win his share of races, but he still has to go out there and do it, and he wins in consistent fashion. He took home 68 victories despite missing the final week because he was in Louisville riding horses in the big events at Churchill Downs. He won the Arkansas Derby (G1) and the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), plus his triumphs totaled over $5,600,000 in earnings.

Silver Hoof: David Cabrera. What a season he had coming home with 62 wins and almost nailing down the No. 1 spot. He continues to improve up the ranks in the jockey colony and was used by Asmussen when Santana was gone. His total earnings were in excess of $3,395,000.

Promising Newcomer: Francisco Arrieta. This guy turned in a great meet with 50 victories to nail down third place for the season. Looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Most Heartwarming Story:

Golden Mane: Super Stock winning the Arkansas Derby (G1), and the fact that Asmussen’s Dad was part owner of the horse, plus his son rode the horse in several of his early starts at Oaklawn Park. The emotion shown by the usual unflappable Asmussen was great to see.

Most Gut-Wrenching Disappointment:

I can’t give out a reward for disappointment but as excited as we all were for local horse Super Stock to win the Arkansas Derby (G1), we were much more disappointed when the great champion Whitmore was defeated twice in his bid to become the all-time stakes race winner at Oaklawn. He finished a gallant 2nd in both tries, looking like he might win both time, but we just couldn’t get him home. He is 8-years-old now, so who knows if we will see him at Oaklawn Park again next season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Best Personal Moment:

Golden Mane: This one is easy. The award goes to Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort for opening up the infield, the apron, and the grandstand to a limited number of fans for the last weeks of the season. My wife and I had the pleasure of being in attendance for the Apple Blossom (G1) which was my first trip in over 2 years and just being there in person made me realize how special Oaklawn is and how much I had missed it.

So, there you have the 1st annual Papa Dudes Oaklawn Awards. The 2021 meet will have to go down as one of the best ever and Oaklawn just keeps getting better and better. Congrats to the entire staff on the improvements and constant renovations taking place. If you have never been to Hot Springs for the races take my advice and give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed!

See you later in the week as my next assignment is following the renowned Churchill Downs. I’m really looking forward to covering it. Look for my free picks for Friday’s card Thursday evening. Have a great day everyone!

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