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Horse of the Meet: Close Hatches – This was a tough award to decide on this year, but in the end it had to be Close Hatches who won based on the fact that she was the only horse to win more than one Graded Stakes race this meet. With no standout three-year old, and Will Take Charge only running atOaklawn once, Close Hatches is the most worthy of the group.
Older Male of the Meet: Will Take Charge – He was our three-year old horse of the meet last year, and now he is our older horse of the meet this year! Even though he only ran once at Oaklawn, he proved much the best out of the other horses in the Handicap Division. He also put on a show for the locals every morning during training hours, as he was the first horse to hit the track each morning. Many thanks to Willis Horton and D Wayne Lukas for running the horse once at his home track.
Older Female of the Meet: Close Hatches – Obvious choice here as she won both the Azeri and Apple Blossom. The last horse to accomplish this feat was Havre De Grace, who went on to win horse of the year.
3 Year Old Male of the Meet: Tapiture – Another tough award to decide on, but in the end Tapiture got the nod over Ride On Curlin and Danza. Tapiture wo nthe Southwest Stakes, nearly won the Rebel, and finished a decent fourth in the Arkansas Derby. He now has lost some hype heading to Kentucky, but still made his presence felt in Hot Springs.
3 Year Old Female of the Meet: Sugar Shock – She was a courageous winner of the Fantasy Stakes, and crossed the line first in the Honeybee before being disqualified. She’ll go up against much tougher next time out in the Kentucky Oaks, but there is no doubting that she was the best of the bunch at Oaklawn Park.
Sprinter of the Meet: Alsvid – Even though he didn’t win any of the sprint stakes at Oaklawn this meet, his consistent performances land him this award. He was a solid second in the King Cotton, Hot Springs, and Count Fleet while others in the division had up and down moments. You can bet this horse is due for a win soon.
Owner of the Meet: Danny Caldwell – An absolutely dominating performance by Caldwell as he won the owners title by nine races. We had the privilege to get to know Danny early on in the season, and after meeting him it’s easy to see why he’s so good at what he does. He’s one of the best claimers in the game, and puts in the time and effort it takes to be successful. The award couldn’t have been won by a nicer guy. Caldwell will be heading to Prairie Meadows next!
Trainer of the Meet: Steve Asmussen – Amongst all the controversy, Asmussen just kept on winning. As usual he took the last two weeks by storm and crushed his competition once again. This is Asmussen’s second straight Racing Dudes Award. Also Asmussen’s assistant Darren Fleming deserves a mention as well as he looked over the stable for most of the year and always does a great job.
Jockey of the Meet: Ricardo Santana Jr. – Another guy who is receiving his second straight Racing Dudes Award. Santana proved that last year was no fluke as he easily won the jockey’s title for the second straight year. This is a guy who is getting better and better with every mount, and is a rising star in the game.
Flop of the Meet: Strong Mandate – It’s painful for us to admit it…but Strong Mandate never lived up to the expectations we had for him. After running decent in the Southwest and Rebel, he was last in the Arkansas Derby and now sits on the outside looking in as far as the Kentucky Derby is concerned. Hopefully he can regroup and regain his form.
Favorite Moment of the Meet: Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap – He pretty much stole the show on Derby day. It was a thrill to see the home town horse win in front of all his fans. Major shout out to Brady Lukas for allowing us get in the winners circle with one of our favorite horses of all time!
Restaurant of the Meet: TIE – Hawgs and Jahna’s – That’s right…we like to eat. The Dudes have been to many places in Hot Springs over the years, but Hawgs Pizza and Jahna’s Italian easily are the two best. We highly recommend them to anyone who visit’s the Hot Springs area.
Race of the Meet: The Rebel Stakes –
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