Oaklawn Barn Notes Jan. 23

Jan. 23, 2013

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lukas Keeping Options Open for Three-Year-Olds

As a former basketball coach, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows the importance of having a deep bench and his appears to be quite full after Oxbow and Will Take Charge both earned important Kentucky Derby prep victories and points last weekend. Oxbow easily won the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds last Saturday, while his stablemate Will Take Charge stayed home and won Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. Each horse earned 10 points based on Churchill Downs’ new system for making the Derby field.

Will Take Charge, who had a hard-fought battle to the wire, gave the trainer some anxious moments after he stumbled pulling up, but was fine.

“He’s fine and was fine when we got him back to the barn (Monday) afternoon,” said Lukas. “He must have just tweaked something pulling up from the race.  We jogged him in the shedrow this morning and he’s just great.”

Lukas will decide in the coming weeks where each colt will start next. The next two options are Oaklawn’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Monday, Feb. 18 or the Fair Grounds’ $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Saturday, Feb. 23. Another option is keeping at least one colt out until the March 16 $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.

“We’re kind of in limbo about where to go with these horses, although we’re sure going to keep them apart as long as we can,” said Lukas. “We’re looking ahead at the races at Oaklawn and the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.  But I’m not likely to run one horse in all four of these races at Oaklawn.  On the other hand we have at least one more (horse) that I like, who might be this kind, so we have a lot of options.”

Whiting Thinking Positive after Weekend of Mixed Results

Few racehorse skippers can keep an even keel the way Lynn Whiting does, so his another-day-at-the-Oaklawn-office attitude days after setbacks for two stakes runners and a flashy win for a would-be stakes star is no surprise.

Whiting said Wednesday that he “can’t be mad” at Officer Alex after a handful of things went wrong in his sixth-place attempt at Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. He also thinks there might be a reason Lady Stonewall faltered as the favorite in Sunday’s $60,000 Dixie Belle Stakes. He was satisfied Cyber Secret finally displayed his full talent in a rolling allowance race victory on Monday’s undercard.

Officer Alex was looking to build on a late 2012 victory in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at Parx Racing and was a respectable fourth-choice in the betting for the one-mile, 3-year-old stakes kickoff. Moments after the gates opened, the colt’s holiday Monday turned into a manic Monday.

“He sort of missed the break right off,” said Whiting. “Then he ended up four wide, and when he came with his big run, he appears to have forgotten one of his shoes. His foot was alright, but it didn’t help him any. He tried to make a rally, but he really used himself up and going four wide in the middle of the track isn’t usually conducive to winning.”

Officer Alex checked in 13 ¼-lengths behind winner Will Take Charge.

Whiting didn’t find anything physically wrong with Lady Stonewall, the 3-year-old filly who ended up finishing almost 10 lengths behind American Sugar’s blowout performance in the six-furlong Dixie Belle. Whiting didn’t point to early traffic trouble for the daughter of Harlan's Holiday but he intimated the timing of her workouts and the week’s delay after the race was cancelled from opening weekend may have been to blame.

“She had a long workout at Churchill just before we left there and then I gave her two half-mile works once we got here,” he said. “It ended up being like 27 or 28 days since we gave her a long workout. I thought her strong suit was going to be her finish. Instead she didn’t have anything to offer. Maybe it was a lack of prep that she needed during that time that led to that.”

Officer Alex mirrored the way Cyber Secret started his 3-year-old campaign last January, with troubled trips that masked his true ability in races like the Southwest and Rebel Stakes. Officer Alex can hope he realizes his potential the way Cyber Secret did Monday in a 4 ¼-length romp in an optional allowance mile race.

“I’m glad he stepped up and ran like I had expected him to,” said Whiting. “I had really thought we were going to have a big fall with him and he just didn’t put it together. I was really happy to see him bring his ‘A’ race.”

Regardless of each horse’s performance, Whiting had the same answer for what would come next.

“We’ll get him (her) back and get to training on them a bit,” he said. “The stakes will stay on the drawing board and we will see where we are at.”

Bug Slugs Brown Almighty

A frustrated trainer Tim Ice reported Brown Almighty, the stakes-winning 3-year-old who finished a disappointing fifth in the Smarty Jones Stakes had a severe lung infection.

“He scoped a five out of five,” Ice confirmed Wednesday, two days after the horse’s Twitter and Facebook accounts reported the test results. The son of Big Brown was making his dirt debut in the Smarty Jones after a successful 2-year-old campaign spent mainly in turf races.

“It was really frustrating because he never showed me any signs of it before the race,” said Ice. “We got him back to the wash stall and he coughed twice standing there. We scoped him and it was pretty severe.”

Ice said Brown Almighty would be treated with antibiotics. Next-race plans are on hold, but they would compare the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 18 and the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 23 depending on how quickly the illness clears.

“We want to run in the Southwest, but it’s going to be a matter of how much time he needs,” said Ice.

American Sugar Returns to Track Wednesday; Martha Washington in Sight

Poindexter Thoroughbreds’ American Sugar, the runaway winner of the Dixie Belle, returned to the track for the first time Wednesday to jog. Trainer Lynn Chleborad reported that the Harlan’s Holiday filly will now be pointed toward the $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes February 9.

“She was perfect this morning,” said Chleborad. “She’s doing excellent. I was afraid not to take her back to the track because she was bouncing around, feeling so good. It’s fun to have a filly that loves to train.”

Since finishing fourth in her career debut, American Sugar is undefeated in sprint races, but only has one third place finish in three attempts at the mile distance. Chleborad is not worried about the extra distance going from the six-furlong Dixie Belle to the one-mile Martha Washington.

“Her mind has really matured,” said Chleborad. “Sometimes with fillies you have to worry about their minds going south. This filly just gets smarter and smarter.