Nov. 21, 2013
The word is out! The horsemen want to run for Oaklawn’s record $20 million in purses and know that if they have a good 3-year-old, the best place to prepare for the Triple Crown is right here in Hot Springs. This has been evident in the demand for stall space for the 2014 season, which has never been greater. Racing Secretary Pat Pope and Stall Superintendent Beverly Fowler had the Herculean task of sorting through nearly 3,000 stall applications for the 1,550 stalls available and assigning them based on what will give Oaklawn the most competitive races.
Among the horsemen allotted stalls for the season are five-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Ken McPeek, Dale Romans, Steve Hobby, Donnie K. Von Hemel, Phil Sims, Ron Moquett, Randy Morse and Kenny Smith and newcomers Mark Casse, Rusty Arnold and Gary Simms, Wayne Catalano and Kellyn Gorder.
Lukas, who had a major impact on Oaklawn’s 3-year-old program in 2013 with eventual Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Will Take Charge and Preakness winner Oxbow, figures to once again play an important role in the tracks marquee races. Will Take Charge, who races for Arkansas native Willis D. Horton, will return as a 4-year-old during the meet and Lukas has big plans for Grade 1 winning juvenile Strong Mandate, who will make his 3-year-old at Oaklawn.
Other fan favorites that are expected to return in 2014 are Apple Blossom winner On Fire Baby, Pippin and Bayakoa Stakes winner Don’t Tell Sophia, Essex and Oaklawn Handicap winner Cyber Secret, owned by Oaklawn President Charles Cella, and top sprinter Gentlemen’s Bet, who ended his 2013 campaign with a third in the Breeders’ Cup sprint.
Oaklawn’s barn area opened Nov. 11 and the track opened Nov. 18 with just over 50 horses on the grounds. That number had nearly doubled by Nov. 21 and it won’t take long for all the horses to arrive.