Feb. 1, 2014
Rose to Gold to Return to Oaklawn
One year ago today, Oaklawn fans got their first glimpse of Florida invader Rose to Gold when she finished second in the Martha Washington Stakes. In her next start, she won the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and then secured her spot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with a runaway victory in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). Now four, Rose to Gold and her connections are eyeing a return to Hot Springs for Oaklawn’s rich stakes for older fillies and mares later in the meet.
“We are thinking of coming to the Azeri (G2) and the Apple Blossom (G1),” said trainer Sal Santoro. “She really liked Oaklawn. I’m just guessing because who really knows what a horse likes, but the environment, the weather, the change of scenery, and the track there seemed to be right for her. She had a second (in the Martha Washington) and two wins, all in stakes, in three trips there so that’s not too bad.”
Rose to Gold turned out to be a steal for owner and coffee mogul Alex Centofanti, who bought her as a 2-year-old for the rock bottom price of $1,400 along with about 24 other horses at the Fasig-Tipton February mixed sale in 2011. Centofanti had pinhooking in mind for her, but she failed to meet her reserve of $10,000 at the Ocala Breeders Sale six months later. That was the classic blessing in disguise.
Now on the verge of becoming a millionaire with $963,509 in earnings, she most recently won the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Jan. 25, her first victory since the Fantasy. After an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, it was discovered that she had chips two of her ankles and two of her knees that required surgery in May. She returned to her Calder base last July and made two starts in stakes on the turf before returning to the main track in her last start.
“The turf definitely did her some good,” said Santoro. “It didn’t do anything for her catalogue page but it served its purpose. She means a lot to the owners and to me. It’s difficult to put into words, but she’s very, very special.”
Should Rose to Gold return to Hot Springs as planned, she will have another Oaklawn loving horse to contend with. On Fire Baby, the defending Apple Blossom Handicap winner, recently returned to trainer Gary Hartlage’s barn after a freshening at the Eisaman Training Center in Ocala, FL and her connections hope to make both the Azeri and Apple Blossom this meet. Hartlage said he is currently watching the weather and track condition to determine On Fire Baby’s first work at Oaklawn.
Apprentice Jockey Erin Walker to Make Debut Sunday
Apprentice Jockey Erin Walker has been riding horses for as long as she can remember, but Sunday she will take her riding career to a whole new level when she embarks on a career as a jockey in the fourth race aboard Randy Patterson’s Pylorus, trained by Randy Morse.
Walker, a native of Newport News, Virginia, didn’t grow up in a racing family, but her mother rode for pleasure and had her daughter in the saddle at an early age. She grew up riding and showing and as soon as she graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 2007 with a business degree she began her professional riding career as a show jumper.
Three years ago, friends asked Walker to try galloping a few horses preparing for the Two-Year-Old in Training Sales in Ocala and her career in the Thoroughbred racing business began. She had already built up quite a reputation in the show world for her ability to find and develop young horses and several owners with both jumpers and race horses encouraged her to try her hand with the race horses. Among the top show horses she trained early in their careers were the Top Medium Pony in the country and a jumper she sold that competed in the Olympics for Columbia.
“I think my time riding show horses gives me an advantage,” said Walker. “I know how a horse is supposed to feel underneath me. I know when they are comfortable or not and I have the hands. I’ve been able to work with a lot of babies that have gone on to do big things in both showing and racing.”
From Ocala, she went to Saratoga to get experience riding older horses and after some time in New York, she went to Churchill Downs and eventually made her way to Hot Springs. She has worked as an exercise rider for Christophe Clement, Tony Dutrow, Steve Asmussen and Mark Casse. Several of the Thoroughbred babies she broke are running in stakes races Saturday. Uncle Sigh runs in the Withers at Aqueduct and Sushi Empire runs in the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita.
“I feel like I’m ready to do this,” said Walker. “I think it’s something I can be good at. I’m most content when I’m on a horse. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. This is just something that makes me happy. I’m really thankful to Randy and the owner for giving me the chance.”