Saturday’s $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn has lured a field of eight 3-year-olds, including 5-2 program favorite Hillbilly Royalty. Bred and owned by country music star Toby Keith (Dream Walkin Farms), Hillbilly Royalty enters the one-mile Northern Spur with a 2-0-0 record from three lifetime starts.
After winning his first two career starts, Hillbilly Royalty finished fifth, beaten only 4 ¾ lengths, in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 22. Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel opted to take Hillbilly Royalty off the Arkansas Derby path following the Southwest and point for the Northern Spur.
“After we ran in the Southwest, it just made more sense to try this spot as opposed to one of the graded stakes,” Von Hemel said.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is scheduled to ride Hillbilly Royalty for the first time in the Northern Spur. The Langfuhr gelding drew post 3.
Von Hemel also entered Poseidon’s Way, a winner of 2 of 4 lifetime starts. Poseidon’s Way is coming off a runner-up finish behind Northern Spur entrant Holiday Man in a March 20 allowance race. A Triple Crown nominee, Holiday Man has won half his lifetime starts for trainer Steve Asmussen, and earned a career-high 90 Beyer Speed Figure for his March 20 victory at 1 1/16 miles.
“I thought he ran a really good race,” Asmussen said.
The balance of the field is completed by Bubba Roan, Hillbilly Royalty, Supermason, Big Big Easy and Wolf Man Rocket. Wolf Man Rocket, a $550,000 2-year-old in training purchase by owner Frank Fletcher of North Little Rock, Ark., is winless in two career starts this year at Santa Anita.
Wolf Man Rocket, a son of Mineshaft, is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and arrived Wednesday with champion American Pharoah, the 1-2 program favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
The complete field for the $100,000 Northern Spur, in post position order, with riders and morning line odds: Bubba Roan, Calvin Borel, 15-1; Hillbilly Style, Ramon Vazquez, 15-1; Hillbilly Royalty, Mike Smith, 5-2; Supermason, Jesus Castanon, 5-1; Big Big Easy, Channing Hill, 8-1; Holiday Man, Ricardo Santana Jr., 7-2; Poseidon’s Way, Luis Quinonez, 9-2 and Wolf Man Rocket, Victor Espinoza, 4-1.