Oaklawn News

Oaklawn Report by Robert Yates

Jennifer Hoyt, jhoyt@oaklawn.com (501) 623-4411 ex. 497

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rainbow Stakes winner Weast Hill Ready to Take Next Step

Unbeaten Arkansas-bred Weast Hill is scheduled to face the biggest challenge of his young career in the $100,000 William Walker Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters Saturday at Churchill Downs. The inaugural William Walker, which has a probable post time of 8:05 p.m. (Central), has drawn a strong field of six, including unbeaten multiple graded stakes winner Blofeld, who will be making his 3-year-old debut for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Weast Hill, a Rockport Harbor gelding bred and owned by Starsky Weast of Star City, Ark., was an impressive winner of both career starts at Oaklawn. He debuted with a 7 ½-length victory Feb. 26, then was a 3 ½-length winner of $75,000 Rainbow Stakes March 29. Weast Hill’s winning time for the 6-furlong Rainbow (1:09.85) was the second-fastest in race history. He (8-1 on the morning line) will be facing open company for the first time Saturday.

“It’s ambitious,” trainer Brad Cox said. “We’re just trying to see if he can compete with those horses. Obviously, Todd’s horse is a nice horse. But he’s also coming off a layoff, too. Not that Todd wouldn’t have him ready, but if we’re going to be able to run with him, now would be the time, I guess.”

Weast Hill, who has led at every point of call in both races, is scheduled to break from post 5 under Jesus Castanon. In addition to 7-5 program favorite Blofeld, he will be facing multiple stakes winner Cinco Charlie (2-1).
Cinco Charlie was the program favorite for the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 21, but scratched to look for another spot, trainer Steve Asmussen said. He is scheduled to break from post 4 under three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.

Also entered is Henry Jones, an April 1 Oaklawn entry-level allowance winner for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Back to Work

Mr. Z, in his first breeze since finishing third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Kentucky Derby. His time was the fourth-fastest of 20 works recorded at the distance. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas worked Mr. Z with 3-year-old male stablemate Majestico, who also wintered at Oaklawn.

Mr. Z started about a length behind Majestico and finished even following splits of :12.80, :25, :37 and :48.60, according to Churchill Downs. Majestico was credited with 5 furlongs in 1:01.20.

Lukas also worked Mr. Z and Majestico together Jan. 12, a week before the two colts made their 3-year-old debuts. Majestico ran fifth in an entry-level allowance/optional claimer Jan. 19, while Mr. Z finished a troubled third in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes about 30 minutes later.

Both colts received a 5-furlong bullet (1:01.20) Jan. 12, when Mr. Z worked inside his stablemate. Mr. Z was outside Majestico Wednesday.

Mr. Z and Majestico also ran third and sixth, respectively, in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 22. Majestico hasn’t started since running fifth in the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes April 15 at Keeneland.

Arkansas Derby winner American Pharoah and runner-up Far Right are scheduled to work later this week at Churchill Downs.
Ricardo Returns

Three-time Oaklawn jockey champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is scheduled to resume riding later this week in Kentucky.

Santana hasn’t ridden since April 8 because of pneumonia, but is named on one horse Friday at Keeneland and six for Saturday’s opening-day card at the Churchill Downs spring/summer meeting, including Cinco Charlie for trainer Steve Asmussen in the $100,000 William Walker Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Santana captured his first Churchill Downs riding title at last year’s September meeting.
Rocket Man

Prominent Arkansas businessman Frank Fletcher purchased a son of the late champion Summer Bird for $500,000 during Wednesday’s second session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Fletcher, whose major goal as an owner is to win the Arkansas Derby, said the unnamed colt will be sent to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert in Southern California. The chestnut colt is from the second crop of Summer Bird, who died in late 2013 (colic) while standing stud in Japan.

Fletcher said he hopes to name the colt, who breezed an eighth of a mile in :10 during the April 14 under tack preview, “Big Red Rocket.”

Bidding on behalf of Fletcher was bloodstock agent Donato Lanni, who has unearthed many of Baffert’s best young horses in recent years.

“Donato had him vetted, and in his opinion, he was the best colt in the entire sale,” said Fletcher, who was in Arkansas Wednesday. “I thought he’d probably go for $700,000, $800,000, but there weren’t that many people down there.”

Champion Lookin At Lucky, Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Secret Circle, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern and unbeaten Dortmund, one of the favorites for this year’s Kentucky Derby, are among the horses Lanni has delivered to Baffert.

Lanni also found Wolf Man Rocket for Fletcher at the same Ocala 2-year-old sale last year. Purchased for $550,000, the son of Mineshaft finished second in his first two career starts for Baffert this year at Santa Anita before shipping to Oaklawn and breaking his maiden in the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 11.

“Bob Baffert and I both think we’ve got a real horse in Wolf Man Rocket,” Fletcher said. “Bob said if I was patient that he would win a big race with that horse.”

Fletcher said he also plans to be active at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic 2-year-old in training sale May 18-19 in Maryland. Lanni, on behalf of owner Kaleem Shah, purchased Dortmund for $140,000 at last year’s Midlantic sale.

“We’re going to hook up with Donato at every sale he goes to,” Fletcher said.

Summer Bird broke his maiden at Oaklawn in 2009 before running third in the Arkansas Derby. Summer Bird went on to earn an Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old male after winning the Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup – all Grade I events.
Finish Lines

Texas Air and Evan’s Calling, both allowance winners at this year’s Oaklawn meeting, are entered in Friday’s $200,000 Texas Mile (G3) at Lone Star. Probable post time is 9:51 p.m. (Central). … Unbeaten I’m Workin On It, a two-time Oaklawn winner, is scheduled to make her stakes debut in the $75,000 Goldfinch for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Prairie Meadows. Oaklawn maiden winners Easter Indy and Ten Kittens are also entered in the 6-furlong race. … Race Day, who has emerged as one of the country’s top older males this spring, is under consideration for the $1,250,000 Met Mile (G1) June 6 at Belmont Park and the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) June 13 at Churchill Downs, owner Matt Schera said. Race Day earned a career-high 110 Beyer Speed Figure for winning the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11. He also won the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 14. … Oaklawn Handicap runner-up Carve is pointing for the $200,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (G3) May 25, trainer Brad Cox said. … Next-race plans are still pending for Wolf Man Rocket, who, as a maiden, won the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes for 3-year-olds April 11, owner Frank Fletcher said. Wolf Man Rocket is now with trainer Bob Baffert’s Churchill Downs string, Fletcher said. … Get Happy Mister, who wintered at Oaklawn in 2013 and won the closing-day $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes, captured Sunday’s $100,000 San Simeon Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Get Happy Mister, trained during the 2013 Oaklawn meeting by Kelly Von Hemel, has won 11 of 14 lifetime starts.