Thursday, February 12, 2015

All Systems On Go For Asmusssen Duo in the Southwest Stakes
 
Familiarity with his surroundings can only help a young horse, especially one following the Triple Crown trail, so trainer Steve Asmussen decided to leave Bayerd at Oaklawn Park following his second place finish in the Smarty Jones Stakes last month. Now, he hopes that decision will pay dividends when the 3-year-old colt contests Monday's saltier $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). Asmussen won the race last year with Tapiture.
 
"He's doing great,” said Asmussen of Bayerd, who has been in the capable hands of assistant Darren Fleming. “He stayed at Oaklawn and he's trained well coming up to the race. We expect a good effort from him on Monday."
 
Clark Brewster's Bayerd was a two-time stakes winner as a 2-year-old, adding the six-furlong Kip Deville and the Springboard Mile at Remington Park to his resume. After contesting the $150,000 Smarty Jones at one mile and being no match for winner Far Right, he'll be asked to stretch out to 1 1/16 miles.

Asmussen is unconcerned that Bayerd, a son of 2004 champion Sprinter Speightstown and a maternal grandson of 1994 champion Sprinter Cherokee Run, may not possess the pedigree to relish the longer going in Oaklawn's second of three major prep races for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 11. Nonetheless, he said that at this time of year it is essential for the 3-year-olds to demonstrate that they belong with the contenders rather than the pretenders, especially with Kentucky Derby qualifying points (10-4-2-1 for first through fourth place) up for grabs in the Southwest.
 
"They've got to keep getting better, going longer, and they have to keep moving forward," he said. "There's no doubt about it."
 
Asmussen thinks Bayerd is ready for a return match with Far Right and is up to the challenge of the rest of the field, which includes stablemate Bold Conquest, who is making his first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last October.  

"You prepare for who you have in the race and I like where we're running," Asmussen said.

Bold Conquest worked a half-mile in :50.60 Thursday morning at Oaklawn in advance of Monday’s race. The Curlin colt worked from the half-mile pole to the wire about 20 minutes after the track opened. He covered his final quarter-mile in :24.60 under the supervision of Fleming.

Jockey Ramon Vazquez gets the return call on Bayered and two-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is scheduled to ride Bold Conquest in the Southwest.

Also expected to be entered Friday morning are Mr. Z, Majestico, War Story, Far Right, Private Prospect, Kantune, The Truth Or Else and J S Bach.
Passing the Southwest

Instant Replay, a Jan. 19 first-level allowance/optional claiming winner at 1 1/16 miles, will pass the Southwest, trainer Wayne Catalano said Thursday morning. The move comes a day after Instant Replay worked five furlongs in a modest 1:03.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:18.20.

“He’s not up to it,” Catalano said. “He needs a little more time.”

Instant Replay, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, has won 2 of 4 career starts for Catalano and owners Gary and Mary West.

Beast Mode

Trainer Tony Dutrow has started to tighten the screws on Grade 1 winner The Big Beast in preparation for his 4-year-old debut. The colt posted a five-furlong bullet (1:00) about 10 minutes after Oaklawn opened the track for training on a chilly, windy Thursday morning. The Big Beast was paired for the first time with Shaun Bridgmohan, who is scheduled to ride the physically imposing son of Yes It’s True in his comeback race, which Dutrow said will occur around March 1.

Working from the five-furlong pole to the wire, The Big Beast covered his first three furlongs in a leisurely :37.40, but flew home in :22.60 and galloped out six furlongs in a sizzling 1:12.60.

“We got a good workout into the Beast,” Dutrow said. “Everybody’s feeling really good about him, and things are right on schedule. Shaun was very happy with it all.”

Dutrow said The Big Beast’s major spring objective remains the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 9. He hasn’t started since winning the $500,000 King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) Aug. 23 at Saratoga. He had a small bone chip removed from an ankle shortly after the race.
 
Riding Back into Stakes

Following a sparkling comeback victory in allowance/optional claiming company last month at Oaklawn, Ride On Curlin is among eight older horses entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Essex Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. He will be returning to stakes competition - and a two-turn race – for the first time since last June’s Belmont Stakes.

“That’s probably going to be his best lick, two turns, a mile, a mile and a sixteenth, trainer Billy Gowan said Thursday morning.
 
Ride On Curlin launched his 4-year-old campaign with a head victory at six furlongs Jan. 15. The son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin ran the distance in 1:10.40 to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. It was the second victory in five Oaklawn starts for Ride On Curlin, who is owned by Daniel Dougherty of Louisville, Ky.

Dougherty has traveled to Arkansas to watch all of Ride On Curlin’s races, including a runner-up finish in last year’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

“I just told Billy this morning that sitting home waiting for the races to happen is hard,” Dougherty said.

The Essex field from the rail out, with jockeys and weights: Joy Boy, Ramon Vazquez, 116; Rocket Time, Calvin Borel, 117; I Got It All, Channing Hill, 116; Code West, Chris Landeros, 118; For Greater Glory, Joe Rocco Jr. 114; Luv Bandit, Shaun Bridgmohan, 114; Ride On Curlin, Jon Court, 119; and Golden Lad, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117.

Carve was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the Essex, but passed the race to await the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 14, trainer Brad Cox said. Ride On Curlin is the co-second high weight of the 26 horses nominated.
 
Finish Lines

Arkansas Derby candidate I Spent It will work this weekend in preparation for his 3-year-old debut. Trainer Tony Dutrow said he’s looking to go a half-mile with I Spent It, who is under consideration for the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 21. … Trainer Steve Asmussen said it is still too early to know when and where last year’s Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture will make his 4-year-old debut, although the March 14 Razorback (G3) and/or April 11 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) could be logical choices for the multiple stakes winner, who closed out 2014 by finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.  “He's just had three breezes back. We haven't mapped out any plans for him as of yet,” said Asmusssen Texas Bling, who beat eventual champion Will Take Charge in the $300,000 Springboard Mile Stakes in December 2012 at Remington Park, worked a half-mile in :48.40 after the break Thursday morning. Trainer Danele Durham said it was the 5-year-old’s first work since undergoing throat surgery. Texas Bling hasn’t started since finishing 10th in a Dec. 12 allowance race at Remington. … There are 10 races Saturday, including a maiden-allowance sprint for 3-year-olds brought back after it was canceled last Saturday because of mechanical problems involving both starting gates. … Pink Shoes, 23, winner of Oaklawn’s Martha Washington Stakes in 1995, died of natural causes Monday night in Kentucky, said Pat Tanner, racing manager for the mare’s breeder/owner, Patricia Blass of Little Rock, Ark. Pink Shoes was the dam of the Blass-campaigned Oaklawn stakes winners Isabell’s Shoes (2005 Martha Washington) and Prom Shoes (2008 Fifth Season and 2009 Essex) and another stakes winner, Wildcat Shoes. Tanner said Pink Shoes retired as broodmare about four years ago.

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