Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunday’s Rescheduled Southwest Looking Like a 10-horse Field

Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope said Wednesday morning that he believes 10 of the 12 horses originally entered in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds will be re-entered for Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile race.

Post positions for the Southwest, Oaklawn’s second major prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, will be drawn Thursday morning. The Southwest was originally scheduled to be run Monday, but was postponed six days because of severe winter weather. Winter weather also forced Oaklawn to postpone the Southwest in 2006 and 2010. The race was moved from Monday to the following Saturday both years.

Oaklawn officials had hoped to run the Southwest on Saturday again this year, but opted for Sunday after horses weren’t able to get on the track for training Tuesday because of frigid temperatures. The track reopened for training Wednesday afternoon.

Expected for the Southwest are Far Right, Private Prospect, Bayerd, The Truth Or Else, Kantune, Phenomenal Phoenix, Majestico, Bold Conquest, Mr. Z and Bold Animaux. Original Southwest entrants War Story and J S Bach are entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Far Right will again be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, the colt’s co-owner, Harry Rosenblum, said Wednesday morning. Smith guided Far Right to a 1 ¾-length victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 19. Corey Nakatani, despite the six-day delay, will still ride Mr. Z for the first time in the Southwest, said Justin Zayat, racing and stallion manager for the colt’s owner, Zayat Stables, LLC. Far Right was the 3-1 program favorite for Monday’s scheduled race. Mr. Z was the early 7-2 second choice.

Pope said the delay could open the door for a couple of other entrants, notably unbeaten Hillbilly Royalty. Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Wednesday morning that Hillbilly Royalty is now under consideration for the Southwest.

“With another week, anybody who had run within the last 13 days, now they’re looking at 20 days,” Pope said. “It seems like another chapter in the horse’s life when you go another week.”

Owned by country music superstar Toby Keith, Hillbilly Royalty was a front-running 4 ½-length allowance/optional claiming winner Feb. 6. He breezed a half-mile in :49 on Sunday morning.
 
At Least One More

Shadwell Stable’s Mufajaah will be pointed for the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14, postponing retirement at least one more race, the 4-year-old filly’s trainer, Dan Peitz, said Tuesday morning. Peitz said if Mufajaah wins the Azeri, she would then be pointed for the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 10.

Mufajaah has emerged as Oaklawn’s top older female runner this year following victories in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 and Sunday’s $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3). Peitz said Shadwell’s owner, Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, likes to breed his 4-year-old fillies, but Mufajaah has continued to postpone a date with the breeding shed because of how well she’s run this winter.

Peitz said the decision not to retire Mufajaah was made after talking with Rick Nichols, Shadwell Farm’s vice president and general manager.

“She loves it here,” Peitz said. “She really likes the cold weather.”

Mufajaah increased her career earnings to $237,140 by winning the Bayakoa, her fifth victory in 12 starts overall. But, she is 4 of 6 at Oaklawn, also breaking her maiden and winning an entry-level allowance/optional claimer last year. Her only poor performance in Hot Springs came in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) when she finished sixth after Peitz wheeled her back in 13 days.

Sheikh Hamdan, Dubai’s Deputy Ruler and Minister of Finance and Industry for the United Arab Emirates, purchased Mufajaah for $375,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She is by Tapit, among the world’s most influential stallions, out of Carolyn’s Cat, a multiple graded stakes winner.

Peitz said Mufajaah’s value as a broodmare prospect has increased because of her two stakes victories, particularly the Bayakoa since it was graded for the first time this year.

“It might encourage them to breed her to a little better stallion, but they go pretty high market anyway,” Peitz said. “Being a Tapit, it’s pretty good position to be in.”
 
Rebel Yell

Racing secretary Pat Pope said he believes a split allowance race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Thursday (races 8-9) could produce a handful of starters for the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14. Among the horses entered in the races are Tappin Vegas, Sakima, Holiday Man, Poseidon’s Way, Tekton and Conquest Curlinate.

Tappin Vegas, a gray son of Tapit, is scheduled to make his first start around two turns after winning his Jan. 29 career debut for owner Mercedes Stables LLC and trainer Robertino Diodoro, who has a string at Oaklawn for the first time in 2015.

“He had always shown a lot of promise in the morning,” said assistant trainer Rob Atras, who oversees Diodoro’s Oaklawn division. “We liked him. He’s a Tapit, so he’s a little bit of a high strung kind of horse. But, since he’s been running, he’s seemed to settle down and seems a lot more focused. He knows what he’s here for now. He ran professionally in his first race, and I think a route of ground will be even better for him.”

Atras is listed as the trainer of record for Tappin Vegas because Diodoro began a 15-day suspension Monday for a medication violation late last year at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

Citing reciprocity, Arkansas state steward Stan Bowker said Diodoro isn’t allowed on Oaklawn grounds during his suspension. Diodoro, who is based at Turf Paradise and also has a division at Santa Anita this winter, was in Hot Springs to saddle unbeaten 3-year-old Subtle Indian for his Jan. 23 first-level allowance/optional claiming victory. Atras said Subtle Indian is scheduled to make his next start in the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 21.

Finish Lines

Trainer Phil Sims said four-time Oaklawn stakes winner Don’t Tell Sophia, who returned to her Kentucky base Feb. 4, has received a clean bill of health and is training at Keeneland. Sims, who also co-owns Don’t Tell Sophia, said she could return to Oaklawn for the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14 and/or the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 10. The $100,000 Doubledogdare (G3) April 17 is also a possibility, Sims said, adding the Breeders’ Cup Distaff is the ultimate 2015 goal for Don’t Tell Sophia, who ran second in last year’s race. Keeneland will host the Breeders’ Cup this year. … Courageous Julie was retired following a ninth-place finish in Sunday’s $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) and will be bred to Paynter, said Justin Zayat, racing and stallion manager for Zayat Stables, LLC, which campaigned the 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile filly. Courageous Julie, who broke her maiden last February at Oaklawn, won 4 of 18 career starts and $179,466. Zayat Stables also raced Paynter. … There have been 165 claims totaling $2,488,750 through the first 21 days of the meeting.
 
 
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