Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Southwest Rematch Will Have to Wait

The top three finishers in Sunday’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn are headed in different directions. Far Right, a three-quarter length winner over The Truth Or Else in the 1 1/16-mile race, will make his next start in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, trainer Ron Moquett said Wednesday morning.

By training up to the Arkansas Derby, Far Right will skip the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14, which is the next scheduled start for the Truth Or Else, trainer Kenny McPeek said. Mr. Z, beaten a nose for second in the Southwest, will make his next start in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) March 28 at Fair Grounds, owner Ahmed Zayat said Tuesday.

Far Right became the first horse to win both the Southwest and the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (Jan. 19) since the one-mile race was added in 2008 to kick off Oaklawn’s series of Kentucky Derby prep races. Moquett said the plan entering 2015 was to run Far Right three times at Oaklawn in hopes of having a fresh horse for the Kentucky Derby, adding the Southwest being delayed six days because of winter weather wasn’t a major factor in bypassing the Rebel.

“We decided to try to not just get there (to the Kentucky Derby), but get there with enough healthy horse to do some damage,” Moquett said. “We’re trying to get there with the most horse.”

Moquett said Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode Far Right in the Smarty Jones and Southwest, has committed to ride the Notional colt in the Arkansas Derby. The trainer said Far Right went back to the track for the first time since the Southwest on a snowy Wednesday morning.

“We jogged him just to stretch his legs,” Moquett said. “It was actually a day early. It was good.”

The Truth Or Else closed from far back (last by 14 ¼ lengths after a quarter-mile) to just miss after taking a narrow lead in deep stretch.

“He ran a good race,” McPeek said Wednesday morning.

Mr. Z, the 2-1 favorite, sprinted to a clear early lead, but couldn’t hold off The Truth Or Else on the outside or Far Right, who came up the rail, in the final furlong. The colt broke from the extreme outside (post 11), a spot 0 for 20 in route races at the meeting.

“I thought he ran a hell of a race,” Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said moments after the Southwest.

Zayat’s son, Justin, racing and stallion manager for Zayat Stables, said Mr. Z will race without blinkers in the Louisiana Derby.

Zayat Stables is scheduled to be represented by American Pharoah in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, which would mark the 2015 debut of the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male.
 
Straddling the Fence

Champion Take Charge Brandi is “50-50” to make her next start in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7, the 3-year-old filly’s owner, Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark., said early Wednesday afternoon. Horton said his preference is for Take Charge Brandi to challenge males in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14.

The 1 1/16-mile Rebel is expected to attract American Pharoah, the country’s champion 2-year-old male last year, and The Truth Or Else, runner-up in Sunday’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). Take Charge Brandi won an Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old filly, and the Rebel would be her first race against males.

“I guess we’re going to have to look at it and see,” Horton said. “I haven’t completely made up my mind yet, but I would like to run in the Rebel. That’s exactly where I’d like to.”

Horton said he will confer with the filly’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, before a decision is made, which the owner believes will come by the middle of next week. Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee will be drawn March 4.

Take Charge Brandi, in her 3-year-old debut, won the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 by a head. Lukas has said for weeks that Take Charge Brandi would run in the Honeybee, but he’s also pointing the swift Super Saks for the race.
 
Million Dollar Man

Two-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. became the first jockey at the meeting to surpass $1 million in purse earnings when he guided Bold Conquest to a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s eighth race, the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds. Santana ($1,003,429) reached the milestone in the 25th day of racing. Santana reached $1 million in purse earnings during the 24th day of racing last year and finished with a meet-high $2,561,193.

Santana, 22, is Oaklawn’s leading jockey this year with 26 victories. He is trying to become the first jockey to win three consecutive riding championships at Oaklawn since Hall of Famer Pat Day won 12 consecutive titles (1983-1994).

Shaun Bridgmohan ranks second in victories (21) and purse earnings ($694,904) at the meeting.
 
Finish Lines

Three-time Oaklawn training champion Kenny Smith recorded his 995th career winner in Saturday’s second race with Myrna Anne. … Trainer Ron Moquett said Gentlemen’s Bet, third in his Feb. 14 allowance/optional claimer comeback race, is a “possibility” for the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 7. “We’re going to see what the weather does between now and then,” Moquett said Wednesday morning. “It will either be an allowance race or the Hot Springs.” Gentlemen’s Bet hadn’t started since finishing third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint because of a foot injury. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is the ultimate 2015 goal for Gentlemen’s Bet, Moquett said. … High Dollar Woman was sent to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. (physical examination) following what owner Alex Lieblong termed a disappointing half-mile breeze in blinkers Feb. 14. The 3-year-old daughter of Super Saver finished a well-beaten fifth in her 2015 debut, the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31.


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