Ride On Curlin Getting Closer to 2015 Debut
Trainer Billy Gowan said on Wednesday morning that he plans to work Ride On Curlin, weather permitting, this weekend at Oaklawn Park in preparation for his 2015 debut.
Gowan said nothing is “set in stone” for the 2014 Arkansas Derby and Preakness runner-up, but the major spring objective for the son of Curlin is the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11.
“He’s doing good,” Gowan said. “We’ll work him a couple more times and try to figure out a spot for him. He’s getting close to running.”
Gowan said Ride On Curlin could resurface in a conditioned allowance spot or await a major local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap. The $100,000 Essex Handicap is Feb. 14.
Ride On Curlin hasn’t started since being eased in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 7.
Gowan said Ride On Curlin was a “tired horse” and needed a break after contesting the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn and all three Triple Crown events.
Gowan said Ride On Curlin resumed training in early October. The colt has had five published workouts since early December, including a 5-furlong move in 1:04.80 Sunday at Oaklawn.
“I was going to give him the time off, one way or the other,” Gowan said. “He needed it. He’s freshened up, and is good to go again.”
Ride On Curlin is among eight horses Gowan, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, has at Oaklawn.
No trainer the last three years at Oaklawn has left the starting gate faster than Cody Autrey. Autrey was 7 of 16 through the first nine days of the 2012 meeting, 8 of 28 through the first 13 days in 2013 and 10 of 25 through the first eight days last year. Those figures represent a gaudy 36.2 winning percentage (25 of 69).
Autrey has returned to Oaklawn with the same formula as previous years. His 28-horse string arrived late last week after previously being based in south Louisiana, at Evangeline Downs Training Center.
“I don’t know if I can do it again,” Autrey said, referring to another quick Oaklawn start. “I’m a little light this year, but we’re ready to run.”
Autrey said he believes keeping his horses in the warmer climate of south Louisiana, in advance of the Oaklawn meet, has contributed to his torrid early season success.
The trainer said the bulk of his stable used the Evangeline Downs Training Center (the old Evangeline Downs racetrack) for at least two months before shipping to Oaklawn.
Autrey said he has about 13 horses for prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers. Autrey’s first scheduled starter of the meeting Friday, No Dishonor, is owned by another Arkansas-based client, Lucky Dog Stables.
Joe Rocco Jr. is named on No Dishonor, but Autrey said he likely won’t be “married” to a rider in 2015.
“I think I’ll probably spread it around a little bit this year,” Autrey said. “There’s nobody here really that I have a rapport with yet, that I feel like riding on everything.”
Autrey was Oaklawn’s co-fourth-leading trainer in 2014 after winning 18 of 112 starts.
Training was delayed two hours Wednesday morning because of cold temperatures. The surface was rated fast. … Oaklawn is scheduled to hold its traditional price rollback promotion Saturday (50-cent corned beef sand-wiches and 10-cent soft drinks). …Saturday’s card features a Maiden Special Weight for straight 3-year-olds going one mile that was split into two divisions with 12 horses in each field. The races are scheduled as the sixth and the ninth.