Ride On Curlin Makes 4-Year-Old Debut Thursday

Trainer Billy Gowan had several options for Ride On Curlin’s 4-year-old debut, but he decided to take what he believes is the path of least resistance – a second-level allowance sprint in Thursday’s ninth race at Oaklawn Park.

“He’s eligible for the condition,” Gowan said after watching Ride On Curlin gallop 1 ¼ miles Tuesday under regular exercise rider Bryan Beccia. “He’s been off a long time, so I didn’t have to train him too hard to get him fit to go short. Plus, he set a track record going 5 ½, so he’s pretty fast, anyway. This seemed like a good spot back for him.”

After being eased in the Belmont Stakes June 7, Ride On Curlin was freshened before returning to training in late October. The Belmont was part of a grueling seven-race campaign in the first half of 2014 for Ride On Curlin, who also ran second in the Preakness and Arkansas Derby, third in the Rebel and Southwest and seventh in the Kentucky Derby.

The son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin began 2014 by winning an entry-level allowance sprint at Oak-lawn. In his second career start, Ride On Curlin - as a 2-year-old - ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03 to set a track record at Ellis Park in Kentucky.

Gowan, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, said Ride On Curlin has flourished physically since last winter.

“Going from 3 to 4, he should grow,” Gowan said. “And he did. He grew a lot. When I turned him out, he just really filled out.”

Owner Daniel Dougherty of Louisville, Ky., who reportedly turned down a seven-figure offer for Ride On Curlin as a 2-year-old, said he is anxious to see his colt return to action.

“I’d like to see him win,” said Dougherty, who has traveled to Arkansas to watch all of Ride On Curlin’s races. “But, Hoppertunity didn’t win the first time out and came back to win two big stakes races. You just don’t know. Commissioner got beat last week. I just want to see him run good, but I certainly wouldn’t mind getting a check.”

Gowan said Thursday’s race could serve as a prep for the $100,000 Essex Handicap Feb. 14 or the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 14. The major spring target, Gowan said, is the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11.

“The ultimate goal is to win a Grade I with him,” Gowan said. “That’s what I would really like to do. Just one step at a time.”
Jon Court has the call on Ride On Curlin, who is scheduled to break from post 6 in the 12-horse field.

Probable post time for Thursday’s ninth race is 4:48 p.m. (Central).
 
Color by Numbers

The color scheme for Oaklawn’s indoor paddock was dramatically changed during the offseason.

Stall walls are now blue, with rails now a light grey. The walls had previously been green and the trim blue.

Stall numbers have also been painted to correspond with color-coded saddle towels horses wear – No. 1 (red), No. 6 (black), No. 7 (orange), etc.

“I think the new colors really open up the area,” Oaklawn Director of Racing David Longinotti said.

In addition, Oaklawn will use a new robotic camera for shots of the north side of the paddock (normally covering stalls 9-12).
 
Place Your Bets

There are no changes to the wagering menu for Oaklawn’s 54-day live season that begins Thursday.

But, Oaklawn’s request to reduce the minimum number of betting interests required to offer trifecta and super-fecta wagering was approved in September by the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Bobby Geiger, Oaklawn’s Director of Gaming and Wagering, said the changes bring Oaklawn “more in line” with jurisdictions like New York and California.

Trifectas, which require bettors to select the first three finishers in order, can now be offered if at least five bet-ting interests are carded.

If four betting interests are carded, or scratches after trifecta wagering opens reduce the race to four betting in-terests, trifecta wagering can still be allowed.

The previous minimums were six and five betting interests, respectively.

There will be no trifecta wagering on races with fewer than four betting interests in 2015. The previous mini-mum had been five.

The minimum number of betting interests required to offer superfecta wagering has been lowered from eight to six.

If five betting interests are carded, or scratches reduce the field to five, superfectas can still be offered.

Superfectas require bettors to select the first four finishers in exact order.
 
On the Tube

Geiger said the track is entering the second year of a two-year deal with TVG, the Los Angeles-based interactive horse racing channel.

Under terms of the deal, Geiger said TVG is contractually obligated to air at least 65 percent of Oaklawn’s race live during the 54-day season that ends April 11.

Geiger said more than 65 percent of Oaklawn’s races during the 2014 Oaklawn meeting were shown live by TVG, which is available to more than 30 million pay television households across the country.

Oaklawn track announcer Frank Mirahmadi is a frequent contributor to TVG, including its coverage of Oaklawn.

Geiger said another channel dedicated to equine sports, HRTV, has the rights to air Oaklawn’s races, but there is no contractual minimum obligation.

Finish Lines

Training began at 11 a.m. Wednesday, four hours later than normal, because of freezing temperatures. … Multiple stakes winner Alsvid worked a half-mile in :48.60 shortly after the track opened. … Shelby Wilkes, the daughter of trainer Ian Wilkes and fiancé of jockey Chris Landeros, is working the Oaklawn Anywhere information booth adjacent to the paddock on the first floor. Oaklawn Anywhere is the track’s advance deposit wagering site.