Sunday, March 01, 2015

Take Charge Brandi to Work Monday; Next Race Still Uncertain

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he hopes to breeze champion Take Charge Brandi Monday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for her next start, possibly against males in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14.

“At this point,” Lukas said late Sunday morning, he still plans to enter Take Charge Brandi in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies, a move that will allow he and owner Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark., more time to analyze the prospective Rebel field. Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee will be drawn Wednesday morning. Horton has said his preference is to test his Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly against males in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel.

Take Charge Brandi galloped Thursday morning, but the track was closed for training Friday and Saturday. Lukas had mentioned working Take Charge Brandi this weekend, but decided not take any of his horses to the track Sunday morning when Oaklawn reopened for training. The surface was rated muddy Sunday by clockers.

“We’ll work tomorrow if the track’s good,” Lukas said. “If it isn’t, then we won’t work at all.”

Despite not going to the track the last three days, Lukas said the interruption won’t impact Take Charge Brandi’s next start, whether it’s the Honeybee or Rebel.

“You’re always concerned about setbacks this time of the year, but a day or two doesn’t make any difference,” Lukas said. “But you’d like to run on the day you train for.”

Take Charge Brandi won the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 in her 3-year-old debut.
 
New venue for Fires

Veteran Oaklawn trainer Jinks Fires continues to watch his horses train in the morning from the grandstand after undergoing surgery on his left ear late last month. Fires, 74, is normally on the track atop his pony during training hours, but said he was treated for basal cell carcinoma - the most common form of skin cancer - during an approximate 10-hour procedure Feb. 19 at a Hot Springs dermatology clinic.

“They’re pretty sure they got it all,” Fires said Saturday morning. “Man, they hulled me out like an oyster. They cut on me all day long. I didn’t even get to see my horses run that day.”

Fires said he believed his visit would last only an hour, but his stay ran from roughly 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. He said the cancer likely formed from prolonged exposure to the sun, noting that he drives 30,000 to 50,000 miles annually to train and race his horses.

“The sun beams right through that window real hard,” Fires said. “But, I grew up in northeast Arkansas and worked in the field all my life.”

Fires said the cancer was detected after a scab fell off, leaving a small red spot. His left ear remains covered by a large white bandage.

“I’ll probably have to keep it covered, probably forever – a long time, anyway,” Fires said.

Watching from the grandstand, Fires said, has been a relief because of bitter cold that has gripped Oaklawn the last couple of weeks, but he’s anxious to return to his normal routine. Fires said he hopes to resume riding his pony soon.

“The jarring hurts me a little bit,” Fires said. “Weather like this, that thing is so tender. The air gets through that real quick. You wouldn’t see me in the grandstand, if it wasn’t for this. I feel a lot better when I’m out there on a horse. I feel like I’m getting more accomplished out there than I do in the grandstand.”

A native of Rivervale, Ark., Fires has saddled 1,410 winners since 1968, according to Equibase, including Archarcharch in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2011. He is the older brother of retired Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires.
 
Rulings

Jockey Emmanuel Esquivel began serving a three-day riding suspension Saturday for an incident on the second turn of the seventh race Feb. 21. Stewards cited Esquivel for allowing his mount, Raagheb, “to drift to the outside without being clear” at the three-eighths pole, causing Rue de Grande to clip heels.

Raagheb was disqualified from second and placed ninth, behind original ninth-place finisher Rue de Grande, in the 1 1/16-mile maiden-allowance race for 3-year-olds. Esquivel, riding at Oaklawn for the first time this year, is only 3 for 65 at the meet. But two of his victories have come in stakes – $100,000 Pippin and $100,000 Bayakoa (G3) – aboard Mufajaah.

Although Oaklawn canceled racing Saturday because of winter weather, Esquivel will still be credited for serving one day of his suspension, association steward John Ferrara said.

Two-time defending Oaklawn champion jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. is appealing a three-day riding suspension scheduled to begin Thursday, state steward Stan Bowker said. Stewards cited Santana for allowing his mount, Huggins and Kissin, to drift in without being clear shortly after the start of the third race Feb. 22, and causing a chain reaction of interference. Huggins and Kissin was disqualified from second and placed ninth in the sprint for $25,000 Arkansas-bred claiming fillies and mares. Santana tops all riders at the meet in victories (28) and purse earnings ($1,032,234).
 
Finish Lines

Mufajaah recorded a half-mile bullet (:48) just after the track opened Sunday morning for trainer Dan Peitz in preparation for the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14. … Sugar Shock, also scheduled to make her next start in the Azeri, worked 6 furlongs in 1:16.20 Sunday morning for trainer Doug Anderson. Regular rider Channing Hill was aboard. … Sarah Sis, scheduled to run in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3), worked five furlongs Sunday morning in 1:03.80 for trainer Ingrid Mason. … Multiple stakes winner Ivan Fallunovalot and Grade 2 winner I Spent It were scheduled to work after Sunday’s fourth race. Ivan Fallunovalot is scheduled to run in Saturday’s $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes; I Spent It is a candidate for the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 21 for his 3-year-old debut. … Oaklawn was open for training from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (Central) Sunday. Oaklawn is normally open from 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m., but training hours were impacted Sunday because of lingering winter weather. The surface was rated muddy for workouts. … Trainer Bret Calhoun said unbeaten Promise Me Silver is “possible” for the Honeybee. … Multiple stakes winner Boji Moon has just resumed galloping at Oaklawn after suffering a “freak” ankle injury last summer, trainer Chris Richard said, adding he’s eyeing a midsummer comeback for the 4-year-old gelding, unbeaten in four career sprint starts. Boji Moon, in his only start last year, won a second-level allowance race at Oaklawn before being scratched from the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes (he was 2-1 program favorite) because of a foot problem.

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