Friday, March 06, 2015

Champion American Pharoah Readies for Rebel

American Pharoah completed major preparations for his scheduled 3-year-old debut in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 at Oaklawn with a dazzling workout Friday morning at Santa Anita. In company, he breezed six furlongs from the gate in 1:10.40 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:22.80 under Martin Garcia.

“He is ready,” owner Ahmed Zayat said moments after the work. “We know he is fast, but the way he did it today was so impressive. Very happy horse.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be attempting to win his fifth Rebel in the last six years with American Pharoah, who captured an Eclipse Award as the country’s top 2-year-old male by winning 2 of 3 starts, including a pair of Grade 1 events. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel will be his first start outside Southern California.

American Pharoah will be flown to Hot Springs Wednesday.
Also scheduled to run in the Rebel is Take Charge Brandi, the country’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2014.
 
Sister Act

Sarah Sis is approximately six feet away from being a multiple stakes winner and being mentioned as one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country. But, after three career runner-up finishes, including two this year at Oaklawn, Sarah Sis is still seeking a breakthrough victory. It could come in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3). The 1 1/16-mile race is the final major local prep for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4.

Sarah Sis, who has a 2-3-0 record in five career starts, is coming off two narrow losses at the meeting. She was beaten a neck by undefeated Promise Me Silver in the $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 15, and, in her two-turn debut, a head by champion Take Charge Brandi in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31. Sarah Sis also ran second in last fall’s $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes at Arlington. Sandwiched around the Lassie was an 11 ¾-length career debut victory Aug. 21 at Arlington and a 4 ¼-length entry-level allowance score Oct. 11 at Keeneland, her final start at 2.

“I think she’s learning how to run and maturing,” trainer Ingrid Mason said. “Sometimes you’ve got to take that slow, and that’s why I didn’t run her for two months prior to coming here. I wanted her to grow up.”

In the Martha Washington, Sarah’s Sis moved to the inside under regular rider Julio Felix and nearly drew abreast of Take Charge Brandi about 40 yards from the finish line (mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth pole).But, Take Charge Brandi, who was making her ninth career start and eighth in a stakes race, dug in and wouldn’t be passed.

“My horse hasn’t run that many times,” Mason said. “Take Charge Brandi has a lot more races on her than my horse.”
 No promises in Honeybee.

Citing concerns over travel and track condition, trainer Bret Calhoun said Friday morning that unbeaten Promise Me Silver, the 3-1 program favorite, will pass Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies. She was the 3-1 program favorite for the 1 1/16-mile race. The trainer said he was concerned about shipping from Evangeline Training Center in south Louisiana to Oaklawn following Wednesday’s winter storm.

 “It’s shame because I like the spot,” Calhoun said. “I like the way the race drew up. I like everything about it, except for the weather conditions and possible track conditions.”

Calhoun said Promise Me Silver will make her next start in the $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes April 11 at Oaklawn or the $250,000 Beaumont Stakes (G2) April 12 at Keeneland.

Promise Me Silver won the $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 15 at Oaklawn.
 
Dawn At Oaklawn

Jockey Jon Court is the special guest for Saturday’s Dawn At Oaklawn (7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Central) on the south apron of the grandstand. The weekly program includes a question-and-answer session hosted by Oaklawn paddock analyst Nancy Ury-Holthus.

Court, 54, was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000 and captured consecutive runnings of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on Line of David (2010) and Archarcharch (2011). Archarcharch was trained by Court’s father-in-law, Jinks Fires.

Court received the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2007, which is annually given to riders who demonstrate high character on and off the track.

In addition to Oaklawn, Court has won riding titles at Indiana Downs, Ellis Park, Turfway Park and Birmingham Racecourse. He has 3,874 career victories and $94,147,033 in purse earnings, according to Equibase. In 2009, Court was featured in Animal Planet’s reality documentary series, “Jockeys.”
 
Finish Lines

The track was closed for training Friday morning because of freezing temperatures. … Friday marks the one-year anniversary of trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs claiming Ivan Fallunovalot, on behalf of Lewis Mathews of nearby Bismarck, Ark., for $25,000 out of an Oaklawn victory. The gelding, who has developed into a multiple stakes winner, owns Beyer Speed Figures of 108 and 105 this year and is the 6-5 program favorite for Saturday’s $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters. … Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, two-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. and 2000 Oaklawn riding champion Jon Court will sign autographs from 11 a.m.-noon (Central) Saturday near the paddock on the first floor. A $1 fee benefits the Oaklawn Chaplaincy. … Trainer Kenny McPeek said he hopes to work The Truth Or Else Sunday in preparation for the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14. McPeek said Borel will retain the mount on the Southwest runner-up. … Street Strategy, a candidate for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11, drew post 8 for a Sunday second-level allowance/optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles. Street Strategy was scheduled to run in a similar race last Saturday, but Oaklawn canceled racing because of frigid temperatures. … The Big Beast, who won his 2015 debut in Sunday’s eighth race, was named champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old male of 2014 in a poll conducted by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. Owned by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark., The Big Beast won 4 of 6 starts last year, including the $500,000 King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) Aug. 23 at Saratoga. The Big Beast is scheduled to make his next start in the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 9.
 
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