Sunday, March 15, 2015

American Pharoah Exits Rebel in Fine Shape; Returns to California Monday

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said American Pharoah is scheduled to return to his Southern California base Monday following his devastating wire-to-wire victory in Saturday’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn. American Pharoah earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for his 6 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile race, Baffert’s fifth in the last six years.

American Pharoah was making his highly anticipated 2015 debut after being named the country’s champion 2-year-old male. Baffert didn’t travel from the West Coast for the Rebel, but said early Sunday afternoon that American Pharoah came out of the race well.

“This horse, he does things effortlessly,” Baffert said. “It wasn’t really taxing on him. It turned out all right. He didn’t have go too fast early.”

American Pharoah bobbled at the start and dislodged his right front shoe, but quickly recovered to make an easy lead under regular rider Victor Espinoza. Following soft fractions of :24.41, :49.63 and 1:15.22, American Pharoah drew off through the stretch to complete 1 1/16 miles over a sloppy track in 1:45.78.

“I thought he ran great,” Baffert said.

A Kentucky Derby qualifying race, the Rebel gave American Pharoah 50 points, assuring himself a spot in the field. Baffert said he will monitor American Pharoah’s training at Santa Anita before deciding on his final Kentucky Derby prep, but the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11 is an option. Baffert and American Pharoah’s owner (Zayat Stables) teamed to win the Arkansas Derby in 2012 with Bodemeister.

Bold Conquest and The Truth Or Else, third and fourth, respectively, in the Rebel are being pointed for the Arkansas Derby.
 
The Day After

Champion Untapable finished second in the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares, Bold Conquest was third in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds and Tapiture ran fifth in the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses.

It wasn’t all bad, trainer Steve Asmussen noted Sunday morning. Asmussen, Oaklawn’s perennial leading trainer, had his support system with him for Saturday’s races - his wife and three children.

“It’s never a bad day when you’ve got family around,” Asmussen said.

Asmussen began regrouping with his equine family Sunday morning and said all three horses came out of their respective races in good physical condition.

“No worry this morning, so we’ll be able to do it again,” Asmussen said.

Asmussen said plans with Bold Conquest are much more firm than they are with Untapable and Tapiture. Asmussen said it “makes the most sense” to point Bold Conquest toward the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.  

Bold Conquest, in his 3-year-old debut, ran fourth in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 22. He was then s beaten 8 ¾ lengths by champion American Pharoah in the Rebel after encountering trouble on the first turn. Both the Southwest and Rebel were run over a sloppy track.

“I would love for things to dry out around here and get some decent training into the big guy,” Asmussen said.

Asmussen said a decision on next-race plans for Untapable and Tapiture will be made after they return to the track. Both were making their 4-year-old debuts after arriving Monday at Oaklawn. They had previously been based at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Asmussen said Untapable will start next in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 10 at Oaklawn or in a stakes race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks/Derby Day. Tapiture will be pointed for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11 at Oaklawn or the $400,000 Alysheba Stakes (G2) May 1 at Churchill Downs, Asmussen said.
 
Wednesday’s card

Oaklawn will conduct the first two of special Wednesday programs next week. First post time is 1:30 p.m. (Central). Oaklawn will also have another special Wednesday program March 25. The Arkansas Racing Commission Feb. 28 approved Oaklawn’s request to add two Wednesday dates (March 18 and March 25) to help offset seven dates lost this season to severe winter weather. Oaklawn normally races Thursday-Sunday.

Wednesday’s nine-race program includes a third-level allowance race at a mile. Seven horses are entered, including Arkansas Derby candidate I Spent It, who will be making his 3-year-old debut for trainer Tony Dutrow and co-owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark. Last year, he won the $200,000 Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) Aug. 10 at Saratoga.

The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver hasn’t started since finishing sixth in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) Oct. 4 at Belmont Park. He subsequently underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from a knee.

I Spent It has recorded three consecutive bullet workouts for his 3-year-old debut, including a half-mile in :48 March 8. Leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr. is scheduled to ride I Spent It, who will be facing older horses in his comeback race.

Finish Lines

Gold Medal Dancer will be pointed for the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 10 following Saturday’s victory in the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said … Pippin and Bayakoa (G3) Stakes winner Mufajaah has been retired following her third-place finish in the Azeri Stakes (G2) confirmed trainer Danny Peitz via text … Trainer Brad Cox said Carve exited his fourth-place finish in Saturday’s $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses in good order, but next-race plans are pending for the multiple stakes winner. “Just wasn’t our day,” Cox said. “That’s about it.” Cox said he will look at the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11, but it’s “definitely not the No. 1 choice.” “We’ll just kind of see who comes for it,” Cox said. “Obviously, we’re here.” Trainer Kenny McPeek said Golden Ticket, third in the Razorback, will likely make his next start in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (G3) April 11 at Keeneland. … McPeek said Flashy American, fifth in the Azeri, will likely make her next start in the $100,000 Doubledogdare (G3) April 17 at Keeneland. … Trainer Billy Gowan said no decision has been made on the next start for Ride On Curlin, who ran sixth in the Razorback. … The Arkansas State Racing Commission voted unanimously Saturday morning to reduce leading jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.’s suspension from three days to one day. Stewards suspended Santana three racing days (March 5-7) for an incident shortly after the start of a Feb. 22 sprint, but the jockey appealed the ruling to the commission. Santana will serve his suspension Friday, said his agent, Ruben Munoz. … Champion Take Charge Brandi is scheduled to return to Oaklawn Tuesday following surgery last week at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. Take Charge Brandi is expected to be sidelined 60 days (non-displaced knee chip). … Oaklawn set season highs for attendance (estimated 30,000), on-track handle ($2,032,528) and off-track handle ($6,410,647). … Alex Collins, Arkansas’ standout junior tailback, attended Saturday’s races.
 
 
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