Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Arkansas Derby Winner Creator Works toward Kentucky Derby

Creator, under four-time Oaklawn leading jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 over a fast track Monday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for his scheduled start in the May 7 Kentucky Derby.

He breezed nine days after his 1 ¼-length last-to-first victory in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn, which is typical for horses trained by Steve Asmussen. Following splits of :12.60, :25, :37.60 and :49.60, Creator galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:15.20 and 7 furlongs in 1:28.80.

Creator worked in company with stablemate Hundred Years, a 3-year-old Misremembered colt who finished sixth for a $75,000 maiden-claiming tag in his 2016 debut April 3 at Oaklawn.

“Creator is coming around at the right time,” Asmussen said. “I really like his focus and how professional he’s been the last two to three weeks. We’re just trying to keep him in the rhythm that he was in between the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby. I was extremely pleased for him to maintain his focus as well as he did with as much as there is to look at here the couple of weeks leading up to the Derby. I definitely think that he is turning into an excellent racehorse.

“I think pedigree wise he is getting good at the right time. He’s always been talented. He did lack some focus and Mr. [Kenny] Trout and Elliott [Walden] had all the patience in the world of letting him come around. Elliott always had the vision of him getting good when it mattered. The first couple of turf starts were his lack of speed early. I felt that talking with Elliott, we thought that it would not deter him from future racing, to just leave there and get covered up with dirt and not really know what happened. He said that they went the same path with Drosselmeyer. His first couple of races were on turf, hopefully it works out as well.”

Also scheduled to run in the Kentucky Derby are Arkansas Derby runner-up Suddenbreakingnews and third-place finisher Whitmore.

Whitmore will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who is seeking his third consecutive Kentucky Derby victory.

Three other Oaklawn-raced horses – Dazzling Gem, Cherry Wine and Discreetness – will need defections to run in the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters.

If more than 20 enter, starting preference is given to horses with the highest point totals earned in designated races like the Arkansas Derby and Rebel.

Dazzling Gem (24th) ran fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Cherry Wine (25th) ran fourth in the Rebel. Discreetness (26th) ran seventh in the Rebel and sixth in the Arkansas Derby.

Just a Fantasy

Terra Promessa and Taxable, first and second, respectively, in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9 at Oaklawn, worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 over a fast track Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

The Steve Asmussen trainees, who worked with each other, are scheduled to run in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

Five of a Kind

Steve Asmussen will be the fifth Oaklawn training champion to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame since 1985.

Asmussen, who has won seven Oaklawn training titles in the last decade, will join Jack Van Berg (a 1985 inductee), Bill Mott (1998), D. Wayne Lukas (1999) and Henry Forrest (2007) in the Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies Aug. 12 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Van Berg was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1983 and 1984 and won 14 races this year in Hot Springs to finish eighth in the standings. Mott was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986. Lukas was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1987 and 2011 and won 10 races this year in Hot Springs to finish 14th in the standings. Forrest won a record 11 Oaklawn training titles between 1947 and 1963.

Asmussen, 50, has the third-most training titles in Oaklawn history, trailing only Forrest and Bob Holthus (nine). All seven of Asmussen’s titles have come since 2007. He won 46 races this year and set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings ($3,448,729), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Asmussen has 498 career victories at Oaklawn, the first coming in 1996. Creator’s victory in the closing-day $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 pushed the trainer over $20 million in purse earnings in Hot Springs bringing his total to $20,171,925 in purse earnings. He also won Oaklawn training titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Finish Lines

Counterforce, winner of the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters April 15 at Oaklawn, worked a half-mile in :52 Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Asmussen. … Will Munnings worked a half-mile in :51.20 Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs. Will Munnings won the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 26 at Oaklawn before running fifth in the Bachelor. … Black Bear, unraced since finishing third in the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes in 2014 at Oaklawn (leg injury), worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs for Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Weast Hill recorded a half-mile turf workout (:48.80) Sunday morning at Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox. Weast Hill is scheduled to make his grass debut in the $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) May 6 at Churchill Downs, said Cox, Oaklawn’s fourth-leading trainer this year. Weast Hill is unbeaten in five career starts at Oaklawn, including the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes and $100,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes earlier this year. … Alex Cintron, 3 for 58 at this year’s Oaklawn meeting, rode five winners Friday at Laurel. Cintron’s last winner was aboard Burndines, a 4-year-old Scat Daddy gelding who breezed several times this year at Oaklawn for trainer Tony Dutrow and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong.

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