Friday, August 05, 2016

Rebel Rivals Meet in West Virginia Derby, Effinex and Upstart Face Off In Whitney

Four 2016 Oaklawn stakes winners are entered Saturday at Mountaineer and Saratoga, including Cupid and Suddenbreakingnews in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2). Probable post time for the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby, the centerpiece of the Mountaineer meeting, is 4:21 p.m. (Central).

Cupid, the 3-1 program favorite, won the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn. Suddenbreakingnews, the early 9-2 third choice, won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn before finishing fifth as the favorite in the Rebel.

The West Virginia Derby will mark the first meeting between Cupid and Suddenbreakingnews since the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 at Oaklawn. Suddenbreakingnews finished second, while Cupid was 10th as the favorite.

Cupid is coming off a front-running three-quarter length victory in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G2) July 16 at Indiana Grand. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has again named Rafael Bejarano to ride Cupid, who is scheduled to break from the rail under top weight of 122 pounds.

Following the Arkansas Derby, Suddenbreakingnews finished a closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby and a non-threatening ninth in the Belmont Stakes June 11 at Belmont Park in his last start. Luis Quinonez, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2007, will be reunited with Suddenbreakingnews in the West Virginia Derby.

Trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, Suddenbreakingnews is scheduled to break from post 12, the extreme outside, and carry 120 pounds. Quinonez guided Suddenbreakingnews to a last-to-first victory in the Southwest (1 1/16 miles) from post 13.

Last year’s Rebel runner-up, Madefromlucky, won the West Virginia Derby. Tapiture won the Southwest and West Virginia Derby in 2014 for seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen.

Saratoga’s 11-race card is highlighted by the $1.25 million Whitney (G1) at 1 1/8 miles. Among the six entrants are Oaklawn stakes winners Effinex and Upstart as well as the Oaklawn-raced Noble Bird.

Effinex won the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 16. Upstart won the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) March 19, the final major local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap. Noble Bird was an allowance/optional claiming winner at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting.

Effinex, the 7-2 second choice in the program, is scheduled to break from post 6 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and carry equal top weight of 124 pounds. Multiple Grade 1 winner Frosted is the 3-5 program favorite.

Probable post time for the Whitney is 5:18 p.m. (Central).

Medaglia d’Oro won the Oaklawn Handicap and Whitney in 2003. Lawyer Ron also won both races in 2007.

Santana, Santana

Four-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. had two more winners Wednesday at Saratoga to move into seventh in the standings after the first 11 days at the historic upstate New York track.

Both of Santana winners (One Minute in the third race and Show Bound in the fifth race) were for seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen, the jockey’s biggest client in Hot Springs. Santana, 23, also had two seconds and two thirds from six mounts Wednesday.

Wednesday marked Santana’s second multi-win day of the Saratoga meeting. He rode three winners July 24. Overall, he has a 7-6-5 record from 38 mounts and purse earnings of $377,402.

“I have confidence in myself and my agent, but I am pretty impressed with how we're doing right now,” Santana told the Saratoga press office. “I'm learning a lot from the best riders. Angel [Cordero] is helping me a lot - trying to teach me - also John Velazquez and Ramon Dominguez are other guys helping me. They are trying to [correct] me when I do something wrong.”

Santana, riding regularly at Saratoga for the first time this year, is named on seven horses Friday and eight horses Saturday, including El Kabeir in the $1.25 million Whitney (G1).

Finish Lines

Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Far Right is scheduled to make his comeback in Friday’s seventh race at Ellis Park, a 1-mile allowance/optional claimer. Far Right won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) last year at Oaklawn. Far Right, a Feb. 25 allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn, hasn’t started since finishing 10th in the $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes (G3) April 9 at Keeneland. … Decorated Soldier (main track only) is entered in Friday’s $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. Decorated Soldier won the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn. … Oaklawn allowance/optional claiming winner One True Kiss is entered in the $500,000 Test Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Saratoga. … Texas Chrome, third in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds April 15 at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs. … Louisiana-bred standout The Pickett Factor, who won his 2015 career debut at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $75,000 Louisiana Cup Turf Classic Stakes at Louisiana Downs. … Departing, runner-up in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes this year at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer. Other Oaklawn-raced horses entered include 2015 Oaklawn maiden graduate Allied Air Raid. … Other Oaklawn-raced horses entered Saturday at Mountaineer include Black Bear ($100,000 West Virginia Legislature Chairman’s Cup) and Wilbo, W.B. Smudge and Speightsong ($100,000 Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes). … Oaklawn stakes runners Smack Smack, Shotgun Kowboy and Code West are entered in Saturday’s $175,000 Downs At Albuquerque Handicap at Albuquerque. … Saturday’s $100,000 Groupie Doll Stakes (G3) at Ellis Park drew a field of 13, including Oaklawn-raced Pangburn, Conquest Curlgirl and Kathballu. … Unbeaten 3-year-old Knights Key is scheduled to make his comeback in Saturday’s fourth race at Saratoga, an entry-level allowance at 7 furlongs. Knights Key, who missed the Oaklawn meeting because of a minor knee injury, will be making his first start for Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer this year. Knights Key is owned by Moquett’s new high-profile clients, Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark. Knights Key won his only start, Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs. Also entered Saturday at Saratoga are unstarted 2-year-olds Air On Fire and Rockshaw for Moquett and the Lieblongs. Alex Lieblong is chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. Moquett also trains Far Right for co-owner Harry Rosenblum of Little Rock, Ark.

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