Thursday, February 25, 2016
Ortiz Jr. to Ride Whitmore in Rebel
Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Whitmore in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn, co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said. The New York-based rider entered Thursday as the nation’s leading rider in purse earnings this year ($2,137,987).
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith rode Whitmore to a second-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn, his most recent race.
“I like Irad and Smith, but what I wanted was a two-race commitment,” Moquett said before training hours Thursday morning. “If we run well in the Rebel, we’ll have him for the Arkansas Derby.”
Moquett said he’s used Ortiz, 23, in the past at Saratoga.
Ortiz ranked second in North America in purse earnings ($23,546,727) and fourth in victories (300) last year, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
“He’s the nation’s leading rider,” Moquett said. “I’m tickled to death to have him.”
Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg said Thursday morning that he’ll probably run Cutacorner in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 19 at Oaklawn.
Cutacorner finished ninth, beaten 18 lengths, in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. The Even the Score colt was bothered and had to steady while in traffic five-wide on the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile Southwest.
“Got cut up pretty bad in that race,” Van Berg said. “Cut his front legs, inside and out.”
Cutacorner was coming off a half-length entry-level allowance/optional claiming victory Jan. 21 at Oaklawn.
The third-place finisher in that race, American Dubai (disqualified from second because of interference approaching the wire), ran third in the Southwest.
American Dubai is pointing for the Rebel, along with Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore and Discreetness, the 1-2-7 finishers, respectively, from the Southwest. Also scheduled to run in the Rebel are unbeaten Dazzling Gem (2 for 2 at the Oaklawn meet for trainer Brad Cox) and Vorticity, runner-up in the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3) Jan. 30 at Aqueduct in his last start.
Trainer Mark Casse said Wednesday morning that Siding Spring, fifth in the Southwest, is probable for the Rebel.
Dazzling Gem, a Feb. 13 entry-level allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles, is scheduled to work Saturday morning at Oaklawn, Cox said.
Back to Work
Multiple stakes winner and millionaire Alsvid worked a bullet 5 furlongs (1:00.20) over a fast track after the renovation break Thursday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Chris Hartman.
Alsvid hasn’t started since finishing second – for the fourth consecutive year – in the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 30 at Oaklawn.
Hartman said he’s undecided regarding an appearance by Alsvid in the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 5. The Hot Springs is the final major local prep for the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 10, a race Alsvid won last year and his major spring objective in 2016, Hartman said.
“Just want to wait and see and get him right for the Count Fleet,” Hartman said. “The sprint division seems to be really tough right now. A lot of good sprinters here.”
After finishing second in last year’s King Cotton, Alsvid ran in two allowance races at Oaklawn before winning the Count Fleet.
Five of a Kind
Five horses entered in the $250,000 Springboard Mile for 2-year-olds Dec. 13 at Remington Park have won races at the Oaklawn meeting.
Springboard Mile winner Discreetness won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18.
Runner-up Suddenbreakingnews won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15.
Other Springboard Mile graduates to strike in Hot Springs include fourth-place finisher Cutacorner, who captured a Jan. 21 entry-level allowance/optional claimer, and ninth-place finisher Giant Trick, a Jan. 16 maiden special weights winner.
A fifth horse, Blanket of Ice, scratched from the Springboard Mile because of a minor problem, broke his maiden Feb. 15.
Donnie K. Von Hemel, who trains Suddenbreakingnews, said the Springboard Mile has “proven to be a very nice race” in preparing horses to tackle Oaklawn’s series of Kentucky Derby prep races.
“I think if you look at the Remington 2-year-old stakes schedule, it just fits real nice with what Oaklawn has going on here, especially the Springboard,” Von Hemel said. “You look at the horses that have run it over the years, it probably should be a Grade 3. I think the Smarty Jones should be a Grade 3.”
Texas Bling beat Will Take Charge in the 2012 Springboard Mile. Will Take Charge then edged Texas Bling in the Smarty Jones en route to 3-year-old champion male honors in 2013.
The Von Hemel-trained Caleb’s Posse finished seventh in the 2010 Springboard Mile, but bounced back to win the Smarty Jones in his 3-year-old debut. Caleb’s Posse finished a close second in voting for champion 3-year-old male of 2011.
Cosmic Evolution, prepping for the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 12 at Oaklawn, breezed 6 furlongs in 1:14.40 after the break Thursday morning under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel. … Theogony, scheduled to run in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 19 at Oaklawn, worked 5 furlongs in company in 1:01.60 after the break Thursday morning for trainer Mark Casse. … Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg said he’s considering moving his stable to Kentucky after the Oaklawn meet ends April 16. Van Berg, who relocated to the Midwest before the 2014 Oaklawn meeting, has been based at Lone Star Park in the summer and Remington Park in the fall. Van Berg is Oaklawn’s fifth-leading trainer this year with eight victories.