FIFTH SEASON DRAWS FULL FIELD OF 12 LED BY DEPARTING
Hot Springs, Ark. (Friday, Jan. 15, 2016)
A full field of 12, led by millionaire Departing, is entered in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the Fifth Season, which headlines a nine-race program, is 4:38 p.m. (Central).
Departing, the 2-1 program favorite, will be making his Oaklawn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Fifth Season for trainer Al Stall. Stall is based at Fair Grounds, but Departing is among 10 or so horses the trainer has stabled at Oaklawn.
Stall said he chose to send Departing to Oaklawn, in part, because co-owner Adele Dilschneider is friends with Oaklawn President Charles Cella. Also factoring into the decision, Stall said, was the chance for Departing to potentially tackle Oaklawn’s bigger two-turn stakes race for older horses, including the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 16.
“It’s a good series,” Stall said. “Hopefully, he can earn his way into the others.”
A 6-year-old gelded son of War Front, Departing has an 8-4-3 record from 21 career starts and earnings of $1,823,259. His resume includes victories in the $500,000 Super Derby (G2) and the $750,000 Illinois Derby (G3) in 2013.
Unraced since a runner-up finish in the $250,000 Delta Mile Stakes Nov. 21 at Delta Downs, Departing arrived from his Fair Grounds base earlier this month and worked a half-mile in :49.60 Saturday.
Departing is scheduled to break from post 2 under three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.
Also scheduled to make his Oaklawn debut in the Fifth Season is multiple stakes winner Smack Smack, 5-1 on the morning line for trainer Don Von Hemel of Hot Springs.
Smack Smack trained at Oaklawn as a 3-year-old, but missed the 2014 meeting because of a quarter-crack and was too far behind in his training to run last year in Hot Springs, Von Hemel said.
“He was pretty fat and it took me a long time to get him ready,” said Von Hemel, 81, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1981.
“Finally, about the time Prairie Meadows was over, he started coming into himself.”
Smack Smack finished third in his May 25 comeback race at Prairie Meadows, but won four of his last five starts to close 2015, including the $175,000 Governor’s Cup Aug. 15 at Remington Park, $55,000 Veterans Stakes Nov. 2 at Zia Park and $150,000 Zia Park Championship Handicap Nov. 25 at Zia Park.
Smack Smack is scheduled to break from post 9 under Shane Laviolette.
Also entered in the Fifth Season are Ecleto Red, Raagheb, Lahshad, Freestyler, Street Strategy, Luv Bandit, Incremental, Natchez, The Truth Or Else and Springboard.
The Truth Or Else, runner-up in last year’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn, was a supplementary nominee.
Three-time Oaklawn winner Street Strategy, battling a foot bruise, is coming off a seventh-place finish in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Oct. 30 at Keeneland.
“This is a good race,” said Randy Morse, who trains Street Strategy.