Friday, March 25, 2016
American Pioneer Eyeing Arkansas Derby
American Pioneer, a romping maiden winner and late Triple Crown nominee, is under consideration for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 at Oaklawn, trainer Wayne Catalano said Thursday afternoon.
Under Catalano’s son-in-law, Channing Hill, American Pioneer was a geared-down 3 ¾-length winner of Saturday’s 11th race at Oaklawn, a 1 1/16-mile maiden-allowance event for 3-year-olds. His time of 1:44.46 was just off the 1:43.84 Cupid needed to win the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) about a half-hour earlier on the card. The Rebel is the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby.
A son of Awesome Again, American Pioneer was coming off a troubled second in his Jan. 18 career debut at Oaklawn. The winner, unbeaten Dazzling Gem, is entered in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) Saturday at Fair Grounds.
“We’ve always liked the horse,” Catalano said. “If you saw the maiden race, he probably should have won that race. A pretty good horse beat him.”
A $230,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sales graduate, American Pioneer is owned by Catalano’s major client, Gary and Mary West. The Wests won the 1993 Arkansas Derby with 108-1 outsider Rockamundo and paid $6,000 to make American Pioneer one of nine late Triple Crown nominees. The late nomination period closed Monday.
Catalano saddled Crypto Star to win the 1997 Arkansas Derby.
Locally based horses pointing for the Arkansas Derby include Whitmore, Creator, Suddenbreakingnews and Discreetness.
That’s a Rap?
Owner Danny Caldwell said Thursday afternoon that he plans to run Domain’s Rap in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses April 16 at Oaklawn.
Claimed for $10,000 in November at Remington Park, Domain’s Rap won four consecutive starts before finishing second, beaten a length, in the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn.
“I’m going to look at all the options I’ve got, but right now we’re training for the Oaklawn Handicap,” Caldwell said.
Domain’s Rap became the first three-time winner at the meet when he toppled the likes of Mal Guapo, Rocket Time and Grade I winner Noble Bird in a Feb. 21 allowance/optional claiming event.
Caldwell was Oaklawn’s leading owner in 2014 and 2015 and has a meet-high 15 victories this year.
Million Dollar Man
Ron Moquett of Hot Springs became the second trainer at the Oaklawn meeting to surpass $1 million in purse earnings Thursday. The trainer’s horses have earned $1,046,525, which only trails six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen ($1,629,695), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Moquett, who lives just behind Oaklawn’s half-mile pole, also ranks second in victories at the meeting, saddling 19 winners from 100 starters. Asmussen has a meet-high 30 victories.
Moquett seems assured to eclipse his career high for purse earnings at an Oaklawn meet ($1,084,090), set last year.
“That’s a big thing for me,” Moquett said before training hours Friday morning. “To do it with the amount of good trainers and horses that are here, that’s awesome.”
Moquett’s best horses at the meet include multiple stakes winners Far Right and Gentlemen’s Bet and Whitmore, runner-up in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). Whitmore is scheduled to make his next start in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.
“We point to Oaklawn, so a lot of our year is decided on what happens between Jan. 15 and April 16,” Moquett said. “In September, we’re thinking Oaklawn. In July, we’re thinking Oaklawn. Whenever we get here, it’s like, ‘Harvest.’ ”
Moquett started his first horse in Hot Springs in 1998 and saddled his first winner the following the year. Overall, Moquett has 173 career winners at Oaklawn, including a season-high 23 in 2010.
Thursday marked jockey Didiel Osorio’s final day as a regular this season at Oaklawn, according to his agent, Joe Santos.
Osorio, 4 for 92 at the meet, is named on three horses Saturday at Turfway Park. Three of Osorio’s victories were for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who encouraged the jockey to ride at Oaklawn for the first time this year.
Santos said Friday morning that he and Osorio plan to return for the 2017 meeting.
“Are you kidding me? I loved it here,” said Santos, the son of Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos. “Got to ride for a lot of different people, rode a lot of nice horses. Can’t wait to be back.”
Osorio, last year’s champion jockey at Ellis Park, guided Whitmore to a 3 ¼-length allowance/optional claiming victory Jan. 16 at Oaklawn in his 3-year-old debut.
Oaklawn will be closed for racing and training Sunday in observance of Easter. … Coverallyourbases represented trainer Randy Morse’s 250th career Oaklawn victory in Thursday’s seventh race. Morse saddled his first winner at Oaklawn in 1990, according to Equibase, and has $430,746 in purse earnings (an Oaklawn personal best) at the 2016 meeting. Morse has 12 victories to rank seventh in the standings this year. … Trainer Matt Kordenbrock said Friday morning that W.B. Smudge remains under consideration for the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 10 at Oaklawn. W.B. Smudge edged Den’s Legacy by a head in a Thursday allowance/optional claiming sprint at Oaklawn. … Trainer Ron Moquett said Friday morning that Den’s Legacy is under consideration for the 6-furlong Count Fleet, but is “leaning more toward something with a little more distance.” “I think he really loves 6 ½ furlongs, 7 furlongs,” Moquett said. … Moquett said he plans to breeze multiple stakes winner Gentlemen’s Bet Saturday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for the Count Fleet. … Moquett said 3-year-old Tisdale will be scratched from an allowance/optional claiming sprint Friday at Oaklawn in favor of a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claimer Saturday. Moquett said he hopes the race serves as a prep for a stakes event.