Thursday, March 31, 2016
American Pioneer Works toward Arkansas Derby
Late Triple Crown nominee American Pioneer is pointing for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 at Oaklawn, trainer Wayne Catalano said Thursday morning.
Owned by the trainer’s major client, Gary and Mary West, American Pioneer broke his maiden by 3 ¾ lengths in a 1 1/16-mile race March 19 at Oaklawn. He was coming off a troubled second in his Jan. 18 career debut at Oaklawn. The winner of that mile race, Dazzling Gem, came back to finish third in last Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
American Pioneer, in his first work since his maiden victory, breezed 5 furlongs over a fast track in 1:01 Wednesday morning at Oaklawn. Catalano called the work a “maintenance” move.
“We don’t need times now,” Catalano said. “We don’t need a fast work now. We know he’s fast, right?”
A son of Awesome Again, American Pioneer was purchased for $230,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
The Wests won the 1993 Arkansas Derby with Rockamundo (108-1) and paid $6,000 to make American Pioneer one of nine late Triple Crown nominees. Catalano saddled Crypto Star to win the 1997 Arkansas Derby.
Other locally based horses pointing for the Arkansas Derby include Whitmore, Creator, Suddenbreakingnews, Discreetness and American Dubai.
Creator worked a half-mile in :51 over a fast track Tuesday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Cosmic Evolution will have a new rider for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies April 9 at Oaklawn, but trainer Lon Wiggins isn’t sure who it will be. Calvin Borel has ridden Cosmic Evolution in all five career starts, but the Hall of Famer and two-time Oaklawn champion jockey abruptly retired Tuesday afternoon.
Wiggins said he will confer with owner Stephen Fidel before announcing a rider for the Fantasy.
Borel had been scheduled to breeze Cosmic Evolution 5 furlongs Wednesday morning at Oaklawn. Wiggins said he was informed Tuesday night by Borel’s agent, Larry Melancon, that the jockey wouldn’t be available to work Cosmic Evolution, but no reason was given.
Under Borel’s close friend, Joe Johnson, Cosmic Evolution covered 5 furlongs over a fast track in 1:01.80 Wednesday.
“We were up there standing with her, waiting for the track to open – that’s when I heard from two people the reason why Calvin wasn’t here,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said he was floored by news of the jockey’s retirement.
Borel, 49, had a long relationship with Wiggins’ family, with the last of the jockey’s 5,146 career victories coming aboard Thrylos March 18 at Oaklawn for Wiggins.
Borel won 947 races at Oaklawn, including 51 stakes, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. His two stakes victories at the 2009 Oaklawn meeting, including the $250,000 Fantasy (G2), were aboard Rachel Alexandra for Wiggins’ father, retired trainer Hal Wiggins. Rachel Alexandra was named 2009 Horse of the Year.
“I’ve known Calvin for a long time,” Lon Wiggins said. “He was a great team player, a great rider. The game is losing a great person.”
Cosmic Evolution is coming off a third-place finish in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 12 at Oaklawn.
Trainer Chris Hartman said Thursday morning that millionaire and multiple graded stakes winner Alsvid is “possible, but “not likely” to defend his title in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 10 at Oaklawn.
Alsvid suffered his ninth consecutive loss Saturday, finishing third in an allowance/optional claimer at a mile. The 7-year-old gelding challenged for the lead turning for home on the inside, but was beaten 1 ½ lengths in his return to races around two turns.
“He laid down on us a little bit,” Hartman said. “Laid down on us a little bit there.”
Hartman said nothing is “set in stone” for Alsvid’s next start, but he could run again before the Oaklawn meeting ends April 16.
“The horse has been running tough, man,” Hartman said. “There are some tough sprinters here.”
Alsvid ran second in the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 30 – his fourth consecutive runner-up finish in the race – and third in the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 5. Both are major local preps for the Count Fleet.
Alsvid has finished first, second or third in all 13 career Oaklawn starts.
Locally based horses scheduled to run in the Count Fleet are Hot Springs winner Subtle Indian, multiple stakes winners Gentlemen’s Bet, Cinco Charlie and W.B. Smudge, a March 24 allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn.
Subtle Indian worked a half-mile in :51.60 Tuesday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
The track was rated muddy for workouts Thursday morning at Oaklawn. … This week is the last for jockey Corey Nakatani as a regular this season at Oaklawn, according to the jockey’s agent, Gene Short of Hot Springs. Nakatani, Oaklawn’s third-leading rider with 27 victories, will be heading to Keeneland, which opens April 8. … Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg has a bandage on his right hand after undergoing surgery earlier this week for carpal tunnel syndrome. Van Berg is tied for eighth in the Oaklawn standings with 11 victories.