Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remembering Buddy Blass

Little Rock, Ark., owner/breeder Gus “Buddy” Blass, who campaigned several Oaklawn stakes winners with wife Patricia, died Sunday morning following an illness. He was 92.

“It was quite a shock,” said Pat Tanner, racing manager for the Blasses. “He was a war hero. He was a great man.”

The couple’s best runners included Annihilate ’em, who won Saratoga’s prestigious Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds in 1973.

The Blasses enjoyed a successful three-decade run with trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, a partnership highlighted by Oaklawn stakes winners Fun Flight, Flight Forty Nine, Tricky Fun, Pink Shoes, Isabell’s Shoes and Prom Shoes. Pink Shoes, who was out of Fun Flight, produced Isabell’s Shoes and Prom Shoes. Fun Flight also produced Flight Forty Nine.

The Blasses only had two starters during this year’s Oaklawn meet. Their horses have been under the care of trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage in recent years.

Buddy Blass, Little Rock native, was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart after being wounded in action.

The Peter Pan

Lightly raced Decorated Soldier drew post 4 for the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Belmont Park.

Decorated Soldier has won 2 of 3 starts, including the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn. The 1-mile Northern Spur marked the stakes debut for the colt, who races for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Todd Pletcher. Eclipse and Pletcher teamed to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2014 at Oaklawn with Danza.

Pletcher won last year’s Peter Pan with Madefromlucky, who was exiting a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. Two other Arkansas Derby graduates, Purge in 2004 and Alternation in 2011, also won the Peter Pan. Both horses ran fifth in the Arkansas Derby.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is scheduled to ride Decorated Soldier in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan. Pletcher and Velazquez teamed to win the Peter Pan with Purge.

Probable post time for the Peter Pan, a major steppingstone for the Belmont Stakes, is 4:45 p.m. (Central).

Also on Saturday’s Belmont card is the $250,000 Ruffian Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares.

Among the six horses entered are Include Betty, winner of last year’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn, and Spelling Again, who trained this winter in Hot Springs.

Probable post time for the 1-mile Ruffian is 3:41 p.m. (Central).

Election Day

Right to Vote, winner of Oaklawn’s $100,000 Essex Handicap in 2014, is scheduled to make his comeback in Saturday’s second race at Churchill Downs, a $25,000 claiming event at 7 furlongs.

Citing a “little issue,” Right to Vote, a 7-year-old Political Force gelding, was retired to a farm in the Fort Smith, Ark., area of owners Jimmy Lee and Joyce Didier (B J D Thoroughbreds) in the fall of 2014, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said.

“We didn’t think that he would ever come back,” Moquett said during this year’s Oaklawn meeting. “With those owners, they’re so cool. If I say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to take a shot,’ then they’ll come get him today.”

Right to Vote hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap Sept. 6, 2014, at Churchill Downs. He was moved to Moquett after B J D Thoroughbreds privately purchased the gelding following a third-place finish in a March 16, 2013, allowance/optional claiming race at Oaklawn.

Right to Vote, who began his career with owners Casner Racing and Sam Pollock and trainer Eoin Harty, has a 7-4-4 record from 24 career starts and earnings of $512,489.

Four-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is scheduled to ride Right to Vote in Saturday’s race. Santana was aboard Right to Vote for his Essex victory.

Probable post time for Saturday’s second race is 12:14 p.m. (Central).

Finish Lines

Taris surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a 5 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s $300,000 Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs. Taris, in her two-turn debut, suffered her first career loss in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) in 2014 at Oaklawn. … Channing Hill, among Oaklawn’s leading riders this year, has 991 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Hill, now based at Churchill Downs, rode 33 winners this year at Oaklawn. … Unbeaten 3-year-old Knights Key has resumed training and pointing for the Saratoga meeting that begins in July, owner Alex Lieblong said. Knights Key scratched from his scheduled 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn, then was sidelined with a minor knee issue. … Mary Alex, who made her final two career starts at the 2006 Oaklawn meeting, is in foal to champion Uncle Mo, Lieblong said. Lieblong’s homebred Ray’swarrior, a 4-year-old Majestic Warrior colt out of Mary Alex, has won three races this year, including two at Oaklawn. …Bodemeister was represented by his first winner at stud when Bode’s Dream captured a maiden special weights event Wednesday at Gulfstream Park. Bodemeister, a 9 ½-length winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2012 at Oaklawn, stands for $30,000 at WinStar Farm.

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