Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oaklawn Hopefuls Begin Journey towards Kentucky Derby Saturday

The road to the Kentucky Derby officially begins Saturday at Churchill Downs with the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) for 2-year-olds.

The 1 1/16-mile Iroquois is the first of 35 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series races, which offer points to the top four finishers in determining starting eligibility for the first leg of the Triple Crown, should the race oversubscribe. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters.

A field of eight is entered in the Iroquois, including several who could be seen during the 2017 Oaklawn meeting that begins Jan. 13.

Blame Will is scheduled to break from post 5 under Luis Saez for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owner Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark. Lukas (Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1987 and 2011) and Horton campaigned recent champions Will Take Charge and Take Charge Brandi, both Oaklawn stakes winners.

Blame Will, a son of 2010 champion older horse Blame, is coming off a one-length maiden victory sprinting Aug. 20 at Saratoga – his third lifetime start. The Iroquois will mark his stakes debut. Horton purchased Blame Will (4-1 in the program) for $600,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Select Yearling Sale.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who has topped the Oaklawn standings seven times since 2007, is scheduled to send out Lookin At Lee in the Iroquois. Lookin at Lee, a son of 2010 Rebel Stakes winner and champion Lookin At Lucky, won the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes Aug. 6 at Ellis Park in his last start.

Lookin At Lee (6-1) is scheduled to break from the rail Saturday under Ricardo Santana Jr., Oaklawn’s leading rider the last four years, and carry top weight of 120 pounds.

Also entered in the Iroquois are Ellis Park Juvenile third-place finisher Honor Thy Father (8-1) for trainer Kenny McPeek, an Oaklawn regular, and Not This Time (4-1), scheduled to make his stakes debut for trainer Dale Romans. Not This Time, a 10-length maiden winner Aug. 12 at Ellis Park, is out of Oaklawn stakes winner Miss Macy Sue and is a half-brother to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam’s Map.

Probable post time for the Iroquois is 4:59 p.m. (Central).

The race offers 10 points to the winner, four points to the runner-up, two points for third and one point for fourth toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Oaklawn will again have four designated Road to the Kentucky Derby points races next year. They are the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16, $500,000 Southwest Stakes Feb. 20, $900,000 Rebel Stakes March 18 and $1 million Arkansas Derby April 15.

Like the Iroquois, the Smarty Jones and Southwest are 10-4-2-1 races on the sliding points scale. The Rebel is 50-20-10-5. The Arkansas Derby is 100-40-20-10.

Hitting Triple Digits

Brad Cox, fourth in Oaklawn’s trainer standings this year, won his 99th race of 2016 – a career high – Tuesday at Indiana Grand with Fleet Dude. Cox, who saddled his first winner in 2004, won 98 races last year.

Madcap Heiress gave Cox his 100th victory in Wednesday’s fourth race at Indiana Grand. The horse also provided Jon Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, with his 3,994th career victory, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Court was Oaklawn’s sixth-leading rider this year with 29 victories.

Finish Lines

Five of the country’s six-winningest trainers this year, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, had strings at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting: Karl Broberg (291 victories entering Thursday), Steve Asmussen (221), Robertino Diodoro (176), Mark Casse (152) and Mike Maker (148). Asmussen won 46 races this year at Oaklawn to capture his seventh title since 2007 and set a single-season meet record for purse earnings ($3,448,729). Asmussen has 498 career victories in Hot Springs since 1989. … Untapped, a 2-year-old full sister to champion Untapable, is scheduled to make her career debut in Friday’s sixth race at Churchill Downs for Asmussen and owner/breeder, Winchell Thoroughbreds. Asmussen and Winchell also campaigned the recently retired Untapable, whose last career victory came in Oaklawn’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) in 2015. Untapped and Untapable are by Tapit and out of Fun House, fifth in Oaklawn’s $200,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) in 2002 for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. … Oaklawn-raced Kathballu is entered in the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes for female sprinters Saturday at Churchill Downs. Also entered is defending champion Spelling Again, who trained this year in Hot Springs. … Hebbronville, unraced since finishing sixth in the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 5 at Oaklawn, is scheduled to make his comeback in the $100,000 Hall of Fame Stakes Saturday at Parx for trainer Lynn Whiting. … Mississippi Delta, who trained at Oaklawn in 2015 but didn’t run after becoming ill, won the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes Saturday at Kentucky Downs for trainer Mark Casse.

 

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