Sunday, April 02, 2017
Asmussen’s Pair Works toward Arkansas Derby
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s two scheduled starters for the Arkansas Derby worked in company just after the track opened Sunday morning in preparation for the $1 million Grade 1 race April 15 at Oaklawn.
Untrapped and Lookin At Lee were both credited with 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 and galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:12.60 over a fast track.
“They worked great, super work,” Asmussen said. “That’s as good as Lookin At Lee’s ever worked. Laid-back horse. Maybe the timing is great. And Untrapped has always been impressive.”
Asmussen said he has yet to finalize Arkansas Derby riding assignments for Untrapped and Lookin At Lee, who finished third and sixth, respectively, in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel is the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby. The top six Rebel finishers were separated by 3 ¾ lengths.
Also expected for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby are unbeaten Malagacy, who won the Rebel by two lengths; Sonneteer, Petrov and Silver Dust, second, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Rebel; and Classic Empire, the country’s champion 2-year-old male.
Oaklawn maiden graduates Dilettante and Blueridge Traveler are under consideration for the Arkansas Derby, which offers 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Post positions for the Arkansas Derby will be drawn April 12.
Asmussen won last year’s Arkansas Derby with Creator, who went on to capture the Belmont Stakes.
The Great Race
Ricardo Santana Jr. could win his fifth consecutive Oaklawn riding title this year. Or he could finish fourth. That’s how tight the race is after 48 days of the scheduled 57-day meeting that ends April 15.
Santana, Ramon Vazquez and Geovanni Franco are tied for the lead with 39 victories. Alex Canchari is fourth with 37. Canchari, who missed the previous two days with a non-racing injury, had a triple Saturday to set a single-season personal record for victories at Oaklawn.
Canchari won the first race aboard favored Sanilac ($4) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, fourth race aboard Secret Trick ($26.80) for trainer Mike Lauer and the seventh race aboard Private Prospect ($7) for Asmussen. His previous meet-best victory total was 36, which came last year when he finished third behind Santana (80) and Vazquez (42).
Vazquez had a double Saturday, winning the third race aboard Hot Item ($8.40) for trainer J.R. Caldwell and the fifth race aboard Way Striking ($13.60) for trainer Robertino Diodoro. He was Oaklawn’s second-leading rider in 2015 and 2016.
Santana won Saturday’s eighth race aboard favored Visionary Tale ($3.60) for trainer Brad Cox.
Both of Asmussen’s winners Saturday were for Clark Brewster. Asmussen, bidding for his eighth Oaklawn training title since 2007, has a meet-high 31 victories, six more than runner-up Diodoro.
Danny Caldwell is well on his way to his fourth consecutive owner’s title with 18 victories. Mike Waters and K.K. and Devi Jayaraman are tied for second with nine.
Jose Ortiz will ride Terra Promessa in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) and Torrent in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 14, according to his agent, Jimmy Riccio. The New York-based Ortiz was a finalist for an Eclipse Award last year and the country’s winningest rider in 2016. Ortiz has six victories at the meeting, including the $125,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 14 aboard Terra Promessa. Terra Promessa worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.20 Sunday morning for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen in advance of the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom. . … Arkansas-bred star Weast Hill worked a half-mile in :49 Sunday morning for trainer Brad Cox in preparation for Saturday’s $100,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Weast Hill is the defending champion. … Someday Soon remains under consideration for the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy, trainer Will VanMeter said Sunday morning. … Counterforce, winner of last year’s $150,000 Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn, finished fourth in his comeback race Saturday, an allowance/optional claiming sprint. The winner, Gordy Florida, finished second in last year’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn. … Sandra Wooten of Pine Bluff, Ark., won Oaklawn’s annual boat and truck promotion Saturday. … Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg will serve as auctioneer for a Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. (Central) Monday at Central Park Fusion in downtown Hot Springs. Tickets are $20. The event will include live music.