Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Classic Empire Arrives Wednesday for Arkansas Derby
John Oxley’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male Classic Empire is scheduled to arrive Wednesday at Oaklawn to run in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), the country’s final major Kentucky Derby prep. The colt, who has been based this winter and spring in Florida, will be flown to Arkansas via H.E. “Tex Sutton’s famed equine transportation company.
“We’re coming with Pletcher,” trainer Mark Casse said, referring to trainer Todd Pletcher’s Arkansas Derby entrant, Malagacy. The two Florida horses will be flown to Little Rock, Ark., then vanned 57 miles southwest to Oaklawn.
A son of Pioneerof the Nile, Classic Empire was a unanimous choice for champion 2-year-old male last year after winning 4 of 5 starts, highlighted by the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 8 at Keeneland and the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita. In his only start this year, Classic Empire finished third in the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park.
Malagacy is unbeaten in three career starts, including the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18, the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby.
The Arkansas Derby offers 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the May 6 Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with points earned in designated races used to determine starting preference if the race oversubscribes. Malagacy ranks 12th with 50 points (all earned in the Rebel). Classic Empire is 21st with 32 points.
Post positions for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby will be drawn Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.
Rockin Rudy Looks to Add to O’Neill’s Kentucky Derby Arsenal
A week after shocking the racing world in a major Kentucky Derby prep race, trainer Doug O’Neill will try to do it again in the Arkansas Derby with lightly raced Rockin Rudy.
O’Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam won the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) Saturday at Keeneland with Irap, who broke his maiden at odds of 31-1. The same connections will be represented in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby by the speedy Rockin Rudy, a son of champion Midshipman, who will be making just his fourth career start, and first around two turns.
“It’s not every day to go from 6 ½ to 9 furlongs, but it’s possible and we’re going to give it a roll,” O’Neill said.
Rockin Rudy began his career with a front-running 11 ½-length victory at 5 ½ furlongs Aug. 5 at Del Mar for trainer John Brocklebank. After debuting for an $80,000 claiming price, Rockin Rudy was purchased privately late last year by Reddam, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and again last year with Nyquist – both trained by O’Neill.
“He’s a horse that won very impressively and there was word on the street he was for sale, so we looked into him and then didn’t get a deal done,” O’Neill said. “Then as it turned out, he was turned out for a little body soreness and immaturity stuff.”
Brocklebank, O’Neill said, called later in the year and was ready to part with the more mature gray colt.
Rockin Rudy has finished second in both of his 2017 starts at 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. After holding the early lead in each race, Rockin Rudy was beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the $75,000 Baffle Stakes Feb. 20 and a head in a first-level allowance/optional claimer March 24.
“One of the things I enjoy about training is letting horses train along good and let them put their feet where they want to put them, and we put good air into them,” O’Neill said. “I really think, even though 6 ½ seems like a far cry from a mile and an eighth, it was really a hard-run race, especially a horse with speed. You’re burning gate to wire.”
Rockin Rudy has raced in blinkers throughout his career, but O’Neill said he will remove the equipment for the Arkansas Derby because he wants to harness some of the colt’s natural early speed.
“With the blinkers on, it’s all focused on gate to wire, so he needs to chill out a little bit,” O’Neill said. “Blinkers off does it.”
Irap won the Blue Grass after removing blinkers.
Rockin Rudy will be the Southern California-based O’Neill’s third Arkansas Derby starter, following Harvard Avenue (fourth behind Smarty Jones in 2004) and Jealous Profit (sixth behind Lawyer Ron in 2006).
Rockin Rudy was bred in Iowa by Allen Poindexter, also the breeder and owner of multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Chanel’s Legacy. He was to be flown Tuesday to Arkansas.
“He’s a neat individual,” O’Neill said. “I really think he’s a got chance to run a bang-up race, which obviously he would have to, to be competitive there. But we’re excited and eager to deal with those.”
APPLE BLOSSOM HANDICAP
Stellar Wind Set to Arrive for Apple Blossom
Hronis Racing LLC’s champion Stellar Wind is scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon from Southern California and will make her 5-year-old debut in Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). It will be her first race since finishing four in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff Nov. 4.
“We gave her a vacation after the Breeders’ Cup, and with Southern California having such a wet January and February – we were going to be pressed to have her ready for the Santa Margarita,” trainer John Sadler said. “The Apple Blossom is such a classic and prestigious race too.”
Stellar Wind recorded a 5F work at Santa Anita April 7 in 1:00.3 with regular exercise rider Jose Contreras up. Contreras, who will make the trip to Hot Springs, is also the brother of local jockey Luis Contreras. Victor Espinoza will be aboard the 3yo Champion filly on race day.
Sadler will also be sending Oaklawn Handicap contender Accelerate, Count Fleet contender Moe Candy and Northern Spur entrant Cistron on a Tex Sutton flight which will depart on Tuesday. The horses will train at Oaklawn Wednesday morning.
Streamline Works toward Apple Blossom
Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Streamline completed major preparations for Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) by working a half-mile in :52.20 over a fast track Monday morning for trainer Brian Williamson.
The consistent and durable Streamline is coming off a one-length victory in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 18, the final major local prep for the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom.
Streamline was the only horse to run in all four of Oaklawn’s two-two stakes races for older fillies and mares last year, winning the $100,000 Pippin Stakes, finishing second in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3), third in the Azeri and second in the Apple Blossom. Before winning the Azeri, Streamline ran third in this year’s Pippin and Bayakoa.
Williamson said there are no thoughts at this time of retiring Streamline, who races for his mother-in-law, Nancy Vanier, also the 5-year-old’s breeder, and Cartwright Thoroughbreds V LLC.
“We breed horses to own,” Williamson said. “We do have enough, but if she can make money next year and is sound, as long as she is OK, we might just go ahead run her another year as long as her performance doesn’t decline too much.”
Streamline, an Illinois-bred daughter of Straight Line has finished first, second or third in 16 of 17 career starts and earned $601,566.
Williamson and Vanier also campaigned Straight Line and Streamline’s dam, Love Handles.
Oaklawn Handicap Distance Suits Accelerate
Trainer John Sadler said the 1 1/8-mile distance of Saturday’s $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) was one of the main reason he selected the race for Hronis Racing LLC’s Accelerate, who has been second or third in his last three starts.
“He ran well in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and got unlucky in his next couple of races, the San Pasqual (came out at the start) and San Antonio (got away slow),” Sadler said. “We skipped the Big Cap as the 1 ¼ isn’t ideal and thought this would be a good spot.”
Tyler Baze was up for Accelerate’s recent April 7 work at Santa Anita where he is stabled. He recorded 6F in 1:12.4 and will also be aboard for the Oaklawn Handicap. Baze has ridden him in all 9 career starts.
Chanel’s Legacy Comfortable in Hood
She’s a multiple stakes winner who lives in the hood. Chanel’s Legacy, scheduled to run in Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies, is one of trainer Lynn Chleborad’s horses who runs in a hood, or titanium fabric mask, designed to promote focus and relaxation.
“ThunderShirt for a dog is what I compare it to,” Chleborad said. “That’s exactly what it’s like.”
Chleborad said the mask’s material was originally developed for astronauts to combat “anxiety in space.”
“And truthfully, I don’t know how it works,” Chleborad said. “But, it works on some horses, just to relieve the anxiety. It was brought to my attention by a veterinarian, who observed it when he was working with some of his other clients. Me, I’m pretty hard to sell to. I’m like, ‘Yeah, right,’ because it really just looks like material. There’s nothing in it that you could tell.”
Chleborad said she began using the product, which resembles a blinker hood, last summer, adding it is becoming more popular with trainers. She said she doesn’t use it on all of her horses, but Chanel’s Legacy trains and races in a titanium fabric mask. Chanel’s Legacy won the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 21 and $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 11.
“Like I said, it doesn’t help everyone,” Chleborad said. “But, if it even helps one horse, it would be worth it.”
One company sells the titanium fabric mask online for $72.
Oaklawn denote horses wearing the “hood” during races in the program.
In other Fantasy Stakes news, Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale was spending his first morning in the Oaklawn barn area overseeing the care of his filly Vexatious, who has been in Hot Springs since vanning here from Fair Grounds shortly after finishing third in the Fair Grounds Oaks April 1.
“She’s settled in quite nicely here at Oaklawn and has handled everything well. We will take her out for a nice little trot today. We are happy to be here.”