Oaklawn News

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top 3-Year-Old Prospect High North Preparing for 2018 Debut

Shortleaf Stable’s High North is under consideration for three races early in the 2018 Oaklawn meeting, including the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Jan. 15, trainer Brad Cox said Wednesday morning.

A son of sprint champion Midnight Lute, High North has a 1-1-0 record from four starts. He finished a troubled fourth in his last start, the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.

In his first breeze since the Jockey Club, High North posted a 3-furlong bullet (:36.40) Sunday morning at Oaklawn, a move Cox called, “outstanding.” Cox said High North could make his 3-year-old debut in a first-level allowance race, the Smarty Jones or the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19, Oaklawn’s second of four major Kentucky Derby preps.

“We’ve not really made a decision yet,” Cox said. “Ultimately, it will just depend where he is with his training and how much time we miss training there. Hopefully, we don’t miss any. All of those will be a factor in where he starts next.”

High North, an Oct. 26 Keeneland maiden graduate, is a half-brother to Benner Island, also campaigned by Shortleaf (John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs) and Cox.

Benner Island ran three times at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting, finishing second in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies, before winning the $200,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2) May 5 at Churchill Downs.

Both High North and Benner Island are out of the Awesome Again mare Spacy Tracy, who finished seventh behind champions Havre de Grace and Blind Luck in the $150,000 Azeri Stakes (G3) in 2011 at Oaklawn.

Cox said High North and Benner Island “are very, very different horses.”

“Actually, you would never think that they are halves,” Cox said. “She was just kind of a plain brown wrapper. He’s a very, very flashy horse – big white face with a gray tail. Just a lot of white on him. He’s big, she’s not. She was probably medium sized, and he’s a big, strong colt.”

Cox said Benner Island is at her best in races up to a mile, while High North “acts like he definitely doesn’t really get warmed up until after a mile.”

High North broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles.

“High North does act like he will go farther than she did,” Cox said.

Benner Island has been on an extended break since finishing third in the $700,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) June 10 at Belmont Park, Cox said, and future plans are pending for the daughter of sprint champion Speightstown.  

That’s Not a Rap

Domain’s Rap returned to the Oaklawn work tab Wednesday morning, covering a half-mile over a fast track in :53 for trainer Federico Villafranco and Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn’s leading owner the last four years.

It wasn’t a typo.

Domain’s Rap, the soon-to-be 10-year-old gelding, who finished second in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting, resumed training in late fall after being retired last summer because of leg problem (suspensory ligament), Caldwell said Thursday morning.

The initial thought, Caldwell said, was to make Domain’s Rap a stable pony for the 2018 Oaklawn meeting, but the gelding had other ideas after returning to Villafranco in October at Remington Park.

“He kind of didn’t want to be a pony,” Caldwell said. “He wanted to run again, so we’re taking it one day at a time. Right now, he wants to run. He’s healed up completely.”

The gelding breezed twice earlier this month at Remington Park.
“He’s still got a lot fire in him,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said Domain’s Rap is training as good as any horse in the barn, but it’s not guaranteed the gelding will run again. Caldwell said he will “automatically stop” on Domain’s Rap if something pops up again physically.

Domain’s Rap has flourished since Caldwell claimed the gelding for $10,000 Nov. 20, 2015, at Remington Park. He has won six races for his newest connections, including the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes to open the 2017 Oaklawn meeting.

Overall, the Illinois-bred son of Cherokee Rap has won 15 of 64 starts and earned $880,850. 

Making the grade

Oaklawn’s graded stakes races for the 2018 season:

GRADE I (2) $1 million Arkansas Derby, $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap.
GRADE II (3) $900,000 Rebel Stakes, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap, $350,000 Azeri Stakes.
GRADE III (6) $500,000 Southwest Stakes, $500,000 Razorback Handicap $400,000 Fantasy Stakes, $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, $200,000 Honeybee Stakes, $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes.

Grades are in

Eleven Oaklawn’s stakes races during the 2018 meeting that is scheduled to begin Jan. 12 have received grades by The American Graded Stakes Committee.

All races retained their same grade as 2017, including the committee’s highest ranking – Grade 1 – for the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 14 and $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap April 13.

The Apple Blossom, one of the country’s most prestigious races for older fillies and mares, will carry a record purse in 2018 after previously being worth $600,000. 

Finish Lines

There were 1,127 horses on the grounds Thursday morning. … The track was closed for training Thursday (freezing temperatures). … Unbeaten Amy’s Challenge recorded a half-mile bullet workout (:47.80) over a fast track Wednesday morning in preparation for the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Jan. 20. Amy’s Challenge, who races for Novogratz Racing Stables Inc. and trainer Mac Robertson, beat males in her only two career starts at Canterbury Park. … Sonny Smack, an unstarted 2-year-old half-brother to multiple stakes winner Smack Smack, worked 3 furlongs in :36.20 Wednesday morning for trainer Don Von Hemel of Hot Springs. The Von Hemel-trained Smack Smack is expected to resurface late in the 2018 Oaklawn meeting in an attempt to surpass $1 million in career earnings. Smack Smack, runner-up in the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting, has earned $982,159. … Nominations to the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 12 close next Thursday. … Trainer Brad Cox said he hopes to work his unnamed 2-year-old half-brother to champion Classic Empire from the gate in the next week or two and is targeting a February debut for the chestnut colt. The now-retired Classic Empire, an Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male, recorded his final career victory in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2017 at Oaklawn.