Friday, February 03, 2017

 

Mathews, Howard Hit Equine Lottery with “Ivan”

 

Three horses, each for $25,000, were claimed out of the ninth race March 6, 2014, at Oaklawn. However, only one of those horses has developed into a multiple stakes winner.

 

“Just glad he found us, you know what I mean?” trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs said of Ivan Fallunovalot. And, Howard didn’t even have to shake for the gelding, now 7, either.

 

Almost three years after hitting the equine (claiming) lottery, Ivan Fallunovalot bids for a record third consecutive victory in the King Cotton Stakes, a $125,000 6-furlong event for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn.

 

Unlike the other two horses, who have never started in a stakes race since being claimed out of that March race, Ivan Fallunovalot has flourished in high-end races under the care of Howard and owner Lewis Mathews, a businessman in nearby Bismarck, Ark.

 

Ivan Fallunovalot, a son of Valid Expectations, has won 11 races – seven stakes and four in allowance or allowance/optional claiming company – competed in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in October 2015 at Keeneland and was named 2015 Texas Horse of the Year by the Texas Thoroughbred Association. He finished ninth in the Sprint (beaten 6 ½ lengths by the freakish Runhappy), but hasn’t lost since.

 

What was supposed to be a claim based heavy on regional flavor – Mathews was shopping for a Texas-bred because Howard was shifting his summer base from Prairie Meadows to Lone Star Park in 2014 – has turned into the claim of a lifetime and among the best in Oaklawn history.

 

“I’m just proud to be a part of it,” Mathews said.

 

Mathews, who has 60 victories solely or in partnership since his first in 2004, said he handicaps every night before the races and looks for lightly raced horses with the “potential to win” in making claims. Ivan Fallunovalot, he said, was a perfect fit.

 

“At that time, I think he had eight outs and three wins and earnings of $60,000,” Mathews said. “He hadn’t been heavily raced and showed the potential to win. And, then I liked Valid Expectations. Knowing that we were going to Texas, it all came together.”

 

Valid Expectations was the first nationally prominent horse for Steve Asmussen, and the Hall of Fame trainer’s first Oaklawn stakes winner ($50,000 Mountain Valley in 1996).

 

The “irony,” Mathews said, is Ivan Fallunovalot has started only once in Texas since being claimed (an allowance/optional claiming victory in May 2015 at Lone Star).

 

“They didn’t have a non-winners of 12 or anything like that,” Mathews said with a laugh.

 

The March 2014 race at Oaklawn was Ivan Fallunovalot’s 4-year-old debut, first start outside Texas and first running for a claiming price.

 

“He jumped off the page, so I called Tom and said since we’re going to Texas, let’s take a look at this one,” Mathews said. “And the way we do it is, we both look at it physically before we make the decision. This time, a lot of luck was involved.”

 

Howard said he believed Ivan Fallunovalot, who began his career with the high-profile Texas connections of owner Tom Durant and trainer Jack Bruner, shipped in the day before the race and vividly recalls the gelding’s “slick” coat.

 

“I guess he had been in Texas, because he didn’t look like the other horses that were here,” Howard said. “We had hair. I mean, it was a rough winter. I looked at him and said, ‘He looks damn good to me.’ ”

 

Ivan Fallunovalot won allowance/optional claiming races in his first two starts for Howard, then the $75,000 David M. Vance Sprint Stakes in August 2014 at Remington Park. His 2015 campaign included victories in the $100,000 King Cotton, $75,000 David M. Vance and $150,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup Stakes.

 

The gelding was unbeaten in four starts last year, highlighted by the $100,000 King Cotton, $150,000 David M. Vance and, in his last start, the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Nov. 19 at Laurel. A winner of 14 of 25 career starts, Ivan Fallunovalot has bankrolled $800,808.

 

Save a foot problem (the gelding spent approximately 60 days at Mathews’ farm following the 2016 Oaklawn meeting recovering from a quarter-crack), Ivan Fallunovalot hasn’t had any major physical problems since being claimed. Mathews said his goal for Ivan Fallunovalot is to reach $1 million in career earnings and retire sound to his future home in Bismarck.

 

“You will never, ever see him in a claiming race,” Mathews said. “When it’s time, I’ve already got a place for him here.”

 

Joining the Club

 

Warrior’s Club will make his next start in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds Feb. 20, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Friday morning. The colt, who races for the non-profit Churchill Downs Racing Club, finished fourth in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 in his 2017 debut.

 

“We’ll give him another chance to see what he looks like,” Lukas said.

 

Lukas said he has yet to confirm a rider for Warrior’s Club, who recorded his biggest career victory in the $300,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes Oct. 30 at Churchill Downs.

 

Two-time Oaklawn riding champion Robby Albarado was aboard Warrior’s Club in the 1-mile Smarty Jones.

 

Lukas won the Southwest in 1992 with Big Sur, who upset winners of the first two Triple Crown races that year – Lil E. Tee (Kentucky Derby) and Pine Bluff (Preakness).

 

Other locally based horses pointing for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest are Uncontested and Petrov, first and second, respectively, in the Smarty Jones.

 

Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who co-owns and trains Petrov, said he plans to breeze the colt Saturday or Sunday.

 

The Southwest is Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby prep race, a series that continues with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.

 

Santana Nears Milestone

 

A riding double Thursday moved four-time defending riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. on the brink of a career Oaklawn milestone.

 

According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering, Santana has 299 victories at Oaklawn after winning Thursday’s fifth race aboard favored Nikki’s Rose ($5) and seventh race aboard Fire Starter ($12.40). The 24-year-old jockey began riding at Oaklawn in 2011.


Santana set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings last year ($4,064,073) and recorded his first Grade I victory aboard Creator in the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Through the first 13 race days this year, he has nine victories to rank fourth in the standings.

Santana is named on seven horses Friday.

 

Finish Lines

 

The track was rated fast for workouts Friday morning. … Alex Birzer recorded his 2,992nd career North American victory in Thursday’s second race aboard Counton Claire ($9.80), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Birzer is trying to become the 174th jockey to reach 3,000 North American victories, according to Equibase. … Oaklawn reached 100 claims at the meet Thursday, the 13th day of racing. The claims have totaled $1,291,000. … Domain’s Rap, winner of the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 13, is entered in Saturday’s fifth race, an allowance/optional claimer at a mile. … Scheduled post time for Sunday’s ninth and final race is 4:52 p.m. (Central). There is a special first post time of 1:05 p.m. for Super Bowl Sunday.

 

 

 

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