VETERAN IVAN FALLUNOVALOT SEEKS THIRD KING COTTON WIN
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, Feb. 3, 2017) – Two-time defending champion Ivan Fallunovalot is the 6-5 program favorite for the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the 6-furlong King Cotton, the eighth of nine races, is 4:38 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m.
Ivan Fallunovalot is bidding to join a select group of horses that have won the same Oaklawn stakes race three consecutive years. That list is headed by 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, who captured the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares in 2002-2004.
Trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs said he doesn’t believe Ivan Fallunovalot has lost a step in advance of his 7-year-old debut.
“As long as he enjoys it mentally – physically, hell, we’ll try to keep him together as long as we can,” Howard said. “He’s easy to deal with. Goes along with everything that comes his way.”
Ivan Fallunovalot will be seeking his fifth consecutive victory Saturday. A quarter-crack sidelined him several months after last year’s King Cotton. He returned to win a Sept. 1 allowance race at Remington Park, defended his title in the $150,000 David M. Vance Sprint Stakes Sept. 25 at Remington Park and scored his biggest career victory to date in the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (G3) Nov. 19 at Laurel.
Reunited with Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel in the De Francis, Ivan Fallunovalot tracked favored X Y Jet on the outside before taking command, in hand, at the top of the stretch. He drew off to a 4 ½-length victory, his 14th in 25 starts overall, and increased his career earnings to $800,808.
Howard said the De Francis wasn’t “necessarily” the best race Ivan Fallunovalot has produced since the trainer hit a grand-slam $25,000 claim on behalf of owner Lewis Mathews of Bismarck, Ark., at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting.
“I think there were some races here that were awfully good,” Howard said. “The race at Laurel, that’s the way you dream about them happening. Just has his way with them.”
Ivan Fallunovalot is scheduled to break from post 2 Saturday under Borel and carry equal top weight of 122 pounds. He has won 5 of 7 career starts at Oaklawn, with his only two losses coming in 2015 – runner-up finishes in the $100,000 Hot Springs Stakes and $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3).
His time in the 2015 King Cotton was 1:08.94. His time in the 2016 King Cotton (1:09.21) was, at that point, the fastest ever in January for a 6-furlong race at Oaklawn.
The balance of the projected King Cotton field from the rail out: Helooksthepart, Joe Rocco Jr. to ride, 115 pounds, 20-1 on the morning line; Mr. Z, Marlin St. Julien, 115, 20-1; Apprehender, Alex Birzer, 115, 10-1; Storm Advisory, Geovanni Franco, 115, 10-1; Conquest Twister, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122; 12-1; Recount, Chris Landeros, 122, 6-1; Rockport Kat, Ramon Vazquez, 122, 5-2; and Crewman, Didiel Osorio, 117, 20-1.
Apprehender won the King Cotton in 2013 and 2014.