Wednesday, February 08, 2017

 

Alsvid Eyes Hot Springs

 

There was no five-peat for Alsvid, but trainer Chris Hartman said Sunday afternoon that his hope is the millionaire will return to stakes competition in the $125,000 Hot Springs for older sprinters March 11.

 

Alsvid, in his 8-year-old debut, won an allowance/optional claimer by a length Jan. 26 under Channing Hill. It was the 16th victory in 47 lifetime starts for Alsvid, increasing his earnings to $1,372,815.

 

“He’s in great shape,” Hartman said. “Great shape.”

 

Hartman said the Officer gelding was never a serious candidate for last Saturday’s $125,000 King Cotton Stakes (he ran second in the race the previous four years) and is instead targeting the Hot Springs.

 

“We’re hoping for the Hot Springs,” Hartman said.

 

Campaigned by James Rogers’ Black Hawk Stable, Alsvid ran second in the Hot Springs in 2014 and third last year. He scored his biggest Oaklawn victory to date in the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in 2015. The Hot Springs is the final major local prep for the $400,000 Count Fleet (G3) April 15.

 

Vazquez Takes Clear Lead in the Jockey Standings

 

Agent Ruben Munoz still represents the leading rider at Oaklawn, but it’s not four-time defending champion Ricardo Santana Jr. – at least through the first 16 days of the scheduled 57-day meeting.

 

Munoz’s other jockey, Ramon Vazquez, tops the standings in mounts (82), victories (21) and purse earnings ($793,136).  Santana, who missed the first five racing days because of a suspension stemming from the 2016 meet, is third with 14 victories.

 

Vazquez has ridden 12 winners for his major client, Oklahoma owner Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn’s three-time defending champion and runaway leader this year.

 

“He’s a huge part of our success,” Caldwell said. “It’s so nice to have your own jockey. He knows your horses. I don’t have to worry about it.”

 

Vazquez, 33, is Caldwell’s go-to rider on his annual circuit of Oaklawn, Prairie Meadows and Remington Park, tracks the owner has led in victories each of the last three years.

 

It was through Santana, Munoz said, that he was able to get his foot in the door with Caldwell, who finished in the top eight nationally in victories in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Munoz said Caldwell wanted to Santana to ride some of his horses a few years ago at Churchill Downs, but the jockey had an out-of-town stakes engagement.

 

“I said, ‘Look, Ricardo’s not there, but I have a guy named Ramon Vazquez who’s there who I guarantee will do a good job for you,” Munoz said.

 

Munoz said Caldwell was happy with the way Vazquez rode the owner’s horses and their partnership soon took off, with Vazquez claiming the last four riding titles at Remington Park (he shared the 2015 championship with C.J. McMahon). Caldwell has won seven consecutive owner's titles at Remington Park.

 

Vazquez also won the 2015 Prairie Meadows riding title, tied with Alex Birzer for the championship last year and was runner-up to Santana in 2015 and 2016 at Oaklawn.

 

“He’s very competitive, and he’s so used to winning,” Munoz said of Vazquez, a native of Puerto Rico. “Ramon thinks he should be leading rider everywhere he goes. That’s just the way he thinks. And that’s a good thing.”

 

Vazquez, in 2015, ranked eighth in North American victories (233) and set a career high for purse earnings ($5,601,231), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

 

Vazquez gave Caldwell his first Oaklawn stakes victory aboard Domain’s Rap in the $125,000 Fifth Season for older horses Jan. 13. In addition to riding all 12 winners for Caldwell and his private trainer, Federico Villafranco, Vazquez has ridden three winners at the meet for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, two for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, two for trainer Chris Richard and one each for trainers Jon Arnett and Robertino Diodoro.

 

Vazquez scored his most lucrative career victory to date aboard the Diodoro-trained Subtle Indian in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last April at Oaklawn. The Fifth Season was Vazquez’s seventh career at Oaklawn stakes victory. He’s also won stakes races at Oaklawn for trainers Ron Moquett and Al Cates of Hot Springs, Phil Sims and Kellyn Gorder.

 

“I try, when Ramon comes here, to give him more exposure and expand him more,” Munoz said. “I think we’ve accomplished that. We’ve ridden in a (Kentucky) Derby. He went to Santa Anita to ride. He’s won his biggest stakes here with a non-Caldwell horse.”

 

Vazquez rode five winners on a single card twice at the 2015 Oaklawn meet. Hall of Famer Pat Day and Larry Snyder share the single-day Oaklawn record for victories with six.

 

Vazquez has 2,406 victories and $34,074,380 in purse earnings in his North American career, according to Equibase. He began his career in Puerto Rico and rode his first winner in 2002. He began riding in the United States in April 2011. He has 178 victories at Oaklawn since 2012.

 

Finish Lines

 

Seven-pound apprentice jockey Aaron Court recorded his first Oaklawn victory when Shoe Money ($21.20) won Sunday’s second race. Court, 30, is the son of 2000 Oaklawn riding champion Jon Court, who has 4,003 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Shoe Money represented Aaron Court’s eighth career victory, and first since June 17, 2015, at Indiana Grand, according to Equibase. Shoe Money is trained by Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, Jon Court’s father-in-law. Court has three victories at the meet. Aaron Court, who rode his first winner in 2012, is 1 for 4 at the meet. … Favored Double A ($6.60) represented the 296th career Oaklawn victory for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in Sunday’s fifth race. … Trainer Chris Hartman said “he’s playing in by ear” regarding the 3-year-old debut of Balandeen, fifth in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) Nov. 19 at Delta Downs in his last start. A son of Bernardini, Balandeen worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 over a fast track Wednesday morning, the colt’s third published breeze at Oaklawn. Hartman said Balandeen is not a candidate for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20. Balandeen’s dam, Mamma Kimbo, in her second career start, won Oaklawn’s $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies in 2012. … Southwest candidate Chief Know It All recorded a half-mile bullet work (:49) over a fast track Monday morning for trainer Brad Cox. Chief Know It All was a front-running winner of a Jan. 27 entry-level allowance/optional claimer in his 3-year-old debut. … P C Cowboy, third behind Chief Know It All Jan. 27, is under consideration for the Southwest and an entry-level allowance race Feb. 18, owner Danny Caldwell said. P C Cowboy was the first of Caldwell’s meet-high 12 winners to date in an opening-day maiden special weights race, Jan. 13. … There have been 129 claims totaling $1,631,000 through the first 16 days of the scheduled 57-day meeting.

 

 

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