Blue Tone Brings Hess Back to Oaklawn for Second Time
Quiet Kim, the first horse trainer Bob Hess Jr. started at Oaklawn, was the favorite for the $250,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies in 2006. The odds of the trainer's second scheduled Oaklawn starter will be a bit longer.
Hess will travel from his Southern California base to saddle Blue Tone in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Monday. The 8-year-old Birdstone gelding is a multiple stakes winner, but the 1 1/16-mile Razorback will have an overwhelming favorite in Gun Runner, a multiple graded stakes winner of $2,037,800 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
“I’ve been watching all the preps and all the horses,” Hess said Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, we were hoping Gun Runner would pass, but we’re ready to go. We’ve been eyeballing races all over, New Orleans, Florida, New York and Oaklawn as well, for quite a while.”
Hess said he decided on the Razorback because there was nothing for Blue Tone in California and the race is worth a record $500,000 this year, a hefty $150,000 bump from 2016. The horse has won 7 of 25 career races, including the $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (G3) Jan. 7 at Santa Anita in his last start, and bankrolled $558,870. The gelding was a front-running winner of the 1 1/8-mile race, which was transferred from the grass to the main track because of rain.
Blue Tone didn’t make his career debut until he was 4 because he was a “big monster of a horse,” Hess said.
“Just lots of little things, but I think he’s 8 going on 4, personally,” Hess said.
Hess said Jose Ortiz, a finalist for an Eclipse Award after leading the country in victories last year, will ride Blue Tone in the Razorback because the gelding’s regular jockey, Hall Famer Kent Desormeaux, is “tied up” at Santa Anita.
Hess said his assistant and Desormeaux’s wife, Rosie, is with Blue Tone at Oaklawn. Hess said he will fly in to saddle the horse Monday.
“We ran in the ’06 Fantasy as the favorite, and ran not too well,” Hess said, recalling Quiet Kim’s sixth-place finish. “But we had a great time and have been looking forward to coming back there and visit and run.”
Blue Tone was flown from Southern California to Arkansas Tuesday.
Post positions for the Razorback will be drawn Friday.
Joining the Club
Warrior’s Club tuned up for Monday’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds by working an easy 3 furlongs Thursday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. He covered the distance over a fast track in :37 approximately five minutes after the track opened.
Warrior’s Club, who races for the non-profit Churchill Downs Racing Club, will be ridden in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest by Chris Landeros, Lukas said Thursday morning. He is coming off a fourth-place finish in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16. The winner, Uncontested, splashed to a record-setting 5 ¼-length wire-to-wire victory over a sloppy track.
Lukas also plans to start Jan. 29 maiden graduate Dilettante in the Southwest and said Florent Geroux would ride the Unbridled’s Song colt Monday.
“It will be a different race, and, hopefully, the track will be dry and that may change things, too,” Lukas said.
Other locally based horses scheduled to run in the Southwest include Chief Know It All (Joe Rocco Jr. to ride), Cu Rahy (Glenn Corbett), Hence (Ramon Vazquez), Lookin At Lee (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Petrov (Jose Ortiz), P C Cowboy (Carlos Marquez Jr.), Rowdy the Warrior (Luis Quinonez), Silver Dust (Corey Lanerie) and Uncontested (Channing Hill).
Post positions for the Southwest will be drawn Friday.
Harry Rosenblum, co-owner of Triple Crown nominee Uncontested, said a “real prominent owner” inquired about buying a piece of the colt following his record-setting 5 ¼-length victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16. But Rosenblum said he and Robert LaPenta – a 50/50 partner in Uncontested – passed and have no desire to sell any piece of the son of Tiz Wonderful.
“I have no interest in it, nor does Bob, at this point,” Rosenblum said Wednesday morning.
Rosenblum purchased Uncontested for $20,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Uncontested has won 2 of 3 lifetime starts, his only loss a fourth behind unbeaten McCraken in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club marked Uncontested first start around two turns.
Uncontested wore Rosenblum’s silks in the Smarty Jones, but will carry LaPenta’s colors in Monday’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), Rosenblum said. The owners alternate silks, Rosenblum said, but Uncontested would wear his colors in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.
Rosenblum lives in Little Rock, Ark., and Oaklawn is his home track.
Like Father, Like Son
Four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance and his son, trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs, won races on Sunday’s card. Tommy Vance won the third race with favored Lucy’s Revenge ($6). David Vance won the sixth race with Bad Student ($8).
Tommy Vance, who resumed training last fall after a 22-year break, has three victories at the meet. His father, among the winningest trainers in Oaklawn history, has two.
“He’s probably going to beat me,” David Vance said with a laugh. “He’s got more horses than me.”
Tommy Vance, who assisted father the last few years, isn’t buying it.
“I’ve only got four horses,” he said.
David Vance was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976.
Ready to Strike
Mountain Home is the 2-1 program favorite for Friday’s ninth race, a maiden-allowance sprint for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies.
The daughter of Successful Appeal is owned by Memphis-based Ten Strike Racing, whose founding partners are Marshall Gramm and Clay Sanders. Gramm said the filly – their first Arkansas homebred – was named after Sanders’ hometown of Mountain Home, Ark., about 190 miles north of Hot Springs.
Mountain Home, in her Jan. 15 career debut, was beaten a neck by the more experienced Dutch Parrot, who returned to finish a fast-closing second against older state-breds in a Feb. 5 allowance sprint.
“We really feel good about our chances,” said Gramm, an economics professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. “I believe that the day we ran, the inside was not the place to be and we’re up dueling and got caught at the end. Hopefully, we can improve second out.”
Gramm said the hope is Mountain Home will be good enough to run in the $100,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes April 1, the biggest race for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies. He said Ten Strike also has a 2-year-old Arkansas-bred filly by Storm and a Half, Zippy Lou, who is a half-sister to Mountain Home.
Gramm said one partner in Ten Strike named Zippy Lou after his cousin, Lou Siegel, a member of Oaklawn’s customer relations staff.
Alex Birzer has 2,995 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Birzer is named on seven horses Thursday. … The track was rated fast for workouts Thursday morning. … Romeo O Romeo, pointing for an allowance race, worked a half-mile in company in :48.80 after the renovation break Thursday morning for trainer Brian Williamson. Romeo O Romeo has been gelded and added blinkers since his last start, Williamson said, a seventh in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile Jan. 16. “He wasn’t focusing,” Williamson said. “He was breezing good in the morning, and then in the afternoon the last couple of times … could have been the dirt, though – I don’t know – or it could have been the route. Could have been a lot of things, I guess.” Romeo O Romeo was coming off a 12th-place finish in his dirt debut, the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. … Balandeen, fifth in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) Nov. 19 at Delta Downs, moved closer to his 3-year-old debut by working 6 furlongs in a swift 1:12 after the break Thursday morning for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. … My Sweet Stella will be pointed for the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 11, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning. My Sweet Stella finished second to Honeybee-bound Chanel’s Legacy in the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 21 and Saturday’s $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes. … Lukas said Thursday morning that millionaire Mr. Z has been retired to begin a breeding career at Calumet Farm, which campaigned the 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon for his final 12 starts, highlighted by a nose victory in the $500,000 Ohio Derby in 2015. Lukas said Calumet decided to stop on Mr. Z so he could get a “jumpstart” on the 2017 breeding season. Mr. Z ran third in Oaklawn’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2015 for his original owner, Ahmed Zayat, and sixth in a Feb. 5 allowance/optional claimer in his final career start. Mr. Z retires with earnings of $1,177,378. … Mallard’s Bro will pass the $100,000 Nodouble Stakes Feb. 25 – a 6-furlong race restricted to Arkansas-breds – and instead target a two-turn race, trainer Al Cates of Hot Springs said Thursday morning. Cates said the two-turn race will serve as a prep for the $100,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes April 8. Mallard’s Bro won the 1 1/16-mile Arkansas Breeders’ (also restricted to state-breds) in 2014, was third in 2015 and second last year to Weast Hill, who is expected to head the Nodouble field. … There have been 157 claims totaling $1,955,500 through the first 20 days of the meeting.