Sunday, February 19, 2017
Uncontested to Test His Speed in Monday’s Southwest Stakes
Only one 3-year-old has run a faster mile in January at Oaklawn than Triple Crown nominee Uncontested.
There was cause for concern Jan. 21, 1994, when Concern won an entry-level allowance race in 1:36.16, still the fastest mile by a 3-year-old since Oaklawn began regularly opening during that month in 1988.
Concern went on to win the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) at Oaklawn and $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs later that year.
Uncontested is off to a fast start, too. Over a sloppy, sealed surface Jan. 16, he galloped to a wire-to-wire 5 ¼-length victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. The son of Tiz Wonderful covered the mile in 1:36.32 – the previous stakes record was 1:38.05 – in recording the most lopsided victory in the race’s 10-year-history.
“Everything he does is effortless, and the biggest attribute for me that he has is his mind,” said Channing Hill, Uncontested’s regular rider. “Nothing shakes him. Nothing bothers him. It’s not like he’s ripping on the lead. It’s not like he’s all out. It’s not like he’s going :46, like he’s struggling to do it and I’m fighting to take him back. Going :46 for him is just a long rein, two deep breaths and just a cruise. You always feel like you have more, which is nice.”
Uncontested has won of 2 of 3 lifetime starts. He won his Oct. 19 career debut at Keeneland in 1:15.81 for 6 ½ furlongs (the track record is 1:15.05) before finishing fourth in his two-turn debut, the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs.
Uncontested led at every point of call in his career debut and was the pacesetter in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club. Hill said a horse “will have to really break” and “really commit” to grab an early lead from Uncontested.
“Not only is he fast that first jump out, he’s fast the three, four, five jumps out, where you’re moving into the turn,” Hill said. “If they’re in front of him, they’ll probably end up going quick.”
V for Johnny V?
Lightly raced One Liner is the 7-2 second choice in the program for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Monday at Oaklawn, a 1 1/16-mile race that will mark the biggest test in the unbeaten colt’s young career.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, One Liner (2 for 2) has been based this winter in south Florida, winning a first-level allowance/optional claiming sprint Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut.
“Obviously, he’s stepping up to a big race Monday,” said the colt’s regular rider, Hall of Famer John Velazquez. “But I think he’s a very talented horse and hopefully he can put it all together and run really well.”
One Liner, a son of Into Mischief, was a July 23 career debut winner at Saratoga. The runner-up in that race, Royal Copy, returned to finish second in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 5 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Velazquez said he doesn’t believe stretching out for the first time will be a major hurdle for One Liner, who races for WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club and SF Racing LLC.
“He’s always shown a lot of talent in the morning,” Velazquez said. “He’s done everything really well. Now, it’s going from an allowance race to the wolves, basically. I think he’s definitely a very good horse. It’s tough task coming from a long layoff, with just one race, and then running into the tough guys. I mean, he’s a tough guy himself.”
One Liner has been favored in both career starts.
The 5-2 program favorite for the Southwest is Uncontested, winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16.
Million Dollar Man?
A top three finish in Monday’s $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses will make Smack Smack a millionaire for trainer Don Von Hemel of Hot Springs.
Von Hemel, 82, has never trained a millionaire, but Smack Smack ($955,430) would earn $50,000 for a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Razorback.
Von Hemel opted for the Razorback over a money-allowance/optional claimer Monday, a 1 1/16-mile race that drew, among others, multiple stakes winner Shotgun Kowboy, millionaire Carve and major stakes winner Suddenbreakingnews for son/ trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.
“It came down to thinking about what’s the worst scenario that could happen,” said Don Von Hemel, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1981. “If I run last, I still get my money back. In that allowance race, if I don’t run as good as fifth, I’m in trouble. In a nine-race field, a lot of things happen.”
Smack Smack is winless in six career starts at Oaklawn, but has run second four times, including the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 13 in his last start.
Smack Smack is 10-1 in the program for the Razorback.
“I’ve beat a couple of those horses in the past that’s in there,” Von Hemel said. “I wish it was a mile and an eighth. I would have never even questioned about going.”
Smack Smack, a 6-year-old Closing Argument gelding who races for his breeder, country music star Toby Keith, has won 10 of 31 career starts overall.
The track was rated fast for workouts Sunday morning. … Whitmore, perfect in four career sprint starts, recorded a 5-furlong bullet in company (1:00.60) Sunday morning for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs in advance of the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters March 11. … Also working about 10 minutes after the track opened Sunday morning was My Sweet Stella, who went a half-mile in :49 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. My Sweet Stella is pointing for the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 11, Lukas said. My Sweet Stella was runner-up in the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 21 and $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 11. Other locally based horses pointing for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee include Dixie Belle and Martha Washington winner Chanel’s Legacy, Torrent and Perfect Wife, third and eighth, respectively, in the Martha Washington, and Someday Soon, a powerful first-level allowance/optional claiming winner last Sunday. … Wolf Man Rocket, who broke his maiden in the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes for 3-year-olds in 2015 at Oaklawn, worked a half-mile in :50.20 Sunday morning for trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Marquee Miss is pointing for the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older female sprinters March 4, trainer Ingrid Mason said Sunday morning.