Wednesday, February 22, 2017

 

Uncontested Likely to Skip Rebel and Wait for Arkansas Derby

 

Uncontested will likely make his next start in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn, co-owner Harry Rosenblum of Little Rock, Ark., said Wednesday morning. Rosenblum said he and Uncontested’s trainer, Wayne Catalano, are calling Monday’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) a “throw out” after the colt faded to sixth as the favorite.

 

“He’s perfectly fine,” Rosenblum said after seeing Uncontested Wednesday morning. “He looks good. We’re tickled with where we are with him now and you’re probably going to see the horse back in the Arkansas Derby.”

 

Uncontested held a clear lead until late in the second turn of the 1 1/16-mile Southwest and was beaten 12 ¾ lengths by One Liner (3 for 3 lifetime), who was making his stakes and two-turn debut.

 

Uncontested was beaten a length for third by Lookin At Lee, who was making his first start since finishing fourth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.

 

“It was a good field,” Rosenblum said. “We haven’t lost any confidence in our horse. I think we just draw a line through this race, and congratulations to the horses that finished ahead of us.”

 

Uncontested, in his 3-year-old debut, was a record-setting 5 ¼-length wire-to-wire winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 16.

 

Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby prep series continues with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18. But, Uncontested will likely follow the same path as Far Right, who won the Smarty Jones and Southwest in 2015 for Rosenblum and co-owner Robert LaPenta, skipped the Rebel and ran second to eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby. LaPenta also co-owns Uncontested.

 

“It’s the same kind of plan for a different horse,” Rosenblum said, adding the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8 at Keeneland is an outside possibility because of its timing. “I’d say we’d like to win the Arkansas Derby here at home, and the horse does well over this track.”

 

Uncontested recorded the most lopsided margin of victory in the 10-year history of the Smarty Jones. His time of 1:36.32 was a stakes record and the second-fastest mile clocking by a 3-year-old during January at Oaklawn.

 

 

 

Triple Digits … Again

 

Gun Runner was assigned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 110 (a career high) for his front-running  5 ¾-length victory in Monday’s $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses under Florent Geroux.

 

It was the fifth consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure for Gun Runner, who is co-owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds (Ron and Joan Winchell) and Three Chimneys Farm, where he will stand upon his retirement from racing. The son of Candy Ride was using the Razorback as a possible prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 25 at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates.

 

“It’s obviously one of the choices,” Ron Winchell said moments after the Razorback. “We’ll see how he comes out of this race.”

 

Gun Runner, who was making his 4-year-old debut, ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:40.97. Lost Code set the stakes record (1:40.40) in 1988.  Heatherten set the track record (1:40.20) in the $250,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares in 1984.

 

Gun Runner’s mile split (1:34.83) was just off Whitebrush’s disputed track record (1:34.40), set in the $50,000 Southwest Handicap for 3-year-olds in 1984.

 

“I was just telling Ron, I don’t think you could have hoped for anything better than that or anything more than that,” said David Fiske, manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds. “The time was good and he acted good.”

 

Gun Runner bankrolled $300,000 to increase his earnings to $2,337,800 following his seventh victory in 13 lifetime starts. He was coming off a victory over older horses in the $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.

 

Oaklawn increased the purse of the Razorback from $350,000 to a record $500,000 this year and moved the race up approximately a month to allow horses a chance to prep in Arkansas for the Dubai World Cup.

 

Perfect Promessa

 

Terra Promessa earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 97 (a career high) for her front-running 4 ¾-length victory in the $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Saturday under four-time defending Oaklawn champion Ricardo Santana Jr.

 

Terra Promessa is perfect in five career starts at Oaklawn (4 for 4 in stakes), including the $125,000 Pippin Jan. 14, when she set a stakes record for 1 1/16 miles – 1:43.16 – to earn a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in her 4-year-old debut. She ran 1 1/16 miles Saturday in 1:43.18, the second-fastest winning time since the Bayakoa’s inaugural running in 1992.

 

“Today’s the best race she’s ever run,” Steve Asmussen, Terra Promessa’s Hall of Fame trainer, said late Saturday afternoon. “I think her numbers have proved that, her time proved that.”

 

Asmussen said late Monday afternoon that he hadn’t spoken to Barbara Banke, who bred and owns Terra Promessa, but his hope is the filly will make her next start in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 18.

 

No horse has swept the first three legs of Oaklawn’s two-turn series of stakes races for older fillies and mares since the Bayakoa was moved from April to February in 2011.

 

Absinthe Minded won the Pippin and Bayakoa in 2012 before running fourth in the Azeri.

 

Don’t Tell Sophia won the Pippin and Bayakoa in 2013 before running second in the Azeri. She won the first two legs again in 2014 before finishing third in the Azeri.

 

Mufajaah won the Pippin and Bayakoa in 2015 before finishing third in the Azeri, her final career start before beginning a broodmare career.

 

Oaklawn’s final two-turn stakes race for older fillies and mares is the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14.

 

Terra Promessa was Oaklawn’s top 3-year-old filly last year, winning the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). She is a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and 2007 Arkansas Derby winner Curlin, is 6 of 9 overall and earned $615,600.

 

Million Dollar Man

 

Ramon Vazquez became the second jockey at the meet to reach $1 million in purse earnings after winning Monday’s second race aboard favored Wild About Irene ($6.60) for trainer Federico Villafranco and Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn’s leading owner the last three years.

 

Vazquez’s mounts have earned $1,060,339 through the first 25 days of the scheduled 57-day meeting. He was Oaklawn’s second-leading rider the last two years. He didn’t reach $1 million in purse earnings during the 2016 meeting until Day 36.

 

Four-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. ($1,124,772) became the first jockey at the meeting to reach $1 million in purse earnings Sunday. Santana also has a meet-high 28 victories. Vazquez is second with 27. Geovanni Franco, the go-to rider for leading trainer Robertino Diodoro, is third with 22.

 

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen ($985,027) is poised to become the first trainer at the meeting to reach $1 million in purse earnings.

 

Asmussen set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings for trainers last year ($3,448,729) and surpassed $21 million in career purse earnings in Hot Springs with Gun Runner’s victory in Monday’s $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses.

 

The Razorback was the 70th Oaklawn stakes victory for Asmussen. He has won at least Oaklawn stakes victory each year since his first in 1996, the same year he recorded his first winner in Hot Springs. He has won seven Oaklawn training titles since his first in 2007.

 

Diodoro (18 victories) and Villafranco (16) top the trainer standings. Asmussen and Ron Moquett of Hot Springs are tied for third with 13 victories.

 

Caldwell is the runaway leader in the owner’s standings with 16 victories.

 

Finish Lines

 

Alex Birzer recorded his 2,996th career victory in Monday’s eighth race – a stakes-caliber allowance/optional claimer – aboard favored Shotgun Kowboy ($7.20), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Birzer, trying to become the 174th jockey to reach 3,000 North American victories, is named on seven horses Thursday. … Big Ragu, who finished third in Monday’s sixth race, a maiden-allowance event for 3-year-olds, was the first Oaklawn starter for trainer Louie Roussel since April 1, 1988, when False Glitter finished sixth in the $75,000 Honeybee Stakes. Roussel co-owns Big Ragu, based this winter at Fair Grounds, with colorful Louisiana car dealer Ronnie Lamarque, who flew in to watch the race. Roussel and Lamarque campaigned Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Risen Star, the country’s champion 3-year-old male of 1988. … Trainer Miguel Carranza saddled his first winner at Oaklawn in Monday’s third race in favored Dixie Lover ($4.60). Alex Canchari rode the winner for his father, owner Luis Canchari. Carranza had finished second in Monday’s second race with Cherishabull, who went off 66-1. … Oaklawn co-stakes coordinator Lenny Rera will be at Santa Anita March 9-13 on a recruiting trip. ... Hawaakom, runner-up in Monday’s $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses, will be pointed to the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (G2) April 1 at Fair Grounds, trainer Wes Hawley said. Hawaakom has been based this winter at Fair Grounds.

 

 

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