Friday, January 06, 2017
Jockey Declan Cannon Giving Oaklawn a Try
Among the newcomers to the Oaklawn riding colony for the 2017 season that begins Jan. 13 is Declan Cannon, who won 11 races at the Churchill Downs fall meet to tie for sixth in the standings.
That total was one less than four-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. and two more than Florent Geroux, whose 30 North American graded stakes victories in 2016 ranked second overall.
Cannon, 29, has ridden in the United States for a little more than a year after stops in the United Arab Emirates, England, France and his native Ireland. He said his move to Arkansas was based on his success in Kentucky.
“I had a really good fall meet at Churchill, and I was winning for a lot of Oaklawn trainers,” Cannon said during training hours Thursday morning. “So it was a no-brainer, really, to come here. It’s where the best horses are, and the best riders are here, too.”
Cannon said he will ride for, among others, Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015 and runner-up last year, and Kenny McPeek.
“I’ve got seven or eight barns here,” Cannon said.
Cannon finished 2016 with 54 victories and $1,336,190 in purse earnings.
Cannon recorded 32 winners on dirt, including his first North American stakes victory in the $100,000 Hillsdale Sept. 14 at Indiana Grand, and another 22 on turf.
Before venturing to Hot Springs, Cannon said he was aware that Oaklawn didn’t have a grass course.
“People try to brand me as a turf rider, but I’ve won just as many on dirt,” Cannon said.
Cannon, who is represented by Cory Prewitt, won five races at Tampa Bay Downs before arriving in Hot Springs late last month.
9,159 and Counting
Agent “Big Steve” Krajcir of Hot Springs will represent two riders at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting who have combined for 9,159 career victories in North America – Hall of Famer Calvin Borel (5,159) and Jon Court (4,000).
On paper, this should be an easy sell.
“I’m telling everybody I’ve got riders that have won over 9,000 races,” Krajcir said. “I’ve got three Kentucky Derbies under my belt, not that I was a part of any of them. But to have two riders like that, that are capable of doing the job, it’s really great.”
Krajcir has represented Court, Oaklawn’s leading jockey in 2000, for several years, but has Borel for the first time after agreeing to take his book last fall. Borel, who had a long and highly successful partnership with Jerry Hissam of Hot Springs (they teamed for Kentucky Derby victories in 2007, 2009 and 2010), abruptly retired last March at Oaklawn.
But Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001 returned to the saddle in August and has been getting on horses for several trainers in preparation for the 2017 meet.
“What a pleasure to work with him,” Krajcir said. “He’s a worker.”
Court became the 71st rider in North American history to reach 4,000 victories when he won the fourth race Dec. 3 at Turfway Park.
Borel became the 26th rider in North American history to reach 5,000 victories when he won the sixth race March 7, 2013, at Oaklawn. He also collected his 3,000th and 4,000th career victories in Hot Springs.
Krajcir will also represent apprentice Katie Clawson this year at Oaklawn.
Trainer Chris Richard’s stable has a new home in 2017 (Oaklawn's recently built American Pharoah barn) and a new look after splitting late last year with Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., the Chicago-based powerhouse that led the country in victories in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Midwest (Richard and Karen Papiese) also topped the owner’s standings at Oaklawn in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Richard said Thursday morning that he had “about 10 or 11” horses with Midwest at the time of the split, adding Richard Papiese wanted to focus more on New York and the East Coast rather than middle America and the South, where Richard races. He said he trained for Midwest for approximately three years.
“We broke up under good terms,” Richard said. “Nothing bad to say. I appreciated the opportunity. Just kind of wasn’t going to be the circuit that he preferred to do anymore.”
Richard is prepping 22 horses for the 2017 Oaklawn meeting that begins Jan. 13. His clients still include Maggi Moss, annually among the country’s winningest owners.
Richard and Moss teamed to win Oaklawn’s $50,000 King Cotton Stakes in 2009 and 2011 with Native Ruler and the $250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in 2012 with Outta Tune. The Count Fleet is Oaklawn’s biggest race for older sprinters.
The track was closed for training Friday because of freezing temperatures. …. Nominations to the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Jan. 16 close later Friday. … Entries for the Jan. 13 opening-day card will be drawn Monday. The feature is the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses. … Trainer Mac Robertson’s first starter of the meeting will be his 1,000th at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Robertson has 151 victories in Hot Springs since 2005, including 28 in 2013 when he was Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer. Robertson is best known for training three-time Oaklawn stakes winner, and millionaire, Win Willy.