O’Neill Has Two Top Chances in Saturday’s Stakes
Southern California-based trainer Doug O’Neill has two chances to win stakes at Oaklawn this Saturday
when he sends out Aristocratic in the $125,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters and Fantastic Style in the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older filly and mare sprinters.
Aristocratic and Fantastic Style, both owned by Kaleem Shah, arrived late Wednesday in Hot Springs after an H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Co. fight carried the duo from Southern California to New Orleans earlier in the day. The horses were then vanned to Oaklawn, pulling in at 10:20 p.m. (Central).
O’Neill, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and again last year with Nyquist, called the trip a “last-minute” decision, adding it was contingent on the availability of a Tex Sutton flight.
“It’s funny, I actually called them a few days ago thinking there’s no chance that they have anything going that way,” O’Neill said Wednesday night. “And they said, ‘We do.’ So I was like, ‘Well, is there room for two?’ This is something Kaleem Shah and I talked about and then the fact that there was a plane going this morning, it really just worked out perfectly.”
Fantastic Style, a 5-year-old daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, is more accomplished than her younger stablemate. She has won 5 of 11 career starts, including the $200,000 Great Lady M Stakes (G2) in 2015 at Los Alamitos, and earned $423,608. In her first start after being transfer from Bob Baffert to O’Neill, Fantastic Style finished second in the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) Jan. 21 at Santa Anita.
Aristocratic, a $475,000 2-year-old purchase, will be making his stakes debut after breaking his maiden Feb. 11 at Santa Anita.
“Both of them are sitting on a race, ready to run,” O’Neill said. “I guess we probably saw the Spring Fever first for Fantastic Style and then looking over the card, we saw the Gazebo and thought, ‘Man, it would be perfect for Aristocratic.’ ”
Fantastic Style, the 9-5 program favorite, will be seeking her first victory outside California.
Aristocratic’s only three starts have come in Southern California, the last two at Santa Anita.
“They’re both fit and ready, so they shouldn’t have to do a whole lot,” O’Neill said. “Just settle in, get their appetite strong and see what we they can do.”
O’Neill won his stakes at Oaklawn in the 2000 Fantasy Stakes with Classy Cara, who was also the trainer’s first of 108 career graded stakes victories to date, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
“I love Hot Springs,” O’Neill said. “Being married with two kids and more than 75 horses out here, it’s so hard to maneuver a lot. But whenever possible, man, I love Hot Springs.”
Two Oaklawn stakes winners worked after the renovation break Thursday morning over a fast track, including Triple Crown nominee Uncontested for trainer Wayne Catalano.
Uncontested, record-setting winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16, covered 5 furlongs in 1:00 under regular rider Channing Hill. The time equaled the fastest of 32 works recorded at the distance. Clockers caught his final quarter-mile in :22.60 and galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:13. He was breezing for the first time since finishing sixth as the favorite in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20.
“He didn’t look like he was going that fast,” co-owner Harry Rosenblum said. “He’s a deceiving horse. When he got back to the barn, he couldn’t blow out a match. Real pleased with it.”
Rosenblum said earlier Thursday morning that Uncontested is still “likely” to make his next start in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.
Also breezing after the break was Chanel’s Legacy, who was credited with 3 furlongs in :37 after “two-minute clipping” – from the wire to the 3-furlong pole – her first five-eighths. Trained by Lynn Chleborad, the filly won the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 21 and the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 11.
Chanel’s Legacy is scheduled to make her next start in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 11 for owner/breeder Allen Poindexter.
Trainer Jinks Fires worked one of his two career debut winners at the meet Thursday morning in Colonelsdarktemper, a 4-year-old Colonel John colt who breezed a half-mile in :49.20 shortly after the track opened. Colonelsdarktemper, owned by auto racing legend A.J. Foyt, was a 2 ¾-length winner sprinting Feb. 18.
Fires said he plans to run the colt next in an entry-level allowance spot.
“I think he’s probably a decent horse,” Fires said. “We’ll give him another shot to prove it.”
Two days earlier, Fires had scored with another debut winner in Noble Freud, a 3-year-old New York-bred daughter of Freud and a workmate of Colonelsdarktemper. But Fires isn’t making plans for Noble Freud’s next start. Instead, the trainer said owner Dwight Pruett of Texarkana, Ark. (Xpress Thoroughbreds LLC) has sold 75 percent of Noble Freud to undisclosed New York interests and she will be leaving his care. A $30,000 yearling purchase, Noble Freud is a half-sister to 2015 female sprint champion La Verdad and Hot City Girl, a multiple stakes winner $668,150.
“How I got her for $30,000, I do not know,” Fires said. “We vetted her out and she was clean as a pin. I didn’t think I had a shot to buy her.”
Fires said he wasn’t surprised there was strong recent interest in the filly, citing, among other things, an eye-catching debut victory, strong family and New York’s lucrative stakes program for state-breds.
“I know New York-breds, if they can run, there’s a market for them real quick,” Fires said. “I didn’t buy her intending to sell her. I bought her to race, but then everybody kept jumping on me about trying to buy her.”
Court’s son-in-law, 2000 Oaklawn riding champion Jon Court, rode both Colonelsdarktemper and Noble Freud.
Romeo O Romeo will be scratched from Saturday’s $125,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters after working 5 furlongs in 1:03.40 Thursday morning for trainer Brian Williamson. Romeo O Romeo was entered in the Gazebo after a first-level allowance/optional claimer didn’t fill last Friday. Williamson said he’ll shop for another first-level allowance spot for Romeo O Romeo, who finished seventh in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16. … Williamson said Streamline, who worked a half-mile in :50.80 Wednesday morning, is pointing for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 18. Streamline finished third in last year’s Azeri and has run in Oaklawn’s last six two-turn stakes races for older fillies and mares. … Trainer Ingrid Mason said Thursday morning that Gazebo entrant Seven Forty Seven may scratch after drawing the rail for the 6-furlong race. Seven Forty Seven was also entered in the Gazebo after last Friday’s first-level allowance/optional claimer didn’t fill. … Trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday afternoon that Dazzling Gem is possible for the $250,000 Essex Handicap for older horses March 18. Owned by prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers, Dazzling Gem won his first two career starts last year at Oaklawn before running fourth in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). He has been based this winter at Fair Grounds and finished a close third in Saturday’s $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap (G3). Landers is a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission.