ROCKSHAW FAVORED IN TOUGH GAZEBO STAKES
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, March 3, 2017) – Rockshaw returns to stakes action as the 5-2 program favorite for Saturday’s $125,000 Gazebo for 3-year-old sprinters at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the 6-furlong event, the seventh of nine races, is 4:09 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m.
Trained by Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, Rockshaw exits a sharp 2 ¾-length first-level allowance victory Jan. 14. In his only stakes try, he finished a well-beaten fourth in the $100,000 John F. Lewis III Nov. 19 at Laurel. Moquett said he’s drawing a line through that race because Rockshaw was compromised when the gates opened.
“He got banged around at the start and completely shut off at the break,” Moquett said. “We rushed up to contention through some really fast fractions for that track. If you watch the head on, he got completely murdered at the start.”
Rockshaw, owned by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark., is scheduled to break from post 4 under Ricardo Santana Jr. and carry top weight of 119 pounds. Alex Lieblong is chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Aristocratic, the 3-1 second choice in the program, invades from Southern California for trainer Doug O’Neill and owner Kaleem Shah. Purchased for $475,000 last year, the son of Malibu Moon is coming off a maiden victory Feb. 11 at Santa Anita. All three of his races – maiden special weights events – have come at 5 ½ furlongs.
“A little bit farther than what he’s been going and so it gives him a chance to add a little distance to his resume,” O’Neill said. “We would love to see Aristocratic go around two turns one day. Kind of see how Saturday goes.”
Aristocratic is scheduled to break from post 2 under Ramon Vazquez and carry 115 pounds.
Completing the projected Gazebo field from the rail out: Seven Forty Seven, Julio Felix to ride, 115 pounds, 12-1 on the morning line; Romeo O Romeo, Carlos Marquez Jr., 115, 20-1; Balandeen, Channing Hill, 117, 7-2; Doc Kane, Richard Eramia, 116, 12-1; Prados Way, Luis Contreras, 117, 8-1; and Laughingsaintssong, Kerwin Clark, 117, 4-1.
Balandeen will be cutting back to a sprint in his 3-year-old debut for Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015. The son of Bernardini, finished fifth in his last start, the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 19 at Delta Downs.
“I’m looking for a strong performance out of him,” Hartman said. “I don’t know about this California rascal.”
Mamma Kimbo, the dam of Balandeen, won Oaklawn’s $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) in 2012 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. It was her second lifetime start.
Hartman said Saturday’s race could be Balandeen’s steppingstone to another race around two turns. The colt has a series of bullet workouts leading up to his 2017 debut.
“We’re just feeling our way through right now,” Hartman said. “It’s like your first girlfriend – kind of feel your way through.”
Laughingsaintssong and Prados Way ran 1-2, respectively, in the $50,000 Space City Stakes Jan. 29 at Sam Houston.