Wednesday, March 08, 2017
Santana Jr. Set to Resume Riding Friday
Four-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana is scheduled to resume riding Friday after being cleared by a specialist, the jockey’s agent, Ruben Munoz, said Monday morning. Santana, 24, hasn’t ridden since suffering a separated shoulder in two-horse spill during the second race last Thursday.
Munoz was originally targeting March 18 for Santana’s return, but the jockey was getting on horses for the first time since the accident Wednesday morning, the agent said. Santana, who has had his left arm in a sling, was examined Monday morning in Hot Springs.
“Did a strength test on him and passed with flying colors – unbelievable,” Munoz said in a text message. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in NO rush for him to come back.”
Santana will ride Swing and Sway in Friday’s featured eight race and among his mounts Saturday is Whitmore in the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes. Both horses are trained by Ron Moquett.
Despite missing almost 11 full racing days at the meeting, Santana is tied with Ramon Vazquez atop the standings with 30 victories and leads all riders in purse earnings ($1,257,277). He missed the first five days because of a riding suspension stemming from the 2016 meet, rode at Fair Grounds Jan. 21 and Feb. 25 and essentially missed all four days last week.
Vazquez, also represented by Munoz, has been runner-up to Santana the last two years at Oaklawn.
Jockey Didiel Osorio, who suffered a back injury in last Thursday’s spill, continues to recover in Hot Springs, his agent, Joe Santos, said Wednesday morning. Santos said CT scans sent to a specialist in south Florida confirmed the jockey fractured his T5 and T7 vertebrae in the spill, but no surgery was suggested.
Santos said Osorio will travel to Florida for an MRI April 14.
Santos said last Thursday night that Osorio, who had five winners at the meet, was expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
Solid as a Rock
Owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, AR have found success supporting young stallions, including Uncle Mo and Maclean’s Music, who was represented by his first Oaklawn winner in Rockshaw.
Rockshaw was a sharp first-level allowance winner Jan. 14, the second day of Oaklawn’s scheduled 57-day meeting, then rolled a four-length victory in the $125,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters Saturday for the Lieblongs and trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.
Under Geovanni Franco, Rockshaw set a stakes of 1:09.27 for 6 furlongs and paid $6.20 as the 2-1 favorite.
At The Threshold (1984) and Linear (1993) shared the previous record of 1:09.40 when the race was run as the Mountain Valley Stakes. It has been carded as the Gazebo since 2012.
Rockshaw was assigned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 93 – a career high – following his first career stakes victory.
“He’s such a neat horse,” said Alex Lieblong, who is chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. “I affectionately, and some people don’t understand, I call him, ‘Meathead.’ You don’t need to pet him. You don’t need to do anything. He’ll stand there ready to do just whatever you want him to do. He’s not hypersensitive. All he wanted was his food after the race the other day.”
The Lieblongs purchased Rockshaw, from a consignment of Florida-based Eddie Woods, for $210,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s April 2-year-old in training sale. Woods is one of the country’s leading pinhookers and consignors to 2-year-old in training sales. Rockshaw had one of the fastest quarter-mile times (:20.60) in his under tack preview work.
The Lieblongs also purchased High Dollar Woman and I Spent It, both future G2 winners, from Woods consignments in 2014.
“I always have great faith in Eddie Woods,” Lieblong said. “The thing about Eddie Woods, there’s always something left in the orange.”
Rockshaw won for the third time in five career starts Saturday to increase his earnings to $165,550.
Moquett said Rockshaw will be pointed for the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes at 6 furlongs April 13. Lieblong said he hopes to run Rockshaw this summer at Saratoga, specifically in the King’s Bishop (G1), a 7-furlong race the owner won in 2014 with The Big Beast.
“Ron and I will get together and Ron is so good about not using one up,” Lieblong said. “Again, he’ll leave some juice in the orange, so to speak, and space the races out. I’d like to see him target a couple of races up there.”
Moquett also trains the second Oaklawn winner sired by Maclean’s Music, Swing and Sway, who broke her maiden Feb. 19 in her 3-year-old debut. Maclean’s Music was the country’s leading first-crop sire for winners last year with 20. He stands at Kentucky’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms for $8,500. Hill ‘n’ Dale also bred Rockshaw, who broke his maiden Oct. 15 at Keeneland.
Maclean’s Music earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure – the highest debut performance rating since the figures began appearing in Daily Racing Form in the early 1990s – March 19, 2011, at Santa Anita, when he ran 6 furlongs in.
Million Dollar Men
Geovanni Franco ($992,790) is poised to become the third jockey at the meet to surpass $1 million in purse earnings. Franco, third in Oaklawn’s standings with 26 victories, is named on five horses Thursday, including Castletown in the eighth race for main client Robertino Diodoro.
Diodoro is Oaklawn’s leading trainer this year with 21 victories, three more than seven-time champion Steve Asmussen.
Franco rode at Oaklawn for the first time last year and finished with 16 victories and purse earnings of $376,696. Franco blew past those totals more than a month ago in a meet highlighted, thus far, by his first two career Oaklawn stakes victories, the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes aboard the Diodoro-trained Storm Advisory Feb. 4 and Saturday’s $125,000 Gazebo Stakes aboard Rockshaw.
Four-time defending riding champion Ricardo Santana ($1,257,277) and Ramon Vazquez ($1,168,435) are the only riders to reach $1 million in purse earnings through the first 33 days of the racing. Santana and Vazquez each have a meet-high 30 victories.
Asmussen ($1,155,688) is the only trainer to reach $1 million in purse earning at the meet.
Trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs ($948,113) figures to reach seven figures this week. Rockshaw represented the 193rd career Oaklawn victory for Moquett, who ranks fourth in the standings this year with 15 winners.
Thursday’s seventh race, a starter allowance for older horses, will be Oaklawn’s first at 1 ½ miles in almost 30 years. The race is for horses “which have started for a claiming price of $7,500 or less in 2016-2017 or claiming price $10,000.” It carries a $30,000 purse.
Oaklawn hasn’t run a 1 ½-mile race since April 22, 1989, when El Clipper won the Trail’s End Handicap for trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage, who still annually winters in Hot Springs.
The Trail’s End, traditionally the final race of the meeting, capped Oaklawn’s Dixie Trail starter series for older horses that year. It is normally 1 ¾ miles.
El Clipper ran the distance over a fast track in 2:32.20. Dapper set Oaklawn’s track record for 1 ½ miles (2:31.60) March 30, 1957.
The Belmont stakes, the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown, is the country’s most famous 1 ½-mile race.
A field of 10 is entered Thursday, including 6-5 program favorite Wild About You, an 11-length winner of the 1 ¾-mile Trail’s End marathon last year for trainer Scott Mullins. Husky Clipper (20-1) ran sixth in last year’s Trail’s End.
Thursday’s race will begin at the 4 ½-furlong point on the backstretch and end at the sixteenth pole, the alternate finish line normally used for mile races. Probable post time is 4:14 p.m. (Central).
Oaklawn’s normal distance progression during meets is 5 ½ furlongs, 6 furlongs, 1 mile, 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles, 1 3/16 miles and 1 ¾ miles.
Elate arrived Tuesday for Saturday’s $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986, Elate was flown from south Florida to Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday morning, then vanned 57 miles to Oaklawn. The daughter of Oaklawn stakes winners Medaglia d’Oro and Cheery – is coming off a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs, her second lifetime start. … Terra Promessa worked 5 furlongs over a fast track in 1:02 Wednesday morning in preparation for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 18. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Terra Promessa is 5 for 5 at Oaklawn, including the $125,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 14 and $150,000 Bayakoa (G3) Feb. 18. ... Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Far Right worked a half-mile in :49.20 Wednesday morning for trainer Wayne Catalano, who said the ridgling could make his 5-year-old debut before the meet ends April 15. … Equator ($8.40) represented the first Oaklawn winner sired by Bodemeister in Sunday’s eighth race, a starter optional claimer at a mile. Equator is from the first crop of Bodemeister, runaway winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2012 at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Equator, a 3-year-old gelding, is trained by Asmussen and owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm LLC. China Horse Club and WinStar also co-own One Liner, powerful winner of Oaklawn’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 20. Equator gave newcomer Luis Contreras his second riding double in three days. … Through 33 days of racing, 268 claims have totaled $3,561,250. … Sparkling Feb. 16 career debut winner Noble Freud, a 3-year-old New York-bred Freud filly, is going to 2016 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, said bloodstock agent Liz Crow. Dwight Pruett (Xpress Thoroughbreds LLC) sold a majority interest in Noble Freud to undisclosed interests following her debut victory. Noble Freud, who began her career with trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, is a half-sister to champion La Verdad and Hot City Girl, a multiple stakes winner.