Oaklawn Barn Notes
Thursday, March 16, 2017
The consistent Streamline is scheduled to tackle Terra Promessa for the third time this year in Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Streamline’s trainer, Brian Williamson, said Thursday morning that the Azeri, at least on paper, looks a lot like the $125,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 14 and $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 18.
Terra Promessa was a front-running winner of both races, with Streamline checking in third.
“It looks like about the same kind of race,” Williamson said. “A couple of new ones, but they don’t look like speed horses.”
Streamline has finished first, second or third in 15 of 16 career starts. She won the Pippin last year before finishing second in the Bayakoa and third in the Azeri, which is the final major local prep for the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14. She also ran second in last year’s Apple Blossom.
“She’s got a lot of heart,” Williamson said. “She shows up all the time. That’s all you can ask for out of a racehorse.”
Hall of Fame and two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Steve Asmussen has had some awfully nice fillies under his tutelage, including champions Rachel Alexandra and Untapable, who won Oaklawn’s 2015 Apple Blossom (G1). Terra Promessa is unbeaten this year after two stakes victories during the current meet, but she still has more to prove before she can join that lofty company. However, but her connection are pretty high on her.
Stonestreet Stables’ 4-year-old daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and 2007 Arkansas Derby winner Curlin is a perfect five-for-five at Oaklawn and has won six of her nine starts while earning $615,600. She enters Saturday’s Azeri Stakes as the likely prohibitive favorite on the strength of a pair of smashing gate-to-wire scores in the Pippin January 14 and the Bayakoa-G3 on February 18.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Terra Promessa,” said Barbara Banke, who is the owner Stonestreet’s vast Kentucky-based racing and breeding operation. “She’s a true product of the Stonestreet program. In 2006 her dam, Missile Bay, was one of our first broodmare acquisitions. A year later, we bought Curlin, who turned out to be a phenomenal racehorse but could be an even better sire. He is well on his way with 32 black type winners, including give individual grade one winners last year. Terra Promessa obviously enjoys Oaklawn and we hope for the best on Saturday. ”
Banke campaigned Curlin and Rachel Alexander with her late husband, Jess Stonestreet Jackson.
Terra Promessa will carry highweight of 122 pounds and will be ridden by the New York-based Irad Ortiz, Jr. when she departs from Post 2 in the field of seven older fillies and mares.
“She’s doing very well,” said Darren Fleming, who runs Asmussen’s Oaklawn division. “She likes Oaklawn, that’s for sure. Whenever the bell rings, she answers. The fact that she’s a daughter of Curlin is a little extra special. It’s always nice to have Curlin’s babies in the barn because he was so phenomenal. It’s nice to see him produce some very good ones.”
Like father, like daughter?
“You can see that she’s got some of him in her,” Fleming said. “She has that fight and the will to win, plus all that talent. She’s a little headstrong in the mornings for training, but very nice to be around in the afternoons. She knows what her job is and she likes it. She’s a total professional.
After banging heads with some gritty competition in a pair of Grade 2 stakes at Santa Anita in his last two starts this year, Dalmore was looking for a little class relief. But Saturday’s Essex Handicap turned up mighty salty.
“All of his wins have come at same distance of the race,” said Julie Clark, the assistant to trainer Keith Desormeaux. “He does seem to like that distance. He’s run against some awfully good company in his last few starts in California and it’s nice to dodge those horses a little bit and try something different. This race will be tough, but he’s an honest and hard trying horse every time and I have confidence in him.”
When Dalmore ran last out in the San Antonio Handicap (G2), he was a disappointing sixth. Hoppertunity, winner of the 2014 Rebel, and Mor Spirit, who is the Essex likely favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert finished one-two that day. Perhaps the third time is the charm for the Colonel John colt owned by Big Chief Racing and Head of the Plains Partners.
“He is a little versatile in his running style,” Clark said. “It depends a little bit on the rider, too. There have been times when he likes to sit up a little close. He has some speed so he can be close. But when there is a ton of speed he doesn’t mind like back off of it. The key with him is to just get him to relax, let him settle wherever he is comfortable, and then pick your places.”
Regular jockey Kent Desormeaux was unavailable so Victor Espinoza, best known for being the rider of Triple Crown champion and 2015 Rebel and Arkansas Derby winner American Pharoah, picks up the mount. Espinoza had already been engaged to pilot Royal Mo in the Rebel.
Dalmore and stablemate Sonneteer, who runs in the Rebel, walked the shedrow Thursday morning and then schooled in the infield and paddock.
C.R. Trout had planned to start multiple stakes winner Shotgun Kowboy in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 20 at Oaklawn, but the trainer changed his mind, literally, in a minute after watching Gun Runner’s eye-catching 5-furlong workout in :59.80 a week before the 1 1/16-mile race.
Gun Runner, as expected, cruised to a 5 ¾-length wire-to-wire victory in the Razorback.
“Woohoo,” Trout said Thursday morning, recalling Gun Runner’s dazzling breeze. “We dream a lot, but we decided not run. Him, he probably needed more bottom in him, anyway.”
Instead of the Razorback, Shotgun Kowboy was a sharp 3 ¾-length winner of the following race on the Feb. 20 card, an allowance/optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles. Now, with Gun Runner in the United Arab Emirates awaiting the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1), Shotgun Kowboy is scheduled to return to stakes action in Saturday’s $250,000 Essex Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.
Shotgun Kowboy is bidding for his third consecutive victory at the meet after a front-running allowance/optional claiming score in his 5-year-old debut Jan. 27.
“His worst enemy has been me,” Trout said. “I’ve put him places sometimes where he doesn’t belong. This race, I won it years ago with a horse named Maysville Slew when it was ($75,000). So it’s always something we wanted to do again, and he’s afforded us the opportunity.”
Maysville Slew, who won the Essex in 2000, earned $1,046,409 in his 69-race career. Shotgun Kowboy has earned $846,927 after winning 8 of 17 lifetime starts. He scored his biggest career to date in the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) in 2015 at Remington Park.
Shotgun Kowboy, as a 3-year-old, also finished seventh in the $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) in 2015 at Churchill Downs. The 2015 Clark winner, Effinex, won last year’s $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at Oaklawn. Gun Runner won the 2016 Clark.
The Essex is the final major local prep for the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 15.
Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel is scheduled to be represented Saturday’s $250,000 Essex Handicap, but not with the horse most people would have figured. It’s Secret Passage, not Suddenbreakingnews, entered in the 1 1/16-mile Essex, the final major local prep for the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 15.
“This time last year, we were thinking, at least at the beginning of the meet, we thought Synchrony was going to be the horse,” Von Hemel said Thursday morning. “It turned out to be Suddenbreakingnews. You never know in this deal what’s going to transpire.”
Suddenbreakingnews – not Synchrony – was Von Hemel’s top 3-year-old last year after winning Oaklawn’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and running second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
Secret Passage, also now 4, missed the 2016 Oaklawn meeting because of what Von Hemel called a minor problem. The late-running son of Curlin, earned a shot in the Essex with an explosive Feb. 26 allowance/optional claiming victory at 1 1/16 miles.
“Numbers-wise, he has to run faster than he has,” Von Hemel said. “But, I like the horse. He’s run two good races here and just felt like he deserved a chance. It’s a tall order, but I think he deserves a chance to see what he can do.”
Secret Passage, who finished second in his 4-year-old debut, races for his breeder, Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable.
Von Hemel said he has nothing specific in mind for Suddenbreakingnews, fourth and sixth in two allowance/optional claiming races at the meeting.