Oaklawn News

Oaklawn Barn Notes


Thursday, March 16, 2017






Bob Baffert won’t be at Oaklawn on Saturday to witness what he hopes will be an auspicious step up into Grade 2 competition for American Anthem. Rather, he will be in the Los Angeles airport waiting to board a jet to Dubai.


Baffert saddles reigning 3-year-old champion and multiple Grade 1 winner Arrogate and 2014 Rebel Stakes winner Hoppertunity in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday, March 25. He’ll have to watch the Rebel on his mobile device.


“Hopefully, we can have some luck and I’ll be able to enjoy my long trip better,” he said by phone from his Southern California base.


Baffert is optimistic that the son of 2012 Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Bodemeister, who has only been out twice but won the Sham Stakes-G3 under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, will move forward. In the Sham, American Anthem dug down deep and fought back on the rail and down the lane like a seasoned pro to lose by a short nose to the John Shirreffs-trained Gormley.


“Mike was really impressed with his toughness last time when he ran against Gormley,” said Baffert, who engaged Smith to ride both the WinStar Farm, SF Bloodstock and China Horse Club’s colt and Mor Spirit. “He had every reason to give in. We know he’ll fight. He’s got a big heart.”


Jimmy Barnes, the assistant to the Hall of Fame trainer, said that he after he returns back to their Santa Anita base with American Anthem and Essex Handicap probable favorite Mor Spirit, he’ll take the 16-hour flight to Dubai to join Baffert.


Oaklawn-based Kenny McPeek said he is also headed to Dubai to run Vettori Kin in the United Arab Emirates Derby (G2). Gun Runner, the stunning winner of the Razorback Handicap (G3) here February 20, takes on Arrogate and Hoppertunity in the World Cup for Hall of Fame and Oaklawn’s seven-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen.




Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen has garnered three Rebel Stakes trophies, and on Saturday he takes a double shot to add another piece of hardware to the case with Lookin At Lee and Untrapped.

Jonesboro, AR native Mike Langford, who owns a home in Hot Springs, purchased Untrapped for $125,000 as a 2-year-old at the Ocala Breeders Sales April auction and was at the barn Thursday morning to visit his color bearer.


“I look for us to run really big,” he said. “He looks great and he’s been training really forwardly and is doing real good. After looking at the PPs (past performances), I feel even better. When you look at them and see names like Bob Baffert (American Anthem) and Todd Pletcher (Malagacy) coming in, and obviously they’ve got the top horses, it gets your attention. But those horses have a lot to prove also. So I feel real good. Our horse has grown and matured.”


Langford has yet to win the Rebel and even though his Torrid Sand ran third in the Preakness in the past, he hasn’t had a Kentucky Derby starter yet either. With 11 races on Saturday and Rebel post time slated for 6:06 P.M. (CDT), how will he manage to keep those nerves in check?


“That’s the million dollar question,” he answered. “I’m not sleeping real good now. I can only imagine what that day will be like. But, I’m also confident. Just by the way he’s training, and going back and watching those last two races, we’re not going in there with an empty wagon.”


Lookin at Lee, who worked an easy half-mile in 50 flat here the day before, just walked around the barn on Thursday morning while Untrapped, who has been stabled up until last week at Asmussen’s Fair Grounds division, went out to the track to gallop 1 ½ mile under Alphonso Garcia.




Sumaya US Stable's Malagacy, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, galloped 1 1/8 miles under assistant Adele Bellinger and then stood in the gate Thursday morning in preparation for his third start and first venture into graded stakes company.


In an interesting twist, owner Ossama Aboughazales also owns the first reported foal by American Pharoah, who won the 2015 Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby on his way to completing the Grand Slam of the Triple Crown, Breeders' Cup Classic and Horse of the Year Honors.


Pletcher also sends out Madefromlucky, who was second and fourth, respectively, in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby, in the Essex Handicap and Eskenformoney in the Azeri Stakes (G2) on Saturday's card. Both of those horses galloped 1 1/4 miles with Bellinger in the irons.




Trainer John Shirreffs has brought some big girls to Oaklawn – namely the iconic Zenyatta and Manistique for the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) – but now returns to Hot Springs with a big boy in Royal Mo, who is entered in Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.


A son of champion Uncle Mo, Royal Mo is “close to 17 hands,” Shirreffs said Thursday morning, and figures to keep growing. Zenyatta stood 17.2 hands, while Manistique, fourth in the 1999 Apple Blossom, was close to 17 hands.


“He’s just an early 3-year-old, so he’s really just going through a developmental stage,” Shirreffs said.


Royal Mo will represent the Southern California-based trainer’s first Oaklawn starter since Stanwyck ran third in the Apple Blossom (G1) for older fillies and mares in 2014. The colt, who has never raced outside California, has won his last two starts in front-running fashion, including the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.


Shirreffs said he believes the Rebel will be a good gauge for Royal Mo because it has drawn the top locals, and shippers from the East Coast and West Coast.


“It’s a good race, with tough horses,” Shirreffs said. “We’ll just have to see how it ends up.”


Owners Jerry and Ann Moss purchased Royal Mo for $300,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The couple also campaigned 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, winner of Oaklawn’s Apple Blossom in 2008 and 2010.


Shirreffs said Royal Mo galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday morning under exercise rider Juan Jurado-Gutierrez.




Calumet Farm’s homebred Sonneteer has only raced in California, has never won in three shots at the      1 1/6 miles distance of the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2), and is the only maiden in the field of 11 sophomores. Nonetheless, trainer Keith Desormeaux has confidence in the dark bay son of champion sprinter Midnight Lute as he tries for the 50-20-10-5 (1st through 4th) Kentucky Derby qualifying points up for grabs Saturday.


“He’s an improving colt and he took a little bit more time to come around,” said assistant trainer Julie Clark, who is in charge of Sonneteer and Essex Handicap starter Dalmore until Desormeaux arrives for the races. “The owner (Brad Kelly) would love to see him on the Derby trail. Then there are points available, the money’s good, and he’s an easy horse to be around. He travels well. Why Not come?  It’s getting down to the wire where we need the points and the experience. They have to move forward. This race will tell us not what kind of horse he is, necessarily, but it will tell us if he’s ready to stay on the Derby trail,”


Sonneteer will also get the chance for some sweet revenge on fellow Rebel runner Royal Mo, who is conditioned by Hall of Fame nominee John Shirreffs. Jerry and Ann Moss’s graded stakes winner got the better of him by 2/14 lengths when they matched up November 16 in a one mile maiden special weight at Del Mar in the last race of the juvenile season for both.


“We get another shot at him and maybe we can turn the tables this time,” said the veteran horsewoman, who is making her first trip to Oaklawn this week.


Should Sonneteer, who gets in at 115 pounds, including Richard Eramia, and gets a 7 pound break from the 122 pound co-highweighted Royal Mo and Uncontested, pull off the upset, it will be the first graded stakes win at Oaklawn for Desormeaux. Even better, it would be the first Oaklawn win for the Louisiana native. Desormeaux is 0-for-14 in Hot Springs to date.


On Thursday morning, Sonneteer walked the shedrow and before the races Clark brought him and Dalmore to the paddock and infield for a schooling session.




Uncontested galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Antonio Ramos Thursday morning for trainer Wayne Catalano in preparation for Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2), which will offer the son of Tiz Wonderful a chance at redemption. Following a record-setting performance in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16, Uncontested faded to sixth as the favorite in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20.


Co-owner Harry Rosenblum initially said Uncontested would likely make his next start in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn, but Uncontested is getting a shot in the Rebel after recording two bullet workouts this month. Catalano gave Uncontested the green light after he blazed 5 furlongs in :58.80 March 10 under regular rider Channing Hill, galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:10.60 and 7 furlongs in 1:24.80.


“That’s what I wanted to see,” Catalano, Hill’s father-in-law, said Thursday morning. “When he did that, we were ready. If he hadn’t, we would have waited.”


Uncontested was a wire-to-wire winner of the 1-mile Smarty Jones, setting a stakes records for time (1:36.32) and margin of victory (5 ¼ lengths).


Uncontested is scheduled to break from post 2 in the projected 11-horse Rebel field.


“I do like my post,” Catalano said. “I can go on about my business.”


Catalano won the 1997 Arkansas Derby with late-running Crypto Star.