TERRA PROMESSA LOOKS TO EXTEND PERFECT STREAK IN AZERI STAKES;
MOR SPIRIT INVADES FOR ESSEX HANDICAP
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, March 17, 2017) –- Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Terra Promessa, who is unblemished in five starts at Oaklawn Park and undefeated in 2017, hopes to keep both streaks alive when the 4-year-old filly takes on six older mares in the 31st running of the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) Saturday.
The Azeri, which is named for the three-time Apple Blossom Handicap winner and 2003 Horse of the Year, will be contested at 1 1/6 mile and run as the seventh of 11 races on a card highlighted by the 57th edition of the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2).
Terra Promessa, who is trained by Hall of Famer and seven-time Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen, is a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and 2007 Arkansas Derby winner Curlin. He also carried the Stonestreet colors and was conditioned by Asmussen.
“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. ”
Terra Promessa has posed for winner’s circle photos every time she has stepped on the Oaklawn oval, and her victories here include the Honeybee Stakes (G3) and the Fantasy Stakes (G3) as a 3-year-old, plus the Pippin Stakes and Bayakoa Stakes (G3) in her two 2017 starts. As the only 4-year-old in the field, she is graced with blazing early speed. She captured the Pippin and Bayakoa gate-to-wire and goes postward as the prohibitive 3-5 morning line favorite. She will be asked to shoulder top weight of 122 pounds, including the New-York based Irad Ortiz, Jr., while she concedes from three to nine pounds to her rivals.
Among the morning line favorite’s chief rivals will be graded stakes winner and 3-1 second early pick Eskenformoney, who was dispatched from South Florida by trainer Todd Pletcher for Star Ladies Racing. The locally-based Azeri contingent includes 2016 Pippin Stakes winner Streamline, Miss Mo Kelly, Tiger Moth and She Mabee Wild. Power of Snunner, who was second to Terra Promessa last out in the Bayakoa, is being sent back for the race by trainer Joe Sharp from his stable in New Orleans.
Post time for the Azeri is slated for 4:21 p.m. (CDT) and the field, with riders and odds, from the rail out is: Miss Mo Kelly, Channing Hill, 20-1; Terra Promessa, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 3-5; Tiger Moth, Jose Ortiz, 12-1; She Mabee Wild, Jon Court, 20-1; Power of Snunner, Chris Emigh, 8-1; Eskenformeoney, Javier Castellano, 3-1, and Streamline, Chris Landeros, 12-1.
The $250,000 Essex Handicap, to be run at 1 1/16 mile, shapes up as a double-tough race for some handicap horses that had hoped to find a little class relief.
Mor Spirit, who is conditioned by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and traveled from Southern California with stablemate and Rebel hopeful American Anthem, was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the talented field of eight horses and he is the 121 pound highweight.
Second last time out to stablemate and 2014 Rebel winner Hoppertunity in the San Antonio Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita, Michael Peterson’s Mor Spirit gets the services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who is also named on American Anthem.
Fellow California shipper Dalmore was sixth behind the Baffert's one-two punch of Hoppertunity and Mor Spirit in the San Antonio in his previous start, and in his race before that he was third behind the multiple Grade 1 winning Midnight Storm in the San Pasqual (G2).
The Essex will be Dalmore’s third start in 2017, and trainer Keith Desormeaux, hopes that the third time will be the charm for the 4-year-old owned by Big Chief Racing and Head of Plains Partners.
“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.”
The Todd Pletcher-trained Madefromlucky, a son of 2010 Rebel winner Lookin At Lucky, is another hoping his third Oaklawn start will do the trick. In his two previous trips to Oaklawn from South Florida in 2015, Madefromlucky ran second to eventual Triple Crown champion and Horse of the Year American Pharoah in the Rebel and then was fourth behind "Pharoah" in the Arkansas Derby.
Post time for the Essex, the eighth race on the card, is 4:57 p.m. (CDT).
The Essex field, with riders and odds, in post position order is: Shotgun Cowboy, Alex Birzer, 5-1; Mor Spirit, Mike Smith, 7-5; Dazzling Gem, Shaun Bridgmohan, 8-1; Dalmore, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Secret Passage, Joe Rocco, Jr., 15-1; Fear the Cowboy, Jose Rios, 20-1; Domain’s Rap, Ramon Vazquez, 8-1, and Madefromlucky, Javier Castellano, 7-2.