Arkansas Derby Runners Represent Well in Kentucky Derby
Oaklawn’s signature race for 3-year-olds produced a top six finisher in the Kentucky Derby for the ninth consecutive year Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Lookin At Lee and Classic Empire ran second and fourth, respectively, in the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1), the first leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Classic Empire, the country’s champion 2-year-old male, won the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn. Lookin At Lee finished third, beaten 1 ½ lengths.
In the Kentucky Derby, Lookin At Lee (33-1 odds) finished 2 ¾ lengths behind Always Dreaming after receiving a ground-saving ride from Corey Lanerie. Lookin At Lee is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who has collected eight titles at Oaklawn since 2007. Classic Empire (6-1) was beaten 8 ¾ lengths after getting knocked off stride just after the start of the 1 ¼-mile race. Classic Empire was the 4-1 program favorite.
Both Lookin at Lee and Classic Empire are expected to continue on to the second leg of the Triple Crown where they will once again face Always Dreaming in the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20.
“Everybody's good,” said Asmussen, who also finished 11th with Hence and 12th with Untrapped. “The Preakness (GI) is definitely a possibility for ‘Lee.’ But, we'll give this race the respect it deserves and wait and see how he does when he gets back to the track.”
Lookin At Lee overcame post position one and closed well to finish second
“He always tries,” Asmussen said. “(Jockey) Corey (Lanerie) gave him a great ride. He fits this horse really well. They have qualities you like, they don't give up and always try. He got his dream run. He got his chance. He ran well to the wire. We're very fortunate to have him.”
Other Arkansas Derby runners to finish in the top six in the Kentucky Derby since 2009 include winners Super Saver in 2010 and American Pharoah in 2015. Super Saver captured the Kentucky Derby after finishing second in the Arkansas Derby. American Pharoah won both races en route to becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Always Dreaming is from the first crop of 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby.
‘Mor’ of the Same
Odds-on favorite Mor Spirit surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a front-running 5 ¾-length victory in the $200,000 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) Sunday at Lone Star Park.
Mor Spirit ($2.80) was coming off a 2 ½-length victory in the $250,000 Essex Handicap for older horses March 18 at Oaklawn. He earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 107 for Sunday’s victory – his fifth in 12 starts overall – after covering a mile over a fast track in 1:36.86 under Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Mo Spirit has $1,008,400 in career earnings.
Oaklawn-raced Texas Chrome, Shotgun Kowboy and American Dubai ran second, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Steve Sexton Mile (formerly the Texas Mile). Texas Chrome was ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Oaklawn’s leading rider the last five years.
Shotgun Kowboy finished sixth, beaten 9 ¼ lengths by Mor Spirit, in the 1 1/16-mile Essex.
Hitting a Triple
Katie Clawson moved to the top of the rider standings at Indiana Grand following her first career riding triple Saturday. Clawson, 20, was Oaklawn’s leading apprentice this year with eight victories. She has nine victories at Indiana Grand.
Clawson swept Saturday’s early daily double, winning the first race aboard Ballyjamesduff ($6.20) for trainer John Haran and the second race aboard Parkerelizabeth ($32.20) for trainer Mike Maker. Clawson won fifth race aboard favored Atlantic Slew ($3.80) for trainer Cipriano Contreras.
The rider won her first race last June at Churchill Downs and had her first career riding double Feb. 17 at Oaklawn. She has 23 victories overall, including 17 this year.
Big World, an allowance/optional claiming winner March 30 at Oaklawn, won the $300,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares Friday at Churchill Downs. Big World is by Custom for Carlos, winner of Oaklawn’s $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in 2010. … Benner Island, fifth in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies April 14 at Oaklawn, won the $200,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2) Friday at Churchill Downs. Benner Island is trained by Brad Cox, third in the standings this year at Oaklawn. …Vexatious, a troubled third in the Fantasy, ran fourth in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Friday at Churchill Downs. …Uncontested ran third in the $250,000 Pat Day Mile (G3) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Churchill Downs. Uncontested won Oaklawn’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes in his 3-year-old debut Jan. 16. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Far Right ran third in his comeback race, an allowance/optional claimer, Saturday at Churchill Downs. … Robertino Diodoro, Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer this year, has a 3-1-1 record from 10 starts at the Belmont Park spring/summer meeting.