Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Oaklawn Runners Enjoy Banner Weekend at Pimlico
Oaklawn stakes winners enjoyed a banner weekend at Pimlico, with Terra Promessa taking the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares Friday, Recruiting Ready the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters Saturday and Whitmore moving to 7 for 7 sprinting in Saturday’s $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3).
A few feet separated a fourth Oaklawn stakes winner, Classic Empire, from winning Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness (G1), the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Oaklawn-raced Senior Investment and Lookin At Lee ran third and fourth, respectively.
“I thought he ran outstanding,” trainer Mark Casse said of Classic Empire. “I always worry about him starting because he stumbles a little bit. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile going out after it and I said to Julien, ‘Second doesn’t mean anything.”’ I said, ‘Let’s go and try to win this thing.’ It ended up getting us in the end. We were going to be in it, and he said, ‘OK.” We were going to be aggressive and that’s what we did. I know his mind tends to wander and I was a little worried about that. I was hoping that horse came to him earlier. He tried to kick back, but we were second best today.”
Favored Whitmore ($4.40) caught Oaklawn-raced A.P. Indian – a finalist for 2016 male sprint champion – on the outside near the wire to win the Maryland Sprint by a half-length under Ricardo Santana Jr., Oaklawn’s leading rider the last five years. The Pleasantly Perfect gelding was 3 for 3 this year at Oaklawn, highlighted by the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 11 and $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15 for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.
Whitmore, who ran 6 furlongs over a good track in 1:09.90, has won five consecutive races, all sprints.
“I’m happy we came over,” Moquett said. “I said that it was going to take a track record to win this, but that was before the rain yesterday. I know he’s a fast horse and he’s running against very fast horses. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Ricardo. I told him that he was on the best horse and ride him with confidence. I know how he finishes. He closes like a freight train. Our goal is the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.”
Recruiting Ready, a powerful winner of the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes April 13 at Oaklawn, was a front-running 3 ¾-length winner of the Chick Lang under Horacio Karamanos. Recruiting Ready ($7.40) ran 6 furlongs over a good track in 1:10.35.
Favored Terra Promessa was a front-running 7 ½-length winner of the Allaire DuPont for Hall of Famer and eight-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen. Ridden by Jose Ortiz, the filly ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.12 and paid $4.20.
Terra Promessa was Oaklawn’s leading 3-year-old filly last year, winning the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). She added two more stakes victories this year in Hot Springs, the $125,000 Pippin Jan. 14 and $150,000 Bayakoa (G3) Feb. 18.
Classic Empire, winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn, finished second, beaten a head by Cloud Computing, in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.
In other stakes races Friday at Pimlico, Oaklawn-raced Vertical Oak and Our Majesty ran 1-2, respectively, in the $150,00 Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies and Oaklawn-raced Torrent was fourth in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.
Caldwell Firing on All Cylinders to Start Churchill’s Spring Meet
Through the first 14 days of the 38-day Spring Meet, Oaklawn regular J.R. Caldwell is making his presence known at Churchill Downs with an impressive 10 victories in 15 starts, including a trio of wins on last Saturday’s 11-race card.
“We are very blessed for the opportunity we’ve had so far in Kentucky,” Caldwell said. “We love it here.”
This is Caldwell’s second try on the Kentucky circuit. He had a full stable during Churchill Downs’ 2015 Spring Meet but could only manage three victories from 48 starters and did not return in 2016.
“Our goal is to build our Arkansas and Kentucky divisions,” Caldwell said.
Along with his string of horses at Churchill Downs, Caldwell has horses at Texas’ Lone Star Park and Louisiana’s Evangeline Downs. Caldwell stays primarily in Texas and has left his Kentucky division under the watchful eye of assistant trainer Kylie Salisbury in Barn 21.
“We plan on staying the entire year in Kentucky,” Caldwell said. “Now we just need a (Kentucky) Derby horse and clients to keep in Kentucky with fast horses.”
Caldwell currently has 558 career victories through 3,866 starters (14.4%) and earnings of $9,116,528.
None of Caldwell’s well-placed Spring Meet winners have been higher than odds of 4-1: Bold Shot ($3.80 payoff for $2 to win), Greeleys Charm ($6.40), Cheyenne Blues ($7.40), Ship Disturber ($10.80), Dan the Go to Man ($10.60), Learning Curve ($3.80), Merilore ($4.20), Manhattan Mischief ($2.40) and Bob’s Gone Wild ($6.60).
Caldwell’s Spring Meet record heading into Thursday’s action was 15-10-1-1—$153,435, which led all trainers. He was followed by Brad Cox (32-8-2-5—$620,056), 8-time Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen (42-7-4-6—$689,372), 2017 Arkansas Derby winning trainer Mark Casse (36-6-4-3—$564,967) and Ian Wilkes (28-6-2-5—$500,227).
Balandeen, who made his 3-year-old debut this year at Oaklawn, won the $100,000 Tom Ridge Stakes Monday at Presque Isle for Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015. Balandeen made two starts at Oaklawn, finishing third in the $125,000 Gazebo Stakes March 4 and sixth in the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 15. Balandeen is out of Mamma Kimbo, winner of the $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies in 2012 at Oaklawn. Balandeen, a son of Bernardini, was cutting back to a sprint in the Tom Ridge and ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.31 over the all-weather surface and paid $5.20. … Favored Itsallaboutyou, eighth in two starter-allowance races this year at Oaklawn, won the $60,000 John Wayne Stakes Saturday at Prairie Meadows for Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn’s leading owner the last four years. Itsallaboutyou ($4.20) was ridden by Ramon Vazquez, Oaklawn’s second-leading jockey the last three years. The gelding is trained by Federico Villafranco, who won 22 races this year to rank fourth in the standings. … Moe Candy, sixth behind Whitmore in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses April 15 at Oaklawn, finished second in the $200,000 Kona Gold Stakes (G2) Saturday at Santa Anita. Kobe’s Back, seventh in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) in 2014 at Oaklawn, finished fourth. … Conquest Windycity, an allowance winner at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, ran third in the $300,000 Pimlico Special Handicap (G3) Friday at Pimlico. … Katie Clawson, Oaklawn’s leading apprentice this year, recorded her second career riding triple Friday at Indiana Grand. She also rode three winners May 6 at Indiana Grand. Clawson, 20, had eight victories at Oaklawn.