Exclamation Point, a recently named half-brother to champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, is scheduled to make his career debut in Saturday’s fourth race at Oaklawn, a maiden special weights event for 3-year-olds at 6 furlongs.
Trained by Brad Cox, Exclamation Point is a homebred for Steve and Brandi Nicholson, who also bred Classic Empire, an Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male after winning 4 of 5 starts, including the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
A flashy chestnut by Concord Point, Exclamation Point has been based at Oaklawn since early December and was billed for the next month as “Sambuca Classica” (the colt’s dam) or the “unnamed half-brother to champion Classic Empire.”
“I’m excited to get him started,” Cox said Wednesday afternoon. “He’s doing really well. We think he’s a horse that’s going to do his best running around two turns.”
Exclamation Point, 4-1 on the morning line, is scheduled to break from post 9 under Fernando De La Cruz.
Cox said Exclamation Point, who was withdrawn from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and OBS June Sale of 2-year-olds in training, displayed talent breezing last August and September at Churchill Downs before sore shins interrupted his training for approximately six weeks.
Exclamation Point resumed training in November and has had six published works at Oaklawn since Dec. 16 in advance of an anticipated February debut.
“I don’t want to say we’re giving him a race, but we’ll start him around one turn, three-quarters, and build off that, hopefully,” Cox said. “We’re looking for a positive race, an educational experience for him and to move forward off that.”
Concord Point, a son of Tapit who now stands in South Korea, was a multiple graded stakes winner of $669,260 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Concord Point – in his final two career starts in 2010 – set a track record for 1 1/16 miles in winning the $250,000 Iowa Derby (G3) and captured the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2).
The Nicholsons purchased Sambuca Classica, a 14-year-old daughter of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, early in her racing career (she retired 0 for 8) before she starred as a broodmare at their Silver Fern Farm near Versailles, Ky.
In addition to the now-retired Classic Empire, whose final career victory was the Arkansas Derby, Sambuca Classica has produced multiple stakes winners Anytime Magic and Uptown Twirl.
Brandi Nicholson also co-owns and bred, in partnership, Red Ruby, a promising 3-year-old Tiznow filly who is scheduled to make her 2018 debut in the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 10 for trainer Kellyn Gorder.
Cox has trained for the Nicholsons since last summer. They sold Classic Empire for $475,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
The King Cotton
Two-time champion Ivan Fallunovalot bids for millionaire status in the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Saturday. Trained by Tom Howard of Hot Springs, Ivan Fallunovalot has earned $961,403 in a 29-race career that includes 17 victories.
After being claimed for $25,000 at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting on behalf of Lewis Mathews of Bismarck, Ark., Ivan Fallunovalot won the 6-furlong King Cotton in 2015 and 2016 and finished fourth last year.
A victory Saturday would make Ivan Fallunovalot the third Texas-bred to reach $1 million in career earnings, following 1987 sprint champion Groovy ($1,346,956) and Texas Chrome ($1,033,262), according to the Texas Thoroughbred Association, the state’s official breed registry for Thoroughbreds.
Texas Chrome raced twice at Oaklawn, finishing third in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes in 2016 and sixth in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) last year.
The King Cotton field from the rail out: Guns Loaded, Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride, 115 pounds; Ivan Fallunovalot, Luis Quinonez, 119; Wilbo, David Cabrera, 122; St. Joe Bay, Edwin Maldonado, 115; Prime Engine, Gary Stevens, 115; Royal Squeeze, David Cohen, 115; Recount, Alex Canchari, 115; and Apprehender, Alex Birzer, 115.
Apprehender won the King Cotton in 2013 and 2014.
The King Cotton goes as the eighth of nine races, with probable post time 4:38 p.m. (Central). Gates open Saturday at 11 a.m. Racing begins at 1:05 p.m.
Westrock Stables LLC’s homebred Torrent is under consideration for the $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 17 following her one-length allowance/optional claiming victory at a mile last Friday, trainer Ron Moquett said.
Torrent, who was making her 4-year-old debut, was coming off a third-place finish in the $250,000 Raven Run Stakes (G2) Oct. 21 at Keeneland.
“We always hope that they improve with age, and some horses that were on the fringe as a 3-year-old come back and be better at 4,” Moquett said. “The ownership has always let me do what I want to do with her.”
Torrent, by champion Blame, ran three times at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting, winning an allowance/optional claimer in her 3-year-old debut before finishing third in the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes and fourth in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3).
Westrock (Joe and Scott Ford of Little Rock, Ark.) also campaigned Torrent’s dam, Tidal Pool, who finished second to eventual 3-year-old filly champion Blind Luck in the 2010 Fantasy and won Oaklawn’s $100,000 Red Bud Stakes the following year.
Swing and Sway, a Moquett-trained New York-bred, provided Westrock with another Oaklawn stakes victory in Saturday’s $125,000 American Beauty for older female sprinters. Swing and Sway’s victory came two days after another Moquett trainee, Our Majesty, won a second-level/optional claiming sprint in her 4-year-old debut.
Moquett said plans are pending for Swing and Sway and Our Majesty, but both are being considered for stakes races around the country.
Oaklawn’s next sprint stake for older fillies and mares is the $125,000 Spring Fever March 3.
The track was rated fast for workouts Thursday morning. … Four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance and his son, trainer Tommy Vance, had winners on Sunday’s card. Tommy Vance won the second race with How’s My Bud ($14.40) and David Vance won the seventh race with Big Red Seven ($37.60). The father-son duo had winners on the same card several times previously, including Feb. 12, 2017, at Oaklawn. … Nominations to the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Feb. 10 close Friday. … Johnny Whip tries to become the meet’s first three-time winner in Saturday’s second race for trainer Karl Broberg. … Prairie Mile winner Jerrid is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s third race, an allowance for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. Trainer Scott Young said before the meet that he hopes Jerrid can develop into a candidate for the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 14. Also entered is multiple stakes winner Shotgun Kowboy, who has career earnings of $996,359. … First post Sunday is 1:05 p.m. (Central) – 30 minutes earlier than usual – because of the Super Bowl.