Grade 1 winner Sporting Chance will make his 3-year-old debut in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Friday morning.
Lukas said Luis Saez will have the mount on Sporting Chance, a son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow who hasn’t started since winning the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 4 at Saratoga.
The 1 1/16-mile Southwest – Oaklawn’s second of four major preps for the Kentucky Derby – will mark the two-turn debut of Sporting Chance, who races for Lukas’ longtime clients, Robert Baker and William Mack.
“We didn’t have any target when we first got here because we didn’t know how quick he would come in hand,” Lukas said. “But he’s done so well since he got here, we started getting more optimistic that the Southwest was a doable deal.”
Based at Oaklawn since early December, the colt has recorded four workouts since Jan. 9, the last a 5-furlong move in company over a fast track Monday morning. He breezed with Bow Ready, a 3-year-old son of Oxbow who is winless in five lifetime starts.
Sporting Chance was credited with 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 after starting approximately two lengths behind Bow Ready and finishing four lengths in front of his stablemate.
“We’re turning up the heat a little bit,” Lukas said. “I don’t think I did a real good job with that horse that ran two turns yesterday. It’s hard to get them fit.”
Lukas was referring to sharp Jan. 13 maiden special weights graduate Transgress, fourth in his two-turn debut in Thursday’s eighth race as the 4-5 favorite.
The trainer said he plans to breeze Sporting Chance twice more in advance of the Southwest, which will be his first start since having a knee chip removed following the Hopeful.
“We’re probably not going to be as tight as we need to be or should be with those horses all having an out,” Lukas said. “But, I think we’ve got a very talented horse, so maybe he’ll overcome me.”
A winner of 2 of 3 career starts, Sporting Chance was a $575,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase.
Trainer Brad Cox said Friday morning that he’s “90 percent” sure High North will make his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest. A son of sprint champion Midnight Lute, the colt hasn’t started since finishing a troubled fourth in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.
High North worked once at Oaklawn – a 3-furlong bullet in :36.40 Christmas Eve – before shipping to Fair Grounds approximately a week later as arctic temperatures gripped Hot Springs.
High North has recorded four works at Fair Grounds, the last a 5-furlong bullet (1:00) Monday morning.
“He breezed fantastic,” said Cox, who trains High North for Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable. “He’s on track to make the Southwest. He’ll be ready. He’s doing extremely well.”
Cox said the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 17 at Fair Grounds is the other next-race option for High North.
The Lukas-trained Bravazo, winner of a Jan. 13 split allowance/optional claimer at a mile, is headed to the Risen Star. Ezmosh, who was beaten a neck by Bravazo, is under consideration for the Southwest, Cox said.
Southwest candidate Higher Power, who won the other half of the split allowance/optional claimer, had “just a little temperature yesterday,” trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Friday morning.
“I’m hoping it’s minor,” Von Hemel said. “We’ll just have to see where it goes.”
Higher Power is a half-brother to the Von Hemel-trained millionaire Alternation, winner of the 2012 Oaklawn Handicap.
Coffeepot Stables’ Farrell will make her next start in the $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 17, trainer Wayne Catalano said Thursday morning.
Farrell, in her 4-year-old debut, was a front-running three-quarter length winner of the $125,000 Pippin Jan. 13, Oaklawn’s first of four two-turn stakes for older fillies and mares.
“That’s the place we’re going,” Catalano said of the Bayakoa. “Everything’s on schedule.”
Farrell, a daughter of Malibu Moon, has won 7 of 11 starts overall and earned $802,077.
The ultra-consistent Streamline is also headed to the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa, trainer Brian Williamson said. The mare was third in the Pippin, her first start since finishing third in the $300,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) May 5 at Churchill Downs.
“It wasn’t bad,” Williamson said. “It was a long layoff. Sure was asking a lot of her in there.”
Streamline has run in Oaklawn’s last nine two-turn stakes for older fillies and mares, never finishing worse than third. Streamline finished second in the 2016 Bayakoa and third last year.
Overall, Streamline has a 7-3-9 record from 20 career starts and earnings of $703,166. The 6-year-old daughter of Straight Line races for the trainer’s mother-in-law, Nancy Vanier, and Cartwright Thoroughbreds V LLC.
A double Thursday gave Brad Cox the outright lead in the trainer standings with eight victories through the first 11 days of racing. He also tops the standings at Fair Grounds and has won 4 of 7 starts at Aqueduct (the trainer now has a year-round presence in New York).
“It’s been a great year, a great winter so far,” Cox said Friday morning. “Having great help is the key.”
Cox saddled favored Electric Avenue ($5) to win the fourth race and favored Sworn Silence ($4) to win the sixth race.
Electric Avenue, who was making his career debut against $10,000 maiden claimers, recorded the largest margin of victory (11 ¼ lengths) at the meeting.
The high-percentage Cox is 8 for 20 at the meeting has 140 victories overall at Oaklawn from 520 starts, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
The track was rated fast for workouts Friday morning. … Lovely Bernadette, a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf, worked 3 furlongs in :36.80 after the renovation break Friday morning for trainer Jimmy DiVito. Lovely Bernadette is among 10 runners from the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies last March at Oaklawn to return and win. There were 11 starters. … Area, an unstarted 3-year-old daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, worked a half-mile in :51.80 just after the track opened Friday morning for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs and owner Alex Lieblong, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. Area is out of Isabell’s Shoes, winner of the $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies in 2005 at Oaklawn. … Alex Canchari, Oaklawn’s co-third-leading jockey last year, had a riding triple Thursday. Canchari won the second race aboard Dingdingdingding ($15) for trainer Mike Lauer, seventh race aboard favored Eskimo Kisses ($4.20) for trainer Kenny McPeek and the ninth race aboard Burtnjoe ($15.40) for trainer Ernie Witt II. … Song of Mine, a 3-year-old half-sister to champion Songbird, finished sixth in her career debut in Thursday’s seventh race. … Conquest Hiosilver ($6.80) became the third two-time winner at the meeting in Thursday’s third race for trainer Chris Hartman and his major client, Black Hawk Stable (James Rogers). Black Hawk is 4 for 4 at the meet to the top the owner standings. Hartman saddled eight consecutive winners for Black Hawk at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting (March 27-April 11) en route to his first training title in Hot Springs. … Five-time defending riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. recorded his 350th career Oaklawn victory in Thursday’s sixth race aboard favored Sworn Silence ($4). … Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens (flu) was off his mounts Thursday. … Bird Orr Brady, named for Boston sports legends Larry Bird (NBA), Bobby Orr (NHL) and Tom Brady (NFL), is scheduled to make his Oaklawn debut in Saturday’s seventh race, an allowance sprint. Bird Orr Brady, a 4-year-old Kantharos gelding, is coming off an allowance victory Dec. 30 at Delta Downs for Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s leading trainer this year.