Grade 1 winner Sporting Chance, in his most serious work to date at Oaklawn, breezed 6 furlongs from the gate in 1:13.80 over a fast track Sunday morning in advance of his scheduled 3-year-old debut in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19.
Sporting Chance, unraced since winning the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 4 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, worked with stablemate Hill Bent, a 3-year-old Creative Cause colt who finished seventh in his November career debut at Churchill Downs.
The colt, who worked approximately 30 minutes after the track opened, recorded splits of :23.80 for the opening quarter-mile, :36 for 3 furlongs and :49 for a half-mile, according to lead clocker Jim Hamilton.
Sporting Chance (on the outside) and Hill Bent raced as a team down the backstretch and through most of the turn before the Grade 1 winner began pulling away approaching the quarter-pole.
Hill Bent was credited with 6 furlongs in 1:15.60.
Sunday’s work was the fifth recorded at Oaklawn since Jan. 9 for Sporting Chance, a son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow who races for Lukas’ longtime clients, Robert Baker and William Mack. He was purchased for $575,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Lukas said Luis Saez will ride Sporting Chance in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, which will be his first start around two turns.
Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Sunday morning that the status of Southwest candidate Higher Power is “a bit up in the air” after missing a few days of training with a temperature. He was an entry-level allowance/optional claiming winner at a mile in his 3-year-old debut Jan. 13.
“We’ll see how things progress the next few weeks,” Von Hemel said.
Higher Power is a half-brother to Alternation, the Von Hemel-trained millionaire and 2012 Oaklawn Handicap winner.
The Southwest is Oaklawn's second of four major two-turn preps for the Kentucky Derby, a series that continues with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14.
Making a Point
Exclamation Point, a 3-year-old half-brother to champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, is probably headed for two turns following his front-running 2 ½-length career-debut victory in Saturday’s fourth race, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning.
“The goal for him is to be a route horse,” said Cox, Oaklawn’s leading trainer. “We’ll see what happens.”
Under Fernando De La Cruz, Exclamation Point covered 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.56 and paid $7.40 as the second choice in the 10-horse field.
Cox noted Exclamation Point won despite being “a touch worked up in the post parade” and switching to his left lead inside the sixteenth pole after being hit right-handed.
“He’s got talent, there’s no doubt it,” Cox said. “He displayed that late summer, early fall, before he went on the shelf with shins.”
Exclamation Point, a chestnut son of Concord Point, is a homebred for Steve and Brandi Nicholson, who were in Hot Springs for the colt’s debut. The couple purchased Sambuca Classica (the dam of Classic Empire and Exclamation Point) early in her racing career before she starred as a broodmare at their Silver Fern Farm near Versailles, Ky. Sambuca Classica is a 14-year-old daughter of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief.
Classic Empire debuted in May of his 2-year-old year en route to an Eclipse Award in 2016. Shin issues interrupted Exclamation Point’s training for approximately six weeks last fall, delaying his career debut.
“I told Brandi last night that he was telling us in the fall that he needed a break,” Cox said. “He got his break and he came back and responded well. A lot of it goes to great clients that are patient and listen to what you have to say. That’s what it comes down to.”
Cox began training last summer for the Nicholsons, who sold Classic Empire for $475,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
The now-retired Classic Empire recorded his final career victory in the Arkansas Derby for trainer Mark Casse. A son of Pioneerof the Nile, Classic Empire was a unanimous choice for champion 2-year-old male of 2016 and now stands at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
Making a Million
Multiple stakes winner Shotgun Kowboy surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a powerful front-running five-length victory in Saturday’s third race – a 1 1/16-mile allowance event for older horses – under Luis Quinonez.
Shotgun Kowboy became the second millionaire for Oklahoma-based C.R. Trout, who bred, owns and trains Shotgun Kowboy, a 6-year-old gelded son of sprint champion Kodiak Kowboy.
“It’s a fun thing to have their mothers, all the kinfolks,” Trout said Sunday morning. “I’ve got four generations here. We’ve just got some pretty decent broodmares.”
Trout also trained Maysville Slew, a son of 1989 Oaklawn Handicap winner Slew City Slew who earned $1,046,409 in a 69-race career that included a victory in the $75,000 Essex Handicap (G3) in 2000 at Oaklawn.
The Oklahoma-bred Shotgun Kowboy reached seven figures in his 25th lifetime start. Shotgun Kowboy ($1,043,159) has 10 career victories, including two in allowance company last year at Oaklawn.
He was coming off a seventh-place finish in the $125,000 Fifth Season Jan. 12, Oaklawn’s first of four two-turn stake races for older horses. In Saturday’s victory, Shotgun Kowboy ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in a meet-best 1:43.87 and paid $4.20 as the heavy favorite.
“He likes it over here, he really does,” Trout said. “The first time we ran him, he wasn’t quite tight enough and the track wasn’t to his liking. It was deep and cuppy. But he liked it yesterday.”
Trout said plans are pending for Shotgun Kowboy, but he’s under consideration for several upcoming races at Oaklawn, including the $300,000 Essex Handicap March 17.
Shotgun Kowboy, who is out of Shotgun Jane, ran sixth in last year’s Essex.
Ivan Fallunovalot had a chance to reach $1 million in career earnings in Saturday’s eighth race, the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters, but finished second under Quinonez. He has earned $986,403 in a 30-race career.
Three scheduled starters for Saturday’s $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies recorded workouts Sunday morning in preparation for the 1-mile race. Sassy Sienna went 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 for trainer Brad Cox. Red Ruby went a half-mile in :48.60 for trainer Kellyn Gorder. Cosmic Burst worked a half-mile in :48.80 for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. The Martha Washington closed Friday with 30 nominations. Post positions will be drawn Wednesday. … Streamline worked 6 furlongs in 1:15 Sunday morning for trainer Brian Williamson in preparation for the $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 17. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Terra Promessa worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 Sunday morning for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. … Storm Advisory, winner of the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters last year at Oaklawn, recorded a half-mile bullet (:46.60) Sunday morning for trainer Robertino Diodoro. … Golden Mischief, winner of the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old fillies last year at Oaklawn, recorded a 5-furlong bullet (1:00) Sunday morning for Cox, who said the daughter of Into Mischief is progressing nicely toward her 2018 debut. … Arusa, a half-sister to Arkansas-bred sprint star Comedero, won Saturday’s first race. … Favored Johnny Whip ($5.40) became the meet’s first three-time winner in Saturday’s second race for trainer Karl Broberg, perennial leader nationally in victories. Trainer John L. Hall won a five-way shake to claim the 9-year-old gelding for $6,250.