D. Wayne Lukas has finalized immediate plans for two of his top 3-year-old prospects, the Hall of Fame trainer said Wednesday morning.
Lukas said Bravazo, a Jan. 13 entry-level allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn, will run in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Saturday at Fair Grounds, with Kentucky Club headed for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Monday at Oaklawn.
Bravazo and Kentucky Club, a Jan. 27 maiden winner at Oaklawn, were entered in the Risen Star, but Lukas left the door open for Bravazo to remain in Arkansas because of the possibility that the Southwest would split.
Lukas said he was informed Tuesday by Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope that a split wouldn’t happen, allowing the trainer to finalize his shipping plans.
Lukas already had Sporting Chance ticketed for the Southwest and said he wouldn't run Bravazo against the Grade 1 winner. Bravazo and Kentucky Club also have common ownership (Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm).
Sporting Chance completed major preparations for the Southwest with a 5-furlong work over a muddy surface Monday morning. The son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow covered the distance in 1:00.40 – second-fastest of 15 times recorded at 5 furlongs.
Sporting Chance breezed by himself, although he was joined by another horse near the half-mile pole.
“I wanted to work alone, but it worked out all right,” Lukas said. “It was not by design, but it worked out all right.”
Sporting Chance will be making his 3-year-old and two-turn debut in the Southwest, which is expected to attract a large field. He hasn’t started since winning the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 4 at Saratoga.
The 1 1/16-mile Southwest will offer 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest will be drawn Friday.
In addition to Sporting Chance and Kentucky Club, the Oaklawn racing department lists 10 other probables for the Southwest – Combatant (Steve Asmussen, trainer), Ezmosh (Brad Cox), Impact Player (Todd Pletcher), Mourinho (Bob Baffert), My Boy Jack (Keith Desormeaux), Retirement Fund (Asmussen), Road to Damascus (Pletcher), Seven Trumpets (Dale Romans), Zing Zang (Asmussen) and Zulfikhar (Baffert).
Combatant worked a half-mile in :50.60 over a sloppy surface Wednesday morning. Mourinho and Combatant finished 1-2, respectively, in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 15, Oaklawn’s first of four two-turn preps for the Kentucky Derby.
Following the Southwest, the series continues with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14.
Arkansas Racing Commission Chairman and prominent Thoroughbred owner Alex Lieblong was discussing some of his horses recently when he briefly touched on newcomer David Cabrera, Oaklawn’s leading rider this year.
“Horses run for him,” Lieblong said.
That was evident again Saturday when Cabrera recorded his first triple in Hot Springs to regain the top spot in the standings.
Cabrera won the first race aboard Dynabeaver ($14.80) for trainer Tim Martin, fourth race aboard La Key ($18.40) for trainer Shea Stuart and the sixth race aboard favored Abbaa ($6.80) for trainer Johnny Ortiz.
Cabrera’s victory on La Key was noteworthy because the jockey dropped his whip in the upper stretch and used his goggles to urge the filly right-handed approaching the wire in a front-running three-quarter length victory.
“It just slipped out of my hand, I think, because of the rain,” Cabrera said. “I thought I would just hand ride her, but I threw a couple of crosses and I thought, ‘Man, I can feel I have horse, but she was not going to give it all to me.’ So, I went to the goggles.”
Cabrera said he’s dropped his whip several times since beginning his professional career in the United States in 2013, but added Saturday was the first time he’s used goggles to coax a horse to the finish line.
“I don’t know why this day it came straight into my mind,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera said he began the race with four sets of goggles, but didn’t have to pull any down because he was on the lead throughout the 6-furlong race.
Cabrera’s agent, Joe Santos, said he found out the jockey dropped his whip via a phone call from the other rider he represents at the meet, C.J. McMahon.
“C.J. called me shortly after the horse crossed the wire,” Santos said. “That was pretty cool. I see my phone ringing and it’s C.J. McMahon. I was like, ‘I wonder what’s going on?’ He called me and said, ‘What a ride.’ ’’
Cabrera’s ride on Abbaa was much smoother.
The gelding sat off a hot pace and powered to a 4 ¾-length victory in the sprint for older $30,000 claimers.
“Johnny, his mom used to babysit me when I was 2, so I’ve had a long relationship with Johnny,” Santos said. “It’s fun to win races for him. Him and David have kind been teaming up now for the last few weeks and things have been clicking. We’re either been on the board or winning, so things have been real good there. I went into the day really loving Abbaa, just because I know the horse so well. I felt like David fit him. He’s a horse you’ve got to be very patient with. David’s a very patient rider. He never gets too excited about anything.”
Abbaa won a meet-high four races at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting. Carlos Marquez Jr., who was represented by Santos during part of the meeting, was aboard for the last three victories.
Cabrera enters the week with 16 victories, one more than another newcomer, David Cohen. Five-time defending champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is third with 14 victories.
Back to Work
Unbeaten Amy’s Challenge worked a half-mile in :51.20 over a fast track Tuesday morning, her first breeze since winning the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Jan. 20.
Trainer Mac Robertson said he’s targeting the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 10 for Amy’s Challenge, who would be making her two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile race. Amy’s Challenge races for Robertson’s longtime client, Novogratz Racing Stables Inc.
Also returning to the work tab Tuesday morning was Higher Power, an entry-level allowance/optional claiming winner at a mile Jan. 13 for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.
Higher Power went a half-mile in :50.
Higher Power was under consideration for Monday’s $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) before missing approximately a week of training earlier this month because of a minor illness, Von Hemel.
Higher Power, Von Hemel said, is a candidate for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 17, Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14.
Higher Power, who races for his breeder, Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable, is unbeaten in two starts around two turns.
The track was rated sloppy for workouts Wednesday morning. … She Beast, in what could be her final work before her career debut, breezed a half-mile in :52 moments after the track opened Wednesday morning for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark. She Beast is a 3-year-old half-sister to The Big Beast, a Grade 1-winning sprinter and Oaklawn allowance winner for the Lieblongs. … Entries were to be drawn Wednesday for Saturday’s $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Oaklawn stakes winners Farrell, Terra Promessa and Streamline are expected to headline the field.