Oaklawn News

Grade 1 winner Sporting Chance will have a slightly different look when he makes his 3-year-old debut in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Monday at Oaklawn.

Sporting Chance has been training in a small shadow roll, a piece of equipment normally made of sheepskin and attached to the noseband of the bridle. Shadow rolls are used to lower a horse’s head and restrict vision, aiding in focusing on what is front of them.

“It’s a really small one,” Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “I thought one morning we were out there, and I thought he was looking around a little bit and I put that on him. It’s almost cosmetic, more than anything.”

Sporting Chance hasn’t started since winning the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 4 at Saratoga because of surgery to remove a small bone chip from a knee following the 7-furlong race.

Sporting Chance won the Hopeful by a neck after ducking out approaching the wire under Luis Saez, who also guided the son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow to a maiden victory July 22 at Saratoga.

“I don’t know what happened there,” Lukas said. “He hit him a little bit low, left-handed, and maybe surprised him.”

Sporting Chance, who won 2 of 3 starts last year, will also be making his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest. His first two starts were at 5 ½ furlongs.

“Most of time when they do it for the first time, they run pretty good because they don’t know how far they are going to go,” Lukas said. “After that, they get smart. They figure it out: ‘Well, that’s all the way around there and better do something different.’ He’s genuine. The question will be whether I’ve got him seasoned enough at this point – whether he’s fit enough. I think he can get two turns.”

Lukas is also scheduled to send out Calumet Farm’s Kentucky Club in the Southwest after the Oxbow colt was scratched from Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. He was winless in five starts in maiden special weights company at 2 before breaking his maiden by eight lengths for a $30,000 claiming price Jan. 27 at Oaklawn.

“He ran so well here in the last quarter of that race that we wanted to see if that was just a good day for him or he has a little quality,” Lukas said. “We’ll find out a little more about him.”

Lukas said Calumet Farm’s Bravazo, a first-level allowance/optional claiming winner Jan. 13 at Oaklawn, was scheduled to arrive in Hot Springs late Sunday afternoon following his Risen Star victory. Lukas said his initial thought is for Bravazo to return to Fair Grounds for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) March 24.
Turf to Dirt

My Boy Jack was good enough to run in last year’s Breeders’ Cup. But, that was the Juvenile Turf (G1), the colt’s fifth consecutive start on grass.

In his 3-year-old debut, My Boy Jack finished third behind highly regarded McKinzie in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) Jan 6 at Santa Anita and is scheduled to remain on dirt in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Monday at Oaklawn for Southern California-based trainer Keith Desormeaux.

“He’s showed some brilliance on grass, but that remains to be seen the dirt,” Desormeaux said. “I thought his last race was exceptional, but it was off a bit of a freshening and those were very nice horses. Hopefully, with his style being similar to Sonneteer’s, coming a little off the pace, that it will … California tracks are biased toward speed, so to get to a place like Oaklawn or Fair Grounds, where closers have a little bit more of a chance, I would like to think it accentuates our chances.”

Desormeaux is also scheduled to send out Sonneteer in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Monday at Oaklawn.
An R Rating?

Late-running Rated R Superstar will bid for his biggest career victory in Monday’s $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, Rated R Superstar has a 1-2-0 record in three career starts at Oaklawn, including a three-quarter length allowance/optional claiming score Jan. 27 in his last start.

“The race looks like it could set up for him, but he’s going to need the clean trip,” McPeek said. “And last time, we were real pleased that he moved forward. We’re kind of cautiously optimistic.”

Rated R Superstar will be competing for a $530,000 purse since he will be running without the anti-bleeder medication Lasix. Oaklawn’s “Lasix-free Bonus Program” offers a 10 percent hike to the winner’s share of the purse (a $30,000 boost if Rated R Superstar captures the Razorback) for horses that win without Lasix.

McPeek has had three Lasix-free winners, including Rated R Superstar last month, since the program’s inception in 2015.
Monday, Monday   
Horse of the Year Poster, Gun Runner
Oaklawn will honor 2017 Razorback Handicap winner and Horse of the Year Gun Runner with a free commemorative poster while supplies last Monday.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will sign the posters near the information booth on the first floor from 12:15 p.m.-12:45 p.m. (Central) for a $5 donation to Second Stride, a Kentucky-based Thoroughbred aftercare program.

Asmussen saddled Gun Runner to a front-running 5 ¾-length victory in last year’s Razorback, which marked his 4-year-old debut. Gun Runner completed 2017 with four consecutive Grade 1 victories, including the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Gun Runner ($15,988,500) is the richest horse to race at Oaklawn.