Newcomer David Cabrera became the first jockey to reach double-figure victories at the Oaklawn meeting when he swept Saturday’s late daily double, including his first local stakes score aboard Swing and Sway in the $125,000 American Beauty for older female sprinters.
Cabrera’s strong start – 10 victories from 47 starts and purse earnings of $358,801 – mirrors 2017 when he set career highs across the board. A native of Mexico, Cabrera, 25, ranked 19th nationally in victories (197) and 54th in purse earnings ($4,085,101), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Ron Moquett, who trains Swing and Sway, said Cabrera is reminiscent of five-time defending Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. Moquett was among Santana’s biggest supporters early in his career.
“Obviously, he’s athletically gifted,” Moquett said Sunday morning. “But I liked his personality, I liked his will to win and we gelled. Cabrera has a lot of those similarities. The more people get to ride him, the more they’re going to like him.”
Cabrera, who is represented by agent Joe Santos, has already ridden winners for eight trainers – Chris Hartman (two) and Karl Broberg (two) and one each for Moquett, Donnie K. Von Hemel, Clinton Stuart, Blaine Williams, Austin Gustafson and Lynn Chleboard.
“I’m pretty happy that I’ve got Jose as an agent,” Cabrera said. “I’m happy with the way things have gone so far.”
Cabrera has at least one victory during the first nine days of racing. Seven winners have paid double digits, including C C’s Baby Girl ($119.60), Wilbo ($30.40) and Swing and Sway ($24.60).
“They’re giving everything a shot to run,” said Santos, who also represents newcomer C.J. McMahon. “A little bit of not knowing their names. For years over here, you’re betting Santana, (Ramon) Vazquez. You’ve got Gary Stevens. Everybody recognizes his name. Jon Court is a fixture around these parts.”
Cabrera won the riding title at Lone Star as an apprentice in 2014. He’s also topped the standings at another Texas track, Retama, and finished second to Vazquez last year at Prairie Meadows.
Cabrera, who had previously wintered at Sam Houston, is trying to become the first newcomer to win an Oaklawn riding title since Jeremy Rose in 2005.
“On my end, we’re just trying to ride the best horses in the races we can get,” Santos said. “We’ve also got our clients that we have to ride for. Right now, it’s started off so well that it’s hard not to have that as a goal in mind. It’s going to be difficult to go anywhere to win a title. But with the start we’ve gotten off to, it definitely sits in the back of your mind.”
Another newcomer, David Cohen, is second to Cabrera with eight victories. McMahon is tied for third with six victories. Santana is tied for fifth with five victories.
Cabrera ranks second to Cohen ($384,843) in purse earnings at the meet.
V is for Victory
Tap of War became the 10th starter from the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) last year at Oaklawn to return and win, scoring in Saturday’s seventh race, a first-level allowance sprint for older fillies and mares.
Breaking from post 2 under Marlon St. Julien, Tap of War was a forward factor from the start and drew clear late to win by 2 ¼ lengths. Tap of War, who was making her 4-year-old debut, races for Albaugh Family Stables LLC (Dennis Albaugh and Jason Loutsch) and trainer Kelly Von Hemel.
Tap of War ($8.40) covered 6 furlongs over sloppy, sealed surface in 1:11.32.
“She moved forward again yesterday – ran a big race,” Von Hemel said Sunday morning. “Race set up kind of like we thought it would. Marlon, I thought, rode a good race, keeping his position down in there.”
Von Hemel said Tap of War, a gray daughter of War Front, will be pointed for a second-level allowance race, possibly at a mile. She has a 2-1-2 record from seven lifetime starts and earnings of $90,887.
The Honeybee featured 11 starters last year, including subsequent Grade 1 winners Elate (a finalist for champion 3-year-old filly) and It Tiz Well, future Grade 2 winner Benner Island and Lovely Bernadette, who developed into a multiple graded stakes winner on grass.
Show Me the Money
Gun Runner, in his final career start before beginning a stallion career, became the richest horse to ever race at Oaklawn with his victory in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park for Steve Asmussen, an eight-time leading trainer in Hot Springs since 2007.
Gun Runner ($15,988,500 in career earnings) surpassed two-time Horse of the Year Curlin ($10,501,800) and two-time Horse of the Cigar ($9,999,815) following his fifth consecutive victory.
Gun Runner opened his 2017 campaign with a 5 ¾-length victory in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) last February at Oaklawn and was named Horse of the Year Thursday night.
The Asmussen-trained Curlin won Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby in 2007. Curlin was named Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
Cigar won the Oaklawn Handicap in 1995 and was named Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996.
The track was rated good for workouts Sunday morning. … Transgress, a sharp Jan. 13 maiden special weights graduate for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, worked a half-mile in :50 just after the track opened Sunday morning in advance of his scheduled two-turn debut in Thursday’s eighth race, an entry-level allowance for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. Transgress is one of seven winners at the meeting sired by Into Mischief. Also entered is Plainsman, a Jan. 20 maiden specials weights graduate and the first “Lasix-free Bonus” winner at the meet. Plainsman races for the Shortleaf Stable of John Ed Anthony and trainer Will VanMeter. … Red Ruby, prepping for her 2018 debut in the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies March 10, worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 after the renovation break Sunday morning for trainer Kellyn Gorder. … Also working after the renovation break Sunday morning was Domain’s Rap, who covered a half-mile in :52.20 for four-time defending Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell. Domain’s Rap won the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting before being retired last summer (suspensory ligament). The 10-year-old gelding resumed training last fall for a possible comeback race. … Exclamation Point, an unstarted 3-year-old half-brother to champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, worked 5 furlongs in company in 1:01.20 Sunday morning for trainer Brad Cox, who is targeting a February debut for the chestnut colt. Exclamation Point is a homebred for Steve and Brandi Nicholson, who also bred Classic Empire. … Song of Mine, an unstarted 3-year-old half-sister to champion Songbird, is scheduled to make her career debut in Thursday’s seventh race, a maiden special weights event at a mile. An $800,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase, Song of Mine is owned by PTK LLC (Thomas, Paula and Kaitlyn Haughey) and trained by Dane Kobiskie. They teamed to win Thursday’s fourth race with Colour Guard, an unbeaten 3-year-old son of Oaklawn stakes winners Archarcharch and Endless Parade. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Whitmore and multiple Oaklawn stakes runner-up Petrov are scheduled to return to the work tab next weekend, trainer Ron Moquett said Sunday morning. Whitmore is scheduled to make his 5-year-old debut in the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 10, Moquett said, with Petrov pointing for an allowance spot for his 4-year-old debut. … Saturday’s $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters closed with 28 nominees, led by two-time champion and scheduled starter Ivan Fallunovalot.