Oaklawn News

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas went old school Monday morning at Oaklawn, working Grade 1 winner Sporting Chance a mile in preparation for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 17.

Sporting Chance went in 1:41.40 over a muddy track, moments after the track opened, under two-time Oaklawn riding champion Terry Thompson, the colt’s regular workout partner. Sporting Chance’s work started and ended at the regular finish line, with clockers catching his first half-mile in :50.40 and final half-mile in :51.

Lukas said he wanted even splits in the stamina-building work moving toward the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, which is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14.

“It’s kind of an old-school move,” Lukas said. “I’m an old man, so reaching down for the old methods sometimes is where you go. I was really pleased with the way he did it.”

Lukas, 82, said he instructed Thompson to go the first half-mile in “:51 and change” and come home the last half-mile in “:50 and change.”

“That’s exactly what he did,” said Lukas, who praised Thompson for his ability to hit target times in works. “On that muddy track, he looked good.”

Monday work was the second for Sporting Chance since he finished a troubled third in his 3-year-old debut, the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19, Oaklawn’s second of four major preps for the Kentucky Derby.

Sporting Chance covered a half-mile in :48.20 Feb. 27. Lukas said the son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow wasn’t “breathing heavy” following Monday’s work.

“I was so pleased,” Lukas said. “It was textbook. I complimented Terry all the way home. I said, ‘That was absolutely textbook.’ ”

Lukas said he will probably breeze Sporting Chance once more before the Rebel, which will offer 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Nominations to the Rebel close Friday.

Sporting Chance won 2 of 3 starts last year, including the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 4 at Saratoga. He didn’t run again in 2017 after having a small knee chip removed following the 7-furlong race, Lukas said.

Thompson was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2009 and 2010. 

A ‘Chance’ for Velazquez

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Sporting Chance in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 17, Lukas said Monday morning.

Velazquez will replace Luis Saez, who has ridden Sporting Chance in his last three starts, including a victory in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 4 at Saratoga and a third in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19.

Both riders are based this winter at Gulfstream Park.

“That, I think, is a great fit,” Lukas said. “John’s excited about it. He wanted to ride this horse when he was up at Saratoga. He asked me to ride this horse. He knows the horse, and he’s pretty excited about coming.”

Lukas and Velazquez have teamed for 21 victories, including the $400,000 Met Mile (G1) in 1996 at Belmont Park with Honour and Glory and the $500,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) in 1996 at Hollywood Park with Marlin, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Velazquez won last year’s Southwest aboard One Liner for trainer Todd Pletcher, a former Lukas assistant.

Title Ready?

Charles Fipke’s homebred, Title Ready, will make his stakes debut in the $900,000 Rebel (G2) for 3-year-olds March 17, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said Monday morning.

Title Ready, a son of More Than Ready, was a sharp 3 ½-length entry-level allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 1 in his last start. He was making his 3-year-old debut, first start around two turns and racing in blinkers for the first time last month. He had a 1-1-1 record in four starts last year.

“He’s always had a lot of talent,” Asmussen said. “I thought he had a little inconsistency there and weren’t getting the best out of him. The addition of blinkers, and being a little more aggressive with him, has been more effective.”

Title Ready, in company, worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.60 Monday morning.

Title Ready is out of the unraced Title Seeker, a daughter of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and unbeaten champion Personal Ensign, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1993.

Asmussen said he also plans to run Combatant and Zing Zang, second and fifth, respectively, in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19, in the Rebel.

Combatant and Zing Zang both recorded times of 1:01.80 in 5-furlong works over a fast track Sunday morning. 

Finish Lines

Higher Power worked 6 furlongs in 1:13 over a fast track Tuesday morning for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, who is targeting the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17 for the 3-year-old colt’s next start. … Next-race plans are pending for Chanteline, winner of Saturday’s $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older female sprinters, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said Monday morning. Asmussen said Chanteline will be considered for the $150,000 Carousel Stakes April 7 and a grass stake at Keeneland. … Asmussen enters Wednesday with 7,945 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, trailing only the late Dale Baird (9,445). Asmussen recorded his 7,000th career North American victory April 1, 2015, at Oaklawn, where he has led the standings eight times since 2007. He has a meet-high 19 victories this year. … Asmussen said Monday morning that he plans to start Terra Promessa in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares and Untrapped in the $300,000 Essex Handicap for older horses. Both 1 1/16-mile races are March 17. … Plans are pending for Feb. 19 entry-level allowance/optional claiming winner New York Central, Asmussen said Monday morning. New York Central, a son of Tapit, edged Transgress by a neck in a 1 1/16-mile race that featured several promising 3-year-olds. … Transgress is “50-50, at best” to make his next start in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) March 25 at Sunland Park, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Monday morning. Lukas said Transgress may instead run at Oaklawn, but it won’t be in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17. Transgress and the Lukas-trained Sporting Chance, who is headed for the Rebel, have the same owners, Robert Baker and William Mack. … Post positions were to be drawn Wednesday for Saturday’s $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies and $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters.