Oaklawn News

The razor-sharp Smart Spree will be considered for a second-level allowance and the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 14 for his next start following his easy starter-allowance victory Sunday at Oaklawn, trainer Norman McKnight said Thursday morning.

Smart Spree, a 7-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike, has been among the most impressive horses at the meet, scoring two front-running victories in starter-allowance company.

Smart Spree ran the fastest 6 furlongs of the meet Jan. 25 (1:09.50) and coasted home by three lengths Sunday in 1:09.84 over a sealed, good surface under Ramon Vazquez.

Smart Spree was nominated to Saturday’s $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters, but McKnight opted for another starter-allowance race after the “extra” went last week.

“I kind of always try to go for the easier money, if I can,” said McKnight, Woodbine’s leading trainer last year. “I knew he would probably be the boss in that race. I knew he was going to have to run a little harder in the other race. Not that he couldn’t win in there. I just knew he was going to run a little tougher. I thought I would take the easy money.”

Sunday’s victory, Smart Spree’s eighth in 32 starts overall, raised his career earnings to $251,125. He has spent much of his career running on a synthetic surface in allowance and claiming races at Woodbine, but did finish fourth, as a maiden, in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes in 2014 at Fort Erie. The Prince of Wales is the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

“He’s a real nice horse,” McKnight said. “He’s bred to be a good horse. He’s always had his issues throughout his career, I guess.”

McKnight claimed Smart Spree for $40,000 in August 2015 at Woodbine, then lost the gelding through a $19,000 claim the following May at Woodbine. McKnight claimed the gelding back for $25,000 last April at Woodbine.

“It took me a year to get him back, but we got him back and it’s been a good roll for us, a good ride,” McKnight said.

McKnight trains Smart Spree for Trinity Racing Stables LLC (Robin Singh) & Racer’s Edge Inc. (Devindra Persaud).

McKnight, wintering at Oaklawn for the first time, ranks eighth in the standings with eight victories from 42 starts.
Back on Track
Higher Power, 1.13.18, Oaklawn
Higher Power returned to the track Thursday morning following his 6-furlong work in 1:13 Tuesday morning in advance of the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 17, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said.

Higher Power breezed with stablemates Good Creation and C P Quality and emerged from the move in good order, Von Hemel said Thursday morning.

“Just another good work, I thought,” Von Hemel said. “Galloped out real strong again and recovered quickly.Everything’s looking good for him so far.”

Higher Power has won 2 of 3 career starts, including a Jan. 13 first-level allowance/optional claimer at a mile.

The son Medaglia d’Oro, unbeaten in two starts around two turns, was under consideration for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19 before missing approximately a week of training because of a minor illness, Von Hemel said.

Higher Power races for his breeder, Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable. Von Hemel and Pin Oak also raced millionaire and 2012 Oaklawn Handicap winner Alternation, a half-brother to a Higher Power.

Other locally based horses pointing to the Rebel include Sporting Chance, Combatant, Zing Zang and Title Ready.

Nominations to the 1 1/16-mile Rebel close Friday.
Shock the Monkey

The Green Monkey was a world-record $16 million purchase at auction, but couldn’t break his maiden in three career starts in 2007 for mega trainer Todd Pletcher and hasn’t starred at stud, either.

But Belle Meade Dancer, a 4-year-old daughter of The Green Monkey, was able to win her Feb. 8 career debut for trainer Mac Robertson. Robertson purchased the gray filly for just $14,000 at the 2016 OBS June sale of 2-year-olds and horses of racing age.

Robertson said he didn’t see the filly’s preview work, but was impressed with the way she moved before the sale.

“She had a pretty way of galloping,” Robertson said. “I saw she was a Green Monkey, so I knew I could afford her. But then she worked pretty good, and I didn’t think I could buy her. Maybe she didn’t vet or something. She’s a nice horse.”

Belle Meade Dancer earned a 75 Beyer Speed Figure for her front-running three-quarter length debut victory. She is scheduled to face winners for the first time in Friday’s eighth race, a first-level allowance sprint for older fillies and mares.
Stakes Doubleheader

The $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies and $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes for older sprinters headline Saturday’s nine-race program.

Seven horses are entered in the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee, including Red Ruby and unbeaten Amy’s Challenge.

Red Ruby is coming off a victory in the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 10 in her 3-year-old debut. Amy’s Challenge, who will be making her two-turn debut Saturday, won the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 20 in her last start.

The projected Honeybee field from the rail out: Sassy Sienna, Gary Stevens to ride, 119 pounds; Stronger Than Ever, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122; Cosmic Burst, Richard Eramia, 119; Bo Peep, Jon Court, 117; Red Ruby, Robby Albarado, 122; Amy’s Challenge, Jareth Loveberry, 117; and Rahway, C.J. McMahon, 115.

Probable post time for the Honeybee, which goes as race 8, is 4:38 p.m. (Central).

Defending champion Whitmore is scheduled to make his 5-year-old debut in the 6-furlong Hot Springs for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Another entrant, Ivan Fallunovalot ($986,403), is bidding to become just the third Texas-bred millionaire, according to the Texas Thoroughbred Association, the state’s official breed registry for Thoroughbreds in Texas.

The projected Hot Springs field from the rail out: Operation Stevie, Rodney Prescott, 115; Warrior’s Club, Gary Stevens, 119; Whitmore, Ricardo Santana Jr., 115; Wynn Time, Ramon Vazquez, 115; Ivan Fallunovalot, Jon Court, 115; and Wilbo, David Cabrera, 122.

Wilbo won the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 3 in his last start.

Probable post time for the Hot Springs, which goes as race 6, is 3:39 p.m. (Central). Doors open Saturday at 11 a.m., with first post 1:05 p.m.
Finish Lines

The surface was rated fast for workouts Thursday morning. … Nominations to the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds, $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares and $300,000 Essex Handicap for older horses close Friday. All three 1 1/16-mile races will be run March 17. … Streamline worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 Tuesday morning for trainer Brian Williamson, who is pointing the daughter of Straight Line for the Azeri. Also pointing for the Azeri, which Streamline won last year, are multiple stakes winners Terra Promessa and Tiger Moth. ... The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 13 … Team Valor et al’s Rocking the Boat, third last out in the Razorback Handicap (G3), will make his next start in the $300,000 Essex Handicap and jockey Flavien Prat will have the mount.