Leading Rider Title Could Come Down to the Wire
Ricardo Santana Jr. normally has the Oaklawn riding title sewn up by Arkansas Derby Day. But, this is not a normal year at Oaklawn since the meeting has been extended three weeks to May 4 (Kentucky Derby Day), a window of 11 racing days that will decide whether Santana secures his seventh consecutive Oaklawn riding title or David Cohen captures his first.
Entering Thursday, the 48th day of the scheduled 57-day season, Santana and Cohen were tied atop the standings with 59 victories.
“Usually, I’m way in the lead,” Ruben Munoz, Santana’s longtime agent, said. “I’ll worry about that May 4, but I like my chances. I just think we’ve won the real significant races that I really wanted to win. This meet, we’ve been able to do extremely well in them.”
Santana entered Thursday with a meet-high $3,725,754 in purse earnings – he set a single-season record $4,240,304 last year – and had a meet-high five stakes victories.
Three of Santana’s stakes victories this year have been for his major client, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, including last Friday’s $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies with Lady Apple and last Saturday’s $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses with Mitole.
“We don’t have the volume like the other rider, when it comes to some type of races that I really don’t thrive in,” Munoz said. “But our horses have shown up on the big days.”
Cohen figures to have more scoring opportunities down the stretch because Santana is scheduled to miss at least two racing days because of commitments at Churchill Downs. Santana is the regular rider of Lady Apple, who is scheduled to make her next start in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 3, and has committed to ride UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait in the Kentucky Derby, Munoz said.
Cohen “will be riding straight through to the end of the Oaklawn Park,” his agent, Bill Castle, said in a text, before the jockey begins riding at Churchill Downs May 9.
Cohen, in his Oaklawn debut, won 37 races to finish third in last year’s standings. Santana rode 69 winners last year at Oaklawn.
A Warrior’s Charge
Warrior’s Charge, an eye-catching winner of his last two starts at Oaklawn, could resurface in a stakes race, the 3-year-old colt’s trainer, Brad Cox, said Thursday morning.
After breaking his maiden by six lengths March 16, Warrior’s Charge was a 6 ½-length first-level allowance winner last Friday under Florent Geroux. The Munnings colt has led at every point of call in his last two races, both at 1 1/16 miles.
“Distance, I think, is the key thing,” Cox said. “He likes the route. He can handle it. He’s got speed and he can carry it around two turns. He’s a nice horse.”
Cox said Warrior’s Charge will be considered for the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes May 18 at Pimlico and the $150,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) June 15 at Churchill Downs. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.
“We’ll give him plenty of time to recover,” Cox said. “He came out it in good shape; shipped back to Churchill. We’ll let him tell us when he’s ready to run back. He’s not Triple Crown nominated, so that’s not an option.”
Warrior’s Charge, who races for Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables LLC, finished third in first three career starts. In his Nov. 25 career debut at Churchill Downs, Warrior’s Charge finished behind Gray Attempt and Oncewewerebrothers and ahead of Captain Von Trapp at 6 ½ furlongs. All four horses are two-time winners this year at Oaklawn, with Gray Attempt claiming the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 25 and $125,000 Gazebo Stakes March 23.
Cox said unbeaten Break Even, sparkling winner of the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters March 30 at Oaklawn, is targeting the $250,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2) May 3 at Churchill Downs.
Break Even worked a half-mile in :51 last Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Amy’s Challenge worked a half-mile in :48 Wednesday morning at Keeneland for trainer Mac Robertson, who is targeting the $500,000 Humana Distaff Stakes (G1) May 4 at Churchill Downs for the 4-year-old filly’s next start.
Amy’s Challenge was a runaway winner of Oaklawn’s $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 26 and $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes March 2 before finishing second, beaten a neck, in the $300,000 Madison Stakes (G1) April 6 at Keeneland.
“The filly that won just had a perfect trip,” Robertson said of Spiced Perfection. “She out broke us by a length, then got to stalk us by a length. When she (Amy’s Challenge) came by me, she was ahead, and I was about 30 yards before the wire. She ran good.”
Robertson said Amy’s Challenge will probably receive a little break following the 7-furlong Humana Distaff.
The track was closed for training Thursday because of heavy rain. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Chanel's Legacy had her first foal, a colt by champion Bernardini, earlier this week, the mare's owner, Allen Poindexter, said Thursday morning. “He's not (gray), but he's a pretty one,” Poindexter said, adding Chanel's Legacy will be bred back to Speightstown. ... Nominations to the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters April 27 closed Thursday.