The first horses in Oaklawn’s new Havre de Grace barn are, fittingly, for Larry Jones, who trained the 2011 Horse of the Year and a multiple stakes winner in Hot Springs. The Havre de Grace barn was one of six new barns built this year.
“Good to be back,” Jones said Saturday morning. “Kind of like setting us up here for some kind of reason. It feels right at home.”
Jones said he will eventually have 25 horses on the grounds, with his stable headed by Grade 1 winner Street Band. One of the country’s top 3-year-old fillies of 2019, Jones said Street Band is training at Fair Grounds in preparation for her seasonal debut in the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) Jan. 26 at Sam Houston. The race, Jones said, is Street Band’s scheduled steppingstone to the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 14 at Oaklawn. The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 18.
“Street Band will be here as soon as the Houston Ladies Classic is over,” Jones said. “With the Apple Blossom being $1 million dollars, we damn sure want to get a race over the track and hopefully be ready.”
Street Band won 4 of 8 starts in 2019, highlighted by the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in March at Fair Grounds and the $1 million Cotillion (G1) in September at Parx.
Asked if he believed Street Band could be a major player in the older female dirt division in 2020, Jones said, “We sure hope so.”
Midnight Bisou won the Houston Ladies Classic, Azeri and Apple Blossom in 2019 to help secure an expected Eclipse Award as the country’s champion older dirt female. Havre de Grace launched her 2011 Horse of the Year campaign with victories in the Azeri and Apple Blossom for owner Rick Porter (Fox Hill Farms).
Jones said Porter will be represented by Whoa Nellie in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 25, which is Oaklawn’s first of three major preps for the Apple Blossom. Whoa Nellie, a daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, had a 3-1-2 record from seven starts in 2019 and earnings of $150,630. The 1-mile Pippin will mark the 4-year-old and stakes debut of Whoa Nellie.
“It’s time to have to get in there,” Jones said. “She’s coming around. She won at Turfway two weeks ago and did that the right way – sat back and made her little run and won easy. We’re hopeful.”
Jones said another 3-year-old filly of 2019, Istan Council, will also be pointed for stakes races at Oaklawn. She ran fourth in the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes last year in Hot Springs.
“It seems like this year we got bombarded with so many grass horses,” Jones said with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘Man, what the hell are you doing? You know I don’t train grass horses.”
Jones won 8 of 38 starts in 2019 at Oaklawn. His meet was highlighted by Super Steed’s victory in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds.
Bravazo Works toward Pegasus
Oaklawn-based Bravazo tuned up for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park with a 5-furlong workout after the renovation break Monday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and Calumet Farm, which bred and owns the son of Awesome Again.
Breezing over a fast, sealed surface, Bravazo’s time of 1:01 was the fastest of 12 works recorded at the distance. The move represented the second published work for Bravazo since finishing eighth in his comeback race, the $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.
“Good work yesterday,” Lukas said Tuesday morning. “Real good. I thought the track was a little bit sticky, yet he still went in a minute. That was good.”
Lukas said Bravazo is scheduled to ship to south Florida Jan. 20.
Bravazo, in his 4-year-old debut, finished fourth in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup before being sidelined following surgery to remove a bone chip from a knee. In his first work following the Clark, Bravazo covered 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 Dec. 23.
“He’s right on target, barring any unforeseen setbacks,” Lukas said.
Lukas said the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup is the start of an ambitious three-race global campaign for Bravazo, who was among the country’s leading 3-year-olds in 2018.
Following the Pegasus World Cup, Lukas said Bravazo is scheduled to compete in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup – the world’s richest race – Feb. 29 in Saudi Arabia and the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 28 in the United Arab Emirates.
“That’s our plan,” Lukas said. “That isn’t everybody’s plan. I hear these guys saying, ‘Well, they think they’re waiting for Saudi and not run in the Pegasus.’ To hell with that, I’m running in all three of them. I think he thrives on work. If I don’t do that, seriously, we’d put probably four or five more works into him. That’s probably as shaky as anything.”
In 2018, Bravazo won an entry-level allowance race at Oaklawn and the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds before finishing second in the Preakness at Pimlico and $1 million Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park and third in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Bravazo has 3-4-3 record from 18 lifetime starts and earnings of $2,009,528.
Also pointing for the Pegasus World Cup is Omaha Beach, Oaklawn’s top 3-year-old in 2019 after winning the second division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G1) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). Omaha Beach, in his final prep for the Pegasus, won the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1) Saturday at Santa Anita.
The track will be closed for training Wednesday in observance of New Year’s Day. … Horses for trainers Brad Cox and Mike Puhich are on the grounds. Cox’s contingent includes recent addition Knicks Go, who as a 2-year-old in 2018 won the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and ran second in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs. The Pacific Northwest-based Puhich is wintering at Oaklawn for the time. … Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Amy’s Challenge worked a half-mile in :48.40 Monday morning for trainer Mac Robertson in advance of her scheduled 5-year-old debut in the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 1. … In addition to the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Feb. 8, multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Gray Attempt is under consideration for a Jan. 24 allowance race, trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs said Tuesday morning.