Triple Crown nominee Gray Attempt is scheduled to complete major preparations for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 18 at Oaklawn with a 5-furlong workout Sunday morning, trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs said.
Owned by Dwight Pruett of Texarkana, Ark., Gray Attempt has won three consecutive starts in front-running fashion, including the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 25. The Smarty Jones and Southwest are Oaklawn’s first major preps for the Kentucky Derby.
Gray Attempt hasn’t breezed since winning the 1-mile Smarty Jones by a neck, his first start around two turns.
“I’m not going to gut him, but I’m going to go on and let him work,” Fires said Saturday morning.
Early bird nominations to the Southwest, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 16 and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13 closed Thursday.
Like the Smarty Jones, the 1 1/16-mile Southwest will offer 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Post positions for the Southwest will be drawn Friday.
Six Shooter will race in blinkers for the first time in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 18, trainer Paul Holthus of Hot Springs said Saturday morning.
Six Shooter completed major preparations for the Southwest by working 5 furlongs in :59.80 during a half-hour training window early Friday afternoon under Stewart Elliott.
Six Shooter, in blinkers, breezed in company with 4-year-old stablemate Gettin Even, who was credited with 5 furlongs in 1:00.20. The surface was rated muddy.
Six Shooter is coming off a fourth-place finish, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 25. Elliott rode the Trappe Shot gelding for the first time in the 1-mile Smarty Jones.
“The last time he ran, he was up in between horses and sucked back out of there when he turned up the backside,” Holthus said. “After talking to Stewart, we both thought that if he hadn’t done that, it might have made a difference in the race. If he would have been two lengths closer, it would have been two lengths less he would have had to make up. I don’t see any reason not to put them on him, really.”
Holthus said it’s the first time he’s worked Six Shooter in blinkers, but the gelding has galloped “a couple of times” in the equipment since the Smarty Jones “just to make sure he wasn’t going to get too aggressive.”
Holthus said Six Shooter emerged from the work in good order and was “bouncing around the barn” Saturday morning.
“He’s kind of a light made horse, that’s why I like to breeze him a little farther out,” Holthus said. “I just felt like a week was too close for him. I didn’t know if we’d get to train today, so I’m glad they finally opened it up and let us train for a half-hour yesterday.”
Oaklawn doesn’t have a stakes race carded Sunday, but the featured eighth race could pass for one.
Among nine older horses entered in the $80,000 allowance event at a mile are millionaire Shotgun Kowboy, 2018 Super Derby winner Limation, 2018 Iowa Derby winner High North, 2017 West Virginia Derby winner Colonelsdarktemper and unbeaten Exclamation Point, a 4-year-old half-brother to champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire.
The 5-2 program favorite is another stakes winner, C Z Rocket, who will be making his Oaklawn debut for trainer Al Stall and prominent Arkansas owner Frank Fletcher.
Colonelsdarktemper, reunited with trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, is coming off a fourth-place finish in the $72,750 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at 6 furlongs Jan. 19 at Fair Grounds.
“If he comes back like he was, he’ll be tough everywhere,” Fires said Saturday morning. “I wanted him to go around two turns, instead of one. I would have liked for it to have been a mile and a sixteenth, but it’s a mile and I have to go with it.”
In addition to the Iowa Derby, High North won the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes last year at Oaklawn for owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.
Probable post time for Sunday’s eighth race is 4:42 p.m. (Central).
The track was rated muddy for workouts Saturday morning. … Allen Milligan, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2009, had 999 career North American victories through Friday, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Milligan had three horses entered Saturday at Oaklawn. … Cecil Borel, who is making a training comeback at the meeting, won a three-way shake to claim Chip Van Winkle out of Friday’s first race for $6,250. Borel, the older brother of Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, has 105 career Oaklawn victories. He hasn’t started a horse since Aug. 10, 2014, at Ellis Park. … Trainer Johnny Ortiz saddled two winners Friday. Ortiz won the sixth race with favored Honey Bunny ($3) and the ninth race with Marvella ($15), despite jockey Ronald Richard losing his whip in the nightcap. … Six-time defending riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. had a meet-high 12 victories through Friday, two more than runner-up Ramon Vazquez. Two of Vazquez’s three victories Friday were for four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell. … David Cabrera had a riding double Friday. … Cowboy Diplomacy, a 3-year-old full brother to champion Monomoy Girl, finished second in his career debut in Friday’s seventh race.