Nobody knows Hoonani Road better than Channing Hill, who has ridden the Arkansas-bred gelding in eight of his nine career starts.
Hill wanted to ride Hoonani Road in the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for state-bred sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn, but he will instead be at Fair Grounds to pilot Liora in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.
That doesn’t mean Hill and his agent, Scott Hare, didn’t try to be in two places at the same time. Sort of. Because Hoonani Road’s owner, Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs, owns a plane, the hope was Hill could still ride both horses. But (post) time(s) wasn’t on their side.
“I didn’t want to get off either one them,” Hill said. “It’s just a shame because I’ve got so little business and the two best horses that I ride have to be on the same day at different spots. It just kind of happens that way. But like I told Jerry Caroom, I was like, ‘Ah, I couldn’t believe I had taken off him to go down there. But, obviously, it’s for Oaks Day.”
Hoonani Road – minus Hill – will try to extend his perfect Oaklawn record (4 for 4) in the Nodouble, which has attracted a solid field of nine. Probable post time for the 6-furlong Nodouble, which goes as race 7 on a 10-race card, is 4:09 p.m. (Central). Doors open Saturday at 11 a.m., with first post 1:05 p.m. The infield will be open for the second time this season.
The projected Nodouble Breeders’ field from the rail out: K J’s Nobility, David Cohen to ride, 118 pounds, 8-1 on the morning line; Bandit Point, Kelsi Harr, 123, 20-1; Glacken’s Ghost, Alex Canchari, 118, 6-1; Rock City Roadhog, Jareth Loveberry 123, 10-1; J.E.’s Handmedown, Ramon Vazquez, 118, 10-1; Racer, Jon Court, 118, 6-1; Weast Hill, Joe Rocco Jr., 115, 8-1; Bebop Shoes, Stewart Elliott, 123, 20-1; and Hoonani Road, Ricardo Santana Jr., 123, even money.
Hoonani Road is coming off a sharp 3 ¼-length allowance victory against state-breds in his 4-year-old debut Feb. 14 for Hill’s father-in-law, trainer Wayne Catalano (also the trainer of Liora). Hoonani Road won his first three career starts last year at Oaklawn (all against state-breds), including the $100,000 Rainbow Stakes.
Hoonani Road tuned up for the Nodouble with a half-mile work in :47.40 Monday morning under Hill.
“That was probably the best he’s breezed for me, not by a long shot, but at least a little bit,” Hill said. “He just went so smooth. Everything went so good. He’s got a perfect outside post position. He’s pretty easy to ride, so it’s not like Ricardo needs much explanation, especially with an outside post position.”
Finishing behind Hoonani Road last month were the last three winners of the Nodouble – Weast Hill (2016), Racer (2017) and J.E.’s Handmedown (2018) – and last year’s runner-up, Glacken’s Ghost.