The Oaklawn racing department listed nine probables Thursday morning for Monday’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds, a 1 1/16-mile race that is the second of four local Kentucky Derby points races. Post positions for the Southwest, which boasts a record purse after being worth $500,000 the previous four years, will be drawn Friday.
Expected Southwest entrants, in alphabetical order, are American Butterfly for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Answer In (Brad Cox), Chase Tracker (Todd Pletcher), Gold Street (Steve Asmussen), Shoplifted (Asmussen), Silver Prospector (Asmussen), Taishan (Richard Baltas), Villainous (Jeremiah Englehart) and Wells Bayou (Cox).
The Southwest brings back the 1-3-4 finishers – all Asmussen trainees – from the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24, Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race. Gold Street was a front-running 2 ¾-length winner under Martin Garcia, with Shoplifted finishing third (beaten 5 ½ lengths) and Silver Prospector fourth (beaten 7 ½ lengths) over the muddy surface. Gold Street is seeking his fourth consecutive victory.
Answer In will be making his first start since finishing second, beaten a head, by Shoplifted in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park. Cox opted to bypass the 1-mile Smarty Jones and train up to the Southwest.
The south Florida-based Chase Tracker, who will be making his 3-year-old debut, hasn’t started since finishing third in the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2) Dec. 7 at Aqueduct. Villainous (maiden special weights) and Wells Bayou (entry-level allowance) were winners earlier in the Oaklawn meeting.
The Southwest will offer 17 points to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Points are awarded on a sliding scale, with the winner receiving 10, runner-up 4, third-place finisher 2 and fourth-place finisher 1. Gold Street earned 10 points for his Smarty Jones victory.
The Southwest highlights a stakes tripleheader on the special Presidents’ Day card. The $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) is for older horses and the $200,000 Bayakoa (G3) is for older fillies and mares. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.
Expected Razorback entrants, according to the Oaklawn racing department, are Bravazo (Lukas), Campaign (John Sadler), Exulting (Mike Maker), Guest Suite (Cipriano Contreras), Joevia (Gregory Sacco), Math Wizard (Saffie Joseph Jr.), Pioneer Spirit (Robertino Diodoro), Rated R Superstar (Contreras), Snapper Sinclair (Asmussen) and Warrior’s Charge (Cox).
Bravazo is a Grade 2 winner of $2,012,528. Exulting returns to Oaklawn for the first time since winning the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile last May. Guest Suite and Pioneer Spirit won the first and second division, respectively, of the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 25. Joevia ran third in last year’s Belmont Stakes, the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown.
Math Wizard finished fourth in last year’s $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational before winning the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 21 at Parx. Snapper Sinclair has several near-misses in dirt stakes, including the first division of the Fifth Season. Warrior’s Charge recorded two powerful victories last year at Oaklawn before running fourth in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Pioneer Spirit (120 pounds) is the projected starting high weight for the Razorback, a major prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 18.
Expected Bayakoa entrants, according to the Oaklawn racing department, are Cairenn (Johnny Ortiz), Go Google Yourself (Paul McGee), Gold Standard (Cox), Lady Suebee (Sadler), Motion Emotion (Baltas) and Whoa Nellie (Larry Jones).
Go Google Yourself was an allowance winner at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting and won the $200,000 Locust Grove Stakes (G3) Sept. 14 at Churchill Downs. Motion Emotion was one of Oaklawn’s leading 3-year-old fillies last year, finishing second in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). Whoa Nellie, Cairenn and Lady Suebee finished first, third and fourth, respectively, in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 25.
The Bayakoa is a major prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 18.
Post positions for the Razorback and Bayakoa will also be drawn Friday. Racing begins Monday at 12:35 p.m. (Central).
Three horses for Southern California-based trainer Richard Baltas are on the grounds after being flown Wednesday to Arkansas.
The Baltas trainees housed in the Lady’s Secret barn are Motion Emotion, Taishan and Proverb. Assistant trainer Aimee Dollase, who is overseeing Baltas’ Oaklawn string, said Taishan is pointing for Monday’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds and Motion Emotion will run in Monday’s $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares.
Motion Emotion, then under the care of trainer Tom Van Berg, was among Oaklawn’s leading 3-year-old fillies last year, finishing second in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). Proverb, then under the care of trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, broke his maiden at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting before finishing third in the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational. Baltas has never started a horse at Oaklawn.
“We’re planning on having more,” Dollase said Thursday morning. “Hopefully, things will go well.”
Dollase is the daughter of the late Wally Dollase, who had two Oaklawn winners during his lengthy training career, including the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes in 2005 with Two Trail Sioux.
“Nice to be back,” Aimee Dollase said. “It’s beautiful here. It’s always nice to come back.”
New York State of Mind
David Cohen, Oaklawn’s leading jockey in 2019, said he will ride regularly this summer at Saratoga, the prestigious upstate New York meet that will run July 16-Sept. 7.
Cohen was based in Kentucky after the Oaklawn meeting ended last May, but he did have six mounts at Saratoga. Cohen had three victories – all for trainer Robertino Diodoro and owner M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk) – including the $100,000 Shine Again Stakes aboard Special Relativity. Diodoro and M and M are the jockey’s major clients.
“Last year we made the decision because we are serious about Kentucky, we made a decision to go to Ellis,” said Cohen, who has 54 career victories at Saratoga. “Just kind of all the work that we did leading up to that, we didn’t want to just give it away and I was able to ship into Saratoga whenever I wanted. I think every time I went up there, I won. This year, we’re going to be a little more serious about it. We’ve always done well there, so there’s no reason not to go.”
Cohen rode regularly at Saratoga in 2010-2013, highlighted by his dead-heat victory aboard Golden Ticket in the $1 million Travers Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds in 2013. After returning from a 3 ½-year absence because of a severe leg injury and the death of his father and sister, Cohen was Oaklawn’s third-leading rider in 2018 and won 17 races that year at Saratoga.
Cohen rode 75 winners last year at Oaklawn to end Ricardo Santana Jr.’s six-year hold on the title and had a meet-high 12 victories through Sunday.
Special Relativity was retired following a victory in the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 1 at Oaklawn to be bred to Into Mischief, North America’s leading sire in 2019.
Six-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. entered Thursday with 496 career victories in Hot Springs, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Don Von Hemel, 85, had his first winner of the meet in Sunday’s fourth race with Captain Don ($8.20) for owner Dash Goff of Fayetteville, Ark. Von Hemel was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1981. Goff’s late father, Gene Goff, campaigned two-time champion older horse Nodouble, the leading Arkansas-bred money winner in history. … Four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance had his first winner of the meet in Sunday’s sixth race with Kiss More ($66). It was the 665th documented Oaklawn winner for Vance, who topped the local standings in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976.