Trainer Jeremiah Englehart said Thursday morning that Three Technique is still scheduled to tackle stakes company for the first time in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 24, a 1-mile event that is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
Named for a football defensive alignment involving an interior lineman, Three Technique is owned by the August Dawn Farm of two-time Super Bowl winning coach and NFL Hall of Famer Bill Parcells. Three Technique has never raced outside New York or around two turns, but he has been the betting favorite in all four career starts.
The son of millionaire Mr Speaker closed his 2-year-old campaign with consecutive sharp victories, breaking his maiden by 5 ½ lengths Aug. 31 at Saratoga and whipping first-level allowance rivals by 4 ½ lengths Nov. 20 at Aqueduct. Both races were 7 furlongs.
“He was always one of the 2-year-olds early on that we just thought really highly of at Saratoga,” Englehart said. “It was really disappointing after his first race. I thought he would be one of those horses that would win first time out, but it was just a little too short for him. He seems like a horse, with maybe some added distance, it will move him up a little bit.”
Three Technique ran second in his first two career starts. He debuted at 5 furlongs June 14 at Belmont Park and was beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Basin in a 6-furlong maiden special weights race July 21 at Saratoga. Basin returned to win the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 2 at Saratoga and is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14, according to a text message Thursday night from Jackpot Farm, which owns the Liam’s Map colt. The Rebel is Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.
Following Three Technique’s Nov. 20 allowance victory, Englehart said the colt received a brief freshening at Blackwood Stables in Kentucky before arriving at Oaklawn, where he returned to the work tab Dec. 27 with a 3-furlong breeze in :37.60. Three Technique worked a half-mile in :50.40 last Saturday.
“Came in from there looking great and had two works here over the track so far and seems like everything’s in good shape,” Englehart said.
The New York-based Englehart is in Hot Springs this month to oversee his Oaklawn division, which is expected to total around 25 opening day (Jan. 24). Englehart is wintering in Hot Springs for the first time.
The Smarty Jones will offer 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Nominations to the Smarty Jones closed Thursday.
Jake Romans to Represent Joe Talamo and Channing Hill
There’s a Romans roaming the backside at Oaklawn, but it’s not nationally prominent trainer Dale Romans. It’s his son, Jake, the agent for jockeys Joe Talamo and Channing Hill.
Jake Romans, 24, has been booking mounts for almost two years after working at a restaurant in his hometown of Louisville, Ky.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the game at some point in some facet, but I really didn’t know what,” Romans said during training hours Tuesday morning. “And my dad always tried to push me away. He didn’t want me to get involved. I actually went to culinary school, so I have a background in that. I started working in the restaurant business and I realized I did not like that at all.”
Romans then reversed his career course and said he began helping around his father’s barn when he was 20 before he had a chance to take Hill’s book at the 2018 Keeneland spring meet.
“It’s worked out pretty well,” Romans said. “We’ve had some fairly good success over the last couple of years.”
Romans is based at Oaklawn for the first time in 2020 after representing Robby Albarado last winter in Florida (Scott Hare previously had Hill’s book in Hot Springs). Romans said he began shopping for a second rider after Peruvian star Martin Chuan became homesick following a stint on the Kentucky circuit last year. That search led Romans to Talamo, an Eclipse Award winner as the country’s top apprentice in 2007, a Breeders’ Cup winner in 2009 and a stalwart on the ultra-tough Southern California circuit.
“I was coming down with Channing and looking for another rider,” Romans said. “(Trainer) Brad Cox helped me out a lot. He had a big part in getting me the job. A lot of people helped me, actually. I worked on it for about a month and eventually Joe gave me the OK. Here we are.”
After riding Sunday at Santa Anita, Talamo arrived in Hot Springs Monday, Romans said, was making the rounds on the backside Tuesday morning.
“I’m excited about it,” Romans said. “It’s a good opportunity.”
Midnight Bisou wasn’t the only multiple stakes winner owner Jeff Bloom (Bloom Racing Stable LLC) kept in training in 2020.
Rather than beginning a stallion career, millionaire Snapper Sinclair has been working steadily toward his scheduled 5-year-old debut in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses at a mile Jan. 25, Bloom said Wednesday morning.
“He’s a young horse,” said Bloom, who purchased Snapper Sinclair for $180,000 at the 2017 OBS April 2-year-old in training sale. “He’s healthy, doing well and running big numbers. There was no reason to not continue to run him this year.”
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Snapper Sinclair is a multiple stakes winner on turf, with his biggest victory to date coming in the $750,000 Tourist Mile Aug. 31 at Kentucky Downs. Although Snapper Sinclair has never won a stakes race on dirt, near misses in a 20-race career include the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) in 2018 at Fair Grounds (second, beaten a nose) and the $350,000 Essex Handicap last year at Oaklawn (second, beaten a head).
“He’s a horse that’s shown to be incredibly versatile and has been training at Oaklawn since pretty much it opened up,” Bloom said. “All along we’ve been pointing to running in the Fifth Season, actually, to kick things off for the year for him.”
Snapper Sinclair has worked the last three Sundays at Oaklawn in advance of the Fifth Season, a race Asmussen won in 2004 with Spanish Empire. Asmussen has 83 career stakes victories at Oaklawn, including at least one every year since his first in 1996, and is seeking his fifth consecutive local training title and 11th overall, all since 2007.
Snapper Sinclair was a powerful winner of his Oaklawn debut last year – a February allowance race – before running second in the Essex, a troubled fifth in the $150,000 Fifth Season (a late addition to the stakes calendar) and 10th in the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile. Snapper Sinclair also ran fourth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Snapper Sinclair’s other stakes victory came in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile in 2017 at Kentucky Downs. The son of City Zip is 2 for 2 at Kentucky Downs, bankrolling $636,430 of his $1,090,384 in career earnings over the European-style turf course.
“Look, that would be nice,” Bloom said, referring to a stakes victory on dirt. “He’s run very well on both surfaces. We’re currently in the middle of winter and so there’s more options on dirt, and some of his best races have come on dirt. Obviously, he ran a big one in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. It sure would be nice to get him a big win on dirt.”
Bloom and co-owners Madaket Stables LLC and Allen Racing LLC recorded two big victories at last year’s Oaklawn meeting with Midnight Bisou – $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) and the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares.
Expected to be named the country’s champion older dirt female of 2019, the Asmussen-trained Midnight Bisou was withdrawn on the eve of Fasig-Tipton’s November breeding stock sale to race in 2020. Midnight Bisou is training at Fair Grounds in preparation for her seasonal debut in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race, Feb. 29 in Saudi Arabia, Bloom said.
Nominations to the Fifth Season closed Thursday with 51 nominees.
That Pioneer Spirit
Pioneer Spirit’s owners are scheduled to have another chance to recoup money on their heavy investment in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 25. The 1-mile Fifth Season is the first local steppingstone to the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 18.
On behalf of Arkansas-based Lucky Dog Stables, Heads Up Racing and a new client, Lawrence Roman, trainer Robertino Diodoro claimed Pioneer Spirit out of a Nov. 2 victory for $150,000. Pioneer Spirit’s first start for his new connections resulted in a head victory under David Cohen in the $75,000 Tenacious Stakes Dec. 21 at Fair Grounds. Diodoro was using the 1 mile 70-yard race, contested over a sloppy surface, as a prep for the Fifth Season.
“I don’t know if he really loved the track,” Diodoro, Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer the last three years, said Monday morning. “Obviously, he didn’t hate it, but I really don’t think it helped him a whole bunch. He’s trained back really well.”
The Oaklawn-based Pioneer Spirit returned to the work tab last Sunday, breezing a half-mile in :48.60. The Tenacious, Pioneer Spirit’s 11th victory in 28 lifetime starts, pushed his career earnings to $696,578. A 7-year-old son of Malibu Moon, Pioneer Spirit finished third in last year’s Oaklawn Handicap for trainer Brad Cox. In addition to the Oaklawn Handicap, Pioneer Spirit won an allowance race and finished third in the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile in Hot Springs and captured the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes July 13 at Indiana Grand.
Cohen, Oaklawn’s leading jockey in 2019, will ride Pioneer Spirit in the Fifth Season, his agent, Bill Castle, said Thursday morning. Locally based millionaire Snapper Sinclair is also pointing for the Fifth Season, owner Jeff Bloom said Wednesday morning. Snapper Sinclair is trained by Hall of Famer and perennial Oaklawn leader Steve Asmussen. Another locally based millionaire, Bravazo, is under consideration for the Fifth Season, his Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said Tuesday morning.
Millionaire and multiple Oaklawn allowance winner Shotgun Kowboy worked a half-mile in :50.60 after the first renovation break Thursday morning for breeder/owner/trainer C.R. Trout, who said the 8-year-old gelding could resurface around Feb. 1. … Exclamation Point, runner-up in last year’s inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile, returned to the work tab after the first renovation break Thursday morning, covering a half-mile in :53. Co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Exclamation Point is now with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Exclamation Point is half-brother to champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire. … Headland, a four-time winner at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting, returned to the work tab Saturday morning, covering 3 furlongs in :37.60 for trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs. Hobby said Headland had a bone chip removed from a knee shortly after her last start, the $125,000 Open Mind Stakes for female sprinters Sept. 14 at Churchill Downs. …In addition to defending champion David Cohen, agent Bill Castle said he will again represent Orlando Mojica at the 2020 meeting that begins Jan. 24. Mojica was Oaklawn’s fourth-leading rider last year with 28 victories. … Millionaire Hawaakom worked a half-mile in :49.80 Thursday morning for trainer Wesley Hawley, who has a string at Oaklawn for the first time since 2015. Hawaakom won the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses in 2018 at Oaklawn. … Unbeaten multiple stakes winner Flat Out Speed is on the grounds for trainer Lynn Chleborad and Allen Poindexter, co-breeder and owner of the 3-year-old Iowa-bred daughter of millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner Flat Out. Flat Out Speed (3 for 3 overall) won the $79,430 Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes and the $92,375 Iowa Sorority Stakes last year at Prairie Meadows. Flat Out, in his 3-year-old debut, won the $50,000 Smarty Jones Stakes in 2009 at Oaklawn. … Hall of Fame trainer and perennial Oaklawn leader Steve Asmussen entered Friday with 999 career North American stakes victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Asmussen has 83 career stakes victories at Oaklawn, including at least one every year since his first in 1996. He is seeking his fifth consecutive local training title and 11th overall, all since 2007. … Exulting, winner of last year’s inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile, is entered in the $100,000 Tropical Turf Stakes (G3) Saturday at Gulfstream Park.