The 3rd Annual Racing Dudes Oaklawn Awards


Will Take Charge Winning the Oaklawn Handicap was the Moment of the Year

Horse of the Meet: Close Hatches – This was a tough award to decide on this year, but in the end it had to be Close Hatches who won based on the fact that she was the only horse to win more than one Graded Stakes race this meet.  With no standout three-year old, and Will Take Charge only running atOaklawn once, Close Hatches is the most worthy of the group.

Older Male of the Meet: Will Take Charge – He was our three-year old horse of the meet last year, and now he is our older horse of the meet this year!  Even though he only ran once at Oaklawn, he proved much the best out of the other horses in the Handicap Division.  He also put on a show for the locals every morning during training hours, as he was the first horse to hit the track each morning.  Many thanks to Willis Horton and D Wayne Lukas for running the horse once at his home track.

Older Female of the Meet: Close Hatches – Obvious choice here as she won both the Azeri and Apple Blossom.  The last horse to accomplish this feat was Havre De Grace, who went on to win horse of the year.

3 Year Old Male of the Meet: Tapiture – Another tough award to decide on, but in the end Tapiture got the nod over Ride On Curlin and Danza.  Tapiture wo nthe Southwest Stakes, nearly won the Rebel, and finished a decent fourth in the Arkansas Derby.  He now has lost some hype heading to Kentucky, but still made his presence felt in Hot Springs.

3 Year Old Female of the Meet: Sugar Shock – She was a courageous winner of the Fantasy Stakes, and crossed the line first in the Honeybee before being disqualified.  She’ll go up against much tougher next time out in the Kentucky Oaks, but there is no doubting that she was the best of the bunch at Oaklawn Park.

Sprinter of the Meet: Alsvid – Even though he didn’t win any of the sprint stakes at Oaklawn this meet, his consistent performances land him this award.  He was a solid second in the King Cotton, Hot Springs, and Count Fleet while others in the division had up and down moments.  You can bet this horse is due for a win soon.

Owner of the Meet: Danny Caldwell – An absolutely dominating performance by Caldwell as he won the owners title by nine races.  We had the privilege to get to know Danny early on in the season, and after meeting him it’s easy to see why he’s so good at what he does.  He’s one of the best claimers in the game, and puts in the time and effort it takes to be successful.  The award couldn’t have been won by a nicer guy.  Caldwell will be heading to Prairie Meadows next!

Trainer of the Meet: Steve Asmussen – Amongst all the controversy, Asmussen just kept on winning.  As usual he took the last two weeks by storm and crushed his competition once again.  This is Asmussen’s second straight Racing Dudes Award.  Also Asmussen’s assistant Darren Fleming deserves a mention as well as he looked over the stable for most of the year and always does a great job.

Jockey of the Meet: Ricardo Santana Jr. – Another guy who is receiving his second straight Racing Dudes Award.  Santana proved that last year was no fluke as he easily won the jockey’s title for the second straight year.  This is a guy who is getting better and better with every mount, and is a rising star in the game.

Flop of the Meet: Strong Mandate – It’s painful for us to admit it…but Strong Mandate never lived up to the expectations we had for him.  After running decent in the Southwest and Rebel, he was last in the Arkansas Derby and now sits on the outside looking in as far as the Kentucky Derby is concerned.  Hopefully he can regroup and regain his form.

Favorite Moment of the Meet: Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap – He pretty much stole the show on Derby day.  It was a thrill to see the home town horse win in front of all his fans.  Major shout out to Brady Lukas for allowing us get in the winners circle with one of our favorite horses of all time!

Restaurant of the Meet: TIE – Hawgs and Jahna’s – That’s right…we like to eat. The Dudes have been to many places in Hot Springs over the years, but Hawgs Pizza and Jahna’s Italian easily are the two best.  We highly recommend them to anyone who visit’s the Hot Springs area.

Race of the Meet: The Rebel Stakes –



Oaklawn Report #3

Apprehender Wins the King Cotton

Apprehender Wins the King Cotton

3 Stars of the Week

– 1st Star: Apprehender (KY) – On Saturday when winning the King Cotton, Apprehender was able to get three monkey’s off his back all at once.  First, he got his first stakes win.  Second, he avenged an earlier loss to Laurie’s Rocket, who soared by him as the favorite at Oaklawn in an ungraded stakes last year.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, he was finally able to beat Alsvid in his third attempt to do so.  With Alsvid and Apprehender likely to be pointed towards similar races throughout the year, you can bet these two are going to square off one again.  Taking the blinkers off this horse has really helped him relax, and I look for him to continue to make a strong impact in the Oaklawn sprint division.  I would assume the Grade 3 Count Fleet is his end of the meet goal.

– 2nd Star: Alsvid (KY) – He may have lost to Apprehender this time out, but Alsvid still ran a super race.  The rail draw didn’t do him any favors, as the 4-year-old son of Officer was boxed in through much of the race.  It looked as though he wasn’t able to hit his best stride until the late stages.  That factor coupled with a lack of early pace pressure on Apprehender made if tough for Alsvid to run down the winner.  Like I mentioned early, these two will surely meet again as this is a developing rivalry that should be fun to watch.

– 3rd Star: Z Rockstar (OK) – This horse is about as honest as they come when running at Oaklawn and Remington Park.  Z Rockstar had to dig deep with everything he had to win Thursday’s featured allowance race, as he went wire to wire while just holding off Don Dulce at the end.  The win gives Z Rockstar his third straight victory, and also his second straight victory at Oaklawn Park.  Trainer Donnie K Von Hemel has plenty of options for this one’s next race, which will make it interesting to see where he pops up next.

– Honorable Mention: Awesome Mama, I Am Miss Brown, Channel Isle, Laurie’s Rocket Continue reading

Oaklawn Preview Part 1 of 6: The Older Males



The king is back!  After dominating the older male division at Oaklawn last year, Alternation has returned to for his five-year old season.  Last year he won the Essex, Razorback, and Oaklawn Handicap in dominating fashion.  In the Razorback he was able to defeat eventual Breeders Cup Dirt Mile Champion Tapizar, and in the Oaklawn Handicap he defeated the likes of Ron the Greek, Hymn Book, and Nehro.  After Oaklawn Alternation ran four more times, and was able to capture victories in the Pimlico Special and Governor’s Cup at Remington Park.  While the news is mostly good for Alternation, he does come into this season with a bit of mystery surrounding him.  His final race of 2012 was a dud, as he finished a well-beaten last in the Hawthorne Gold Cup.  He was given a short break after that race, and has just now returned to the barn of trainer Donnie K Von Hemel.  Perhaps a return to his favorite track will be just what he needs to bounce back from that effort.

A major challenger for Alternation this season could come from the well accomplished Endorsement.  He’s won over $600,000 in his career, and has won two Grade 3 races as well.  He finished third last year to Alternation in the Pimlico Special by just one length.  After Pimilco, Endorsement ran in two tough Handicaps at Belmont and Saratoga, and failed to do much in either of those.  Like Alternation, Endorsement is coming off a layoff as well.  His last race was in August, but he has had steady workouts over the last sixty days.  All signs point to Endorsement making his first start of the meet on opening weekend in the Fifth Season Stakes.

While Endorsement and Alternation are getting most of the attention, a horse by the name of Win Willy could loom large.  Win Willy is a very popular horse among the Oaklawn locals, as he’s famous for taking down top rated Old Fashioned in the 2009 Rebel, and Misremembered in the 2011 Oaklawn Handicap.  While his success at Oaklawn has been great, last year was a rough one for him at the track.  He was coming off an injury, and never got his feet under him in two attempts against stiff competition.  However, after Oaklawn ended he was able to pick up three wins in seven starts.  He comes into this year in great shape, and will without question be more of a factor.  Win Willy has won $960,387 lifetime, so he should pass the one million dollar mark early on at the meet. Continue reading