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 #14

Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap

Will Take Charge Wins the Oaklawn Handicap

Three Stars of the Week

– 1st Star: Will Take Charge (KY) – The home town horse didn’t disappoint his 63,000+ fans when he won the Oaklawn Handicap in typical heart stopping Will Take Charge fashion!  Up the back stretch there were some anxious moments as at one point he fell to last place, but at the top of the stretch he made his signature move and passed them all while holding off a late run from Revolutionary to win by a length.  He also survived a lengthy inquiry for interference in the stretch, which is a topic that is still being debated today.  Never the less the Oaklawn Handicap was the moment of the meet, as this horse will go down as one of the most popular horses to ever run at Oaklawn Park.

– 2nd Star: Danza (KY) – What a shocker!!  Danza went off at 41-1 in the Arkansas Derby, and romped to a four and a half-length victory.  Jockey Joe Bravo was able to give Danza a flawless rail skimming ride, and when asked the question he simply left the others in the dust.  It’s hard to say whether he can bring that kind of effort next time out in the Kentucky Derby, but if he does he could be a real threat.  Trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t have the best of records in the Derby, but this colt could be peaking for him at the right time.

– 3rd Star: Close Hatches (KY) – This champion returned to Oaklawn after taking the Azeri last month, and basically ran the same exact type of race in the Apple Blossom, winning once again.  There is no questioning this is one of the star older female in the group, and should be able to compete successfully against heavy hitters Princes of Sylmar and Beholder as the season goes along.  Close Hatches will be pointed towards the bigger races in New York over the summer, perhaps starting off on Belmont Day.

Flop of the Week

Tapiture (KY) – Considering that almost everyone thought at the very least this horse would run respectable, it was quite the surprise when Taptiure ran a flat fourth in the Arkansas Derby.  He made a decent move on the turn, but was just unable to make any kind of late run down the stretch.  Perhaps the added distance hurt him which is something we’ve seen with Tapit colts in the past.  He’s still qualified for the Kentucky Derby, but this loss was troubling.

Trainer Standings

Rank Trainer Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Steven M. Asmussen 157 35 32 18 $1,859,450 22% 85 54%
2 Federico Villafranco 82 25 18 8 $590,127 30% 51 62%
3 Chris Richard 89 23 11 12 $607,695 26% 46 52%
4 Brad H. Cox 70 18 11 13 $683,976 26% 42 60%
4 Cody Autrey 112 18 22 19 $564,877 16% 59 53%
6 Chris A. Hartman 91 17 18 11 $621,412 19% 46 51%
7 Joseph R. Martin 87 13 9 15 $278,958 15% 37 43%
8 Ron Moquett 109 12 10 8 $479,032 11% 30 28%
9 D. Wayne Lukas 91 11 9 10 $939,788 12% 30 33%
9 Randy L. Morse 86 11 10 10 $412,414 13% 31 36%

Jockey Standings

Rank Jockey Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Ricardo Santana, Jr. 292 59 49 30 $2,561,193 20% 138 47%
2 David Mello 216 35 31 26 $896,278 16% 92 43%
3 Ramon A. Vazquez 181 32 24 22 $912,786 18% 78 43%
4 Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 235 31 33 35 $1,169,595 13% 99 42%
5 Jon Kenton Court 178 26 19 18 $999,460 15% 63 35%
5 Terry J. Thompson 202 26 22 24 $942,814 13% 72 36%
7 Luis S. Quinonez 173 22 19 17 $837,749 13% 58 34%
8 Ken S. Tohill 172 22 31 19 $819,373 13% 72 42%
9 M. Clifton Berry 149 21 13 18 $793,547 14% 52 35%
10 Jareth Loveberry 197 19 23 19 $559,735 10% 61 31%

Owner Standings

Rank Owner Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Danny R. Caldwell 80 24 18 8 $579,267 30% 50 63%
2 Maggi Moss 53 15 8 8 $298,260 28% 31 58%
3 Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. 55 13 9 4 $351,710 24% 26 47%
4 Steve Landers 68 11 12 12 $221,335 16% 35 51%
5 Steven M. Asmussen 39 9 10 5 $163,041 23% 24 62%
6 Ulwelling, Al and Bill 35 8 5 3 $185,314 23% 16 46%
7 Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC 20 7 5 1 $623,626 35% 13 65%
7 Zayat Stables, LLC 34 7 4 3 $378,337 21% 14 41%
7 Martin Brothers, Inc. 35 7 4 2 $105,391 20% 13 37%
10 William Stiritz 47 6 3 1 $206,856 13% 10 21%

Arkansas Derby Race Replay




The Apple Blossom Handicap (Grade 1) Preview

1. Close Hatches

Close Hatches

Race Record: (9) 6-2-0

Earnings: $1,487,300

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Bill Mott

Graded Stakes Victories: 4

The Verdict: Have to love the way Mott came to Oaklawn Park last time for the Azeri to test the waters before committing to this race.  He was rewared for the decision as Close Hatches was a decisive winner of the Azeri, and now you have to love her chances in this one.  The field has come up a bit short, and there is absolutely no doubting who the class of this race is.  If she shows up with here “A” game…they are all running for second.

2. Rose to Gold

Rose to GoldRace Record: (12) 6-1-0

Earnings: $963,509

Jockey: Calvin Borel

Trainer: Sal Santoro

Graded Stakes Victories: 3

The Verdict: Against ungraded or Grade 3 company Rose to Gold has been very impressive, but she is yet to tackle tougher competition with much luck.  Her race two back in the Houston Ladies Classic had me thinking she had taken a big leap forward, but she went backwards next time out finishing seventh in the Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream.  She does hold two victories at Oaklawn Park, but I don’t look for her to make it three.

3. Stanwyck

Stanwyck_NYRARace Record: (13) 3-2-5

Earnings: $304,250

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Graded Stakes Victories: 1

The Verdict:Trainer John Shirreffs thrilled the masses at Oaklawn twice by bringing the great Zenyatta to the Apple Blossom, but make no mistake…this is not Zenyatta.  Stanwyck has just one graded stakes win to her credit, however she has run decent in her last couple of races against graded company; finishing third in both the Santa Maria and Santa Margarita Stakes.  Maybe she is a late developing horse, but she won’t be good enough here.

4. On Fire Baby

On Fire Baby Oaklawn 2012Race Record: (13) 5-1-1

Earnings: $761,974

Jockey: Joe Johnson

Trainer: Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage

Graded Stakes Victories: 4

The Verdict:The defending Apple Blossom champion is back again this year, and should be ready to fire a big race!  Last time out Close Hatches soundly defeated On Fire Baby in the Azeri Stakes, but it was clear On Fire Baby needed that race.  Now she should be fit and ready to roll, and with the home track on her side I give her a small chance to pull off the upset.  She’s clearly the logical alternative if you don’t want to play Close Hatches at low odds

5. Let Faith Arise

LetFaithAriseSantaMargarita2014BEN298Race Record: (10) 5-2-1

Earnings: $380,284

Jockey: Corey Nakatani

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Graded Stakes Victories: 1

The Verdict:She’s coming into this race off a Grade 1 victory, but you have to question the toughness of the field she faced last time out.  This one has always ran solid races, but not until recently has she moved up to Graded Stakes company at bigger tracks.  Perhaps another that is a late bloomer, but I just can’t see her matching up well with a horse like Close Hatches.


Cali Swag: The Mott Girls and More from the Breeders Cup

Check out these new pictures from Breeders Cup Photographer Mike Sekulic!  They include: Close Hatches, Royal Delta, Emollient, Strong Mandate, Havana, Tap It Rich, and Magician.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!