Oaklawn Swag Part 1: A Tribute to Will Take Charge

Many of you have probably seen the amazing photo’s over the last year from Mike Sekulic, who captures Santa Anita like no one else can.  Well today we are posting pictures from our personal collection of last weekend’s action at Oaklawn Park.  WARNING…the pictures aren’t as good as Mike’s, but we still think you’ll enjoy him.  The first Oaklawn Swag post will be an all WILL TAKE CHARGE tribute post!  Tomorrow we’ll post an all Arkansas Derby picture collection.  Enjoy!


Cali Swag: A Tribute to the Handicap Division

With three months of the year gone there is no question what the most exciting division has been: The Older Male Handicap Division!  Today we’ve went back into our archive of photo’s from Mike Sekulic, and found pictures of the divisions four heavy hitters: Palace Malice, Mucho Macho Man, Game On Dude, and Will Take Charge.  Enjoy!

Oaklawn Report #11

Brewing Wins the Gazebo Stakes

Brewing Wins the Gazebo Stakes

Three Stars of the Week

– 1st Star: Brewing (FL) – Isn’t it strange that Brewing became the first D Wayne Lukas three-year old to earn our first star of the week?  If I would have told you that before the meet I probably would have been laughed at by everyone, including his trainer!  However, Brewing has come on in a big way at Oaklawn, winning a maiden race and then the Gazebo Stakes in easy wire to wire fashion.  His running style suggests six furlongs could be his limit, and it looks like the Bachelor Stakes on closing weekend is where he will be pointed to next.

– 2nd Star: Glacken Too (FL) – This one hasn’t run a bad race yet, although his Sunday allowance win was definitely the best race of his young career.  The win was in wire to wire fashion, as he pulled away from all competition late to win by just over two lengths in the end.  Just like Brewing, a race like the Bachelor or Northern Spur Stakes could be a nice fit for this horse next time out.

– 3rd Star: Jake Mo (KY) – Jake Mo certainly is no stranger to Oaklawn as he ran in the Smarty Jones, Southwest, Rebel, and Arkansas Derby in 2012, and also ran here twice in 2o13.  What he has been a stranger to at Oaklawn is the winners circle, but that changed Friday when he won the feature race of the day.  The win gives Jake Mo two wins in a row, and now he could be pointed back to stakes competition next time out.  He had went a long time in between wins, but has found his form once again.

Flop of the Week

Dunkin Bend (KY) – His seventh place effort in the Gazebo Stakes this Saturday was very disappointing, especially considering the fact that projected heavy favorite Boji Moon had scratched from the race.  After the race is was found that Dunkin Bend has a breathing issue that will require surgery, so that explains the poor effort.  Still, he’s no doubt the flop of the week.

Trainer Standings

Rank Trainer Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Steven M. Asmussen 105 21 25 9 $1,179,147 20% 55 52%
1 Federico   Villafranco 63 21 14 7 $457,337 33% 42 67%
3 Chris   Richard 69 20 10 7 $519,636 29% 37 54%
4 Cody   Autrey 91 18 18 13 $517,179 20% 49 54%
5 Chris A. Hartman 65 15 13 7 $460,616 23% 35 54%
6 Ron   Moquett 86 10 10 6 $413,257 12% 26 30%
7 Brad H. Cox 47 9 6 9 $341,936 19% 24 51%
7 Joseph R. Martin 63 9 8 13 $185,270 14% 30 48%
9 D. Wayne Lukas 76 8 8 10 $471,538 11% 26 34%
9 W. Bret Calhoun 40 8 3 6 $360,506 20% 17 43%
9 Randy L. Morse 58 8 8 3 $292,569 14% 19 33%
9 Roger A. Brueggemann 39 8 7 4 $250,197 21% 19 49%

Jockey Standings

Rank Jockey Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Ricardo   Santana, Jr. 214 40 39 17 $1,817,137 19% 96 45%
2 Norberto   Arroyo, Jr. 202 31 29 29 $1,066,049 15% 89 44%
3 David   Mello 170 30 25 20 $735,322 18% 75 44%
4 Ramon A. Vazquez 121 21 17 18 $575,834 17% 56 46%
5 Terry J. Thompson 153 19 12 18 $637,276 12% 49 32%
6 Ken S. Tohill 114 18 20 12 $558,890 16% 50 44%
7 Jon Kenton Court 128 16 12 17 $504,569 13% 45 35%
8 Channing   Hill 105 15 13 13 $729,360 14% 41 39%
8 M. Clifton Berry 106 15 8 12 $557,944 14% 35 33%
8 Luis S. Quinonez 130 15 14 15 $549,174 12% 44 34%

Owner Standings

Rank Owner Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Danny R. Caldwell 61 20 14 7 $446,477 33% 41 67%
2 Maggi   Moss 37 12 7 4 $241,975 32% 23 62%
3     Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. 48 11 9 3 $307,840 23% 23 48%
3 Steve   Landers 56 11 9 9 $190,867 20% 29 52%
5     Ulwelling, Al and Bill 26 7 4 2 $162,582 27% 13 50%
6     Zayat Stables, LLC 23 6 1 3 $235,059 26% 10 43%
6     Martin Brothers, Inc. 27 6 3 2 $88,448 22% 11 41%
8     Driver, James L. and Ywachetta H. 18 5 6 2 $257,437 28% 13 72%
8 William   Stiritz 41 5 3 1 $192,398 12% 9 22%
8 Craig   Drago 17 5 1 4 $168,555 29% 10 59%
8     Poindexter Thoroughbreds LLC 24 5 3 3 $124,914 21% 11 46%
8     N P H Stable 11 5 1 2 $73,407 45% 8 73%

Preview to Next Week

– Friday: Arkansas Breeders Open Division Stakes – 3 Year olds and upward (Arkansas Bred) – 1 1/16th miles – Purse: $75,000

– Saturday: Rainbow Miss Stakes – 3 Year Old Fillies (Arkansas Bred) – 6 furlongs – Purse: $75,000

– Sunday: Rainbow Stakes – 3 Year Old Colts (Arkansas Bred) – 6 furlongs – Purse: $75,000


Oaklawn Report #7

Aireofdistinction Takes the Spring Fever

Aireofdistinction Takes the Spring Fever

Three Stars of the Week

– 1st Star: Aireofdistinction (KY) – Even though Oaklawn only had one stakes race this week, Aireofdistinction made it count!  Race caller Frank Mirahmadi pretty much gave up on her at the top of the stretch, but out of nowhere Aireofdistinction re-rallied and took the Spring Fever by a nose over Chortle in a photo finish.  The win gives Aireofdistinction four victories in a row, and could propel her into a graded stakes try next time out.

– 2nd Star: Donoharm (KY) – Last year’s Fifth Season and Essex winner was back in the winners circle Sunday, winning an allowance race by a length and a half over Flashy Sunrise.  It’s a win that is long over due as his form hasn’t been great since those two big wins last year.  Perhaps he’s back on track now, and could possibly be pointing towards a run in the Razorback or Oaklawn Handicap next.

– 3rd Star: Unstoppable Colby (KY) – The Lukas/Zayat team has been hot this of late at Oaklawn, and the maiden special weight win by Unstoppable Colby might be the most significant.  Thursday’s mile and one-sixteenth victory came in wire to wire fashion as he turned back two hard closing rivals to win by a little less than a length.  We know he’ll be in a stakes next time out, it’s just a matter of which one they choose.  We’ll see if his second attempt to earn derby points works out better than his first.

Flop of the Week

Broken Blues (KY) – It’s probably a little unfair that she lands in this spot, but there really wasn’t any other horse to put here this week.  Broken Blues was a disappointing favorite in a Thursday allowance race, but may have simply been a little outclassed.  We aren’t going to give her too hard of a time for that performance.

Trainer Standings

Rank Trainer Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Chris   Richard 47 17 4 3 $421,050 36% 24 51%
2 Federico   Villafranco 46 14 9 7 $280,966 30% 30 65%
3 Steven M. Asmussen 58 13 12 5 $656,279 22% 30 52%
3 Cody   Autrey 57 13 10 7 $365,496 23% 30 53%
5 Chris A. Hartman 40 10 7 4 $278,789 25% 21 53%
6 Brad H. Cox 34 7 5 6 $244,369 21% 18 53%
7 D. Wayne Lukas 50 6 6 7 $319,321 12% 19 38%
7 Ron   Moquett 56 6 8 4 $278,483 11% 18 32%
9 Philip A. Sims 29 5 4 5 $270,544 17% 14 48%
9 Randy L. Morse 39 5 7 3 $206,676 13% 15 38%
9 Scott   Becker 28 5 2 0 $169,861 18% 7 25%
9 Roger A. Brueggemann 29 5 4 3 $135,520 17% 12 41%
9 Michael E. Biehler 19 5 3 2 $121,118 26% 10 53%
9 David R. Vance 19 5 2 1 $116,452 26% 8 42%
9 J. R. Caldwell 17 5 1 6 $71,164 29% 12 71%

Jockey Standings

Rank Jockey Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Ricardo   Santana, Jr. 126 22 22 11 $1,030,654 17% 55 44%
1 Norberto   Arroyo, Jr. 118 22 17 13 $684,843 19% 52 44%
3 David   Mello 92 17 11 11 $410,456 18% 39 42%
4 Ramon A. Vazquez 81 13 12 14 $376,302 16% 39 48%
5 Terry J. Thompson 98 12 8 11 $399,362 12% 31 32%
6 Channing   Hill 75 11 8 9 $513,428 15% 28 37%
7 Luis S. Quinonez 88 10 9 11 $380,755 11% 30 34%
7 Alex   Birzer 113 10 14 11 $369,534 9% 35 31%
9 Ken S. Tohill 60 9 10 7 $295,201 15% 26 43%
9 Jareth   Loveberry 61 9 6 9 $178,070 15% 24 39%
11 M. Clifton Berry 59 8 5 11 $324,912 14% 24 41%
11 Alex   Canchari 79 8 11 12 $278,635 10% 31 39%
11 Jon Kenton Court 71 8 8 8 $239,834 11% 24 34%

Owner Standings

Rank Owner Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Danny R. Caldwell 44 13 9 7 $270,106 30% 29 66%
2 Maggi   Moss 25 10 3 2 $193,647 40% 15 60%
3     Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. 34 7 4 3 $161,412 21% 14 41%
3 Steve   Landers 35 7 5 5 $118,459 20% 17 49%
5 William   Stiritz 28 5 2 0 $169,861 18% 7 25%
5     Ulwelling, Al and Bill 17 5 2 1 $115,518 29% 8 47%
7     Driver, James L. and Ywachetta H. 13 4 5 1 $198,137 31% 10 77%
7     Zayat Stables, LLC 12 4 1 1 $138,573 33% 6 50%
7     Dream Walkin Farms, Inc. 21 4 2 1 $83,866 19% 7 33%
10 John C. Oxley 22 3 2 4 $178,309 14% 9 41%
10 Craig   Drago 9 3 0 2 $90,975 33% 5 56%
10     Martin Brothers, Inc. 14 3 0 1 $40,571 21% 4 29%
10     N P H Stable 7 3 1 0 $37,907 43% 4 57%
10     Mongo Racing 4 3 0 1 $35,400 75% 4 100%

Preview to Next Week

– Saturday: Downthedustyroad Breeders’, 3-Year Old & Up, Filly & Mare (Arkansas Breds), 6 Furlongs, Purse: $75,000

– Sunday:  Nodouble Breeders’, 3-Year Old & Up, Colts & Geldings (Arkansas Breds), 6 Furlongs, Purse: $75,000


Southwest Stakes (Grade 3) Preview

Strong Mandate Headlines the Southwest Stakes

Strong Mandate Headlines the Southwest Stakes

Racing Dudes Picks

Win – 7

Exacta – 1,2,7,9 Box

Trifecta –1,2,7,9 Box

Horses to Use in Vertical Wagers –7,1,2,8,11

Race Shape

Speed – Tapiture, Coastline, Tanzanite Cat, Kendall’s Boy, Walt, Strong Mandate

Stalkers – Louies Flower, Ride On Curlin, Son of Dixie, Fire Starter

Closers – Paganol, Bourbonize

Racing Dudes Projected Order of Finish

#7 Strong Mandate (KY) – Let’s face it…everyone knew we’d pick him on top.  He’s a horse we’ve been raving about since this summer, and finally he’ll make his 2014 debut.  This first step toward Kentucky is not an easy one, but if he’s as good as we think he is this should be his race to lose.  He has drawn perfectly, and should get a nice stalking trip off what should be a pretty contested pace.  As long as Rosario can get the horse to relax, all systems should be go for a big time victory.  If for some reason Strong Mandate doesn’t show up with his “A” game…look out because this thing becomes a WIDE OPEN scramble.

#1 Tanzanite Cat (FL)  and #1A Paganol (KY) – Talk about a strong entry!  Both of these horses are in with a shot, but call me crazy…I prefer Paganol over Smarty Jones winner Tanzanite Cat.  If you’ll notice my predicted race shape, I expect a lot of speed in this race so that should set up very well for Paganol.  I also believe the Smarty Jones came up a bit weak this year, so I’m not sold on Tanzanite Cat just yet.  However, it doesn’t matter which one of these I prefer.  You get them both, and I look for both to be in this thing with a shot.

#2 Tapiture (KY) – Definitely have him ranked second as far as talent goes in this race, but that rail draw really has me concerned.  Tapiture is a horse that is capable of showing early speed, but I don’t really think he would normally be on the lead in this race.  He may have to now that he’s on the rail.  His break and his ride are going to be critical.  This is also his first race off a layoff, so that could add to the troubles.  Has a chance, but has obstacles to overcome.

#8 Ride On Curlin (KY) – I’m still cautiously optimistic about this one, but can’t put him on top based on being let down by him too many times already.  There is no doubt this one has a load of ability, but he just doesn’t bring it every time.  He had a nice prep for this in an allowance over this track last time out, so maybe that’s a good sign if you like him.  The key will be the price.  With a horse like this you should demand a decent price, and if you don’t get that I think you have to pass.

#11 Bourbonize (KY) – There is always a wild card in each race, and this is the one that fits that bill for me.  Bourbonize is a perfect two for two, has a win over the track, and the race shape for this one looks to really be in his favor.  The only question mark is class, which is definitely steep compared to his prior races.  Not a horse you want to leave off your late pick 4 ticket!

#10 Fire Starter (KY) – No question in my mind he was best in the Smarty Jones, but still not sure his best effort can hang wit this group.  His trip last time out gave him a big time excuse, and his gallop out was extremely strong although it was done under mile urging from the jockey.  Probably one to considering playing underneath as I do think he’ll improve.

#4 Louies Flower (FL) – Talk about a horse that is getting no respect!  He has been working very strong, comes in off a three race win streak, and was impressively victorious last time out in the Springboard Mile.  So why do I have him finishing seventh?  I’m not sold on how strong that Remington race was, and I just want to see what he does when stepping up in class before getting on his bandwagon.  I don’t blame those who want to play him, but not for me this time.

#5 Kendall’s Boy (KY) – There was a time when this horse was being hyped greatly after his maiden breaking win at Churchill Downs, but the talk has quieted lately which makes him a “sneaky good” pick in this one.  He recently was an impressive allowance winner at the Fair Grounds, but he did have things his own way in that race.  Logical longshot will have a chance if he can settle behind the speed horses and not get burned on the front end.

#6 Walt (KY) – Lots of people are raving about his latest workout, but mark me as one that is not yet sold on this one.  He was a great second in the Smarty Jones Stakes last time out, and may have won the thing if it hadn’t been for an awkward step in the stretch, but I’m still not sure he’s classy enough to hang with the elite.  The Smarty Jones came up a little weak, and this one has come up tough…wait and see approach.

#3 Coastline (KY) – He was the beaten favorite in the Smarty Jones Stakes last time out, and really he didn’t have much of an excuse.  The good news is he now has that all important race over the track, so perhaps he can improve.  However, there are probably other longshots that you are better off playing in this one considering the set up of the race.

#9 Son of Dixie (FL) – This is really the only horse that I give absolutely no shot of winning the race.  The horse has just one victory, and even though he’s been beaten by some decent company, I just don’t think he’s good enough to hand with this group.

TwinSpires Million Road to Derby Showdown

Oaklawn Report #5

Weather Ruined this Week but Strong Mandate Headlines a Huge Week Ahead

Weather Ruined this Week but Strong Mandate Headlines a Huge Week Ahead

Trainer Standings

Rank Trainer Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Cody Autrey 35 10 7 3 $290,963 29% 20 57%
1 Chris   Richard 25 10 2 0 $244,706 40% 12 48%
3 Federico   Villafranco 29 9 4 6 $144,041 31% 19 66%
4 Chris A. Hartman 23 8 3 2 $170,857 35% 13 57%
5 Steven M. Asmussen 35 5 9 2 $273,264 14% 16 46%
5 Roger A. Brueggemann 21 5 3 3 $117,712 24% 11 52%
5 David R. Vance 14 5 1 1 $109,235 36% 7 50%
8 Randy L. Morse 27 4 4 3 $141,666 15% 11 41%
8 Brad H. Cox 24 4 3 4 $113,169 17% 11 46%
10 Mark E. Casse 22 3 3 3 $149,772 14% 9 41%
10 Philip A. Sims 15 3 1 3 $140,634 20% 7 47%
10 D. Wayne Lukas 32 3 4 7 $130,470 9% 14 44%
10 Ron   Moquett 28 3 5 2 $130,424 11% 10 36%
10 Scott   Becker 18 3 1 0 $119,678 17% 4 22%
10 Ingrid   Mason 19 3 4 4 $81,327 16% 11 58%
10 Gary G. Hartlage 8 3 0 1 $66,021 38% 4 50%
10 Joseph R. Martin 20 3 0 4 $44,145 15% 7 35%
10 Paul E. Holthus 7 3 1 0 $37,431 43% 4 57%

Jockey Standings

Rank Jockey Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Norberto   Arroyo, Jr. 63 13 12 5 $444,254 21% 30 48%
2 Ricardo   Santana, Jr. 71 10 14 5 $467,550 14% 29 41%
2 Terry J. Thompson 58 10 6 7 $324,099 17% 23 40%
2 David   Mello 52 10 8 4 $200,063 19% 22 42%
5 Alex   Birzer 72 8 7 8 $227,372 11% 23 32%
6 Ken S. Tohill 39 7 5 5 $190,483 18% 17 44%
6 Ramon A. Vazquez 43 7 5 8 $170,267 16% 20 47%
8 Israel   Ocampo 47 6 6 7 $201,748 13% 19 40%
9 Channing   Hill 44 5 6 6 $276,823 11% 17 39%
9 Calvin H. Borel 36 5 3 1 $213,439 14% 9 25%
9 Luis S. Quinonez 57 5 6 6 $211,645 9% 17 30%
9 Seth B. Martinez 28 5 3 5 $132,030 18% 13 46%
9 Jareth   Loveberry 32 5 1 7 $85,006 16% 13 41%

Owner Standings

Rank Owner Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Danny R. Caldwell 27 8 4 6 $133,181 30% 18 67%
2 Maggi   Moss 12 6 2 0 $128,189 50% 8 67%
2     Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. 25 6 3 3 $126,212 24% 12 48%
4 Steve   Landers 23 5 4 2 $84,723 22% 11 48%
5     Driver, James L. and Ywachetta H. 9 4 3 1 $170,680 44% 8 89%
5     Dream Walkin Farms, Inc. 12 4 0 0 $64,928 33% 4 33%
7 John C. Oxley 15 3 1 2 $125,674 20% 6 40%
7 William   Stiritz 18 3 1 0 $119,678 17% 4 22%
7     N P H Stable 5 3 1 0 $37,090 60% 4 80%

Preview to Next Week

– Saturday: The King Cotton Stakes – 4 Year Olds and Upward – 6 furlongs – Purse: $100,000

– Saturday: The Essex Handicap – 4 Year Olds and Upward – 1 1/16th Miles – Purse: $100,000

– Sunday: The Bayakoa Stakes – 4 Year Old Fillies and Upward – 1 1/16th Miles – Purse: $100,000

– Monday: The Southwest Stakes – 3 Year Olds – 1 1/16th Miles – Purse: $300,000


Smarty Jones Stakes Preview

Coastline is the Probable Favorite in the Smarty Jones

Coastline is the Probable Favorite in the Smarty Jones

Racing Dudes Picks

Win – 3

Exacta –1,3,9,10 Box

Trifecta –1,3,9,10 Box

Horses to Use in Vertical Wagers – 3,10,1,9

Racing Dudes Projected Order of Finish

#3 Fire Starter (KY) – This race has “up and coming” horse written all over it, and Fire Starter fits the bill for me.  After struggling in his first few races Fire Starter put it all together last time out to win a maiden special weight by ten at Laurel.  It’s definitely a race where taking a price horse makes sense, and Fire Starter will fit that bill as well.  Perhaps this is a weak version of the Smarty Jones, or maybe a hidden gem will emerge from this ten horse field.

#10 Coastline (KY) – Very deserving morning line favorite.  The horse was really rolling into the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes last time out, but lost all chance when he stumbled terribly out of the gate.  He came to Oaklawn and had a nice five furlong work a few days ago so all systems look to be set on go.  If class wins out it will be Coastline that gets his picture taken Monday afternoon.

#1 D’cajun Cat (FL) – He was one of Asmussen’s many maiden winners at Churchill last summer, and ran a decent race at the Fair Grounds last time out.  Connections alone make this horse respectable, but I think his class is definitely in question.  The mile distance might be right up his alley, but I don’t think you can support him over the top two.

#9 Unstoppable Colby (KY) – It’s always tough to get behind a maiden in a Stakes race at this point of the season, but it’s clear that Unstoppable Colby has a lot of talent.  Last time out he finished second to Gold Hawk, who came back to win impressively next time out.  Considering Gold Hawk would most likely be a short price in this race bodes well for Unstoppable Colby.  I don’t have the guts to pick him to win, but I do believe he enters this thing with a shot.

#6 Walt (KY) – His fourth place finish in the Springboard Mile at Remington last time out made me believe this horse could be decent.  I wasn’t expecting much from him, but he hung in the race pretty well and just got nosed out by Smack Smack for third.  He’s probably not a real threat to win this one, but he could hang around and catch a minor award.

#8 Tanzanite Cat (FL) – Lightly race colt got the job done last time out at Fair Grounds with a maiden special weight win, and could improve off that effort.  He came into that last race off a four-month layoff, so that makes the victory even more impressive.  His debut race was in August at Del Mar where he finished a respectable third, so I think this horse has a bit of class.  Consider this one a wild card…

#4 Son of a Preacher (FL) – Was a nice maiden winner at Churchill Downs at first asking, but hasn’t been able to finish the deal in two allowances races since then.  He’s not facing the toughest of fields in this spot, however you’d have to think this field is as good as what he’s been running in.  Maybe has a chance for a minor award.

#2 Whyruawesome (KY) – Just hasn’t shown enough for me to back him since his maiden breaking victory first time out.  He is Grade 3 placed which make him one of the more classier horses in the race, but hasn’t been close to winning in his last three races.

#5 A Step Ahead (IL) – This being the first time away from Illinois makes me feel a little worried about his chances.  Certainly could compete at the level, but the waters are deeper today.  Let’s see how he handles it…

#7 Denali Rahy Ruler (KY) – He had three really nice races leading up to the Springboard Mile at Remington, but was soundly defeated that day when finishing tenth.  I’m guessing the class jump was just too steep from him, and today’s race will be more of the same.

TwinSpires Million Road to Derby Showdown

Oaklawn Preview Part 6 of 6: The Three Year Old Males

Strong Mandate will enter 2014 as the Hype Horse at Oaklawn

Strong Mandate will enter 2014 as the Hype Horse at Oaklawn

The Oaklawn three-year old series is the most exciting program you’ll see anywhere in the sport of horse racing.  It’s what the track is known for, and its also what has made it become as popular as it is today.  Recent horses such as: Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Curlin, Lookin At Lucky, Super Saver, Bodemeister, Will Take Charge, and Oxbow have used Oaklawn as a spring-board to Triple Crown success.  This year Oaklawn will have four races that count towards the “Kentucky Derby Points” system that determines who makes the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.  The first race will be the Smarty Jones on January 20th, followed by the Southwest Stakes on February 17th, the Rebel Stakes on March 16th, and the one million dollar Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 12th.  In the last ten years Oaklawn Park has produced ten Triple Crown race winners.  That’s a trend that we expect to continue in 2014.

As we head into the meet there is no questioning that the D Wayne Lukas trained Strong Mandate is the top horse on the grounds.  Strong Mandate is already a Grade 1 winner as he captured the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, and recently finished a solid third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile.  The colt is one of the most accomplished three-year olds that Lukas has ever brought to Oaklawn, and could have even more potential than his two supers starts from last year: Will Take Charge and Oxbow.  Anytime you have two complete runaway victories at Saratoga it becomes very note worthy.  The breeding of Strong Mandate is flawless, and it also suggests that distance shouldn’t be a problem.  The big colt has had three workouts over the track, and is pointing towards the Southwest Stakes as his seasonal debut.

Strong Mandate will certainly be the hype horse, but another horse by the name Louie’s Flower comes into Oaklawn on a three race win streak.  His latest victory was in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park where he defeated an extremely competitive field.  Last year the Springboard Mile produced Will Take Charge and Texas Bling, both of whom made tremendous impacts in the three-year old division at Oaklawn.  However, all three of Louie’s Flower’s wins have come at Remington so running at a new track will be a test.  The third place finisher of the Springboard Mile was Smack Smack, and he deserves some attention as well.  He won three stakes races as a two-year old, and flipped in the paddock before the Springboard Mile which could explain his average performance.  He’s owned by country music star Toby Keith and trained by Don Von Hemel.

Of course this time of year there is still the chance of a lightly raced or even unraced horse jumping up and making a huge impact in this division.  That factor is what makes the three-year old division so exciting.  We have no shortage of “sleeper picks” this year.  Starting off are two horses that have recorded only one win, but both were impressive.  Quick Dagger is the first of the two, who comes out of the Kelly Von Hemel barn.  He won his only start by almost six lengths at Remington Park.  Quick Dagger is another horse owned by Toby Keith.  The other horse is Wry who is trained by “Red Dog” Hartlage.  He won his second lifetime start at Churchill Downs nicely, but has yet to have a workout at Oaklawn.  Two other horses I’m looking at are still maidens that will be coming out of the D Wayne Lukas barn named Unstoppable Colby and Bro Rodrigeaux.  Both have been close to winning maiden special weights at Churchill Downs, and should be on the improve and ready to win.  Unstoppable Colby probably ran the most impressive race of the two last time out, as he was finished second to the highly touted Gold Hawk.  Finally, there is one other horse that I’m going WAY out on a limb with…an unraced horse name Flat Irish.  In my opinion Flat Irish has been the star of morning workouts as he’s recorded three straight bullets.  He will be making his career debut this Saturday in a maiden special weight going six furlongs.  The race will be the ninth and final race on the card.

Like usual, the horses shipping in to Oaklawn for these races will prove formidable.  Steve Asmussen seemingly won almost every maiden two-year old race he entered last year so it’s logical to think a few of those winners might show up at Oaklawn.  He already has Gold Hawk and Tapiture at the Fair Grounds, and you’d think he will have to separate those two at some point.  Oaklawn would probably be his easiest and best option.  As always Bob Baffert has a loaded barn of three-year olds and will no doubt be looking towards Oaklawn to earn derby points.  Another factor in west coast horses looking to ship out could be the presence of Shared Belief who looks to be a monster.  He could provoke trainers to dodge him, which could lead to bigger fields in the Oaklawn races.  With the amount of “Derby points” available and a purse structure that is second to none, Oaklawn has become as attractive as anyone in the country.

The time has come for Oaklawn to produce its next big star, and you can bet it’s loyal fan base is ready for it to happen.  One of the truly unique things about Oaklawn is its rabid fans, and the pride it takes in its star horses.  The fans have been lucky enough to follow great horses, but it’s time for a new one to emerge.  The mystery of who the next “big horse” will be is what makes this time of year special.  It’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride…and also pick a winner or two! Who will become the next Oaklawn legend?


Oaklawn Preview Part 2 of 6: The Trainers

The Coach Looks to Dominated the Three Year Old Stakes

The Coach Looks to Dominated the Three Year Old Stakes at Oaklawn

Steve Asmussen

He’s won the trainers title two years in a row, and lets face it…he can win it again if he wants to do so.  Asmussen will overwhelm you with numbers, and this year he also looks to be loaded with quality horses as well.  He had his best two year old season in recent memory, and I’m sure many of those horses will be competing at Oaklawn.  There is no reason to think he won’t dominate here again this year, and is the heavy favorite to repeat as leading trainer.

D Wayne Lukas

It was an incredible 2013 for Lukas when it comes to quality wins, but as far as overall wins go he probably wasn’t too happy.  Lukas won just ten races at Oaklawn last season, but I expect more this year.  His barn is loaded with three-year olds, and most of them are still maidens.  He also brings in Grade 1 winner Strong Mandate, as well as soon to be three-year old horse of the year Will Take Charge.  Look for Lukas to be very active once again in the Oaklawn three-year old series.

Mac Robertson

Robertson has become a fixture at Oaklawn Park with last year being one of his best ever as he finished second in the standings with twenty-eight victories.  He runs horses at all levels, and has a balanced barn from top to bottom.  In a bit of surprise, it looks like he’s brought local Oaklawn legend Win Willy back for another try.  The plans were to retire the horse after last year, but he’s had two workouts so far at Oaklawn and is planning on running in the Fifth Season Stakes.  Win Willy’s half brother, Win Silas, is also on the grounds.

Chris Richard

You can always count on Richard to have a solid meeting at Oaklawn, but this year might be his best yet.  He’s always been backed by the powerful Maggi Moss, and now Midwest Thoroughbreds have sent some horses his way.  With these two successful owners on his side perhaps he could challenge for the training title.  Midwest Thoroughbreds and Richard should be a nice fit as he excels with low claimers.  Richard also has had some moderate success at the bigger Stakes levels at Prairie Meadows and Kentucky Downs, but the competition will stiffen here.

Donnie K Von Hemel

The list of horses Von Hemel has campaigned at Oaklawn has been very impressive the last few years, but a new crop must now emerge as Alternation and Caleb’s Posse are both gone.  However, the future may be bright as he comes off an impressive second place finish in the trainer standing at Remington.  Von Hemel looks to have a nice group of three-year olds in his barn, especially on the filly side of things.

Chris Hartman

No matter the track or class of the race, Hartman has proven he can win.  He’s another trainer with a wide variety of horses, ranging all the way to the 5k claimers to stakes competition.  He was wildly consistent in 2013, and brings in top horses such as Black Bear and Alsvid to the 2014 meeting.  Both those horses will probably look to compete in sprint stakes competition.

Ron Moquett

Nobody wants to win races at Oaklawn more than this guy!  Moquett considers Oaklawn his home track, and is always successful here.  Last year he finished eighth in the Oaklawn standings, but went on to have a big time year.  He trained the speedy sprinter Gentleman’s Bet, who took him all the way to the Breeders Cup where he finished third in the Sprint.  Gentleman’s Bet is back and training well at Oaklawn, and will definitely be one of the top older horses on the grounds.

Steve Hobby

Another local trainer who loves winning races at Hot Springs!  When you think of Hobby one word comes to mind: consistency.  Hobby always finishes in the Top 10 of the trainer standings, and has trained many stakes winning horses here.  His stable star Tiz Miz Sue has been retired, but he has a large crop of younger horses ready to take her spot.

Cody Autrey

The last two years Cody Autrey has dominated opening weekend at Oaklawn, so you better keep that in mind.  In 2012 he faded badly after dominating early, but in 2013 he was able to continue his success and finished fifth in the overall standings.  The claiming game is his specialty, and you can bet he’ll have them spotted to win.

Kenny Smith

Smith won fifty races in 2013 which was his biggest output since 2003, and tied for fourth in the trainers standing at Oaklawn Park.  He followed that up with a nice top ten finish at Delaware Park, and was also successful with his second string at Prairie Meadows.  Smith trains the majority of Toby Keith’s horses, but also has other clients that won a lot of races in 2013.

Brad Cox

I all but wrote this guy off after Midwest Thoroughbreds dropped him in 2012, but I won’t make that mistake again!  Cox rebuilt his stable quickly, and won at a twenty-nine percent clip at Oaklawn in 2013.  Overall he won at a twenty-five percent clip for the year, and has a bigger stable of horses to run at Oaklawn in 2014.  Obviously this guy knows what he’s doing!

Allen Milligan

Numbers and claimers are Milligan’s game.  Nobody has stared more horses over the last three years at Oaklawn than him, as he’s topped 180 starts in each of those meets.  Overall Milligan started over seven hundred horses last year, and that trend should continue as he has a full barn once again at Oaklawn.

Randy Morse

If you are a fan of looking at horses in the paddock then this is probably your favorite trainer.  Nobody brings horses over that look any better than this guy does!  Morse is not all about looks though.  He is always in the top 15 of the trainer standings at Oaklawn, and also makes a similar impact anywhere he goes.

Joe Martin

It’s usually the Arkansas bred’s that Martin makes the biggest impact with.  In 2011 he started training the majority of the Jayaraman horses, which has obviously been a big help.  A must use in all state bred competition…

Lynn Whiting

Whiting is an Oaklawn legend, and also trains for the track owner Charles Cella which is never a bad thing.  He’ll once again bring in Cyber Secret for Cella, who won the Oaklawn Handicap and Razorback Handicap last year while going a perfect four for four at Oaklawn.  Cyber Secret’s last race was a record-setting performance in the Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway, so we know he’s sharp and ready for a big meet.

Kelly Von Hemel

The Dudes’ favorite trainer!  Kelly Von Hemel has the Racing Dudes karma working for him, which is really all he needs!  He comes into this meet with two nice two-year old maiden winners in Quick Dagger and Rum Therapy.  Both horses could play a factor in the three-year old divisions at Oaklawn this year.  He also has world renown farrier Kelby Von Hemel shoeing all his horses!  #Kelbowed

Don Von Hemel

The veteran trainer just continues to send out winners, and 2014 will be his fifty-eighth year as a trainer!  His stable is smaller these days, but the quality is still there.  This year he brings in Smack Smack, a three-year old colt who had success at both Remington Park and Prairie Meadows in two-year old stakes action.  Smack Smack is owned by Toby Keith.

Mark Casse

For the first time ever, Mark Casse will bring a string of horses to Oaklawn.  Casse is a dominant trainer in Canada, and recently won the Woodbine training title by twenty-three races.  He also is present at Gulfstream Park where he won twelve races last year.  As with several other trainers on this list, what horses he chooses to bring to Oaklawn will determine his success.  His top horses can come here and compete at a high level.

Kenny McPeek

McPeek will once again be present at Oaklawn with a small string or horses.  Expect him to bring a lot of quality three-year olds that will try to take advantage of the Oaklawn Stakes program.  That’s exactly what he did last year, and he had a decent meet winning seven of forty-five starts.

Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage

For the last two years Hartlage has been best known for training super start filly On Fire Baby, and this year will be no exception.  Last year On Fire Baby was able to win the Apple Blossom off of a major layoff, but will probably get more than one start in at Oaklawn this year.  Hartlage also brings in an exciting three-year old colt in Wry, who won a Churchill maiden race in September.

Phil Sims

Sims ran only forty-one horses at Oaklawn in 2013, but did win at a twenty-two percent clip so that shows you the quality of horses he brought.  This year I expect he’ll bring a similar string of horses, and I also expect a similar type of result.

Dale Romans

Romans came to Oaklawn with a very small string last year, and had decent success winning at a nineteen percent clip.  With only 31 starters last year it’s hard to gauge what kind of impact he may have this year.  Will he take Oaklawn serious?

Federico Villafranco

He’s backed by owner Danny Caldwell, who admittedly said they weren’t quite prepared for Oaklawn in 2013.  However, you can bet they are working hard for this upcoming meet and have already commented that they’ll be ready.  Caldwell has had huge success in Oklahoma and understands the game, so I have no doubt they’ll win more races at Oaklawn this year.  Definitely one to watch.

William “Jinks” Fires

It was a quiet year for Jinks Fires last year, but never underestimate this barn.  It wasn’t long ago he trained Archarcharch to victory in the Arkansas Derby, so we all know he’s a capable trainer.

Bret Calhoun

Calhoun didn’t run much at Oaklawn last year, so it will really just be a waiting game to see what he shows up with this year.  If he brings a full barn, he can compete with anyone.

TwinSpires Million Road to Derby Showdown