Oaklawn Swag Part 2: The Arkansas Derby

Here are some of the pictures we captured from the paddock area right before the running of the Arkansas Derby!  Enjoy!

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Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) Preview

1. Danza

DanzaRace Record:(3) 1-0-2

Earnings:$66,428

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:One of two Pletcher entries kicks us off as we move through this competitive field of nine!  Pletcher won this race last year with Overanalyze, but Danza comes in lightly race and needs to step up big time to compete.  He’s had just one race since August of last year.  In his lone start this year he was third in an allowance at Gulfstream, so it’s hard seeing him beating this talented group.

2. Knock Em Flat

Oaklawn 2011Race Record: (5) 1-2-0

Earnings:$63,800

Jockey:Luis Quinonez

Trainer:Donnie K Von Hemel

Graded Stakes Victories: 0

The Verdict:Tough to see how this one can match up class wise with most of these.  I think the light bulb finally came on last time out in his crushing maiden win, but this will be asking too much.  He is cross entered in a smaller stakes earlier on the card, and that should probably be where he ends up

3. Tapiture

tapRace Record: (6) 2-2-2

Earnings:$440,838

Jockey:Joel Rosario

Trainer:Steve Asmussen

Graded Stakes Victories:2

The Verdict:He was the clear-cut winner of the Southwest Stakes, and with a clean trip he probably would have won the Rebel Stakes as well.  He currently sits at number two on our Kentucky Derby rankings list, and deserves favoritism in this race.  The son of Tapit has gotten a mile and one-sixteenth without any problems at all, and I think he’ll stretch out to this distance fine.  Likely winner with the right trip.

4. Ride On Curlin

ROCRace Record:(8) 2-1-4

Earnings: $214,687

Jockey:Jon Court

Trainer:William Gowan

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:We saw a major progression from him last time out in the Rebel Stakes, as he battled with Strong Mandate all the way around the track before finishing a close third.  The workouts since that race have been huge, and many locals are picking this horse to pull off the upset.  We know the breeding is there, and we’ve seen flashes of brilliance talent wise, but can this “wise guy” horse get it done on the big stage?

5. Thundergram

Oaklawn 2011Race Record:(6) 1-3-1

Earnings:$65,600

Jockey: Norberto Arroyo Jr.

Trainer:Mark Casse

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:Curious spot for him to land…especially since trainer Mark Casse has a much more worthy competitor in Conquest Titan.  You can’t see much in the past performances that gives Thundergram any kind of a chance against this tough bunch of runners.

6. Commissioner

Commissioner_Top-Billing_Coglianese-684x533Race Record: (5) 2-1-1

Earnings:$189,100

Jockey:Mike Smith

Trainer:Todd Pletcher

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:I’m not ready to give up on him just yet!  Commissioner will finally get off of a track that favors speed when he runs in this one, and should benefit greatly from it.  He’ll need a little pace to run at, which he should get, and I love the mile and one-eighth distance for him.  Many people think the horse is too slow, but I believe the tracks he’s been running on made him look that way.  He’s my long shot pick!

7. Conquest Titan

ConquestTitanSwynfordStakes2013MB298Race Record:(7) 2-1-0

Earnings:$208,995

Jockey:Calvin Borel

Trainer:Mark Casse

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:While most have jumped off he Commissioner bandwagon, I’ve jumped off the Conquest Titan bandwagon.  Actually I was never on it to begin with.  I’ve never seen why this one had all the hype that he’s had, and I’ll make him beat me before I believe.  It is a little scary that so many still believe in him though…if you are one of those people maybe you can comment on this preview and explain why.

8. Bayern

bayern1Race Record:(2) 2-0-0

Earnings:$68,400

Jockey:Gary Stevens

Trainer:Bob Baffert

Graded Stakes Victories:0

The Verdict:File this one under the “wouldn’t be surprise with anything” category.  He’s a wild card in every sense of the word.  Lightly raced, been off for a while, but he’s showed a tremendous amount of talent.  I’ve heard lots of comparisons to Bodemeister this week, but Bode came to Hot Springs off a second place effort against a tough stakes field.  Bayern comes in off an easy allowance victory.  That lack of seasoning might keep him from winning.

9. Strong Mandate

Strong MandateRace Record:(7) 2-1-1

Earnings:$522,900

Jockey:Luis Saez

Trainer:D Wayne Lukas

Graded Stakes Victories:1

The Verdict:It’s put up or shut up time for Strong Mandate.  There is no question he had legit excuses when finishing third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile and second in the Southwest Stakes, but his fourth place effort in the Rebel with a perfect trip was concerning.  His breeding suggests he can run all day, but his races suggests one turn races are best of him.  He truly is a question mark.

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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 #1

Ride On Curlin was a Big Allowance Winner on Opening Weekend

Ride On Curlin was a Big Allowance Winner on Opening Weekend

Three Stars of the Week

– 1st Star: Drogue (KY) – Who saw this one coming??  In Saturday’s running of the Fifth Season Stakes all eyes where on Drogue’s stable mate, Cyber Secret, but it was Drogue who stole the show winning by an eye-popping nine lengths.  Coming into the race Drogue had won two nice allowance races at Churchill Downs, and trainer Mike Johnson had said the horse had been training excellent at Oaklawn since arriving.  Still, it was Cyber Secret who was expected to romp.  He was the winner of four races last year at Oaklawn, including the Razorback and Oaklawn Handicap.  The win for Drogue was his first ever stakes win, and you’d have to think he’ll get more chances to add to that as the meet progresses.

– 2nd Star: Street Story (KY) – The wide open three-year old filly division kicked off Friday, and it was Street Story who made the first statement of the year as she won the Dixie Belle in stylish fashion.  Street Story stalked the early hot pace, and was able to take the lead in mid stretch while holding off a late charge from Racing Holiday and Questile.  It appears Street Story is rounding into form nicely, and her pedigree suggests that she’ll be able to stretch out.  The Martha Washington in February could be her next race.

– 3rd Star: Ride On Curlin (KY) – There were several nice three-year performances on opening weekend, but Ride On Curlin’s stuck out as the best one.  After struggling last time out at Churchill Downs, he found his form again in the six furlong sprint allowance on Sunday.  He stalked a hot pace and was able to pounce at the top of the stretch and pull away with ease by two lengths.  The workman like effort will most likely propel Ride On Curlin into the Southwest Stakes next time out.  Consider him back in the Kentucky Derby picture.

Flop of the Week

More Than Beauty (KY) – It’s hard to get down on anyone from this weekend considering how tough the track was playing, but More Than Beauty gets this infamous award by finishing eighth in the Dixie Bell on opening day.  The pace was certainly hot in the race, and More Than Beauty was part of it, but she backed out very early before they even entered the stretch run.  She was the beaten 2-1 favorite, but I do think there will be better days ahead for her.

Trainer Standings

Rank Trainer Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Cody Autrey 11 5 0 1 $89,118 45% 6 55%
11 Federico   Villafranco 5 2 1 1 $32,133 40% 4 80%
13 Chris A. Hartman 2 2 0 0 $26,400 100% 2 100%
14 Lynn   Chleborad 5 2 0 0 $25,748 40% 2 40%
2 Steven M. Asmussen 10 1 1 0 $74,261 10% 2 20%
3 Mike W. Johnson 1 1 0 0 $60,000 100% 1 100%
4 Mark E. Casse 5 1 0 1 $46,629 20% 2 40%
5 Kellyn   Gorder 3 1 0 1 $41,100 33% 2 67%
6 David R. Vance 3 1 1 0 $37,048 33% 2 67%
7 Albert M. Stall, Jr. 1 1 0 0 $34,500 100% 1 100%
8 William G. Gowan 1 1 0 0 $33,600 100% 1 100%
9 George R. Arnold, II 1 1 0 0 $33,000 100% 1 100%
10 D. Wayne Lukas 8 1 1 3 $32,450 13% 5 63%
12 Brad H. Cox 4 1 1 0 $30,588 25% 2 50%
20 Jack   Frost 3 1 0 1 $14,457 33% 2 67%
21 Otto   Draper 3 1 0 0 $13,800 33% 1 33%
22 Paul E. Holthus 2 1 1 0 $13,600 50% 2 100%
24 Chris   Richard 6 1 0 0 $13,166 17% 1 17%
27 Jesse   Mullins 2 1 0 0 $11,350 50% 1 50%
29 Aaron   Shorter 2 1 0 0 $10,270 50% 1 50%

Jockey Standings

Rank Jockey Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Total $ Win% Top3 Top3%
1 Norberto   Arroyo, Jr. 13 6 0 2 $123,871 46% 8 62%
4 Jon Kenton Court 15 3 3 2 $66,764 20% 8 53%
10 David   Mello 11 3 0 0 $36,148 27% 3 27%
2 Ricardo   Santana, Jr. 14 2 2 0 $112,397 14% 4 29%
3 Calvin H. Borel 12 2 2 0 $110,621 17% 4 33%
6 Channing   Hill 10 2 0 1 $53,147 20% 3 30%
13 Ken S. Tohill 3 2 0 1 $28,100 67% 3 100%
15 Shane   Laviolette 5 2 0 0 $22,450 40% 2 40%
5 Terry J. Thompson 14 1 3 1 $55,228 7% 5 36%
7 Eurico Rosa Da Silva 4 1 0 1 $46,405 25% 2 50%
14 Jesus Lopez Castanon 5 1 0 2 $23,892 20% 3 60%
16 Ramon A. Vazquez 5 1 1 0 $21,882 20% 2 40%
18 Alex   Birzer 15 1 0 1 $18,620 7% 2 13%

Preview to Next Week

– Saturday: The Pippin Stakes – Fillies and Mares 4 Year Olds and Upward – 1 1/16th Miles – Purse: $100,000

– Monday: The Smarty Jones Stakes – Three Year Olds – 1 Mile – Purse: $150,000

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