Van Berg says Cutacorner has earned Southwest shot
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg has sent out a promising pair of 3-year-old winners during the young Oaklawn Park meet and at least one of them is bound for the Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes.
Cutacorner is set for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest on Feb. 15 after winning an optional $62,500 claiming route at the same distance Jan. 21. Cutacorner earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 84.
“I’m going to go back in the Southwest,” Van Berg said. “He’s maturing real good. He’s come around.”
Van Berg said Quincy Hamilton will have the mount on Cutacorner, who in December finished fourth to Discreetness in the $250,000 Springboard Mile at Remington. Discreetness went on to win the Smarty Jones here on Jan. 18.
Cutacorner made his first start beyond a mile in his race at Oaklawn.
“He’s a good colt,” Van Berg said. “He’s developing, and I think the further we go the better horse he’ll be.”
Cutacorner, who races for Kay Stillman of Denver, is a son of Even The Score. Van Berg said he was named for a horse his father, Hall of Fame trainer Marion Van Berg, bought sight unseen from another Hall of Famer, Allen Jerkens. Jerkens’s clients were not planning to bring the Cutacorner of old to New York, and he became a multiple stakes winner for the Van Bergs. Jerkens died last March. “He was a good friend of mine and we used the name again,” Van Berg said.
Giant Trick, the other 3-yearold winner this meet for Van Berg, also has a name with a story. Van Berg said the horse’s name is a bit of a play on words he came up with for owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs.
“I said, ‘We’re going to name him Giant Trick because if we win a derby with him, a $15,000 purchase, that will be a giant trick to do that,” said Van Berg. “So, that’s how he got his name. And he’s a good colt. He had bad luck over there at Remington.”
Giant Trick was the pacesetter in the Springboard Mile, putting up fast fractions before finishing ninth. Earlier in the meet, he finished second or third in three straight maiden special weight races. Van Berg brought him to Oaklawn and Giant Trick won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight by two lengths Jan. 16.
“I ran him short the other day,” Van Berg said. “Now he’ll stretch out to a mile the next race.
“He’s got a lot of quality to him.”
Giant Trick will be nominated to the Southwest, but plans for the horse have yet to be determined, said Van Berg. A colt by Neko Bay, he worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 here Wednesday.
“He worked very good,” Van Berg said. “He finished fast. That’s what I liked. He galloped out strong. That’s a good work for him. I’m trying to teach him to come off the pace.”
Van Berg has gotten off to a fast start at Oaklawn. He won his fourth race of the meet in Friday’s opener, with Flyer’s Fantasy ($26.40).
“I had a lot of horses that I’d taken time with getting them ready for here because the purses are so big,” he said. “We started off really good.
“We’ve got some good horses. They’re very competitive. Put them in the right society, you’ll be all right.”
Van Berg, who also has a division of horses at Sam Houston, said he is debating sending horses to Indiana Grand following the season at Oaklawn.
Borel starts days Sunday
Hall of Fame rider Calvin Borel will begin serving a three-day suspension on Sunday for a riding infraction, according to the stewards at Oaklawn. Borel’s days extend to Thursday and Friday.
Borel’s suspension stems from the eighth race on Jan. 21, when his mount, American Dubai, was disqualified from second and placed third for drifting into the path of another horse.
The race was won by Cutacorner.
Oklahoma sets policy on EHV-1
The day after Oaklawn banned horses from Arizona and New Mexico over concerns about equine herpesvirus, a similar policy has been adopted by all tracks in Oklahoma. Remington Park, Will Rogers, and Fair Meadows will not admit horses if they are coming from a county with a track or facility under quarantine for equine herpesvirus, as well as a county adjacent to quarantined facilities.
Sunland Park in New Mexico has suspended races until at least Feb. 9 after more than five horses tested positive for equine herpesvirus. Turf Paradise in Arizona has a suspected case of equine herpesvirus. One of the infected horses in New Mexico was euthanized.