Teams plan for post-Oaklawn meet
Magnum Moon was the standout of the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park with a four-length triumph in Saturday’s Grade
1 $1 million Arkansas Derby, but trainer Todd Pletcher and other teams are now planning for the rest of the year.
Oaklawn’s 2018 live racing meet concluded on Saturday. Dates for the 2019 season were moved back with the meet scheduled to open on Jan. 25 and continue for three weeks after the Arkansas Derby through May 4, the date of the 2019 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Magnum Moon now leads in qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby with 150 after wins in the Arkansas Derby and the Grade 2
$900,000 Rebel Stakes on March 17 in Oaklawn’s final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby, which offered 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference – if the race overfills – based on points earned in designated races like the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. Earnings in non-restricted stakes races is the first tiebreaker in ranking horses.
Quip ran second to Magnum Moon on Saturday and now ranks 10th in the standings with 90 points. Elliot Walden, president/CEO and racing manager for WinStar Farm, said Quip’s status for the Kentucky Derby is fluid. WinStar bred and co-owns Quip, a son of Distorted Humor.
“I don’t know,” Walden said, when asked if Quip would be pointed for the Kentucky Derby. “He was second best today. He ran hard. Good effort and we’ll see what happens.”
WinStar also owns pieces of Audible, Noble Indy and unbeaten Justify, who ranks ninth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 100 points and is pointing for the race. Justify is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Also trained by Baffert, Solomini has 54 points to rank 12th.
Pletcher is the trainer for Magnum Moon, Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso, who are first, third, fourth and fifth in qualifying points.
Solomini, third in the Arkansas Derby and second in the Rebel, is pointing for the Kentucky Derby, said Justin Zayat, racing and stallion manager for Zayat Stables, LLC, on Sunday. Zayat Stables co-owns the Curlin colt.
Two other Oaklawn-raced horses are headed to the Kentucky Derby.
Bravazo, a Jan. 13 allowance/optional claiming winner for Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas, has 54 points to rank 13th.
My Boy Jack, winner of the Grade 3 $500,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 19, secured a spot with a victory in the Grade 3 $200,000 Lexington Stakes Saturday at Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky. My Boy Jack ranks 14th with 52 points.
Nine-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen has four horses on the bubble, including Arkansas Derby fourth Combatant, who ranks 21st with 32 points. Stablemate Dream Baby Dream, seventh in the Arkansas Derby, has
20 points to rank 24th.
Other winners of Festival races included Unbridled Mo in Friday’s Grade 1 $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for older fillies and mares, Sassy Sienna in Friday’s Grade 3 $400,000 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, City of Light in Saturday’s Grade 2 $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses and Whitmore in Saturday’s Grade 3 $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older horses.
Trained by Pletcher, Unbridled Mo upset champion Unique Bella by 2 ¼ lengths in the Apple Blossom under six-time local riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.
Sassy Sienna punched her ticket to the Grade
1 $1 million Kentucky Oaks with a nose victory over Wonder Gadot in the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy for trainer Brad Cox. The Kentucky Oaks will be run on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Cox already had the Kentucky Oaks favorite in Monomoy Girl.
Monomoy Girl and Sassy Sienna are second and third with 154 and 115 points, respectively, on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. Midnight Bisou leads with 160 points for William Spawr.
Trainer Mark Casse said Wonder Gadot, who ranks eighth with 84 points, is pointing for the Kentucky Oaks, which is limited to 14 starters, with starting preference – if the race overfills – based on points earned in designated races like the Fantasy. It offered 170 points to the top four
Fantasy fourth Cosmic Burst is “unlikely” for the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said. Cosmic Burst won the Grade 3
$200,000 Honeybee Stakes March 10 and ranks
11th with 62 points.
Eskimo Kisses, a two-time winner at Oaklawn meeting, is pointing for the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Kenny McPeek said. Eskimo Kisses ranks ninth with 80 points.
Trainer Mac Robertson said he’s “keeping all options open” for Fantasy third Amy’s Challenge, who ranks 13th with 40 points. Robertson calls Amy’s Challenge “80 percent” for the Grade 2 $200,000 Eight Belles Stakes May 4 at Churchill Downs and “20 percent” for the Kentucky Oaks.
City of Light edged Grade 1 winner and millionaire Accelerate by a neck under Drayden Van Dyke to win the Oaklawn Handicap in his two-turn debut.
Trained by Mike McCarthy, a former Pletcher assistant, City of Light could make his next start in the Grade 1 $1.2 million Met Mile June 9 at Belmont Park in New York.
Heavily favored Whitmore became the first repeat winner of the Count Fleet since Semaphore Man (2008-09) for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett, of Hot Springs. Moquett said Whitmore’s long-range goal is a return appearance in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint this fall at Churchill Downs.
RUNNER-UP: Trainer Rodolphe Brisset gallops Quip around the Oaklawn Park racetrack Wednesday. Quip ran second in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday and could run in the Kentucky Derby next month.