Oaklawn Barn Notes Jan. 18

Jan. 19, 2013

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Calhoun Holding Hot Hand for Pippin Stakes

Trainer Bret Calhoun got the Oaklawn meet off to a fast start by winning the opening day Fifth Season Stakes with Donoharm and this weekend he will attempt to win two more stakes with Jemima’s Pearl and Minesave in Saturdray’s $75,000 Pippin Stakes and Sam’s Bliss in Sunday’s $60,000 American Beauty Stakes.

Fans may remember Jemima’s Pearl from last year when she finished third in the Fantasy Stakes (G2) when trained by Bob Baffert. The Distorted Humor filly was turned over to Calhoun after a disappointing effort in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and proceeded to pick up two more stakes placings. She will be making her seasonal debut in the Pippin as part of an entry installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite. Owner Gillian S. Campbell is also part owner of Vuition, trained by Steve Asmussen.

“Everybody is going well,” said Calhoun. “Jemima’s Pearl, we had been pointing to the Pippin for quite a while to take her back (to Oaklawn). “The weather has been an issue for everybody, but I don’t think it’s affected her in a way that would have changed our thought about going there based on her race last year. She was training very well with us here at the Fair Grounds and she’s training really good up there. There’s nothing that really worries me beyond the fact that we all lost some time.”

Minesave, by Mineshaft, enters the Pippin off a second in the Orleans Stakes at Delta Downs on Nov. 17.

“Minesave, we had been pointing to an allowance with the back-of-the-mind plan that we could go in the stakes if that didn’t fill,” said Calhoun. “She had a really troubled trip in her last race and she’s been doing very well. When she won her race at Monmouth there wasn’t a lot of places to run in. We ended up going from New Jersey, to a layover of a day or two at Churchill before heading on down to Louisiana. So with the trip and the schedule it made sense to freshen her up and point to the race we did. She was very unlucky in that race. She had a tough start and I think really she was much the best in there.”

Sam’s Bliss was one of six fillies entered for Sunday’s American Beauty as she seeks to give Calhoun back-to-back wins in the six furlong race. Last year, he won the race with Gleaming.

“Sam’s Bliss – she has a lot of breeding for the grass but so far she hasn’t really run as well on the grass as you would think, so we brought her down here to get her on dirt and she’s doing really well,” said Calhoun. “She’s caught some deep fields in her last couple. Her race two back at Churchill was a just a $60,000 stakes but she ended in there with some Graded stakes fillies, so she’s been in tough.”

Calhoun said that Donoharm came out of the Fifth Season very well, but no firm decision has been made on where to start him next. The next opportunity for older horses at a distance is the $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Feb. 9.

The complete field for the Pippin, in post-position order, with riders and morning line odds: Mineshave, Victor Lebron, 9-2; Bahama Bound, E.T. Baird, 9-2; Lady Candidate, Alex Birzer, 8-1; Vuition, Terry Thompson, 9-5; Juliet Dear, Ricardo Santa Jr., 30-1; Jemima’s Pearl, Robby Albarado, 9-5; Miss Hockaday, Jenna Joubert, 12-1; Don’t Tell Sophia, Ramon Vazquez, 3-1, and Itsabeautifulthing, Luis Quinonez, 10-1. 

Whiting Switches to Plan B with Lady Stonewall; Offer Alex Ready for Smarty Jones

When the $60,000 Dixie Belle was cancelled last Saturday because of heavy rain, trainer Lynn Whiting had to alter his plans slightly and give Charles J. Cella’s Lady Stonewall one more workout before reentering the six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies. The Harlan’s Holiday filly was one of eight fillies to enter the co-feature on Sunday’s card. All seven of the original entries came back and My Daughter’s Song, an original nominee, also entered the race.

Lady Stonewall showed her readiness for the race by posting a bullet half-mile workout in 47 1/5 Thursday over a fast track. Also, working Thursday was her stablemate Officer Alex, who breezed five furlongs in 59 3/5.

Whiting said he was pleased with Lady Stonewall’s work, but felt Officer Alex went too fast for his taste.

Officer Alex will make his 3-year-old debut Monday  in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, named in honor of the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, who swept Oaklawn’s series for 3-year-olds en route to his Triple Crown success. He enters the race having ended his juvenile campaign with a victory in the Pennsylvania Nursery at Park, the same race that Smarty Jones used as a spring board to his great success.

Whiting says it’s way too early to start making comparisons between Officer Alex and Smarty Jones and even his own Kentucky Derby winner, Lil E. Tee, but this weekend will give everyone a much better idea of what kind of horse Officer Alex is.

Smarty Jones’ jockey Stewart Elliott has been aboard Officer Alex for his two career victories from three starts and will be flying in for Monday’s race.