Oaklawn Barn Notes March 6

March 7, 2013

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Razorback Draws 10-Horse Field

Saturday’s $150,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) drew a competitive 10-horse field featuring some familiar horses to Oaklawn fans, including last year’s winner Alternation, Donoharm, winner of the Fifth Season and Essex this season, and two of last year’s top 3-year-olds, Najjaar and Atigun.

Shortleaf Stable’s Atigun used an allowance win and a fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) as a springboard to greater success later in the year that included a third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2). He’s using a similar plan this year. He returned to the races Feb. 15 in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup last November and finished third behind fellow Razorback runners Cyber Secret and Golden Rod.

 “We think he’ll improve off that last start,” said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. “Obviously Lynn Whiting’s horse [Cyber Secret] is the “now” horse and Donoharm has turned out really strong. But we knew going in we weren’t going to be firing our best bullet last time. We got what we wanted out of it and he’s been training like he’s ready to move forward for this.”

Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Donoharm has done no wrong since arriving in Hot Springs and could be the likely favorite as he goes for his sixth straight win Saturday. He went off at odds at 13-1 in the opening day Fifth Season and 7-1 in the Feb. 2 Essex Handicap, but should garner a little more respect in the Razorback.

Dan Bearden’s San Pablo, the beaten favorite when second in the Essex, makes a return trip from trainer Todd Pletcher’s South Florida base. He drew post nine, just to the inside of Alternation, who drew post 10.

Pin Oak Stud’s Alternation, the 119 lb. highweight, will be making his first start since last October, but has been training forwardly for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. Last year, he swept the Essex, Razorback and Oaklawn (G2) Handicaps.

The complete field for the Razorback Handicap, in post position order, with riders and weights: Golden Ron, Ramon Vazquez, 111; Atigun, Victor Lebron, 116; Cyber Secret, Robby Albarado, 113; Donoharm, Cliff Berry, 117; Ride the Lightening, Ricardo Santana Jr., 111; Raison D’Etat, Eddie Martin Jr., 111; Najjaar, Terry Thompson, 112; Brethren, Mike Smith, 114; San Pablo, Chris DeCarlo, 117, and Alternation, Luis Quinonez, 119.

Top Five from Martha Washington Return in Honeybee

The top five finishers from the Feb. 9 Martha Washington Stakes, led by the winner Sister Ginger and runner-up Rose to Gold, will meet four newcomers in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3). The 1 1/16-mile race, which offers a total of 85 points towards entry into the Kentucky Oaks (G1), will be the seventh of 10 races Saturday.

Sister Ginger, who overcame a seasonal debut Jan. 11, to win the Martha Washington, tuned up for the Honeybee with an easy half mile breeze in 50 seconds Sunday. She drew post seven of nine and will once again have the services of leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr.

“We are anxious to see,” said Darren Fleming, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “This will be a good little test for her to go up against the tougher company. She’s training good and doing good.”

Rose to Gold was making her Oaklawn debut in the Martha Washington and has continued to train well at her winter home in Hot Springs. The Friends Lake filly began her career last summer with runaway victories in two stakes at Calder. She will have the services of jockey Calvin Borel from post position three as she continues to move toward her ultimate goal of making the Kentucky Oaks via the series of races Oaklawn offers.

“Post 3 gives us some lovely options,” said trainer Sal Santoro. “She’s feeling good and we get (Calvin) Borel. I’m pretty happy about that. It’s pretty exciting. We are just hoping for the best. We’ll see what happens out of this race. If we come away with enough points I might skip the Fantasy and take her home. I’d train her on her home track and give her a little break and look to ship to Churchill eight or nine days out, but of course, it all depends on the points system now so we’ll have to see what happens Saturday first.”

Among the newcomers is WinStar Farm’s Awesome Mama, who is undefeated in two career starts, including an impressive two-length victory in a six-furlong optional allowance race at Oaklawn Jan. 27.

“She would have had to come back in two weeks for the Martha Washington and that was too quick so we had to wait for this one,” said trainer Shannon Ritter. “She’s been training well. It looks like we have some nice fillies around here. We’re stretching out for the first time, but she’s bred to go long and we just hope she can do it. It’s going to be a test.”

Two Florida based fillies, both impressive allowance winners at Gulfstream, testing the water in Hot Springs are Flash Forward, who came town with her stablemate Always In A Tiz right before he started in the Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes (G3) and Flashy Gray, who arrived Tuesday by plane along with Razorback Handicap (G3) runner San Pablo.

The complete field for the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes, in post-position order, with riders: Flash Forward, Robby Albarado; American Sugar, Alex Birzer; Rose to Gold, Calvin Borel; Awesome Mama, Ramon Vazquez; Sittin At The Bar, Mark Guidry; Broken Spell, Jon Court; Sister Ginger, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Flashy Gray, Mike Smith, and Liberty Girl, Luis Quinonez.

Lukas Pleased With His Two Rebel Hopes after Latest Works

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas declared himself “very pleased” the morning after two of his leading 3-year-olds posted workouts Tuesday in preparation for the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.

Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes here in January, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. A short time later, Calumet Farm’s Oxbow breezed the same distance in 1:13 4/5 in his first workout since the Lecomte Stakes winner finished a close fourth in the Risen Star Stakes, both at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

“They were excellent,” said Lukas. “They both had nice breezes. They got a little conditioning and handled the new surface. I really like the way they went. We sent them up separately yet they both came back with works that were almost identical, and I like that.”

Lukas reported that Titletown Five, runner-up in Saturday’s Gazebo Stakes in his first start as a 3-year-old, emerged from the race in good order.

“He fooled me into thinking I had him fit enough,” said Lukas. “The good ones will do that because they make things look so easy. It was a good race for him and we should have plenty now to move forward with him.”

With both 3-year-olds running in the Rebel, Lukas secured fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith to ride Oxbow while two-time Arkansas Derby (G1)-winning jockey Jon Court remains aboard Will Take Charge.

In addition to the pair of colts, Lukas breezed Raison d’Etat, an entrant in Saturday’s $150,000 Razorback Handicap, three furlongs in 37 4/5 as well as Broken Spell, third in two starts here this meet including the Martha Washington Stakes, who went a half-mile in 50 1/5. She will race in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes. Calumet’s grass racing star and 2012 Rebel runner-up Optimizer was the bullet worker at a half-mile, going in 48 1/5.

Carve Pointed to Rebel, Hoping to Carve Space in the Potential Full Field

With $600,000 and 85 points on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby,’ a large field is coming together for the Rebel Stakes (G2) and that has the connections of undefeated Carve anxious about getting a spot if the 14-horse starting gate fills to capacity.

The 3-year-old gelding is 2-for-2 with both impressive wins coming at Oaklawn. He started his career for trainer Al Stall and owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, making his debut in a maiden claiming race, where trainer Steve Asmussen dropped a check with $30,000 worth of owner Michael Langford’s money and took him back to his barn. His first run for his new team was a gutty score over highly regarded Title Contender, trained by Bob Baffert, in an allowance race Feb. 17.

Oaklawn officials and published reports indicate 15 horses are considering running in the 1 1/16th-mile contest on March 16. If all 15 enter, one would have to be excluded and be placed on an “also eligible” list hoping another entrant scratches. Total career earnings (excluding money won in restricted races like those reserved only for horses bred in a particular state) are used to rank the entrants. Carve has $47,400 earned in his two wins, placing him 13th and very much “on the bubble.”

“We are going to monitor how he’s developing,” said Darren Fleming, assistant to Asmussen overseeing the Oaklawn string. “It really depends on how many come up and how he comes up to the race. We need to see if he’s going to be eligible, but for that kind of money, it’s definitely worth taking a chance.”

Fleming has helped guide Team Asmussen back from a slow start to the meet to third-place in the Oaklawn trainer’s standings. Through the first month of the season, last year’s leading stable was just 2-for-34 but with 10 second-place finishes, meaning they had as many place horses as the leading trainer at the time (Chris Richard) had wins. Since Feb. 9 when Sister Ginger upset the Martha Washington Stakes with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, Asmussen has gone 12-for-37, winning nearly a third of his starts. Many of those wins came along with equally red-hot Santana, who has gone 22-for-81 since Feb. 9.