Oaklawn Barn Notes April 8

April 8, 2014

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ride On Curlin Has His Connections Feeling Confident Heading into Saturday’s Derby

Billy Gowan, the trainer of Arkansas Derby (G1) contender Ride on Curlin, knew the colt was something special the first time he caught his eye.

“I picked him out of the Keeneland (September 2012 Yearling) sale. As soon as I saw him, I called my owner and said, ‘You better get right over here because we’re buying this one.’ We didn’t have much time because he was already in the back ring. We didn’t even have time to vet him. I gave twenty-five thousand for him.”

Owner Daniel Doherty’s investment proved wise as the son of Curlin, the 2007 Arkansas Derby winner and two-time Horse of the Year, has finished out of the money only once in eight starts and has earned $214,687. He has the chance to increase his bankroll significantly when he steps into the starting gate Saturday in the $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Ride on Curlin, who was third in both the Southwest Stakes (G3) and the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn, breezed seven furlongs in 1:26.4 here on Apr. 6 under exercise rider Brian Beccia.

“He worked really good and he’s ready,” said Gowan, who worked for Hall of Fame trainers Jack Van Berg and Bill Mott before going out on his own 20 years ago. “I think he’s ready to move forward from his third place in the Rebel, and he should.”

Gowan currently has five horses in his care and Ride on Curlin is the stable star. He currently stands in 23rd place with 15 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, but with 170 points (100-40-20-10 for finishing first through fourth) up for the taking, a strong Arkansas Derby effort will punch his ticket to the big show.

“He’s the best horse I’ve ever had, by far,” said Gowan, who trains on the Oaklawn-Churchill Downs circuit. “I’ve never had an Arkansas Derby horse before, let alone a Kentucky Derby horse, so this is pretty exciting.”

Jon Court picks up the mount on Ride on Curlin.

Post positions for the Arkansas Derby will be drawn Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Central in the first floor of the Oaklawn Grandstand.

Other Arkansas Derby probables with riders are Bayern (Gary Stevens), Commissioner (Mike Smith), Conquest Titan (Calvin Borel), Danza (Joe Bravo), Strong Mandate (Luis Saez), Tapiture (Joel Rosario) and Thundergram (Norberto Arroyo Jr.). Chitu and Rebranded are possible.

Rivals Strong Mandate and Tapiture Ready for Fourth Meeting

Strong contenders Strong Mandate and Tapiture, who have been stabled on the grounds this meet, continue to please their connections with just days remaining before Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, which will be the fourth time the two colts have faced each other dating back to a maiden special weight at Saratoga, which Strong Mandate won.

“Strong Mandate’s doing fine. He’s ready,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won the 1984 edition of the race with stakes record holder Althea (1:46.4), the only filly to win the race, and with Tank’s Prospect the following year.

In the first start of his 3-year-old campaign, Robert Baker and William Mack’s Strong Mandate was second to Tapiture in the Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 14 and then was fourth in a roughly-run Rebel Stakes (G2) last time out Mar. 15.

“I hope he’ll get better racing luck this time and I think he has a little better conditioning now, too. I think he’s had a good thirty days so I’m looking for a much better effort from him,” Lukas said.

The $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) is one of the supporting stakes on the Arkansas Derby Day card on the closing day of the prestigious Racing Festival of the South and of the meet. He will saddle Grade 1 winner and reigning 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge in the race.

“He is doing absolutely super,” said Lukas. “He couldn’t be doing any better. I’m real pleased with where they both are. We’ve got pretty much everything behind us so it’s just keeping him and Strong Mandate happy now.”

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Tapiture, second in the Rebel, is also right on schedule for trainer Steve As-mussen. In his final work for the Arkansas Derby on Apr. 7, he breezed a half mile in :50.4 under Abel Flores and over a sloppy track.

“He came out his work very nicely,” said Darren Fleming, Steve Asmussen’s Oaklawn-based assistant.. He ate up last night and he’s happy and healthy. He’s run two good races here and he seems to like it here. Hopefully, he’ll get a little smoother trip this time.”

Joel Rosario, who rode Strong Mandate in his last three starts, will be aboard Tapiture in the Derby while Luis Saez, the regular rider for Will Take Charge, picks up the mount on Strong Mandate for Lukas.

Tapiture is currently in 13th place with 42 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and Strong Mandate is on the outside looking in for one of the 20 berths with 11 points and in the 27th spot. The Arkansas Derby is part of the championship series of qualifying races with 170 points (100-40-20-10) up for the taking.


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