April 10, 2014
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, April 10, 2014) - Mike McCarty’s Lemon Drop Dream and jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. took advantage of a dream trip in the 41st running of the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Thursday to give trainer Steve Asmussen his second consecutive win in the six furlong dash.
The 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid was brushed leaving the gate and dropped back as Heitai, the 3-5 favorite in the field of five horses, and Alsvid hooked up and set blistering fractions of :21 1/5 and :43 3/5 for the first half mile. Alsvid, ridden by Ken Tohill, shook off his rival inside the eighth pole, but Lemon Drop Dream closed with a powerful kick and strong urging from his rider to prevail by a neck in 1:09 on a fast track.
Apprehender was another 2 ¼ lengths back in third and was followed by Picko’s Pride and front runner Heitai, the winner of 4 straight stakes races in Louisiana and five of his last six efforts. Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle, who would have been the prohibitive favorite, was scratched earlier in the day by trainer Bob Baffert after it was discovered he had been given a tranquilizer prior to boarding the flight from California to Hot Springs on Wednesday.
“It was the best possible scenario,” said Asmussen, who won his first Count Fleet Sprint during Oaklawn’s signature Racing Festival of the South last year with Justin Phillip. “Heitai came in with the great form and somebody chose to tackle him. That worked out perfectly for us. It’s great to win this race two years in a row and the Racing Festival of the South is huge for us in the Midwest.”
Karl Broberg, Heitai’s trainer said, “That’s a tough way to lose a race when they go the half in forty-three and three. He got eye-balled, and hopefully, we can regroup and come back at five-eighths on the grass.”
The Kentucky-bred Lemon Drop Dream returned $16.20, $4.80 and $9.60 at odds of 7-1 . The victory was his fourth in nine starts and his first stakes score while he increased his bankroll to $168,130.
“We targeted this opportunity for him. He’s put together some really big sprint races this winter, but this is obviously his biggest win,” said Asmussen, who is well on his way to his third straight and sixth overall Oaklawn training title and who will saddle 9-5 morning line favorite Tapiture in the $1 million Arkansas Derby Saturday.