Oaklawn Barn Notes Feb. 15

Feb. 15, 2014

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Strong Mandate Made 2-1 Favorite for Monday’s Southwest Stakes

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has had a lot of luck preparing his young horses at Oaklawn for Triple Crown race success dating back to 1985 when Tank’s Prospect won the Arkansas Derby and then the Preakness Stakes. In 1996, the Lukas-trained Grindstone used a second in the Arkansas Derby as a launching pad to victory in the Kentucky Derby and most recently, Oxbow finished second to his champion stablemate Will Take Charge in the 2013 Rebel Stakes before going on to win the Preakness Stakes.

The latest horse from the Lukas stable hoping to take the Arkansas path to Kentucky and beyond is Robert Baker and William Mack’s Strong Mandate, the 2-1 morning line favorite for Monday’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). The Tiznow colt will be making his 3-year-old debut in the 1 1/16-mile race after closing out his 2-year-old season with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He will have the services of 2013 Kentucky Derby winning rider Joel Rosario.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” said Lukas. “We hold this horse in such high regard. It’s time to get started with spring rolling around and getting ready for the Triple Crown trail. We’re excited to see him run.”

While Strong Mandate has already established himself as a Triple Crown hopeful based on his form last year, the undefeated Bourbonize is hoping he can earn that distinction Monday with a good run in the Southwest. The Tiz Wonderful colt easily won an allowance race opening day Jan. 10 and has been training well since.

“He’s training well,” Gorder said. “I was a little concerned about losing a breeze and some training to the weather. The same thing happened his last race and he ran well fresh.  Hopefully that’ll be the case again.”
 
The Southwest Stakes is the second race in Oaklawn’s series for 3-year-olds and will be followed by the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 15 before culminating with the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 12. The winner will receive 10 points towards qualification in the Kentucky Derby.

The complete field for the $300,000 Southwest Stakes in post position order with riders and morning line odds: Tapiture, Ricardo Santana Jr., 3-1; Coastline, Shaun Bridgmohan, 8-1; Tanzanite Cat, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Louies Flower, Luis Quinonez, 12-1; Kendall’s Boy, Leandro Goncalves, 12-1; Paganol, Norberto Arroyo Jr, 8-1.; Walt, Ken Tohill, 15-1; Strong Mandate, Joel Rosario, 2-1; Ride On Curlin, Calvin Borel, 6-1; Son of Dixie, Cliff Berry, 30-1; Fire Starter, Robby Albarado, 20-1, and Bourbonize, Ramon Vazquez, 15-1.

The Southwest is part of a special Presidents Day card on Monday with a 1 p.m. first post. The day will also feature the $55,000 Progressive Cash Giveaway. Oaklawn will give away $1,000 after the first race on up through the 10th race when $10,000 will be given away to one lucky fan. Guests must be present to win.

Don’t Tell Sophia Ready to Defend Her Bayakoa Title

Phil Sims and Jerry Namy’s Don’t Tell Sophia was one of the most impressive runners during Oaklawn’s 2013 meet when she won both the Pippin and Bayakoa by widening lengths and she was equally impressive when she repeated that Pippin victory Jan. 18. She will be heavily favored to pick up her second Bayakoa Stakes victory when she faces nine other rivals in Sunday’s running of the 1 1/16 mile race.

Don’t Tell Sophia, a six-year-old Congaree mare, braved the weather and worked a bullet half-mile Wednesday in 47 3/5.

“She’s definitely on track for the Bayakoa,” Sims said. “She had a nice maintenance work the other day and trained Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I think she’s sitting okay in there.”

Trainer Mark Casse will be taking a double shot at Don’t Tell Sophia while looking for a little revenge in the Bayakoa, named for the two-time Eclipse Award-winning Older Mare and winner of the 1989 Apple Blossom (G1) here.
 
Casse will start Dixie Strike, who carries the colors of John Oxley, and Sisterly Love, owned by Gary Barber. Sisterly Love tuned up with a bullet 3f breeze in 35.40 over the Oaklawn strip on Thursday morning.
 
Sisterly Love has been idle since finishing sixth behind Don’t Tell Sophia in the Chilukki Stakes (G2) at Churchill on November 2.
 
“She’s a nice filly and she won some nice races for us in Toronto,” said Casse. “She ran a big, big race in the Ontario Matron (G3). Her last start was at Churchill and she got away bad and she just didn’t run great race so we gave her a bit of a breather and now she’s back in action. My only concern with her is that we shipped her out there and then we had all that bad weather so she hasn’t gotten in as much work over the track as I would have liked.”

As for Dixie Strike, she finished sixth and last against winner Don’t Tell Sophia in the Pippin Stakes here on January 18 and never was involved in the race.
 
“Her last race was a head scratcher,” Casse said. “She trained well going into the race, even though she only had one breeze over that track after we brought her from Florida. We’re finding that some of our horses need two or three breezes and maybe even a race.”

The complete field for the Bayakoa Stakes, in post-position order, with riders and morning line odds: Don’t Tell Sophia, Channing Hill, 8-5; Imposing Grace, Israel Ocampo, 8-1; Dreamin Big, Francisco Torres, 20-1; Sisterly Love, Eurico Da Silva, 5-1; Dixie Strike, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 12-1; Our Domain, Chris Emigh, 12-1; Bryan’s Jewel, Seth Martinez, 5-1; Sister Ginger, Ricardo Santana Jr., 12-1; Fully Living, Jesus Castanon, 12-1, and Maid on a Mission, Luis Quinonez, 30-1.

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