Oaklawn Barn Notes - Jan. 19

Jan. 22, 2014

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Fire Starter Could Complete Big Holiday Weekend for Hobby

Less than 24 hours after celebrating Tiz Miz Sue’s Eclipse Award nomination as champion older female at the awards banquet held at Gulfstream Park near Miami, FL, trainer Steve Hobby was back at Oaklawn to saddle his two starters on Sunday’s card and hopes to complete the holiday weekend with a victory in Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes with Fire Starter.

Saturdays’ Eclipse Awards were the first for Hobby, who trained Tiz Miz Sue for Carol Ricks’ Cresran Stable. The Tiznow mare, who retired last summer with $1,129,709 in earnings, received the nomination based on her repeat win in Oaklawn’s Azeri Stakes (G3) and victory in Belmont’s Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1). Hobby has trained for Ricks since 1983 and in addition to Tiz Miz Sue, among their best horses were stakes winner Sue’s Good News, the dam of Tiz Miz Sue, and multiple stakes winning millionaire Chindi, now Hobby’s stable pony.

“I left yesterday and caught the 6 am flight today,” said Hobby. “It was such a big honor. I’m so happy Mrs. Ricks; she was beside herself she was so happy.”

In the Smarty Jones, Hobby will saddle Fire Starter for another longtime client, Alex and Joann Lieblong of Conway, AR. Two years ago, Hobby and the Lieblongs won the stakes, the first race on the path to the April 12 Arkansas Derby, with Junebugred.

Fire Starter, a gray or roan Tapit colt, seems to finally be getting things together after a rough start to his career. After a fourth and a third in his first two races, respectively, he blew the turn in a race at Churchill in his third start and was pulled up. Most recently, he won a maiden race at Laurel Park by 10 ¾ lengths Dec. 31 and has since worked well at Oaklawn.

“He had a great work the other day,” said Hobby.  “We always thought he was a good horse. I guess we’ll find out.”

Fire Starter, who will be ridden by Robby Albarado, worked a half mile in 50 Jan. 13. It was the 18th fastest of 94 at the distance.

Oaklawn’s special Martin Luther King Jr. Day card begins at 1 p.m. In addition to the Smarty Jones Stakes, there will be a free Oaklawn cap giveaway with paid admission.

Gentlemen’s Bet Continues Preparations for Seasonal Debut

The connections of Gentlemen’s Bet, last seen finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November at Santa Anita Park, hope for an even bigger 2014 and aren’t wasting much time getting things started. The 5-year-old Half Ours horse is slated to start in the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 8 and worked an easy half mile in 49 1/5 Sunday in preparation for that race.

“It was good, perfect,” said trainer Ron Moquett, who trains the horse for Harry Rosenblum. “He worked with Right to Vote. They’re regular work partners and did it like real pros.”

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. was aboard Gentlemen’s Bet and jockey Greta Kuntzweiler was on Right to Vote.