ASMUSSEN LOOKS TO ADD TO OAKLAWN STAKES TALLY IN BACHELOR
Photo Credit: Coady Photography
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 29, 2022) – Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen continues his march toward 100 career Oaklawn stakes victories when he sends out the top two choices in the program for the $150,000 Bachelor Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Bachelor, a 6-furlong race for 3-year-olds, is 5:10 p.m. (Central). First post is 1 p.m., with the Bachelor going as the ninth of 10 races.
Asmussen recorded his record-extending 97th career Oaklawn stakes victorywhen Jackie’s Warrior captured the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses April 16. Jackie’s Warrior was an Eclipse Award winner in 2021 as the country’s champion male sprinter.
Asmussen has won the Bachelor a record seven times, including three of the last four runnings. The stretch is highlighted by 2018 winner Mitole, who returned to capture the 2019 Count Fleet en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter that year.
Asmussen’s two entrants Saturday are Cairama, the 8-5 program favorite, and Cogburn, the 2-1 second choice who races for prominent Tulsa, Okla., attorney Clark Brewster and Texans William and Corinne Heiligbrodt. The Heiligbrodts, longtime major clients of the trainer, also campaigned Mitole.
Cogburn will be making his stakes debut after being favored in all three career starts, including his career debut last August at Saratoga. After finishing fourth behind subsequent Grade 3 winner My Prankster at 6 ½ furlongs, Cogburn has returned with two sharp front-running victories at 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden by 4 ¼ lengths Sept. 16 at Churchill Downs and captured an entry-level allowance race by four lengths March 25 at Oaklawn.
“His last two races have been extremely fast and he’s trained nicely since,” Asmussen said. “It is great to have what we feel should be a standout 3-year-old sprinter again this year.”
The projected six-horse Bachelor field from the rail out: Unified Report, Francisco Arrieta to ride, 124 pounds, 7-2 on the morning line; Ain’t Life Grand, Elvin Gonzalez, 124, 6-1; Cairama, Isaac Castillo, 121, 8-5; Mowins, Geovanni Franco, 124, 10-1; Cogburn, Ricardo Santana Jr., 121, 2-1; and Whelen Springs, Emmanuel Esquivel, 121, 8-1.
Triple Crown nominee Cairama returns to stakes company after a seven-length entry-level allowance victory sprinting April 10 at Oaklawn. Cairama had been on the Kentucky Derby trail before finishing 10th in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 26. The Rebel was Oaklawn’s third of four Kentucky Derby points races this year.
Unified Report will be making his Oaklawn debut after being crowned the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s champion 2-year-old colt or gelding following a perfect 2021 campaign (3 for 3), highlighted by $100,000 state-bred stakes victories at Delta Downs and Fair Grounds.
Unified Report beat open company in a March 12 allowance sprint at Fair Grounds and exits a 10th in the $400,000 Lafayette Stakes for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs April 8 at Keeneland.
“The track got a little bit slippery,” trainer Dallas Stewart said, referring to the wet-fast surface for the Lafayette. “He didn’t look like he handled it very good, but I think he’s a quality horse.”
Ain’t Life Grand, who will be making his 2022 debut, was named the Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association champion 2-year-old colt after winning 3 of 4 starts, including two stakes, for trainer Kelly Von Hemel.
Whelen Springs will be facing open company for the first time after winning the $150,000 Rainbow Stakes for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred sprinters April 9 for trainer John Ortiz and record-setting breeder/owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.
Indiana-bred standout Mowins will be making his 3-year-old debut for trainer Mike Lauer.
Asmussen also won the Bachelor in 1996 with Valid Expectations, his first nationally prominent runner, 2008 with Lantana Mob, 2015 with Holy Boss, 2016 with Counterforce, 2019 with Nitrous and 2021 with Jaxon Traveler.
“It’s the opportunities that we are given and we have had some of the fastest horses that have ever run,” said Asmussen, North America’s all-time winningest trainer and soon-to-be 12-time Oaklawn leading trainer. “When they go off to stud, there’s nothing better to have one to fill that spot with.”
Valid Expectations gave Asmussen his first Oaklawn stakes victory in the $50,000 Mountain Valley for 3-year-old sprinters Feb. 10, 1996. Asmussen has at least one stakes victory at every Oaklawn meeting since the 1996 Mountain Valley, a 27-year streak that also is an Oaklawn record.
Saturday is also Fan Appreciation Day at Oaklawn. In addition to the 10-race card, Oaklawn will be offering free parking, free programs and passing out vouchers throughout the day for free hotdogs, free sodas, free popcorn and free ice cream, while supplies last. There will also be prize giveaways after select races.