Bandit Point Gives Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Another Try

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, or (501) 363-4305

Friday, May 05, 2023

Bandit Point and Jockey Kelsi Harr

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Bandit Point Gives Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Another Try

Bandit Point ran on the second day of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting and is scheduled to run on the final of the meeting. Bandit Point is entered in Saturday’s closing-day $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes.

“I don’t guess you ever really plan on it,” Robert N. Cline, Bandit Point’s owner/trainer, said Thursday afternoon. “But when the horse is doing OK and keeps his weight – he’s just now looking fit, to tell you the truth. He’s always been a horse that’s pretty healthy. I took him back to the track two days (after his last race) because he was hollering at everything that came by the stall. So, his attitude is telling me that we’re OK to run.”

Bandit Point is seeking his first career stakes victory. The 8-year-old chestnut son of Indy Squall has a 5-8-13 record from 53 lifetime starts and earnings of $551,990, making him one of the richest Arkansas-breds in history.

Bandit Point returns to a route after finishing fourth in a first-level allowance sprint against open company last Saturday. In his previous start, Bandit Point finished sixth, again in open company, in a 1-mile entry-level allowance April 16.

“He’s fit,” Cline said. “His previous races have been a quick turnaround. I think at one point his best race was back in six days, then his next best was back in eight days, so we split the difference. We hit seven days. He appeared to come out of it very well. I think it’s an open race.”

Bandit Point will be making his fifth appearance in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship after finishing third in 2019, fourth in 2020, fifth in 2021 and second last year. The 1 1/16-mile race is restricted to Arkansas-breds, 3 and up.

A victory Saturday would punctuate a feel-good story. Bandit Point’s regular rider is Kelsi Harr, Cline’s longtime significant other. Her first career victory came on the horse, June 17, 2018, at Canterbury Park. Bandit Point was also among 19 horses Cline had to move because of an April 11 fire at his barn, Wild Again. The blaze, Cline said, was confined to the second story.

“He was the closest to the fire,” Cline said, referring to Bandit Point. “He was the one right under the dorm. He was my closest horse to all the smoke and when they got him out, they said there was a lot of smoke.”

All 19 horses escaped injury, Cline said, and were moved safely to the Lady’s Secret barn. There were no human injuries reported.

“I was so lucky,” Cline said. “I really just kind of attribute it to moving barns, no different than we always do. At some point, that’s all we do as race trackers. We move from barn to barn, state to state, or this, across the backside. It was just a simple move.”

Bandit Point is 12-1 on the morning line for the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship.

Nifty at 50

Fifty-somethings Luis Quinonez (jockey) and Ernie Witt II (trainer) teamed to win Thursday’s $150,000 Natural State Breeders’ Stakes with favored Kaboom Baby, who edged Summer Shoes by a half-length in the 1-mile race for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares.

Kaboom Baby ($6.60) represented the first career stakes victory for Witt, 52, an Ozark, Ark., native and former sports talk show host. Witt’s father, Ernie, recorded one victory as an owner/trainer at Oaklawn (1998) and 57 as an owner (1998-2021). Ernie Witt II trained 47 of those winners for his father, but now the younger Witt’s horses run under his name (owner and trainer).

Ernie Witt II saddled his first winner in 2007. He had been 0 for 20 in stakes races, but produced three seconds and five thirds. Kaboom Baby ran third in the $150,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes in 2021 at Oaklawn, was third in the 2022 Natural State and second in the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes March 4 at Oaklawn. Witt, like his father, focuses on the lucrative Arkansas-breeding program.

“It’s good to get that (stakes victory),” Ernie Witt II said moments after the Natural State. “But to be honest, my dad and I from the very beginning, when we started this, we weren’t targeting stakes races. We weren’t going to run in them unless we had a good shot. We’ve come up short, but we’ve had a lot of success over the years and this is just a big payoff for us.”

Kaboom Baby, a 5-year-old daughter of Hightail, increased her career earnings to $421,859 following her fourth victory from 15 starts. She races for her breeder, Tracy K. Selby, a Knoxville, Ark., schoolteacher. Kaboom Baby’s winning time over a fast track was 1:38.62.

Witt said Kaboom Baby will be considered for the $100,000 Memorial Day Sprint Stakes at 6 furlongs May 29 at Lone Star Park.

Kaboom Baby was the second of two victories on Thursday’s card for Quinonez, 56, who was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2007. Quinonez won the fifth race aboard Rivercrest ($12.80) for trainer Danny Pish. The double pushed Quinonez’s career Oaklawn total to 639 (No. 9 all time) and his career North American total to 3,964, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Only 80 riders in North American history have reached 4,000 career victories, according to Equibase. Kaboom Baby was Quinonez’s sixth victory of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

“I just don’t have a lot of business like I used to have,” Quinonez said following the Natural State. “Really, I’m not hustling really hard. If it (4,000) happens, it happens. But I’ve had a really good career.”

Kaboom Baby was Quinonez’s 30th career Oaklawn stakes victory. The jockey is traditionally based at Lone Star Park following the Oaklawn meeting.

Finish Lines

Axton, the final scheduled career starter for trainer Don Von Hemel of Hot Springs, was scratched from Thursday’s seventh race at Oaklawn, a $104,000 allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Von Hemel, 88, is retiring Saturday, final day of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. His final starter, Momma Mule, finished seventh in the first race April 28. Von Hemel was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1981. … First post Saturday is 12:20 p.m. (Central). Probable post time for the 12th and final race, the 1 ¾-mile “Trail’s End” marathon, is 6:50 p.m. The Trail’s End is traditionally the final race of the Oaklawn meeting. … Former Prairie Meadows clocker Casey Schleis recorded his second career training victory with Hoping for a Ring ($5.80) in Thursday’s opener. Schleis’ first career victory came March 4 with Hoping for a Ring. … Jockey Keith Asmussen and his father, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, teamed for two victories Friday. They won the third race with favored American Band ($6) and the seventh race with Black Powder ($22.40). … Rivercrest Girl (16 ½ lengths) recorded the most lopsided victory of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting in Friday’s fifth race. Rivercrest Girl ($12.80) represented the third victory of the meeting for trainer Danny Pish and his 2,606th in North America, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. The Texas-based Pish is the 55th-winningest trainer in North American history. … Jockey Cristian Torres recorded his meet-high 95th winner in Thursday’s ninth race aboard favored Don’t Forget ($3.40) for trainer Aaron Shorter. Torres is trying to join Hall of Famer Pat Day as the only riders in Oaklawn history to reach 100 victories in a single season.