Barn Notes 1/7/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Ramon Vazquez became just the 13th jockey to reach 400 career victories at Oaklawn when Misty Veil captured Saturday’s $150,000 Pippin Stakes.

Vazquez spent 11 consecutive seasons as an Oaklawn regular (2012-2021-2022) – collecting 393 victories and eight top four finishes in the standings – before relocating to Southern California in April 2022. Vazquez, 39, returned to Oaklawn this season, with the Pippin his seventh meet victory.

“I’m so happy that I won 400 here,” Vazquez said following the race. “This is home for me.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Vazquez recorded his first Oaklawn victory Jan. 13, 2012. The jockey’s most lucrative career victory to date came in the $1 million G2-Rebel Stakes in 2022 at Oaklawn aboard 75-1 shot Un Ojo.

Vazquez rode Misty Veil for trainer Mike Maker and co-owners Michael Hui and John H. Yocum of Little Rock, Ark.

Peitz Remembers Cantey

Asked what made Joe Cantey a successful trainer, Dan Peitz simply said: “He was just a good horseman.”

Cantey, who rose to national prominence in the late 1970s training for the Loblolly Stable of Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony, Oaklawn’s all-time winningest owner, died Friday in Camden, S.C. He was 82. Cantey had been in declining health and reportedly died of lung and mouth cancer.

“We heard about a week ago that he wasn’t doing any good,” Peitz said Saturday morning at Oaklawn. “Got a text yesterday morning saying that he has passed.”

Before launching his training career in 1987, Peitz worked for 1976 Preakness-winning trainer Paul Adwell, then spent approximately seven years under Cantey, rising from groom to barn foreman to assistant.

“The first day I walked in the shed row, no knock against Paul Adwell or anything, but he (Cantey) didn’t miss anything,” Peitz said. “Every morning, the first thing he would do was walk down the shed row and look at every feed tub, Richie O’Connell was working for him at the time as his assistant, Richie was going around and feeling every horse’s legs. Everybody was getting done up in four bandages. Everybody had their own brushes. He did it the right way. Right away, I was like: ‘This is the way it ought to be.’ ”

Among the horses that passed through Cantey’s barn in the late 1970s and early 1980s were Cox’s Ridge – Loblolly’s first nationally prominent runner – Eclipse Award winner Temperence Hill and grass standout Majesty’s Prince.

Cox’s Ridge won the G1-Met Mile in 1978 at Belmont Park and the G2-Oaklawn Handicap and G3-Razorback Handicap – the trainer’s first of a record five victories in the race – earlier that year at Oaklawn.

Temperence Hill, also campaigned by Loblolly, was the country’s champion 3-year-old male of 1980 after winning Oaklawn’s G2-Arkansas Derby, G1-Belmont Stakes, G1-Travers Stakes at Saratoga, G1-Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Majesty’s Prince was a multiple Grade 1 winner of $2,077,796.

Cantey had 169 career victories at Oaklawn, the first seven coming in 1974. He won 26 percent of starts in 1978-1986 (162 of 628), including 16 stakes races. Temperence Hill returned to Oaklawn in 1981 to win the G3-Razorback Handicap and G2-Oaklawn Handicap. Cantey also won the Razorback in 1982 and 1983 with Eminency and again in 1984 with Dew Line.

“Had a lot of nice horses while I was working for him,” Peitz said. “He kind of had a little run here on the Razorback. He kind of owned that race. I remember the last one was with a little horse named Dew Line. He was a stakes horse, but just kind of a cut below. We were going up for the Razorback, I said: ‘Joe, this is your race.’ He said: ‘Hmm, had a little bigger bullets in the past.’ Damn, if he didn’t win the race.”

Cantey, in his prime, retired from training in 1987 and returned to South Carolina, eventually opening a sport shooting range in Camden, his hometown. Cantey was a world champion (sporting clays).

Finish Lines

Jockey Cristian Torres ($1,024,500) surpassed $1 million in purse earnings Saturday, equaling his Oaklawn record for fastest to reach seven figures at a meeting. Torres also reached $1 million in purse earnings on Day 11 last season. … Francisco Arrieta, Oaklawn’s co-leading rider in 2021-2022, won two races Saturday to take the lead this season. Arrieta won the second race aboard favored Ghostly Night ($6.60) for trainer Matt Shirer and the fifth race aboard Bandera Azteca ($14.60) for trainer Kevin Martin. Arrieta has 11 victories this season. … Midnight Rising ($33.20) represented the first career Oaklawn victory for Kentucky-based trainer Jordan Blair in Saturday’s 10th race.