Barn Notes 12/13/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

Frequent flyer Rocco Bowen is back in the Oaklawn winner’s circle after the jockey guided favored Colonel Barton to victory in the first race of the 2023-2024 meeting Friday for trainer Mike Puhich.

It was Bowen’s first mount at Oaklawn since he was injured before a race roughly 8 ½ months earlier.

“I’m good,” Bowen said. “I’m really blessed. I started this year with seven wins and I’m on (97) wins right now. I’m coming here this year healthier, more fit. Last year I was coming off an injury, also, from Presque Isle. Now, I’m ready to go.”

Bowen, 35, suffered a broken collarbone in an August 2022 spill at Presque Isle and had only one subsequent mount before his injury-shortened 2022-2023 Oaklawn season. Bowen had seven winners during the meet that began in December before fracturing his pelvis when a horse he was on, Paid Double, flipped in the starting gate before the eighth race March 25 at Oaklawn.

Bowen said he was expected to miss five months. He returned in a little less than three. Making up for lost time, Bowen, in early July, began riding seven days a week, normally splitting time between Emerald Downs near Seattle and Thistledown in suburban Cleveland. The tracks are separated by roughly 2,400 miles.

“I was flying so often the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), they knew me,” Bowen said. “I didn’t have to show my ID again. I guess it was, ‘Let the boy go, he’s catching his flight to Seattle.’ ”

Bowen would often ride Monday-Thursday at Thistledown and Friday-Sunday at Emerald Downs, where he was leading jockey in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Despite late starts at both venues, Bowen rode 34 winners to finish fifth in the Emerald Downs standings and 38 winners at Thistledown to finish seventh.

“Three and a half months, every day,” Bowen said of his cross-country schedule. “I was trying to be leading rider at both places. Next year, I’ll do it. I’ll be leading rider at both places, if I stay healthy. Right now, in my career, I’m just trying to chase different things that people haven’t chased.”

A native of Barbados, Bowen has 1,235 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Colonel Barton ($6.20) was Bowen’s 20th career Oaklawn victory. Bowen and Puhich teamed to win the $100,000 Longacres Mile (G3) – the biggest race in the Pacific Northwest – in 2021 at Emerald Downs with multiple Oaklawn allowance winner Background.

Bowen said he plans to be based at Oaklawn until the meet ends May 4.

Ain’t Life Grand

Multiple stakes winner Ain’t Life Grand is targeting a late February, early March return at Oaklawn, trainer Kelly Von Hemel said.

A 4-year-old Iowa-bred son of Not This Time, Ain’t Life Grand has won 8 of 14 career starts, including the $300,000 Iowa Derby in July 2022 at Prairie Meadows and the inaugural $150,000 Lake Ouachita Stakes last May at Oaklawn. Both races were 1 1/16 miles.

Ain’t Life Grand hasn’t started since finishing third in the $300,000 G3-Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap July 8 at Prairie Meadows because of a leg problem, Von Hemel said.

“After the Cornhusker, he came back with a bad bone bruise and we just had to give him some time off,” Von Hemel said. “We got him back about the middle of October and he’s a had a couple of breezes now. Everything looks real good right now.”

Ain’t Life Grand has had three published workouts at Oaklawn since the track opened for training Nov. 6, including a half-mile move in :49 Tuesday.

“Obviously, get him started in an allowance race and see where we’re at,” Von Hemel said. “Maybe a legitimate goal would be the race he won last (season), the last weekend. Maybe just try to point for that.”

The 1 1/16-miles $200,000 Lake Ouachita, for 4-year-olds and up, is May 3.

Finish Lines

Racing resumes Friday at Oaklawn. First post is 12:30 p.m. (Central). … Jockey Rafael Bejarano received a one-day suspension after Oaklawn stewards cited him for careless riding in last Saturday’s $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes. Bejarano is to serve the suspension Saturday, according to a stewards’ ruling. … Oaklawn-based Glengarry worked a half-mile in :49 over a fast track last Friday morning in advance of the $300,000 Springboard Mile for 2-year-olds at Remington Park. Friday’s Springboard Mile will mark the first start around two turns for unbeaten Glengarry, who is co-owned and trained by Doug Anderson of Hot Springs. Glengarry drew post 5 for the Springboard Mile.