Barn Notes 12/20/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

An Arkansan leads the Oaklawn owner’s standings through the first five days of the 2023-2024 meeting, but it’s not record-setting John Ed Anthony or 2022-2023 champions Heath and Sheena Campbell.

It’s Staton Flurry of Hot Springs.

Flurry’s scattered operation has already produced four victories from 11 starters. Anthony, Oaklawn’s all-time winningest owner, is second with three victories.

“I’m thinking of this meet kind of as a car race, a NASCAR race,” Flurry, 33, said Sunday. “These first two weeks are like fall. Hopefully, we can start up front and have a little lead going into the rest of the season. We’ve been aggressive on some of these. They’re winning, but they’re not blowing the fields away. So, we’re kind of in the right spots.”

Flurry said he has approximately 20 horses in training. Most are at Oaklawn with five trainers – Brad Cox, Cipriano Contreras, Dan Ward, Matt Shirer and Kevin Martin. Flurry also has a handful of horses with trainer Jonas B. Gibson, who is based at Louisiana Downs.

Flurry has already teamed for two victories at the meeting with Gibson (Therideofalifetime and Fightn’ Ready) and Contreras (Captain Jack and Oh My Gawd). All were short-priced winners and competing at dramatically lower class levels than when Flurry claimed them earlier in 2023.

For example, Flurry claimed Oh My Gawd for $50,000 Oct. 12 at Keeneland. Oh My Gawd ($2.80) broke her maiden Sunday for a $12,500 claiming price.

“I hate that we are dropping them like we are,” Flurry said. “But when they’re winning by a length, length and a half, instead of running off the screen, that tells you they’re in the right spot.”

Flurry’s hot start is much different than last season’s meeting, when he made his initial push to secure an owner’s title at his home track for the first time. Through the first 38 days of racing, he generated only three victories from 35 starts. Flurry closed strongly, tying for fourth with 10 victories from 61 starts, a single-season Oaklawn personal best. That momentum has continued in 2023-2024.

“We’ve gotten off to a good start,” Flurry said.

Raised in the historic Trivista neighborhood that borders Oaklawn’s north parking lot, Flurry recorded his first career victory as an owner Feb. 17, 2013, at Oaklawn with the Cox-trained Full Steam Ahead. Flurry said winning an Oaklawn owner’s title is a “bucket-list item.”

“If it happens this year, I’ll never do it again,” Flurry said. “It’s one of those that I want to say I did. Knock it off the list and never chase again because it’s time consuming. It’s stressful.”

Flurry has 114 career victories as a sole owner, including 41 at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Oh My Gawd represented Flurry’s career-best 20th victory overall this year. He won 19 races as a sole owner in 2015.

Flurry is best known for campaigning millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner Shedaresthedevil in partnership.

Sims, Namy Strike Again

War Campaign was assigned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for his 1 ½-length victory in the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn.

The 1 1/8-mile Tinsel marked the first career stakes victory for War Campaign, a 4-year-old son of Declaration of War, but the fifth – as a team – at Oaklawn for Texas owner Jerry Namy and Kentucky-based trainer Phil Sims.

Namy and Sims also campaigned millionaire Grade 1 winner Don’t Tell Sophia, who captured four Oaklawn stakes (Pippin and Bayakoa) in 2013 and 2014. Prior to Saturday, Sims had only started one horse at Oaklawn since 2019.

“We’d like to run some more down there,” Sims said following Saturday’s victory. “We’re kind of based at Keeneland now. Run some at Turfway and maybe bring some down there, too, to race. It was a great ride with Don’t Tell Sophia.”

Sims, in a text message Tuesday, said War Campaign exited the Tinsel in good order and returned Sunday to Keeneland. Next-race plans are pending, Sims said.

Namy also won Oaklawn’s $150,000 Ring the Bell Stakes in December 2022 with Flash of Mischief, War Campaign’s half-brother. Namy bred both horses.

Finish Lines

Oaklawn is dark this weekend (Christmas). Racing resumes Dec. 29. … Oaklawn surpassed $1 million in claims at the meeting Sunday, with 46 claims totaling $1,024,000 through the first five race days. … Jockey Carlos J. Hernandez recorded his first career Oaklawn victory in Sunday’s fifth race aboard Summer in Malibu ($14.60) for trainer Bentley Combs. Summer in Malibu was the first starter of the meeting for Combs, who won 40 percent of his starts (8 for 20) last season at Oaklawn.