Barn Notes 12/9/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

Agent Joe Santos, aka Santos, Inc., flexed his muscle on Friday’s opening-day Oaklawn card.

Santos represents 10 riders across the country, including the nationally prominent Julien Leparoux and Emmanuel Esquivel at Oaklawn.

Leparoux won the second race aboard Appealing Addie ($27) for trainer Randy Morse. Esquivel won the fourth race aboard Wartime Hero ($5.20) for his uncle, trainer Cipriano Contreras.

Leparoux’s victory was noteworthy because it was his first as an Oaklawn regular. A two-time Eclipse Award winner, Leparoux has previously wintered at Gulfstream Park.

“Change of plans this year,” Leparoux said Friday morning. “Familywise, my wife and kids are staying in Kentucky, so I could go anywhere. I was thinking about racing everywhere this winter and picked Oaklawn. Excited about it. We’ve got some good stuff this weekend and hope to have a good meet.”

Santos, the son of retired Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos, has represented Leparoux since Aug. 31. The collaboration has produced 25 victories, including graded stakes races in New York and Kentucky aboard top 3-year-old filly Xigera.

“Super honored for the opportunity and we’re doing awesome,” Santos said.

Appealing Addie was the third career Oaklawn victory, and first non-stake, for Leparoux, 40, who was honored with an Eclipse Award in 2006 as the nation’s top apprentice and again in 2009 as a journeyman.

Leparoux won Oaklawn’s $150,000 G3-Azeri in 2009 and $1 million G1-Arkansas Derby in 2017 aboard champion Classic Empire.

Leparoux rode two horses opening day and was named on six Saturday, including three for trainer Kenny McPeek, a major client.

“With Julien, since I’ve got him, I’ve always just tried to give him the best opportunities I can,” Santos said. “If I see a live horse, I’m going to ask for it and try to go from there. That’s kind of been our game plan, even at Churchill. I think at that September meet, we only rode 36 horses, but we won 10 races and ended up third in the standings.”

Leparoux said he plans to ride at Oaklawn until the Keeneland spring meet begins April 5.

Leparoux has 2,957 victories and $192,973,379 in purse earnings in his North American career, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. A native of France, Leparoux rode his first United States winner in 2005.

Advent Rewind

On Day 1 of the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen may have already found a horse that could make more noise on the 63rd day of the meeting.

Rebounding from three consecutive losses, favored Valentine Candy rolled to a 6 ¾-length victory in Friday’s $150,000 Advent Stakes for 2-year-old sprinters.

The Advent is the first of four open sprint stakes for 2- and 3-year-olds during the scheduled 66-day meeting that concludes May 4. The series continues with the $150,000 Renaissance Dec. 31, inaugural $150,000 Ozark Feb. 10 and the $200,000 Bachelor April 27. All three races are 6 furlongs.

Asmussen has won the Bachelor a record eight times. Asked if Valentine Candy was his 2024 Bachelor horse, Asmussen said: “We’ve got some nice sprinters.”

Valentine Candy ($5.60) was a forward factor from the start under Ramon Vazquez, who was riding the son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify for the first time. Valentine Candy quickly pulled away from the field in the upper stretch and stopped the clock in 1:04.65 for 5 ½ furlongs. The track was fast.

“Ramon handled him well,” Asmussen said. “He broke clean. He’s comfortable. Did well.”

The Advent represented the record-extending 105th career Oaklawn stakes victory for Asmussen. It was the second victory on the card for Vazquez, an Oaklawn regular again after having been based in Southern California since April 2022.

“Glad to be back,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez (395 victories) is the 13th-winningest rider in Oaklawn history.

Finish Lines

Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman returned Saturday after serving a one-day suspension Friday for a riding infraction at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Zimmerman was named on eight horses Saturday. Zimmerman rode 13 winners in his latest comeback last season at Oaklawn. … Jockey Rocco Bowen and trainer Mike Puhich teamed to win the Friday’s meet opener with favored Colonel Barton ($6.20). It was Bowen’s first Oaklawn mount since he fractured his pelvis in a starting gate accident March 25. … New York-based owner/trainer David Jacobson won two races Friday, taking the third with Stage Left ($6) and the sixth with favored Royal Meghan ($4). … Lynn Chleborad entered the 2023-2024 meeting with a 135-131 lead over Ingrid Mason in the race for winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history.