Barn Notes 2/17/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

The Oaklawn racing department listed as many 10 horses under consideration early Saturday afternoon for the $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 24.

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday for the Rebel and three other stakes races Feb. 24.

The Rebel will anchor a 12-race card that begins at noon (Central). Gates open at 10:30 a.m. Weather permitting, the infield will be open for the first time this season.

The Rebel is Oaklawn’s third of four Kentucky Derby qualifying races and will offer as many as 105 points to its top five eligible finishers (50-25-15-10-5, respectively) for a spot in the Kentucky Derb, the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Expected Rebel entrants are: Just Steel (D. Wayne Lukas), Muth (Bob Baffert), Northern Flame (Kenny McPeek), Tejon Pass (Peter Miller), Timberlake (Brad Cox), Time for Truth (Ron Moquett) and Woodcourt (Cipriano Contreras). Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has two or three candidates under consideration, but did not indicate which one he would enter.

Muth and Timberlake, both Grade 1 winners, finished second and fourth, respectively, in the $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

Muth opened 2024 with a victory in the seven-furlong $200,000 G2-San Vicente Stakes Jan. 6 at Santa Anita. Baffert has won the Rebel a record eight times, including 2015 with future Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Because of Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs through 2024, Muth is ineligible to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Timberlake will be making his 3-year-old debut for Cox, who captured Oaklawn’s first 2024 Kentucky Derby points race, the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, with Catching Freedom.

Timberlake, currently based at the Fair Grounds, won the one-mile $500,000 G1-Champagne Stakes Oct. 7 at Aqueduct.

The 8 ½-furlong $600,000 G3-Razorback Handicap for older horses, $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies, and $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older females at six furlongs are also Feb. 24.

The Honeybee is Oaklawn’s second of three qualifying races for the Kentucky Oaks. It will offer 105 points to its top five finishers (50-25-15-10-5, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

Expected Honeybee entrants include Band of Gold for McPeek and West Omaha for Cox. Band of Gold won the 8 ½-furlong $250,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 3. The Martha Washington, delayed one week because of winter weather, was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Oaks points race. West Omaha won the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds in her last start.

Four of a Kind

Jockey Keith Asmussen’s hot streak continued Friday at Oaklawn with a career-high four victories. All were for his father, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Keith Asmussen won the second race with favored Summer of Mischief ($4), fifth race with Adiva ($10.60), sixth race with Phantom Ride ($14.40) and ninth race with Harlocap ($10.20).

Asmussen, 25, had previously ridden three winners on a card twice. The first came March 19, 2023, at Oaklawn.

Friday, Day 24 of the scheduled 64-day meeting, marked Asmussen’s fifth consecutive multi-win day at Oaklawn. He had riding doubles the previous four racing days.

“It’s a team effort,” Asmussen said moments after Harlocap’s victory in the $140,000 entry-level allowance for older horses. “Obviously, can’t be more excited about how well it’s going and just trying to do right by the horses every day. When days like this pop up, it’s something to celebrate.”

With 12 victories over the last five racing days, Asmussen has zoomed up the 2023-2024 Oaklawn rider standings and entered Saturday tied for second with Francisco Arrieta. Each had 20 victories. Reigning champion Cristian Torres had a meet-high 31 victories.

Harlocap was the 83rd career winner for Asmussen, whose first came July 26, 2020, at Lone Star Park. He had six victories in 2020 but didn’t ride in 2021 after resuming his college studies. He had one victory in 2022. Asmussen won 60 races last year, including 25 at Oaklawn to finish ninth in the 2022-2023 standings. Asmussen ($1,288,464) surpassed his purse earnings from the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting ($1,284,880) with Harlocap’s victory.

Steve Asmussen’s four victories pushed his total to a meet-high 33. The late Cole Norman set Oaklawn’s single-season record for victories (71) in 2003. Asmussen also won two races Friday as an owner (Summer of Malibu and Adiva) and entered Saturday with 10 at the meeting. Staton Flurry of Hot Springs topped the owner’s standings with 13 victories.

Finish Lines

Jockey Nik Juarez recorded his 987th career North American victory aboard Our Keepsake ($8.20) in Friday’s first race at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Juarez rode Our Keepsake for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. … Joseph Bealmear and Carlos Barbosa, 1-2, respectively, among apprentice riders at the meeting, recorded victories Friday. Bealmear’s seventh meet victory came aboard Henro ($13.80) in the seventh race, a $115,000 maiden special weight sprint, for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. Barbosa won the eighth race aboard Shackleford Strong ($16.60) for trainer Jimmy DiVito. It was Barbosa’s third victory at the meeting. … Misty Veil worked a half-mile in :48.20 after the surface renovation break Saturday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Mike Maker. The track was fast. Misty Veil won the $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older females at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 6 at Oaklawn. … Also working after the break Saturday morning was Olivier for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Olivier, a 4-year-old full brother to 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline, worked a half-mile in :49.60. Olivier, sixth sprinting in his Jan. 28 career debut at Oaklawn, breezed with stablemate Royal Spa, a stakes-placed 4-year-old filly. Brisset said Olivier is targeting a two-turn race Feb. 25 at Oaklawn. Royal Spa is nominated to the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 24 at Oaklawn.