Barn Notes 3/13/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Lemon Muffin remains on track to make her next start in Oaklawn’s $750,000 G2-Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies March 30, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning.

The 1 1/16-miles Honeybee is Oaklawn’s third and final Kentucky Oaks qualifying race. The Fantasy will offer 200 points to its top five finishers (100-50-25-15-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks, the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

Lemon Muffin banked 50 qualifying points for her upset victory in the $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes Feb. 24. Lemon Muffin ($58.20) broke her maiden in the Honeybee – her two-turn debut – by 3 ½ lengths after four consecutive runner-up finishes.

“She came out of it (well),” Lukas said. “She’s really a nice horse to have in the barn because she’s strong and tough – carries her weight. A lot of these fillies, if you start getting in these tough races leading to the Oaks, even Secret Oath lightened up and we kind of had to manage her. This filly, she looks like a stud colt every day. I don’t know if there’s any back up to her.”

Lukas has won the Kentucky Oaks a record-tying five times, including 2022 with Oaklawn-based Secret Oath, who also captured the Honeybee.

Lemon Muffin was Lukas’ record-extending seventh Honeybee victory and the first career graded stakes victory for jockey Keith Asmussen, 25, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Lukas said Keith Asmussen, Oaklawn’s second-leading rider this season, will retain the mount for the Fantasy.

“I’m going to leave Keith on her,” Lukas said. “Some people roll their eyes that she might be 1-2-3 in the choices for the Oaks. Her (speed) numbers say she’s No. 1, if you take Rag numbers or another service. I think she’s right there. He’s done nothing wrong but ride her perfect. So, why would I worry about that?”

West Omaha, third as the beaten favorite in the Honeybee, is also targeting the Fantasy for trainer Brad Cox. West Omaha won the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds. West Omaha is now based at Oaklawn for Cox, who won the 2023 Fantasy with Wet Paint.

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn March 24 for the Fantasy, which has a record purse in 2024 after being worth $600,000 the last three years.

In addition to the Fantasy, the $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby for 3-year-olds, $500,000 G3-Oaklawn Mile for older horses and $250,000 Matron Stakes for older female sprinters will be run March 30.

Lukas is pointing Just Steel to the Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race.

Milestone Watch

Two-time Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox enters Thursday with 299 career Oaklawn victories. Only 15 trainers have reached 300 career Oaklawn victories.

Cox has five horses entered this week at Oaklawn. Cox has 10 victories at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 8.

Finish Lines

Oaklawn added Thursdays to its racing schedule last week. In addition to March 7, Oaklawn is scheduled to race March 14, March 21, March 28 and April 4. Parking and programs are free and hot dogs (two per person) are $1 each Thursday in March. Oaklawn normally races Friday-Sunday. … Runaway Oaklawn riding leader Cristian Torres rode four winners Sunday to become the first jockey at the meet to surpass $4 million in purse earnings. Torres won the fifth race aboard Delta Moon ($10.40) for trainer Lynn Chleborad, the seventh aboard favored Lacie Be Good ($5.40) for trainer Tom Amoss, the eighth aboard Gun Pilot ($6.80) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and the ninth aboard Penzig ($5.40) for trainer Karl Broberg. The four-bagger gave Torres 53 victories at the meet and $4,138,430 in purse earnings. Torres set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings by a jockey ($6,163,941) in 2022-2023. … Trainer William Cowans recorded his first career Oaklawn victory in Saturday’s third race with Fair Grounds shipper Higher Standard ($15.80). Cowans also trains marathon standout Next, a multiple Grade 2 winner of $915,672.