Barn Notes 3/20/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday morning that Timberlake will return to Oaklawn for the $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby for 3-year-olds, with stablemate West Omaha headed to the $750,000 G3-Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The March 30 races are Oaklawn’s final major preps for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively.

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday for the Arkansas Derby and Fantasy and two other stakes races March 30 at Oaklawn – $500,000 G3-Oaklawn Mile for older horses and $250,000 Matron for older fillies and mares at six furlongs.

“That’s about all we have right now,” Cox said, referring to Timberlake and West Omaha. “That’s two good ones to have. I like them both.”

Timberlake notched his first career victory around two turns in the 8 ½-furlong $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes Feb. 24 at Oaklawn. The Rebel marked the 3-year-old debut for Timberlake, who completed 2023 with a victory in the $500,000 G1-Champagne Stakes – a one-turn mile – Oct. 7 at Aqueduct and a fourth-place finish in the $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

Timberlake was a two-length winner of the Rebel, which, dating to 2021, marked Cox’s seventh victory in Oaklawn’s last 15 Kentucky Derby points races. Timberlake was also under consideration for the $1 million G1-Blue Grass Stakes April 6 at Keeneland. The Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass are both 1 1/8 miles.

“I like the timing,” Cox said. “Obviously, has the experience there now, that one run under him. Kind of thought the Rebel was the spot when we were getting started. At the beginning of the winter, we thought the Rebel was the spot. It worked out.”

Cox didn’t reveal who would ride Timberlake in the Arkansas Derby, a race the trainer won in 2022 with Cyberknife and again last year with Angel of Empire. No trainer has won Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby three consecutive years. Timberlake has been based this winter at Fair Grounds.

The Arkansas Derby will offer 200 points to its top five finishers (100-50-25-15-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The race is limited to 20 starters.

Other horses pointing to the Arkansas Derby include Grade 3 winner Mystik Dan for trainer Kenny McPeek, Grade 3 winner Liberal Arts (Robbie Medina), Just Steel (D. Wayne Lukas) and Time for Truth (Ron Moquett).

Mystik Dan hasn’t started since an eight-length victory in the $800,000 G3-Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 3 at Oaklawn. Just Steel and Liberal Arts finished second and third, respectively, in the Southwest. Just Steel returned to finish a disappointing seventh in the Rebel. After scratching from the Rebel because of a minor shin injury, Time for Truth was an entry-level allowance winner in his two-turn debut March 2 at Oaklawn.

Cox is seeking his third victory in the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy after winning the race in 2018 with Sassy Sienna and last year with Wet Paint.

West Omaha won the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards Jan. 20 at the Fair Grounds before finishing third as the favorite in the $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes Feb. 24 at Oaklawn. West Omaha has been based at Oaklawn since the 1 1/16-miles Honeybee.

“We always try to participate in the Fantasy,” Cox said. “We’ve had a little luck in the race and, hopefully, it will continue with this filly there and she can continue her march toward the Kentucky Oaks.”

Other horses pointing for the Fantasy include Lemon Muffin (Lukas) and Midshipman’s Dance (Robertino Diodoro), first and fifth, respectively, in the Honeybee. Unbeaten champion Just F Y I is under consideration for the Fantasy, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Saturday afternoon.

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 race is limited to 14 starters.

Milestone Watch

Jockey Keith Asmussen recorded his 99th career victory in Sunday’s ninth race at Oaklawn, a $115,000 maiden special weight sprint for 3-year-old fillies, aboard favored Lady Moscato ($8.80) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Asmussen has 61 career victories at Oaklawn, including 36 this season, to rank second in the standings. Asmussen is named on 28 horses this week at Oaklawn, including 23 for his father, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Keith Asmussen, 25, rode his first winner in 2020.

Cristian Torres, Oaklawn’s runway riding leader this season, has 198 career victories in Hot Springs.

Finish Lines

Oaklawn will offer free parking and programs and $1 hot dogs (two per person) each Thursday in March. … Cost Basis ($23.80) represented the 1,800th career North American victory for jockey Ramsey Zimmerman in the fifth race March 14 at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Unbeaten Impel (2 for 2), a blowout entry-level allowance winner March 3 at Oaklawn, is pointing for the $600,000 G1-Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles April 5 at Keeneland, trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday morning.