Barn Notes 3/21/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Yes, Rocket Can.

After a disappointing Oaklawn debut, Rocket Can returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in more than a year in Saturday’s 10th race for jockey Flavien Prat, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owner Frank Fletcher.

Rocket Can, who was making his 4-year-old debut in the $141,000 allowance race for older horses at one mile, was a 1 ½-length winner over Tapsasional. Rocket Can ($4.80) covered the distance over a fast track in 1:37.77.

“It was good,” Mott said moments after the victory. “He was very geared up in the paddock, which a lot of horses, if they haven’t run in a long time, they’ll get that way. So, I was slightly concerned about that. I mean, he wasn’t washed out or anything, but he was fired up. He was ready to do something.”

In his only other Oaklawn appearance, Rocket Can finished fourth as the favorite in the $1.25 million G1-Arkansas Derby – a race Fletcher, an Arkansas native, covets more than any – last April. Saturday marked Rocket Can’s first start since finishing ninth in last May’s Kentucky Derby. Rocket Can recorded workouts in June and early July at Saratoga before Mott pulled the plug on Rocket Can’s 2023 campaign. The gray son of Into Mischief returned to the work tab Jan. 15 at Payson Park Training Center, Mott’s south Florida winter base.

“I don’t know if the right word is ‘nondescript,’ but he wasn’t moving well and we just gave him time,” Mott said. “I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It just took a while for him to kind of get over it. I don’t know what it was. Usually, when you give a horse time, you can kind of figure it out. But with him, he just didn’t seem to be as smooth as he should have been.”

Mott said next-race plans are pending for Rocket Can, who won for the first time since the $250,000 G3-Holy Bull Stakes Feb. 4, 2023, at Gulfstream Park. Rocket Can is nominated to the $500,000 G3-Oaklawn Mile March 30 at Oaklawn, but Mott said the colt will need more time before his next start.

“He’s actually going to go back to Florida and then we’ll regroup,” Mott said. “I want to give him four or five weeks. I guess that leads us to (Kentucky) Derby time. I don’t know what kind of race that would put us in. We’ll see.”

Saturday’s victory was the third in nine lifetime starts for Rocket Can, increasing his earnings to $468,013. He also ran second behind champion Forte in the $400,000 G2-Fountain of Youth Stakes last March at Gulfstream Park.

Mott was in Hot Springs Saturday as part of Oaklawn’s third annual Hall of Fame Day, which honors inductees into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Mott was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986 with 35 victories. Rocket Can was Mott’s 90th career Oaklawn victory.

Finish Lines

Journeyman jockey Axel Concepcion recorded his first career Oaklawn double Sunday, winning the second race aboard Patton’s Tizzy ($3) and sixth race aboard favored Promises to Dance ($6). Both victories were for two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Brad Cox. Concepcion, a 2023 Eclipse Award winner as the country’s champion apprentice jockey, has been riding Sundays at Oaklawn with his winter base, Turfway Park in Kentucky, dark that day. … Promising 3-year-old Goldbrick (by Goldencents) is on the shelf after exiting his maiden special weight victory Jan. 5 at Oaklawn with a “little issue,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. Goldbrick, who won at one mile, is a half-brother to Calhoun’s millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Mr. Wireless, who broke his maiden and captured a first-level allowance race at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting. “I don’t have a lot of good 3-year-olds,” Calhoun said. “He was kind of the best hope I had and we really liked him a lot. I know the family well. I trained all of them. They seem to get better and better with age, so I was kind of looking forward to it. But it looks like he’ll be out for a little while and catch the last part of the year, maybe.” Mr. Wireless, in his 6-year-old debut, was a March 14 allowance winner at Fair Grounds, covering 6 furlongs in a sizzling 1:08.56. It was the gelding’s first start since finishing third as the favorite in the $150,000 Lake Ouachita Stakes for older horses at 1 1/16 miles May 5 at Oaklawn. … Millionaire multiple Oaklawn stakes winner C Z Rocket was retired to Old Friends Equine farm in Kentucky following his sixth-place finish in a Feb. 19 starter-allowance sprint at Oaklawn. C Z Rocket, a 10-year-old City Zip gelding, retired with a 13-9-7 record from 46 lifetime starts and earnings of $2,144,691.