Barn Notes 3/22/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Trainer John Ortiz and Arkansas owner John Ed Anthony continue to reach career milestones together.

Ortiz recorded his 100th Oaklawn victory March 9 when Black Apple, campaigned by Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable, won an Arkansas-bred starter-allowance route by a nose under Ricardo Santana Jr.

Ortiz had already notched his 200th and 300th victories overall with two Anthony homebreds – like Black Apple, gray Arkansas-bred offspring of Double Irish – in Turnstone Aug. 16, 2021, at Colonial Downs and Gramercy Park April 30, 2023, at Oaklawn.

Sandwiched around Turnstone and Gramercy Park was another Shortleaf homebred, Rolling Fork, whose Feb. 26, 2022, allowance victory against state-breds made Anthony Oaklawn’s all-time winningest owner (270). Rolling Fork’s trainer at the time was John Ortiz.

“That’s crazy,” Ortiz said. “Reaching the milestones with a big name like that, it’s such a good feeling.”

Black Apple (3 for 3) is among 11 winners at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting for Ortiz, who enters Friday with 335 victories overall.

Ortiz said he’s pointing Black Apple to the 8 ½- furlong $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes for state-breds at 1 1/16 miles May 4. Stablemate Happy Is a Choice, a two-time allowance winner at the meeting, is headed to the $500,000 G3-Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older horses at 6 furlongs April 13 at Oaklawn, Ortiz said.

Ortiz saddled his first career winner in 2016 and has more victories at Oaklawn than any other track. Ortiz saddled his first Oaklawn winner (A Terrific Shot) Jan. 21, 2017.

Milestone Watch

Jockey Keith Asmussen recorded his 100th career victory in Thursday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, according to Equibase.

Asmussen reached the milestone aboard Punchy Girl ($11.20) for trainer Randy Morse in the $140,000 allowance race for Arkansas-bred female sprinters.

Asmussen has 62 career victories at Oaklawn, including 37 this season, to rank second in the standings. Asmussen, 25, rode his first winner in 2020.

Cristian Torres, Oaklawn’s runway riding leader this season, has 199 career victories in Hot Springs after winning Thursday’s first race aboard favored Mackman ($5) for trainer Greg Compton. Mackman was the 58th victory at the meeting for Torres, who captured his first Oaklawn riding title last season with 100 victories.

Torres is named on six horses Friday.

Stakes Buffet

Oaklawn has adjusted its stakes schedule after losing four cards earlier this year to winter weather.

The $200,000 Lake Ouachita for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, originally May 3, has been moved to May 5. Oaklawn has added the $175,000 Eclipse for older horses at six furlongs April 7.

Oaklawn’s 2023-2024 season had been scheduled to end May 4, with April 7 originally a dark day. The two racing dates (April 7 and May 5) were added to help offset cancellations Jan. 14 and Jan. 19-21.

Nominations to the Eclipse close March 29. The race is open to horses that haven’t won a stakes race in 2023-2024. First post April 7 is 12:30 p.m. (Central). Gates open at 11 a.m.

The Eclipse Stakes will be run one day before a well-publicized total solar eclipse. Because it will be visible in Hot Springs, Oaklawn is hosting an Eclipse Festival in the infield April 8. Admission is $20, with children under 12 free. The event will feature live music, concessions and attractions for children.

Finish Lines

Entries will be accepted and post positions drawn Saturday for the 10-furlong $200,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses March 29. Inaugurated in 2020, the Temperence Hill has a record purse in 2024 after previously being worth $150,000. … Trainer Randy Morse saddled two winners Thursday, winning the seventh race with favored Hush It Honey ($4) and eighth race with Punchy Girl ($11.20). Morse co-owns Hush It Honey with Randy Patterson. Punchy Girl is owned by Patterson’s daughter, Sara Patterson. The double pushed Morse’s career Oaklawn victory total to 328, No. 13 all-time. … Jockey McKenna Anderson recently departed for Horseshoe Indianapolis, where she was co-leading apprentice in 2023. Anderson, now a journeyman, was winless in 22 starts at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 8. She regularly galloped or worked horses for several trainers at Oaklawn, including Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Kenny McPeek and John Ortiz.