Barn Notes 3/23/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Southwest Stakes winner Mystik Dan worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast-rated track Saturday morning at the the Fair Grounds for trainer Kenny McPeek, the colt’s final serious move before the $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles Saturday, March 30, at Oaklawn.

Entries will be taken and post positions will be drawn Sunday for the Arkansas Derby and three other stakes races scheduled for Saturday, March 30 at Oaklawn – $750,000 G2-Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, $500,000 G3-Oaklawn Mile for older horses and the $250,000 Matron for older fillies and mares at six furlongs.

The Arkansas Derby and Fantasy post-position draw will take place at 11:10 a.m. (CDT) in the Larry Snyder Winner’s Circle.

Mystik Dan is among nine Arkansas Derby probables, according to the Oaklawn racing department, the others being Dimatic for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Informed Patriot (Asmussen), Just Steel (D. Wayne Lukas), Liberal Arts (Robbie Medina), Muth (Bob Baffert), Timberlake (Brad Cox) and Time for Truth (Ron Moquett). Asmussen also plans to have a third entrant, according to the racing department.

Mystik Dan is unraced since a dazzling eight-length victory in the $800,000 G3-Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 3 at Oaklawn. The son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldencents has been based at the Fair Grounds since arctic temperatures, snow and rain forced Oaklawn to cancel 11 days of training (Jan. 13-23).

Co-owner Lance Gasaway said Saturday morning that Mystik Dan will ship Wednesday to Oaklawn, where he launched his 3-year-old campaign with a fifth-place finish in the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1.

McPeek opted to train Mystik Dan up to the Arkansas Derby, which could award as many as 200 qualifying points to its top five eligible finishers (100-50-25-15-10, respectively) for Kentucky Derby. The race is limited to 20 starters.

“About three weeks ago, I was down there and he looked great,” said Gasaway, among a group of Arkansans who bred and race Mystik Dan. “He’s been working lights out. Last week, he worked five furlongs in 1:00 and galloped out (six furlongs) in 1:12 and change. That was the plan – take him back there after the Southwest. Scared of the weather and missing work time. We had to work around some rain and one day we did have to work in the mud.”

In addition to Gasaway, Mystik Dan races for co-breeders 4 G Racing (Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway) and Daniel Hamby III and Hamby’s brother, Scott. Gasaway said Scott Hamby purchased an interest in Mystik Dan following the Southwest.

Just Steel and Liberal Arts were second and third, respectively, in the Southwest. Timberlake won the $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes Feb. 24 in his 3-year-old debut. Timberlake worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 Saturday at the Fair Grounds. Cox is seeking his third consecutive Arkansas Derby victory after winning the race in 2022 with Cyberknife and again last year with Angel of Empire. No trainer has won Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby three consecutive years.

Muth is a Grade 1 winner for Baffert, who is seeking his record-tying fifth Arkansas Derby victory. He is ineligible to receive Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Asmussen is also seeking his fifth Arkansas Derby victory.

Time for Truth completed major preparations for the Arkansas Derby by working a half-mile in :49.20 over a muddy surface Saturday morning at Oaklawn.

Milestone Watch

Jockey Cristian Torres recorded his 200th career Oaklawn victory in Friday’s eighth race, according to Equibase.

Torres, Oaklawn’s runaway riding leader this season, reached the milestone aboard favored Ruggs ($5.20) for trainer Randy Morse and owner H. Gus King. Ruggs was the 59th victory at the meeting for Torres, who also won Friday’s ninth race aboard favored Lochmoor ($6.60) for trainer Bruce Riecken.

Torres secured his first career Oaklawn riding title last season with 100 victories. Retired Hall of Famer Pat Day is the only other jockey in Oaklawn history to reach 100 victories in a single season. Day won a record 137 races in 1986.

Torres also leads all riders in purse earnings this season at Oaklawn ($4,577,970) after setting a single-record record ($6,163,941) in 2022-2023. Friday was Day 43 of the scheduled 64-day meeting.

Torres rode his first Oaklawn winner Feb. 11, 2021.

Finish Lines

Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel recorded his 978th career Oaklawn victory in Friday’s second race aboard Kid Shelleen ($7.40). It was the first victory at the meeting for Borel, who is based at Delta Downs in Louisiana. Borel was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001 and is the third-winningest jockey in Oaklawn history. Kid Shelleen is trained by Borel’s wife, Renay Borel. … Favored Adiva ($3.80) represented Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s meet-high 52nd victory in Friday’s third race. The late Cole Norman set Oaklawn’s single-season record for victories (71) in 2003. Adiva, a three-time winner at the meeting, was ridden by Asmussen’s son, Keith Asmussen. … Classic Causeway and Strong Tide are among 13 older horses entered in the $200,000 Temperence Hill Stakes at 1 ½ miles March 29 at Oaklawn.