Barn Notes 3/7/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs continues to play through pain in search of another Oaklawn victory.

Fires, 83, suffered a chest injury late last month in a minor automobile accident in Hot Springs. Fires said he broke his sternum when the car he was driving struck another vehicle from behind, deploying an airbag.

“I wouldn’t have gotten hurt from the car wreck,” Fires said during training hours Thursday morning at Oaklawn. “The airbag’s what came back and broke my sternum.”

Fires was already scheduled to have surgery on his right shoulder (torn rotator cuff) after the Oaklawn meeting ends May 5. Fires said he will eventually undergo the same procedure on his left shoulder, adding he recently had cortisone shots to combat that pain.

“Just a couple of days before that (accident), they injected both of my rotator cuffs, trying to get me through the meet,” Fires said. “My thought was: ‘Shoot, now, maybe I might let them go ahead and operate on one of them while I’m trying to get over the other thing.’ But they said they didn’t want to do that.”

Fires wasn’t hospitalized following his automobile accident and said he only missed one day of work. Still, he’s had to make a major adjustment in his daily morning routine.

Fires is normally aboard his 18-year-old pony, Buck, during training hours, escorting horses to and from the track. Now, it’s a just a long walk from the barn to the trainer’s stand adjacent to the 6-furlong chute.

“Being the boss, more than anything,” Fires said. “Not doing much work. Usually, I’m on a pony all the time. Hopefully, by the end of the week I’m going to bring him back him back in here. It (sternum) still bothers me quite a bit. I still have a lot of pain. Day before yesterday, I was in pain all day. Yesterday, I had a good day with it and so far this morning I’m good.”

Fires (477 victories) is the fourth-winningest trainer in Oaklawn history. Fires has at least one victory every year at Oaklawn since 1977 – a span of 47 consecutive meetings – but is winless in 27 starts this season.

“I haven’t had a very good meet, but I think that will get turned around a little bit,” Fires said.

Fires said he has 10 horses on the grounds, including Mansoura, a 3-year-old Arkansas-bred maiden entered in Thursday’s sixth race.

Fires recorded his first Oaklawn winner in 1969. He is best known for saddling Archarcharch to win the G1-Arkansas Derby in 2011 at Oaklawn for longtime clients Val and Bob Yagos.

Milestone Watch

Oaklawn-based jockey Nik Juarez enters Thursday with 990 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Juarez is named on 13 horses this week at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn-based trainer Ron Moquett enters Thursday with 981 career North American Thoroughbred victories, according to Equibase. Moquett has 14 horses entered this week at Oaklawn.

Finish Lines

Lemon Muffin, who broke her maiden in the $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Feb. 24 at Oaklawn, returned to the work tab Wednesday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Breezing over a fast track at Oaklawn, Lemon Muffin covered a half-mile in :48.60. Lukas said Lemon Muffin is pointing for the $750,000 G2-Fantasy Stakes March 30. … Just Steel, who is pointing for the $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby March 30, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 Wednesday morning for Lukas. … Louisiana-bred millionaire Free Like a Girl is entered in Friday’s ninth race, a one-mile $141,000 allowance for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up. Free Like a Girl surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a victory in the $75,000 Doris Hebert Memorial Stakes for Louisiana-bred female sprinters Nov. 17 at the Fair Grounds. Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs, Oaklawn’s second-leading owner last season, races Free Like a Girl in partnership. Free Like a Girl became the third starter from the 2022 Honeybee to surpass $1 million in career earnings, following the now-retired Secret Oath ($2,444,767) and Yuugiri ($1,360,585). Free Like a Girl has earned $1,161,378. … Agent Bobby Dean said Thursday morning that he’s now representing journeyman jockey Alexander Castillo, who has been based this winter at Fair Grounds. Castillo has 549 career North American victories, the first coming in 2013, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Castillo has never ridden at Oaklawn. Castillo plans to ride through the end of the Oaklawn meeting, May 5, Dean said