Barn Notes 4/12/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Matt Dinerman will likely be on the microphone for jockey Nik Juarez’s milestone victory. The question is whether it will be at Oaklawn, where Dinerman is completing his first season as track announcer, or Monmouth Park in New Jersey, where he was recently hired to call races for its meet that begins May 11.

“I gotta get three more wins,” Juarez, 30, said. “That’s it.”

Juarez’s first opportunity to reach 1,000 career North American victories comes this weekend at Oaklawn, which has 12 days remaining in its 2023-2024 meeting.

Juarez recorded his 997th career North American victory in last Sunday’s ninth race aboard Shacks Way ($14.80) for trainer Michael Hewitt, according to Equibase.

Juarez is named on 10 horses this weekend, including seven Saturday. Shacks Way represented the jockey’s 16th victory of the meeting and 48th overall at Oaklawn. Juarez rode 32 winners in his Oaklawn debut last season after previously being based on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic.

“Hopefully, we get it done here,” said retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who is Juarez’s agent. “He’s a tough kid and seems to be very focused right now with his goals.”

A high school wrestler, Juarez rode his first career winner Dec. 14, 2013, at Laurel. He ranked 22nd in North America (United States and Canada) in victories (187) and 28th ($6,459,719) in purse earnings in 2017.

Juarez will be based at Monmouth Park after Oaklawn’s 2023-2024 meeting ends May 5. Juarez has 430 career victories at Monmouth Park.

Finish Lines

Arkansas-bred standout and Grade 3 winner Whelen Springs has resumed training at Keeneland after receiving the winter off because of a minor physical setback, trainer Lindsay Schultz said. Whelen Springs ($552,950 in career earnings) hasn’t started since finishing seventh in a Dec. 15 allowance at Oaklawn when he stumbled badly at the start and “kind of got a little messed up around his rear end,” said John Gasper, racing manager for Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony, Whelen Springs’ breeder/owner. Schultz said she believes Whelen Springs, a multiple Oaklawn stakes winner, can “probably” resume racing this summer. … Keith Asmussen, Oaklawn’s second-leading rider this season, will serve a one-day suspension Sunday. Oaklawn stewards cited the jockey for careless riding in the second race March 29. Asmussen’s mount, Go Cats, crossed the finish line first, but the gelding was disqualified and placed fourth for stretch interference. … Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday for three stakes April 20 – the $1.25 million G2-Oaklawn Handicap for older horses at 1 1/8 miles, the $200,000 Bath House Row for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, and the $200,000 Valley of the Vapors for 3-year-old fillies at one mile. The Oaklawn Handicap carries a record purse after previously being worth $1 million. The Bath House Row winner will again receive automatic entry into the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, May 18 at Pimlico.