Barn Notes 4/14/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

After emerging in good order from his latest scintillating victory, Skelly will climb the class ladder this summer and fall, Steve Asmussen, the gelding’s Hall of Fame trainer said Sunday morning.

Skelly received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 103 for his front-running three-length victory in the $500,000 G3-Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn. Under regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr., Skelly rocketed to the lead shortly after the start and coasted home in a meet-best time of 1:08.82 for 6 furlongs. The track was fast. Skelly’s blistering splits included a :43.88 half-mile.

The meet’s previous best time for 6 furlongs, 1:09.38, also belonged to Skelly for a front-running 3 ¼-length victory in his 2024 debut, the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older horses Feb. 3. The Count Fleet was Skelly’s first start since his seven-race winning streak was snapped with a runner-up finish in the $1.5 million G3-Riyadh Dirt Sprint over 1,200 meters Feb. 24 in Saudi Arabia.

“Very fortunate to have him,” Asmussen said. “Believe it or not, he went to Saudi and came back faster. Speaks volumes about who he is.”

A regional star for more than a year – the gelding won four races at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, including the Count Fleet – Skelly is ready to hunt bigger game, Asmussen said.

“I think that the two main targets for the rest of the year are the Vanderbilt at Saratoga and Breeders’ Cup,” Asmussen said. “I do know I want to keep him at three-quarters of a mile.”

The $350,000 G1-Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap is July 27 at Saratoga. The $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Sprint is Nov. 2 at Del Mar. Mitole, who was trained by Asmussen, won the Count Fleet, ran third in the Vanderbilt and captured the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2019 enroute to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter. Skelly has never started in a Grade 1 race.

Mitole compiled a 10-2-2 record from 14 lifetime starts. Skelly has a 9-4-0 record in 14 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,460,163. The 5-year-old son of Practical Joke is a five-time stakes winner. Skelly also won the $150,000 Lake Hamilton Stakes for older horses last May at Oaklawn. He is a seven-time winner in Hot Springs.

Skelly, who races for Red Lane Thoroughbreds LLC (Chris Hicks), represented the record-extending seventh Count Fleet victory for Santana and the record-extending sixth for Asmussen.

Hicks purchased Skelly for $250,000 at the 2020 Fasig Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase sale.

Oaks Bound

Oaklawn-based Tapit Jenallie will depart Monday for Churchill Downs to continue preparations for the $1.5 million G1-Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 3 at Churchill Downs.

The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

A homebred for Arkansan Kevin Horton (Willis Horton Racing), Tapit Jenallie went through Oaklawn’s three-race Kentucky Oaks points series, finishing fourth in the $250,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 3, second in the $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes Feb. 24 and third in the G2-$750,000 Fantasy Stakes March 30. All three races were 1 1/16 miles.

“She’s a nice filly,” trainer Eddie Milligan Jr. said Sunday morning. “We’ve had some unfortunate luck with her after Delta. I kind of got behind on her a little bit. She had a few minor things that we had to work on. I feel very blessed and fortunate that she’s been able to be as consistent as she is.”

Tapit Jenallie, by Tapit, won her first two career starts, including the seven-furlong $100,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes Nov. 10 at Delta Downs. She suffered her first career loss with a fifth-place finish in the one-mile $200,000 Year’s End Stakes Dec. 31 at Oaklawn.

Tapit Jenallie has 54 points to rank ninth on the official Kentucky Oaks leaderboard released by Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters.

“Head up there and try to get a couple of decent works in her there and see what we can get done,” Milligan said.

Fantasy winner Thorpedo Anna and Honeybee winner Lemon Muffin are also pointing for the Kentucky Oaks. Thorpedo Anna (105 points) and Lemon Muffin (50) rank fifth and 11, respectively, on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.

Finish Lines

Entries were taken and post positions drawn Sunday morning for the $1.25 million G2-Oaklawn Handicap for older horses at 1 1/8 miles Saturday, April 20. The race drew 11 entrants, including Highland Falls, Octane, Red Route One, Reincarnate, 2022 winner Last Samurai, Skippylongstocking and Instant Coffee. … Jockey Nik Juarez recorded his 998th career North American victory aboard Clear Echo ($104.80) in Saturday’s 12th race for trainer Shea Stuart. Juarez’s agent is retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who also represents Gabriel Saez. A recent addition to the Oaklawn jockey colony, Saez won Saturday’s fourth race aboard Impeccability ($102.60) for trainer Tammy Hornsby. “Wish I would have bet on either one of them,” Stevens said Sunday morning. … Glengarry, who was based this winter at Oaklawn, is pointing for the $600,000 G2-Pat Day Mile for 3-year-olds May 4 at Churchill Downs, co-owner/trainer Doug Anderson of Hot Springs said Sunday morning. Anderson said Glengarry remained at Keeneland following his victory in the $400,000 Lafayette Stakes for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs April 5. … Recently retired Oaklawn maiden special weight graduate Magic Bubbles is in foal to champion and Oaklawn stakes winner Jackie’s Warrior, owner Mike Langford of Jonesboro, Ark., said Saturday afternoon. … Barber Road, runner-up in the $1 million G1-Arkansas Derby, has been retired because of a “series of nagging injuries,” owner William Simon (WSS Racing) announced Thursday on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter). Barber Road, who went through Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby points series in 2022, retired with a 3-5-2 record from 17 lifetime starts and earnings of $795,933. Simon said Barber Road will receive 90 days off before transitioning to his second career as a stable pony for John Ortiz, who trained the 5-year-old gelding.