Cox Pointing Cyberknife Toward the Arkansas Derby

March 16, 2022

Cox Pointing Cyberknife Toward the Arkansas Derby

Triple Crown nominee Cyberknife is being pointed for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G2) April 2 at Oaklawn, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday afternoon.

The 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby will mark a return to stakes company for the Fair Grounds-based Cyberknife, who is from the first crop of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and races for Gold Square LLC (Al Gold).

After finishing sixth in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) Jan. 22, Cyberknife rebounded with a sharp three-length allowance victory Feb. 19 in his last start, earning a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 87. Both races were 1 1/16 miles.

“He’s a tough horse to deal with, he always has been,” Cox said. “He’s gotten better. He appears to be improving. I thought his last race was a step forward. Got a really good figure the last race. I think it’s going to stack up and probably be one of the better ones in the Arkansas Derby and if he runs that race, I think he’s a player.”

Cyberknife has a 2-2-0 record from five starts and earnings of $110,000. He was disqualified from a Sept. 25 career debut victory at Churchill Downs for shifting in and bumping a rival in the upper stretch, finished second in his next start – a Nov. 5 sprint at Churchill Downs – after drifting and lugging in during the stretch run and broke his maiden by a half-length Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds in his two-turn debut.

“He’s probably going to continue to work down there, but we’ve pretty much zeroed in on the Arkansas Derby,” Cox said.

Cyberknife, a $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale purchase, likely would need a top two finish in the Arkansas Derby to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. Cyberknife has no qualifying points. The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10) to its top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Pointing Cyberknife to the Arkansas Derby means Cox can keep his other top Kentucky Derby prospect, unbeaten Zozos, home for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at 1 3/16 miles March. 26 at Fair Grounds. Zozos (2 for 2) was a 10 ¼-length entry-level allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 11 at Oaklawn in his last start.

Locally based horses pointing for the Arkansas Derby include star filly Secret Oath for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Barber Road (John Ortiz) and Chasing Time (Steve Asmussen). Secret Oath has recorded three dominant victories at the meet against 3-year-old fillies, including the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 26 in her last start. She has never raced against males.

Barber Road and Chasing Time finished third and fifth, respectively, in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Feb. 26. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel was the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby. Chasing Time worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 over a fast track Monday morning.

Trainer Mike Puhich said Wednesday morning that Call Me Jamal remains under consideration for the Arkansas Derby and the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 9 at Keeneland.

Call Me Jamal has two 1 1/16-mile victories at the meeting, including a sharp entry-level allowance score Feb. 26. Puhich said a decision on the gelding’s next start will be made after he works Thursday morning.

“I’m leaving the door open,” Puhich said, referring to the Arkansas Derby. “He’s won two over this track. Start thinking about stuff like that, too. Kind of starting to think logistically. He knows the track. He’s here. Tomorrow’s the day we’re going to make our mind up.”

Nominations to the Arkansas Derby close Friday.

Just a Fantasy?

Interstatedaydream will be considered for several upcoming major races for 3-year-old fillies, including the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 2 at Oaklawn, trainer Brad Cox said following her sparkling 2022 debut in last Sunday’s fourth race.

Interstatedaydream ($5.40) beat stablemate Warrior’s Battle by 8 ¼ lengths in the entry-level allowance race, covering 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in a meet-best 1:43.31 under Florent Geroux to win for the second time in three starts. A daughter of champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, Interstatedaydream hadn’t started since finishing second in the $200,000 Adirondack Stakes (G2) Aug. 8 at Saratoga because of a “setback” in the race, Cox said.

Cox said Interstatedaydream could resurface in the Fantasy or the $600,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) April 8 at Keeneland. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.

“The Fantasy’s back quick,” Cox said following Sunday’s final race. “It’s a lot to ask. The Ashland’s going to be a lot to ask. Those are two options. There could be a third option. I don’t know what it is yet, but those are the two that make the most sense, I think.”

Cox said next-race plans also are pending for millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner Shedaresthedevil following her third-place finish in last Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Shedaresthedevil, who was making her 2022 debut, was beaten 1 ¾ lengths by Eclipse Award winner Ce Ce after leading throughout much of the race.

“She ran good,” Cox said. “I was a little disappointed in the result, but she came out of it in really, really good shape, so that was a positive.”

The Azeri, which Shedaresthedevil won last year, was the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 23. Cox it’s too early to pinpoint Shedaresthedevil’s next start.

“Everybody wants to ask where you’re running and your horse isn’t even back to the track yet,” Cox said. “Look, the Apple Blossom is going to come up really tough. My goal is to have a filly that’s happy and healthy all year. So, we’re going to see how she comes out of it when she gets back to the track.”

Finish Lines

Millionaire multiple Grade 3 winners Plainsman (2-1) and Warrior’s Charge (7-2) are the program favorite and co-second choice in the program for Saturday’s $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. Both horses are trained by Brad Cox. … Bob’s Edge is the 5-2 program favorite for Saturday’s $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs. Hollis, who set Oaklawn’s 5 ½-furlong track record (1:02.17) in a Dec. 10 allowance race, is the 3-1 second choice. … Chel-c Bailey recorded her most lucrative career riding victory to date in last Sunday’s seventh race aboard Hot Springs Bling ($23.80) trainer Jerry Donaldson. The allowance race for Arkansas-bred females had a $106,000 purse. It was the 11th victory this season for Bailey, who trails only John Hiraldo (14 victories) among apprentice riders at the meeting. Bailey won a $100,000 Arkansas-bred allowance race Jan. 30, her first career six-figure victory. She rides with a 7-pound weight allowance. … Eclipse Award winner Ce Ce (2021 champion female sprinter) received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 92 for her three-quarter length victory in last Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older females at 1 1/16 miles.