Flagstaff Favored in Saturday’s King Cotton

HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021) – Grade 2 winner Flagstaff is the 8-5 program favorite for the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the King Cotton, the eighth of nine races, is 4:40 p.m. (Central). First post for Day 9 of the scheduled 57-day meeting is 1 p.m.

The ultra-consistent Flagstaff is the most accomplished of the six entrants, finishing first, second or third in 13 of 15 career starts and bankrolling $555,785 for trainer John Sadler and co-owners Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing LLC. The 7-year-old gelding’s only poor performance came in his only career route, a ninth-place finish in a September 2018 allowance at Del Mar.

Excluding Flagstaff’s route race and May 2018 career debut, the gelding’s Beyer Speed Figures have ranged between 91 and 97 in his other 13 starts, including a victory in the $200,000 San Carlos Stakes (G2) last March at Santa Anita and a fast-closing second in the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last April at Oaklawn. Flagstaff hasn’t started since finishing second, beaten a head, in the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) Sept. 27 at Santa Anita.

“He’s got top-class form,” Sadler said.

Flagstaff, among approximately 20 horses the Southern California-based Sadler has at Oaklawn, has recorded two local works in advance of his 2021 debut.

The King Cotton and $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 13 are Oaklawn’s two major preps for the $500,000 Count Fleet (G3) April 10. Whitmore finished second in last year’s King Cotton before sweeping the Hot Springs, Count Fleet and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter of 2020.

Whitmore is being pointed for the Hot Springs, a race he’s won the last four years, but co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs still will be represented in the King Cotton by Seven Nation Army.

Seven Nation Army, who is seeking his first stakes victory, finished fourth behind 2020 Eclipse Awards finalist Volatile in the $100,000 Aristides Stakes June 6 at Churchill Downs and second in the $60,000 David M. Vance Sprint Stakes Sept. 27 at Remington Park. Seven Nation Army exits a 5-furlong allowance victory Nov. 22 at Churchill Downs.

“I think he’s an improving horse and he’s got some ability,” Moquett said. “I think that he’s going to run well wherever we run him. I’m just trying to place him to where he can get the most out of whatever that is.”

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen upset Whitmore in last year’s King Cotton with Share the Upside. The 10-time Oaklawn training champion has two entrants this year, Boldor and Grade 3 winner Strike Power, who has never raced at Oaklawn.

Boldor, a 2020 allowance winner at Oaklawn, captured the $60,000 Sam’s Town Stakes Jan. 4 at Delta Downs in his last start. The King Cotton will be Boldor’s first start since being reported a gelding, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Also entered are Jan. 22 Oaklawn allowance winner Mucho for trainer John Ortiz and Minnesota-bred star Mr. Jagermeister for co-owner/trainer Valorie Lund.

The projected King Cotton field from the rail out: Strike Power, Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride, 115 pounds, 3-1 on the morning line; Seven Nation Army, Ramon Vazquez, 122, 9-2; Flagstaff, Florent Geroux, 115, 8-5; Mucho, Joe Talamo, 122, 8-1; Boldor, David Cabrera, 117, 5-1; and Mr. Jagermeister, Rocco Bowen, 115, 4-1.