Flurry Hoping Key of Life is Key to Finding Way to the Winner’s Circle

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, jhoyt@oaklawn.com or (501) 363-4305

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Flurry Hoping Key of Life is Key to Finding Way to the Winner’s Circle

It’s been anything but a home-field advantage this season at Oaklawn for owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs.

Flurry, raised in the historic Trivista neighborhood that overlooks Oaklawn’s second turn, has enjoyed great success at his home track since his first starter in 2012. Flurry has 95 career victories as a sole owner, including 28 at Oaklawn. Flurry also races horses in partnership, striking gold with millionaire multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Shedaresthedevil, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2020.

Flurry has been more active at the entry box this season at Oaklawn, already matching his career high for starters in Hot Springs (25) after just 24 days of the scheduled 68-day meeting. Flurry also started another horse in partnership. The results haven’t matched the aggression. Flurry only has one victory.

“I don’t know if there’s a pick-me-up at this point, when you’ve started 26 horses and got your head beat in 22 of those times,” Flurry said Tuesday morning. “It’s hard to say there’s a pick-me-up.”

A new week brings new hope, particularly Saturday when the accomplished Key of Life makes her 2023 debut in the $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs. Flurry campaigns Key of Life with Hoffman Family Racing LLC (Texan Gregory Hoffman). Key of Life is the first horse they’ve had together.

From the first crop of Grade 1 winner Mo Town, Key of Life has a 3-0-2 record from five starts and earnings of $282,350. Key of Life was a front-running 6 ¾-length winner of the $200,000 Myrtlewood Stakes at 6 furlongs Oct. 28 at Keeneland.

Southern California-based Flavien Prat is named to ride Key of Life, the 7-5 Dixie Belle program favorite, for two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox.

“We want to win,” Flurry said. “Got Flavien coming into ride, so, hopefully, everything’s falling into place.”

Flurry, on the advice of his bloodstock agent, Clay Scherer, purchased Key of Life for $350,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training. Key of Life covered an eighth of a mile in :9 4/5 in her preview work over the synthetic surface, the co-second-fastest work of the sale. Unbeaten Arabian Knight, who won Oaklawn’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28, recorded the same time.

“I had kind of met my quota of what I wanted,” Flurry said. “But this filly, Clay said, ‘Man, she’ fast. You need to buy her. You need to buy her.’ He said this is perfect one for you and Greg to partner up with. Super, super easy-going guy. I said my only partnership thing is we run in my silks here at Oaklawn. That’s my only stipulation in any partnership. We’ve worked great together. Super, super nice guy. Great family.”

Flurry said he and Hoffman are also partners on two newly turned 2-year-olds. Flurry said Hoffman previously had horses with Cox and trainers Tom Amoss and H.B. Johnson.

“I think we’ll have a fun little run because we both have the same goals in mind,” Flurry said. “We want to win. Let Brad handle everything and tell us where to show up.”

Key of Life exits a third-place finish in the $200,000 Fern Creek Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. She has five published workouts in advance of the Dixie Belle, the last four coming at Fair Grounds. Key of Life had been under consideration for the $125,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G3) at 7 furlongs last Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Fern Creek winner Red Carpet Ready returned to capture the Forward Gal and is unbeaten in three lifetime starts.

“We didn’t give her (Key of Life) any time off, but we let her chill out just a little bit after the last race,” Flurry said. “Timing-wise, this one was a little better than the Forward Gal because we had one extra week. Then, all that (equine herpesvirus) stuff started popping up at Gulfstream and you didn’t know what was going to go on there and this is a whole lot easier ship than Gulfstream. It just worked out.”

Fridaynightsoldier, co-owned by Flurry, is entered in Friday’s sixth race at Oaklawn.

Hart to Hart

Tejano Twist’s time of 1:09.57 in the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 28 at Oaklawn would have been good enough to win most runnings of the 6-furlong race for older horses.

Not this year.

Grade I winner Gunite posted the second-fastest 6-furlong time in Oaklawn history in January (1:08.89) in beating Tejano Twist by four lengths. The time was also the second-fastest in 42 runnings of the King Cotton at 6 furlongs. Rapid Gray set the stakes record (1:08) in 1984.

“He ran into a wolf there,” trainer Chris Hartman said Tuesday morning. “He ran good. I was very happy. Pleased with his effort. He made his move and ran his race. There wasn’t a lot of speed in the race for us.”

Tejano Twist had won his previous three starts, including the $250,000 Steel Valley Sprint Stakes for 3-year-olds Nov. 21 at Mahoning Valley.

Hartman said he plans to run Tejano Twist, an $80,000 claim last June at Churchill Downs, again at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Oaklawn’s next sprint stake for older horses is the $200,000 Whitmore (G3) March 18.

“Hope they’ll be a little more pace in the next one,” Hartman said.

Hartman has had a banner Oaklawn meeting, ranking second in victories (17) and third in purse earnings ($1,007,035) through Sunday, Day 24 of the scheduled 68-day meeting. Hartman recorded his 200th career Oaklawn victory Jan. 22 and surpassed $1 million in purse earnings at the meet with Bank’s victory Feb. 3. Hartman saddled Bank for prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. Hartman also trains promising 4-year-old Favorite Outlaw for the Lieblongs, who are new clients. Both horses had previously been with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

“Those are both horses that were coming off a situation,” Hartman said. “So, we’ve been dealing with that. (Favorite Outlaw) is getting closer to running.”

Bank was making his first start since July 3 at Churchill Downs. Favorite Outlaw, a sparkling maiden winner last season at Oaklawn, hasn’t started since a Sept. 14 allowance sprint at Kentucky Downs. Favorite Outlaw has three published workouts this year at Oaklawn.

Finish Lines

Nominations to the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles and the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older females at 6 furlongs close Friday. The Rebel and Honeybee are points races for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively. Early Rebel probables include Verifying and Giant Mischief for two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox and Red Route One for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. … Secret Oath, the 2022 Kentucky Oaks winner and finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly, worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 Tuesday morning at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Secret Oath is scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 11 at Oaklawn. … Ain’t Life Grand, winner of the $300,000 Iowa Derby last summer at Prairie Meadows, returned to the work tab Tuesday morning at Oaklawn, covering a half-mile in :49.60. Trainer Kelly Von Hemel said he hopes to run the 4-year-old this season at Oaklawn.