For Immediate Release

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing or 501-363-4305

Photo credit: Coady Photography


HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, March 4, 2022) – The horse named after a famous Arkansas bar has continued to raise the bar during the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 3.

Now comes his most important test to date.

Tabbed a promising prospect before he ran, Gar Hole attempts to become the meet’s first four-time winner when he faces nine rivals in the $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred sprinters, 3 and up, Saturday at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the 6-furlong Nodouble, which goes as the ninth of 10 races, is 5:10 p.m. (Central). First post Saturday is 1 p.m., with the infield open for the first time this season, weather permitting. Also on the card is the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred female sprinters.

Gar Hole, a 4-year-old gelding, will be making his stakes debut after using stalk-and-pounce tactics to win his three starts at the meet – all at 6 furlongs – by a combined 13 ¼ lengths for trainer John Ortiz and the Shortleaf Stable of breeder/owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.

A son of Anthony’s Grade 3-placed Tekton, Gar Hole has roared through his conditions after finishing eighth as the favorite in his January 2021 career debut at Oaklawn. Gelded following that race, Gar Hole returned to break his maiden by 3 ¼ lengths Dec. 4, capture a first-level allowance by six lengths Jan. 15 and an allowance prep for the Nodouble by four lengths Feb. 13.

Gar Hole earned a career-high 87 Beyer Speed Figure for his Feb. 13 victory, blitzing a field that included Tempt Fate and Bandit Point, 1-3, respectively, in last year’s Nodouble, and K J’s Nobility, the 2020 Nodouble winner. Gar Hole is the 2-1 program favorite for the Nodouble.

“He’s scary,” Ortiz said. “He looks scary. He looks like a racehorse. I talked to John Ed after the race. He was like, ‘Congratulations, that’s great, that’s a really nice Arky-bred. I was like, ‘Boss, I think this more than an Arky-bred. This is a real racehorse.’ He liked that.”

An Arkansas lumberman and the winningest owner in Oaklawn history, Anthony has named many of his best horses after spots in Arkansas, including 1980 Arkansas Derby winner and champion Temperence Hill, 1978 Oaklawn Handicap winner Cox’s Ridge and 1992 Arkansas Derby winner Pine Bluff.

Gar Hole is named for the bar in downtown Little Rock’s historic Marion Hotel, which was demolished in 1980 to make way for construction of the Excelsior Hotel and Statehouse Convention Center.

“The Gar Hole was in the basement of the Marion Hotel and was the premier watering hole in Little Rock, back in its day,” Anthony, 83, said. “It had an aquarium on the wall, with big glass and gar swimming behind the glass in it. Of course, it was the go-to place for the legislature and businessmen in its era. And to tell you the absolute truth, I named this horse after the Gar Hole, not thinking he was going to be prominent.”

Ortiz and Anthony’s racing manager, John Gasper, both point to Gar Hole’s health as the reason he’s flourished in recent months.

Ortiz said Gar Hole had an ascended testicle and the discomfort may have affected his debut performance. Gasper said Gar Hole came out of that race with a hind-end issue. Already an imposing physical prospect, gelding Gar Hole also helped curb his growth, Gasper said.

Gar Hole was born about 60 miles south of Hot Springs at McDowell Farm, where Anthony boards approximately six broodmares and stands three stallions. Gar Hole was an early physical standout, Gasper said.

“When the horses are weaned, we bring them up to Kentucky, to Arthur Hancock’s (Stone) farm,” Gasper said. “They bring them up in the fall and that’s the first time I see them. I told John Ed that this one was a little different than most of them. As he grew and as he became a yearling, I told John Ed one day, ‘You know, if people didn’t know who he was by or out of and you led him into that sales ring, he’d bring a half a million dollars.’ I said, ‘This horse is different than any Arkansas-bred we’ve ever had.’ ”

Following his disappointing debut, Gar Hole spent last summer with Gasper at Blackwood Stables, a layup, breaking and training facility near Lexington, Ky.

“He showed me then that he still had it,” Gasper said. “Whether he could reproduce it on the track, when it came to real time, remained to be seen. He’s a massive animal. Gorgeous horse. He’s just gorgeous. He’s got a good head and eye and he’s got a great mind on him, too, which means a lot.”

Gar Hole has bankrolled $182,274 after winning 3 of 4 career starts. He is scheduled to break from post 9 Saturday under perennial Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. The projected 10-horse Nodouble Breeders’ field from the rail out: Mrs. Beans, Geovanni Franco to ride, 123 pounds, 8-1 on the morning line; Bandit Point, Kelsi Harr, 115, 8-1; Tempt Fate, Florent Geroux, 118, 4-1; Blame J D, Martin Garcia, 118, 8-1; Big Success, David Cohen, 123, 20-1; Souixper Charger, Luis Quinonez, 118, 8-1; K J’s Nobility, David Cabrera, 118, 5-1; Young Bull, Francisco Arrieta, 118, 8-1; Gar Hole, Santana Jr., 123; and Reef’s Destiny, Jon Court, 115, 30-1.

Ortiz is seeking his first career Oaklawn stakes victory after recording five runner-up finishes at the last two meetings. Anthony has never won the Nodouble, but he has enjoyed recent success in state-bred stakes races. Anthony won the $75,000 Arkansas Breeders’ in 2015 (Trace Creek), $100,000 Rainbow Miss in 2020 (Sekani) and the 2021 Downthedustyroad (The Mary Rose).

Now, the horse named after a famous Arkansas bar has another chance to raise the bar Saturday.

“Everybody has an opinion, to the farm, the early trainers, the breakers, those who put them in training – ‘this is the good one; this is the good one’ – so you put your best names on them,” Anthony said. “I have put some great names on some horses that couldn’t run a step and Gar Hole happens to be one of those horses that was a lesser light. They come from anywhere. You never know where a good one’s going to appear.”