Jockey Nik Juarez Joins Oaklawn’s Riding Colony
Newcomer Nik Juarez is scheduled to arrive Saturday in Hot Springs and begin getting on horses Sunday, said Gary Stevens, the agent who will represent the jockey for the first time during the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting that begins Dec. 9.
Stevens said Wednesday night that he will also continue to book mounts for Geovanni Franco, who returned to Oaklawn last season and finished sixth in the standings.
Juarez, who has been based on the East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic, entered Thursday with 909 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, the first coming in 2013. He ranked 22nd in North America (United States and Canada) in victories (187) and 28th ($6,459,719) in purse earnings in 2017.
“He’s a little G. Stevens,” said Stevens, the retired Hall of Fame rider. “I didn’t know him. I’ve watched him. Ron Anderson, my old agent, had him at Gulfstream two years ago and I’ve watched him ride. I knew nothing about him personally, other than watching him ride. I’ve been a fan of his.”
Franco made his Oaklawn debut in 2016 and rode 45 winners the following year to finish third in the standings. Franco then relocated to Southern California before returning to Oaklawn last December. He rode 29 winners at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting.
“I’ve got Geovanni and him (Juarez) and it’s a perfect match,” Stevens said. “They’re both excited. I’m excited.”
Franco is now riding at Churchill Downs and Horseshoe Indianapolis.
Compton Returns Home after Banner Meet at Delaware Park
Arkansas native Greg Compton (North Little Rock) has returned to Oaklawn after a banner season at Delaware Park, where he saddled 13 winners as a trainer.
Compton, in partnership with Danny Brown of Hot Springs and his fiancé, Charis Brenneman, also won 13 of 51 starts as an owner to finish one behind the co-leaders. The trio’s $358,690 in purse earnings ranked third at Delaware Park, which ran May 25-Nov. 11.
“We had a great a meet,” Compton said.
Compton, who started his first horse in 2006, won eight races at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, a single-season personal best in Hot Springs. He had 12 horses on the grounds earlier this month and said he will be “looking to claim a few more” during the 2022-2023 meeting that begins Dec. 9.
Compton has won two allowance races with I’m the Boss of Me after claiming the Midshipman filly, on behalf of himself, Brown and Brenneman, for $50,000 last December at Oaklawn. Compton said he’s pointing I’m the Boss of Me for the $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for female sprinters, 3 and up, Dec. 17 at Oaklawn. I’m the Boss of Me, in her last start, was a sharp allowance winner Oct. 28 at Delaware Park.
“She’d been laid off for like six months,” Compton said. “Came back and won her comeback race there, the allowance race, pretty decent.”
Also returning for Compton is Full Authority, who finished fifth in two Mid-Atlantic sprint stakes after the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting ended in May. Full Authority captured two allowance sprints last season at Oaklawn for Compton, Brown and Brenneman, but hasn’t raced since early July.
“He’s just started back galloping,” Compton said. “He should be ready for opening weekend. We kicked him out. He just didn’t do that good up there. It seems like his best races are always right here.”
Compton saddled the first of his 158 career winners to date in 2007 after coming up under three-time Oaklawn training champion Bobby Barnett.
Barber Road, who finished in the top three in each of Oaklawn’s four Kentucky Derby points races last season, was vanned to Hot Springs earlier this week in preparation for the 2022-2023 meeting that begins Dec. 9. Barber Road, unraced since June, had been training at The Thoroughbred Center in central Kentucky for trainer John Ortiz, who said he plans to point the gray colt for Oaklawn’s lucrative two-turn series of stakes races for older horses, notably the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 22. Barber Road finished second in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April at Oaklawn before running sixth in the Kentucky Derby. … Jockey Isaac Castillo, who made a huge splash during the final month of the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, is on the grounds and getting on horses in advance of the 2022-2023 season. Castillo, after relocating from Tampa Bay Downs, finished 12th in last season’s standings with 21 victories, including 15 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Castillo’s 106 mounts over the final 15 racing days netted $1,336,954 in purse money, which ranked 13th overall. … Robertino Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2020, won three races Tuesday at Remington Park to push his career North American total to 2,968, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Diodoro’s total ranked 37th in North American history through Wednesday, according to Equibase. Two of Diodoro’s victories were for Arkansas owners – favored Li’l Grazen ($4.20) for John Holleman of Little Rock and Written Dance ($8.80) for Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs. Caroom, Oaklawn’s co-ninth-leading trainer last season, is 7 for 7 at the 2022 Remington Park meeting. Cristian Torres, who was getting on horses last week at Oaklawn, was aboard for all three of Diodoro’s winners. Torres is Remington’s leading rider this season. … Mirroring last season, agent Joe Santos said jockey Reylu Gutierrez, “will be in as well on certain days,” during the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Gutierrez, although based at Fair Grounds, won 13 races at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting and his mounts amassed $1,078,916 in purse earnings. Five of Gutierrez’s victories – all for Ortiz – came in six-figure allowance races. Santos is scheduled to be represented on a daily basis at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting by defending champion David Cabrera and newcomer Rene Diaz, a 5-pound apprentice.