Oaklawn Barn Notes: Local Ownership Group Looking to Repeat 2021 Success at Upcoming Meet

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Local Ownership Group Looking to Repeat 2021 Success at Upcoming Meet

Familiar names dotted the top of owner’s standings during the 2021 Oaklawn meeting that ended May 1.

M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk) captured its fourth consecutive title with 20 victories. Four-time local leader Danny Caldwell and John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history, tied for second with 11. Two more traditional Arkansas powers, Alex and Jo Ann Lieblong (Conway) and Jerry Caroom (Hot Springs), tied for fourth with 10 victories.

Another Arkansas ownership group, this a new name, landed in the top 10, too.

Bryant-based 501 Boys Racing, a small claiming stable operated by 40-somethings Mark Carter and Jeff Johnson, produced a sparkling 7-2-0 record from just 14 starters to tie for seventh in the standings. All seven winners were trained by Karl Broberg, who led the country in victories in 2014-2019.

“Everybody’s been just real supportive,” Johnson said. “Even Karl, he called and said, ‘Hey, man, I just want to tell you that you’ve had a hell of a meet.’”

Carter and Johnson, with an eye toward scratching an ownership itch, formed 501 Boys Racing in late 2017. Their original trainer was J.R. Caldwell, best known for conditioning millionaire and 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile participant Texas Chrome for Texas owner Danny Keene. Johnson said he and Keene became friends because their boxes are next to each other in Oaklawn’s grandstand.

Searching for a cheap claimer, Caldwell, on behalf of 501 Boys, took Anita Maire for $12,500 early in the 2018 Oaklawn meeting. She became the stable’s first starter in a Feb. 17, 2018, waiver claimer at Oaklawn.

After approximately eight months with Caldwell, 501 Boys decided to move their horses to Broberg, another Texas trainer they had met through Keene.

“He gave me Karl’s number and I drove to Dallas and met Karl,” Johnson said. “That’s how we hit it off. It was a meet and greet and he said, ‘Bring it on.’ We haven’t looked back since.”

The stable scored its first career victory Aug. 10, 2018, at Evangeline Downs with the Broberg-trained Cowboy Don. The first Oaklawn victory for 501 Boys was March 9, 2019, with Greeleys Charm, another Broberg trainee who was racing for a $10,000 claiming tag. The stable added another victory in 2019 at Oaklawn and reached the winner’s circle once in 2020 in Hot Springs before its breakout 2021 meeting, which generated $193,517 in purse earnings.

Overall, 501 Boys has 24 victories, including 10 at Oaklawn, from 102 career starters, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Johnson said 501 Boys tries to keep 2-5 horses in training – all with Broberg – and replenishes stock through unearthing “that old hard-knocking claimer.” The 2021-2022 Oaklawn roster will include “a couple” of recent claims at Belmont Park, Johnson said.

In addition to Oaklawn, 501 Boys Racing has another victory at Evangeline Dows, three at Remington Park, three at Lone Star Park, two at Sam Houston and one at Retama, Hawthorne, Delta Dows and Louisiana Downs.

Winning at Oaklawn, Johnson said, is more special because Arkansas is home. Carter and Johnson grew up in Little Rock, 50 miles northeast of Hot Springs, and are longtime friends and Oaklawn patrons.

The stable’s name derives from the 501 area code that serves central Arkansas, including Little Rock, Bryant and Hot Springs. Its silks feature an outline of the state of Arkansas.

“Started coming to Oaklawn when I was 8 years old,” Johnson said. “My family brought me over there and I fell in love with it from the jump. Ever since then, it’s there. Can’t get it out of my heart or my blood.”

Carter, among other business interests, owns a pawn shop in Bryant. Johnson’s family business in nearby Little Rock, Multi-States Electric, repairs transformers on utility poles.

Broberg’s Oaklawn division is overseen by assistant Kevin Martin.

Finish Lines

Among the trainers with horses on the grounds in advance of the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting (Dec. 3-May 8) are Hall of Famers Steve Asmussen and Jerry Hollendorfer, 2020 local champion Robertino Diodoro, Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, Paul Holthus of Hot Springs, Ingrid Mason, Danele Durham and Carl Deville. Oaklawn’s stable area opened Nov. 12. The track opened for training Monday. … Asmussen and Hall of Famer Henry Forrest each have 11 Oaklawn training titles, the most in track history. … Agent Bobby Dean said he will again represent Elvin Gonzalez during the upcoming Oaklawn meeting. Gonzalez, in his local debut, was Oaklawn’s ninth-leading rider with 16 victories at the 2021 meeting. … Myopic “probably” goes next in the inaugural $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes Dec. 11, Diodoro said. The Poinsettia is for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. Myopic finished second in the $125,000 Canadian Derby (G3) Sept. 11 at Century Mile. … Diodoro said Grade 2 winner Keepmeinmind is receiving a break at Cypress Creek Farm in Midway, Ky., and “most likely” resurfaces near the end of the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting. Keepmeinmind began his 3-year-old campaign with a sixth-place finish in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds last March at Oaklawn and hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds Aug. 28 at Saratoga. Keepmeinmind (foot abscess) was scratched from the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 25 at Parx. … Abrogate, winner of the $200,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old female sprinters last April at Oaklawn, captured an allowance sprint in her comeback Nov. 11 at Churchill Downs for Asmussen and prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. … Long Range Toddy surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a runner-up finish in an allowance sprint Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Long Range Toddy ($1,006,834) scored his biggest career victory to date in the first division of the 2019 Rebel for Asmussen and owner Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark. Long Range Toddy is now trained by Dallas Stewart.