Next Start Still Undecided for Promising 3-Year-Old Call Me Jamal

Friday, March 11, 2022

Next Start Still Undecided for Promising 3-Year-Old Call Me Jamal

Moments after Call Me Jamal’s half-mile workout Thursday morning at Oaklawn, trainer Mike Puhich reiterated his position following the gelding’s Feb. 26 entry-level allowance victory.

The decision on the next race for Call Me Jamal, Puhich said, will still be based largely on the next race for multiple stakes winner Secret Oath. After three dominant victories at the meet against 3-year-old fillies, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Secret Oath could challenge males for the first time in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 2.

Puhich said Call Me Jamal will make his next start in the Arkansas Derby or the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 9 at Keeneland. He’s just waiting on Oaklawn’s leading lady.

“I think Lukie, he’s going for the Derby,” Puhich said. “Did you see the work the day before yesterday? That filly gets better every fricking day. She looked liked a monster coming home.”

Secret Oath, in her first work since a 7 ½-length victory in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 26, covered a half-mile in :48.40 Tuesday morning. Secret Oath also is a candidate for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles April 2. The Fantasy is Oaklawn’s third and final Kentucky Oaks points race.

Sandwiched around a troubled seventh-place finish in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Jan. 29, Call Me Jamal has posted two meet victories at 1 1/16 miles, breaking his maiden Dec. 18 in his two-turn debut and capturing an entry-level allowance by 2 ¼ lengths Feb. 26 under Geovanni Franco.

Puhich had considered running Call Me Jamal in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Feb. 26 before opting for the 1 1/16-mile undercard race. Call Me Jamal ran the distance over a fast track in 1:45.45. The winning time for the Rebel approximately two hours later – the surface was transitioning from fast to sloppy because of rain – was 1:45.69. Secret Oath won the Honeybee, run about three hours before the Rebel, in 1:44.74 for 1 1/16 miles. Ethereal Road, who finished third behind Call Me Jamal Dec. 18, returned to break his maiden Jan. 29 and run second, beaten a half-length, in the Rebel for Lukas.

The Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10) to its top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Call Me Jamal likely would need a top two finish in either race to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. The gelding has no qualifying points.

“A lot of it will, probably most of it will (depend on Secret Oath) and the weather and everything,” Puhich said. “But honestly, I like giving him a little more time. He’s not going to be 3 until after the (Kentucky) Derby, so I’d lean more towards the Blue Grass. I think they’re both going to be ultra-tough.”

Returning to the work tab for the first time since his allowance victory, Call Me Jamal covered a half-mile in :49.80 Thursday morning under Franco. Puhich called the move over a fast track a “maintenance” drill.

“He’s doing well,” Puhich said.

A $70,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, Call Me Jamal races for prominent Pacific Northwest heart surgeon Mark DeDomenico. The Malibu Moon gelding was named after Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Jamal Adams.

Meanwhile, Lukas said Secret Oath and Ethereal Road came out of their recent works in good order and both probably will breeze twice more in advance of their April 2 races. Ethereal Road worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 March 6.

Ethereal Road is pointing for the Arkansas Derby, Lukas said Thursday morning, while Robert and Stacy Mitchell, who bred and own Secret Oath, continue to debate the Arkansas Derby and Fantasy.

From the first crop of deceased champion Arrogate, Secret Oath has been among the most dazzling horses at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting after winning a Dec. 31 allowance race by 8 ¼ lengths, $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 29 by 7 ¼ lengths and romping in the Honeybee. Secret Oath already has secured a spot in the Kentucky Oaks – the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies – after collecting 60 points for victories in the Martha Washington and Honeybee.

Lukas won the 1984 Arkansas Derby with Althea, a week after she finished second in the Fantasy.

“I’ve talked to Rob Mitchell and they’re undecided,” Lukas said. “They’re kind of leaving it up to me, too. One day, they lean towards maybe trying the Derby and another day they lean towards the Fantasy. I would say there’s an outside chance that we’ll go in the Derby. I’m going to try to do what they’d like to do.”

Ethereal Road ranks seventh on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 20 points following his runner-up finish in the Rebel, which marked his stakes debut. Other locally based horses pointing for the Arkansas Derby include Barber Road and Chasing Time, third and fifth, respectively, in the Rebel.

Trainer Chris Hartman said Rebel fourth Kavod is targeting shorter races. Dash Attack, who finished seventh in the Rebel, is pointing for the $400,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles April 16 at Keeneland, trainer Kenny McPeek said in a Thursday email.

Dash Attack earned 10 points for his victory in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1. The Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.

Arrieta On Pace for First Oaklawn Title

The leading jockey after the first day of racing this season at Oaklawn remains the leading jockey after the latest

Francisco Arrieta rode four winners opening day, Dec. 3, and three more last Saturday, pushing his total to 39 after Day 36 of the scheduled 66-day meeting. David Cabrera is second in the standings with 37 victories, Ricardo Santana Jr. is third with 34.

Arrieta is on pace to easily eclipse his total from the 2021 Oaklawn meeting, when he rode 50 winners in his local debut to finish third in the standings. Unseating Santana, Oaklawn’s perennial riding champion, is in play as well.

“I’m happy with what is happening,” Arrieta said during training hours Sunday morning. “I’ve just got to say thank you to the trainers that are supporting me, the people that have been giving me the opportunity.”

Arrieta swept the final four races opening day, including the inaugural $150,000 Advent Stakes for 2-year-old sprinters aboard Kavod for trainer Chris Hartman, among the jockey’s biggest supporters.

Arrieta rode two winners last Saturday for trainer Cipriano Contreras (favorites One for Richie and Home Base) and the third for trainer Dan Peitz in heavily favored Beguine, who broke her maiden by 2 ½ front-running lengths in her two-turn debut. Beguine is a candidate for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles April 2.

“She ran beautifully yesterday,” Arietta said. “Easy lead and when I asked her, she just kept running.”

Arrieta, 33, said he’s more comfortable this season at Oaklawn than in 2021, when he planned to winter at Fair Grounds before agent Jay Fedor “cold-called” him in December 2020 and convinced him at the 11th hour to test the waters in Hot Springs.

A native of Venezuela, Arrieta had ridden extensively the previous few years in New Mexico, Arizona and Minnesota before making Arkansas and Kentucky his year-round circuit in 2021. The move was a financial windfall and led to a career year for purse earnings ($5,534,417), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, smashing Arrieta’s previous best ($4,033,210) in 2019.

“Making the decision was pretty hard, especially when you’ve got family,” Arrieta said. “But I feel in my heart it was a good decision to make, to give it a try. Jay was excited to have my book and that made me excited, too, to work with him. Thank God, we’re here.”

Arrieta has 720 victories and $16,106,400 in purse earnings in his career, according to Equibase. He ranked eighth nationally in victories (250) in 2019.

Arrieta recorded his first United States victory in 2015 and was leading rider at Canterbury Park in 2019.

What’s a Wobberjod?

There’s more to Wobberjod than just a perfect record in three starts for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. There’s the story behind the name.

Wobberjod is owned by Oaklawn President Louis Cella, who said the 5-year-old Flatter gelding’s odd name derives from “whopperjawed,” or crooked.

“Wobberjod is South African for the American version of whopperjawed, which is askew and a little off center,” Cella said. “Got him as a 3-year-old. Couldn’t get to the racetrack. Got him to a 4-year-old. Couldn’t get him to the racetrack. Finally, he was ready to go and the trainer called me and said we had to have a name.”

Cella said he was 0 for 5 in submissions to The Jockey Club, the country’s official breed registry and the organization responsible for approving names of Thoroughbreds. After those submissions were rejected – a length of no more than 18 characters, including spaces and punctuation, is among strict guidelines for naming – Cella said a buddy from South Africa suggested, “Wobberjod.”

“I said, ‘What the hell is Wobberjod?’ ” Cella said. “And he goes it’s American for whopperjawed – just askew. And that’s the name of it.”

Purchased for $100,000 by Cella and his brother, John, at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training in 2019, Wobberjod didn’t debut until Oct. 23 at Remington Park. Wobberjod, racing for a $7,500 claiming tag, broke his maiden by 8 ¼ lengths and is 2 for 2 this year at Oaklawn. The gelding was a sharp three-length winner for a $10,000 claiming price Jan. 7 and won a starter-allowance sprint Jan. 29. Wobberjod is the 3-1 second choice in the program for Friday’s fifth race, another starter-allowance sprint.

“What a nice horse,” Louis Cella said. “Who would know?”

Moquett credited Jeff Mackor for securing Wobberjod at the Fasig-Tipton sale – the bloodstock agent also was instrumental in the purchase of Whitmore, the trainer’s future Eclipse Award winner – and the Cellas for their patience with the gelding.

“He had some growing pains and stuff and we had to wait on him,” Moquett said. “One thing about the Cellas is they’ll let you take all the time you need and they didn’t make me rush him.”

Wobberjod has rewarded his connections with three victories by a combined 11 ½ lengths and $36,498 in earnings.

“He’s a cool, chubby, fun little horse,” Moquett said.

Also entered in Friday’s fifth race is Space Odessey, who will be making his local debut after being privately purchased earlier this year by Star City, Ark., owners Lance Gasaway and Starsky Weast. Gasaway has campaigned, among others, 2020 Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou in partnership. Weast is best known for racing his homebred Weast Hill, an Arkansas-bred standout and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner. Space Odessey is now with 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro after previously being based in northern California.

Finish Lines

Unbeaten Triple Crown nominee We the People is the even-money program favorite for Saturday’s fourth race, an entry-level allowance for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, We the People will be facing winners for the first time after capturing his Feb. 12 career debut by 5 ¾ lengths at a mile. Brisset said We the People would be wheeled back in a major Kentucky Derby points race with a strong performance Saturday. Purchased for $230,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s March 2-year-olds in training sale, We the People races for WinStar Farm (Kenny Troutt), CMNWLTH (Brian Doxtator & Chase Chamberlin) and Siena Farm (Anthony Manganaro). … Cyberknife is “possible” for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 2, trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday afternoon. Cyberknife, from the first crop of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, has been based this winter at Fair Grounds, where he finished sixth in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 22 before rebounding with a fast allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 19 in his last start. … Connie K represented trainer Randy Morse’s 297th career Oaklawn victory in last Saturday’s $150,000 Downthedustyroad Stakes for Arkansas-bred female sprinters. … Apprentice jockey Rene Diaz finished second and fifth in his first two career Oaklawn mounts last Saturday. The Fair Grounds-based Diaz is represented by Joe Santos, who books mounts at Oaklawn for David Cabrera and apprentice Kylee Jordan … An across-the-board purse increase was reflected in Friday’s card, with claiming and starter allowance races increased $4,000, while maiden special weights and allowances increased $6,000. The minimum purse is now $29,000, maiden special weights are worth $90,000 and allowances will start at $106,000. Oaklawn officials cited strong business on and off track for the increase. … Heart Rhythm, trainer Trisha Vance Duncan’s first career winner, recorded a half-mile bullet workout (:47.80) Thursday morning under Geovanni Franco. The track was fast. Moments before the work, Vance Duncan said she planned to enter Heart Rhythm in the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older sprinters March 19. Heart Rhythm was a Feb. 20 allowance winner. It was the second career starter for Vance Duncan, a former assistant under her father, four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance. … Atkoa, runner-up in a March 5 allowance race, is pointing for the Whitmore, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning. … Verylittlecents is pointing for the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters March 26, trainer Randy Morse said March 5. Verylittlecents finished second in the $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Feb. 19 in her last start. … Warrior’s Battle, 3 for 3 at the meet, is entered in Sunday’s fourth race, an allowance race for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. Warrior’s Battle is a half-sister to millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Warrior’s Charge, who is pointing for the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles March 19. Both horses are trained by two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox.