Oaklawn Barn Note: Lukas Sends Out Well-bred Ram in Poinsettia
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, email@example.com(501) 363-4305
Friday, December 10, 2021
Photo credit: Coady Photography
Lukas Sends Out Well-bred Ram in Poinsettia
Blue-blood Ram will try to kickstart Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting in Saturday’s inaugural $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
Ram, a son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, will be making his first start at Oaklawn since breaking his maiden for a $50,000 claiming price last April. Following a sharp entry-level allowance score on the Kentucky Derby undercard, Ram ran 10th in the Preakness, was a good third in the $275,000 Harrods Creek Stakes Sept. 25 at Churchill Downs and finished second, beaten a head, in the $150,000 Perryville Stakes Oct. 23 at Keeneland.
Coinciding with Ram’s last few solid showings is an evolution in his running style. The half-brother to millionaire multiple graded stakes winner Coal Front has morphed into a late runner, even catching Lukas, who has seen it all and pretty much done it all, by surprise.
“He changed it,” Lukas, 86, said Thursday morning. “He started dropping back like that and then flying at the end and really finishing. Those were his best races and so we decided to let him do that. In fact, we now flaunt that or even train him that way. But he developed that on his own. Once he started doing that, his race record went right up.”
Ram, who is a ridgling, will be making his 18th lifetime start in the Poinsettia and 14th start this year. Although he has only two career victories, Ram has finished worse than third just twice in his last 10 starts.
“He is starting to live up to what he should be and his reputation,” Lukas said.
Lukas trains Ram, a $375,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, for Christina Baker and William L. Mack. Robert Baker, Christina Baker’s late husband, and Mack were longtime Lukas clients, campaigning with the trainer, among others, Grade 1 winners Strong Mandate, Sporting Chance and Dublin and Super Saks, winner of the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters in 2016 at Oaklawn. Robert Baker died Nov. 22, 2020. He was 85.
Lukas has several promising young horses in his barn, including 2-year-old Kentucky Oaks prospect Secret Oath. A 5 ¼-length maiden special weights winner graduate Oct. 31 at Churchill Downs, Secret Oath finished fifth in the $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs. Both races were 1 1/16 miles.
“She does everything right,” Lukas said. “Good gate filly, gets into the race, gets over the ground beautifully. She’s a little bit immature. She’s kind of slight. We worry about her weight. But she’s been eating really well here, so that may take of itself, too.”
Secret Oath, from the first crop of deceased champion Arrogate, is out of three-time Oaklawn stakes winner Absinthe Minded. Secret Oath races for her breeder, Briland Farm (Robert and Stacy Mitchell), which also campaigned Absinthe Minded with Lukas. Absinthe Minded won Oaklawn’s $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes for older fillies and mares in 2011, $75,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares in 2012 and the $100,000 Bayakoa again in 2012. Another Briland homebred, the robust Sara Sea, was a 2020 Oaklawn allowance winner for Lukas. Sara Sea and Secret Oath are half-sisters.
Lukas said he’s targeting the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 29 for Secret Oath, but she could pop up earlier in an allowance race. The 1 1/16-mile Martha Washington is Oaklawn’s first of three Kentucky Oaks points races.
Lukas’ contingent of 2-year-old colts includes Ignitis, an Oct. 14 Keeneland maiden special weights graduate, and unraced Papa Rocket. Lukas said Ignitis, a son of champion Nyquist, is under consideration for the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races. The Smarty Jones is 1 mile.
Papa Rocket, a son of super sire Into Mischief, is the first horse Lukas has trained for prominent North Little Rock, Ark., businessman Frank Fletcher. Papa Rocket recorded his first work at Oaklawn last Saturday, covering a half-mile in :48.80.
“Really a nice horse,” Lukas said. “Boy, I mean a big, grand-looking horse with all the equipment to be a good one.”
Fletcher also campaigns multiple stakes-winning female sprinter Frank’s Rockette, who is based in south Florida with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Frank’s Rockette has shipped into Lukas’ barn for three starts at Oaklawn, including a victory in the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes last January, and galloped by his exercise riders in Hot Springs. Sebastian “Bas” Nicholl, Lukas’ longtime assistant, saddled Frank’s Rockette for the American Beauty.
“We were a good host, I think,” Lukas said. “She dropped in here and we took care of her and welcomed her in the barn. Frank and I had always talked about doing something, off and own. He said, ‘I’ll send you a horse sometime,’ that type of conversation. When she was our guest here a couple of times and it turned our real well, he just pulled me up one day at the races and says, ‘I’m going to send you an Into Mischief colt.’ Well, the beautiful part is that was great. The real great part is, boy, this is a good son of a b****, I think. He is really a nice horse. Now whether he’s an Arkansas Derby type, we’ll find out. He’s done everything to impress me so far.”
Lukas, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1987 and 2011, said Papa Rocket could debut in early February. The colt was a $300,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase.
Sarah Harper will try to take her next step toward stakes company in Sunday’s featured eighth race, an allowance sprint for 3-year-old and up fillies and mares.
Bred and co-owned by Monroe, La., automobile dealer William S. Sparks and trained by Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, Sarah Harper is seeking her third consecutive victory. Sarah Harper, a 3-year-old daughter of Vancouver, trained at Oaklawn during the 2021 meeting that ended in May, but didn’t debut until Aug. 19 at Saratoga, where she finished third at 6 ½ furlongs under three-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz Jr.
Sarah Harper made her last two starts at Churchill Downs, recording a seven-length maiden victory at 6 furlongs Sept. 26 and clearing her first allowance condition by 3 ¾ lengths at 5 ½ furlongs Nov. 12.
“She had some growing pains of some sort, so the owner told me I could do whatever I wanted to do with her, so I kicked her out and brought her back and got her ready at Ten Mile,” Moquett said, referring to Oaklawn’s satellite training center about 25 miles east of Hot Springs. “Shipped her up to Ellis and worked her and then shipped her straight to Saratoga. If the race had went that we wanted to go, I think we win the race. But it was 6 ½ and she wasn’t fit for that. She’s a pretty good horse.”
Sarah Harper is scheduled to break from post 3 under David Cabrera. The 6-furlong race has a $101,000 purse. Sparks also co-owns Upstriker, a powerful entry-level allowance winner sprinting for Moquett on closing day of the 2021 Oaklawn meeting.
“He’s a pretty lucky dude,” Moquett said.
Moquett said Sarah Harper is named after Sparks’ sister. Sparks also has another homebred with Moquett, One Ten Stadium, entered in Saturday’s sixth race for 2-year-old Arkansas-bred maidens. Sparks named the son of multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Race Day, Moquett said, after the address of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon charter at the University of Arkansas.
Exulting, winner of the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses in 2019, is entered in Sunday’s third race, a starter-allowance route, for trainer Mike Maker and owner Michael Hui of Little Rock, Ark. … Tempt Fate, the winningest horse at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting (4 for 4), is entered in Sunday’s seventh race, an Arkansas-bred allowance sprint, for trainer Carl Deville and owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs. Tempt Fate was a two-time stakes winner against state-breds last season at Oaklawn, claiming the $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ and $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship. … Jockey Luis Quinonez recorded his 617th career Oaklawn victory aboard Holding Pattern ($5.20) for trainer Tom Swearingen in last Sunday’s first race. Quinonez was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2007 and its eighth-winningest rider in history. … Millionaire Grade 2 winner Long Range Toddy is on the grounds for trainer Dallas Stewart and owner Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark.