Oaklawn Barn Notes: Cox Fully Loaded for Southwest Stakes

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, jhoyt@oaklawn.com

(501) 363-4305

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Corona Bolt

Photo Credit: Cathy Riccio

Cox Fully Loaded for Southwest Stakes

The morning after winning the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes New Year’s Day at Oaklawn, trainer Brad Cox was asked where he would be Jan. 28.

“I’ll probably be in Miami,” Cox said. “Cyberknife’s meant a lot to us. He’s a good colt. I’m definitely sad to see him go because I feel like he’s just hitting his best stride.”

Cyberknife, who won the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April at Oaklawn, will make his final career start in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park in suburban Miami. The reference to Jan. 28 – almost four weeks earlier – was sparked by Cox revealing that he planned to run as many as three horses in Oaklawn’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds.

Cox will be represented by three horses in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Southwest, which is scheduled to be run approximately 20 minutes after the Pegasus, in unbeaten Corona Bolt (2 for 2), stakes winner Jace’s Road and Hit Show, a Dec. 17 entry-level allowance winner at Oaklawn. The most intriguing of the trio is Corona Bolt, the country’s top-rated Kentucky Derby prospect in Jeremy Plonk’s weekly Triple Crown scouting report, “Countdown to the Crown.”

From the first crop of millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro, Corona Bolt will be making his two-turn and 3-year-old debut in the Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. Corona Bolt was a front-running 6 ¾-length winner of the $100,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at 6 furlongs Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds. He came from just off the pace to win his Nov. 19 career debut at Churchill Downs going 6 ½ furlongs.

Florent Geroux will have his regular seat aboard Cyberknife in the Pegasus, but he also rode Corona Bolt in his first two starts. Corona Bolt, favored in both races, is 6-1 on the morning line for the Southwest.

“I think he’s definitely a horse with talent,” Geroux said moments after riding Misty Veil in the $150,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 7 at Oaklawn. “He’s been winning going away both times, well in control in both races. Now, the question mark is if he’s going to be able to carry his speed all the way around two turns. I don’t see why not. It looks like the perfect race to get him started for the Kentucky Derby trail, for sure.”

A $225,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, Corona Bolt is campaigned by nationally prominent breeder/owner Barbara Banke (Stonestreet Stables). Corona Bolt is a half-brother to Proven Strategies, a stakes winner at a mile on turf at 3 in Canada for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

“He’s got speed,” Cox said of Corona Bolt. “He’s a very fast horse.”

Corona Bolt will be ridden in the Southwest by Flavien Prat. Cox and Prat teamed to win the Smarty Jones with unbeaten Victory Formation (3 for 3), who was making his two turn, stakes and 3-year-old debut in the 1-mile race.

Cyberknife will be making his 13th and final career start in the Pegasus, a race Cox won in 2021 with Oaklawn allowance winner Knicks Go. Cyberknife, a millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner, will enter stud at Kentucky’s Spendthrift Farm following the Pegasus. He’s the 5-2 program favorite.

“Florent breezed him (Jan. 1) and was like, ‘Man, it’s a shame we’re having to send him off to stud,’ ” Cox said. “But look, it is what it is. We’re going to do the best we can with him Pegasus Day and hopefully he goes out a winner.”

The Southwest will offer 40 points (20-8-6-4-2, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1.

Cox also won the Smarty Jones in 2021 with Caddo River and the Southwest in 2021 with champion Essential Quality.

Mott Scores First Oaklawn Win

Trainer Riley Mott recorded his first career Oaklawn victory in last Sunday’s second race with House Wrecker ($5.40) under leading rider Cristian Torres. Mott, 31, went out on his own Nov. 1 after assisting his father, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, for eight years.

House Wrecker, who captured the $6,250 claiming sprint for older fillies and mares by a half-length, marked Riley Mott’s 15th starter of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. He had three seconds and three thirds before the breakthrough victory, his second overall.

“That felt like a weight off the shoulders, that’s for sure,” Mott said Thursday morning.

Mott was already in Arkansas overseeing his Oaklawn stable when he recorded his first career victory Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs. Mott’s first winner, Unifying, marked his third and final starter of the Churchill Downs Fall meeting. Mott’s other 18 career starts have come at Oaklawn.

“The one in Churchill was, obviously, pretty meaningful, but it’s a little different when you’re not there in person,” Mott said.

House Wrecker was making her first start since Mott claimed the 5-year-old daughter of Congrats for $20,000 out of an eighth-place finish Dec. 18 at Oaklawn. A forward factor from the start last Sunday, House Wrecker led by two lengths in midstretch and held off a hard-charging Proud Victoria approaching the wire.

“We were in an aggressive spot,” Mott said. “It looked like the right spot because at the end of the day we won by a diminishing neck or head or whatever. But I felt that if we were going to win one that day that she was probably the one.”

Mott enters Friday with a 1-3-3 record from 18 starts and purse earnings of $118,168 at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 9.

Bill Mott recorded his first career Oaklawn victory Feb. 12, 1975, with Colorado Bay ($17) in an $11,000 claiming race for older horses. Mott was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986 with 35 victories.

Caddo River Moves to Lukas

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning that stakes-winning Caddo River moved to his barn following a runner-up finish in an allowance race last Saturday at Oaklawn.

A 5-year-old homebred for Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony, Caddo River had previously been with two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Under Cox’s care, Caddo River won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes in 2021 at Oaklawn before finishing second in its $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) later that year. Anthony and Lukas have teamed for 10 victories at Oaklawn, including seven at the 2008 meeting.

“John Ed and I have always had a good relationship,” Lukas said. “I had his horses back, I can’t recall the exact year, but we had a great meet. We did really well and then I don’t remember what happened, but he sent them some place or did something different, changed his program. Anyhow, we’ve always had a strong relationship and he just called me up and said, ‘Wayne, I think this horse fits you and so I’d like to have you take him.’ I said, ‘I would love to have him.’ ”

Lukas said he will point Caddo River to the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18 at Oaklawn. Anthony won the Razorback last year with the Cox-trained Plainsman.

Caddo River, who is by Hard Spun, has a 5-5-1 record from 16 lifetime starts and earnings of $677,800. Anthony (281) is the winningest owner in Oaklawn history.

Finish Lines

Kelsi Harr enters Friday with $2,787,364 in career purse earnings at Oaklawn, just behind Cindy Murphy’s record $2,792,644 for a female jockey. The bulk of Murphy’s total came between 1997 and 2006 when she rode mostly as Cindy Noll. Harr, who began riding at Oaklawn in 2019, was named on one horse Friday, three Saturday and three Sunday. Harr ($1,187,724) became the first female rider in Oaklawn history to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at a meet last season. … Trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs recorded a double last Sunday, winning the third race with Lady Commander ($14.60) and the fifth race with Run Fearless ($8). Fires, 82, now has at least one victory at every Oaklawn meet since 1977. Fires has 473 career Oaklawn victories (No. 4 all time). … Ben’s Legacy ($8.40), a 3-year-old full brother to 2020 champion turf female Rushing Fall, broke his maiden in last Saturday’s eighth race for trainer Jimmy DiVito.