Oaklawn Barn Notes: Cyberknife Emerges from Arkansas Derby Victory Well

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Fantasy Stakes winner, Yuugirl

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Cyberknife Emerges from Arkansas Derby Victory Well

Cyberknife emerged in good order from his breakthrough victory in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and “probably” ships Tuesday to Churchill Downs to begin preparing for the May 7 Kentucky Derby, the colt’s trainer, Brad Cox, said Sunday morning.

Cyberknife received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 92 (a career high) for Saturday’s 2 ¾-length victory over Barber Road, which marked the second consecutive for the son of Gun Runner since a disappointing sixth-place finish in his stakes debut, the $200,000 Lecomte (G3), at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 22 at Fair Grounds.

Known for his frisky behavior – Cyberknife was disqualified from a career-debut victory last September at Churchill Downs for stretch interference – the Gun Runner colt dumped regular rider Florent Geroux in the post parade after the jockey was legged up in the infield.

“I didn’t see it happen, but somebody yelled at me and I said, ‘Oh,’” Cox said. “I was too far away to do anything about it, but Florent was able to jump up on him by himself. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s feeling good. It’s a nice, crisp morning and if you watched him walk around here, you definitely wouldn’t think he ran a mile and an eighth yesterday. He’s got a lot of energy.”

Cyberknife ($13.60) covered 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.42. He was exiting a sharp three-length allowance victory Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds. Cyberknife collected 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points with Saturday’s victory and ranks fourth on the official leaderboard released Saturday night by Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starts.

Cyberknife is 2 for 2 since Cox removed blinkers following the Lecomte. Cyberknife debuted with the equipment, then raced without blinkers in his next starts, including a troubled second-place finish in a Nov. 5 sprint at Churchill Downs. Cyberknife, in his two-turn debut, broke his maiden Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds before adding blinkers again in the Lecomte.

“Was super disappointed in his second run,” Cox said. “I was in California maybe for the Breeders’ Cup for that race. But I was like ‘Aww, you know, this is our spot; this is when we’re going to get our maiden broken. He didn’t run bad; he just wouldn’t go by the other horse. Not to take anything away from the winner that day (Classic Moment), but I thought he was goofing off and not really focused and paying attention. If you watch his race replays, they tell you more about him than anything in regards to his antics down the lane. Obviously in the post parade yesterday, he did get Flo off and he’s a handful, he really is. He’s not bad. He’s just full of energy.”
Cox also trains lightly raced Zozos, who was a 10 ¼-length entry-level allowance winner Feb. 11 at Oaklawn before finishing second in the $1 Louisiana Derby (G2) at 1 3/16 miles March 26 at Fair Grounds in his last start. Zozos also is safely in the Kentucky Derby field with 40 points to rank 13th.

“Knock on wood, right?” said Cox, who has captured two consecutive Eclipse Awards as the country’s outstanding trainer. “We’ve been able to flop horses back for several years now, between both locations, Oaklawn and Fair Grounds. We have several horses here that train at Oaklawn that ran down at the Fair Grounds and vice versa and they work well together. Both operations work really well together. Listen, we can’t have them all here or have them all there. Believe me, I would like to have them all in one place like that with the numbers that we. I’ve always felt pretty confident that when a horse is doing well and training well, one of these two surfaces they can ship to and perform well.”

Cyberknife, who is owned by Gold Square LLC (Al Gold), has a 3-2-0 record from six lifetime starts and earnings of $860,000.

Barber Road also came out of the Arkansas Derby in good shape physically, trainer John Ortiz said Sunday morning. Barber Road has 58 points to rank ninth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. All of Barber Road’s points have been collected in Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby prep series, with runner-up finishes in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1 and $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29, a third-place finish in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 26 and another second in the Arkansas Derby.

“Right now, we don’t have any plans of moving him,” said Ortiz, who has never had a Kentucky Derby starter. “He sprung a shoe, so we’re going to get that fixed first and address that. He got banged around there down the stretch, but he’s just a tough little horse.”

Ortiz said Barber Road will eventually ship straight to Churchill Downs to train for the Kentucky Derby. Ortiz said he will have a 20-horse string there this spring.

Secret Oath, who finished third as the 7-5 favorite in the Arkansas Derby, also is headed to Churchill Downs, but the multiple stakes winner will be pointed for the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies May 6, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning.

Secret Oath was facing males for the first time after winning her three starts at the meeting, including the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 29 and $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 26, by a combined 23 lengths.

In the Arkansas Derby, Secret Oath, last of nine, made a sweeping six-wide move on the second turn to reach contention before weakening late to finish three-quarters of a length behind Barber Road.

“She was tired,” Lukas said. “That move she made was a terrific move for a filly at this stage of her career, to keep going. Watching it live, I thought she’s probably going to hang a little bit here. She almost had to. It was a monster move. But when she came back, she was tired. The beautiful thing is we’ve got five weeks now. I said that before the race and now it gives us some direction. We’re not thinking Derby. Now, we’re focused on what we should be – the Oaks – and we’ve got five weeks to get back in form.”

Lukas said Secret Oath and stablemates Ethereal Road and Ignitis will ship Tuesday to Churchill Downs. Ignitis, third in the Smarty Jones, is pointing for the $400,000 Lafayette Stakes (G1) at 7 furlongs April 8 at Keeneland, Lukas said.

Ethereal Road, the Rebel runner-up, is scheduled to make his next start in the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 9 at Keeneland. Ethereal Road has 20 points to rank 24th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

Just a Fantasy

Yuugiri is “50-50” to make her next start in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs, trainer Rodolphe Brisset said Sunday morning.

Yuugiri secured a spot in the Kentucky Oaks – the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies – with a front-running neck victory over Beguine in Saturday’s $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles. Like Saturday’s $1.25 million Arkansas Derby, the Fantasy offered 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) to its top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks.

Brisset was working on shipping arrangements Sunday morning and said Yuugiri ($10.20) will initially be sent to Keeneland before moving to Churchill Downs. He said he will confer with the filly’s owners, Tsunebumi & Sekie Yoshihara, before confirming next-race plans.

“I’ve still got to talk the ownership group,” Brisset said. “We’ve got to see how she came out of it and how she trains. It’s 50-50, I guess, for now. I’m sure the ownership is going to want to take a shot at it.”

Brisset said Yuugiri also will be considered for the $500,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile June 11 at Belmont Park.

Beguine will be pointed for the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Dan Peitz said Sunday morning. Beguine collected 40 qualifying points for her runner-up finish and ranks ninth on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard released Saturday night by Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters.

Peitz’s only Kentucky Oaks starter, Real Cozzy, was runner-up in 2001 after finishing ninth in the Fantasy.

“It was Real Cozzy’s fifth start and it will be this filly’s fifth start,” Peitz said. “She’s lightly raced. The plan right now is to go.”

Fantasy third Bubble Rock has 30 points to rank 10th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, but is probably not a candidate for the race, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning. Bubble Rock, a homebred for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, was making her first start on dirt Saturday after previously winning stakes races on turf and a synthetic surface.

Bubble Rock, under eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr., was beaten 3 ¼ lengths in the Fantasy after stalking Yuugiri throughout much of the race.

“Really proud of her,” Cox said. “I’m really glad that we gave her the opportunity on the dirt. She did not embarrass us at all. I thought it was a super-good effort. Ricardo rode her and he’s a good judge of a horse. He held her together. He said when he asked her to pick it up, she went but she struggled maybe just a little bit. That made me think she is grass. We’ll probably get her back on the grass in the future.”

Finish Lines

Champion Jackie’s Warrior record a 5-furlong bullet work from the gate (:59.40) over a fast track Sunday morning for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen in advance of the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs April 16. Jackie’s Warrior won an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter of 2021. … Millionaire Grade 1 winner Clairiere worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.40 Sunday morning for Asmussen in advance of the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles April 23. … Fulsome ($18.80), winner of Saturday’s $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for older horses, will be considered for the $500,000 Alysheba Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles May 6 at Churchill Downs, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning. … Jockey Kelsi Harr recorded her 12th winner of the meeting in Saturday’s 13th race aboard Twisted Dixie ($32.60) for her longtime fiancée, trainer Robert N. Cline, to surpass her previous single-season high in Hot Springs. Harr won 11 races in 2020 when she was the meet’s leading apprentice.