Oaklawn Barn Notes: Lone Rock Still Under Consideration for Tinsel Stakes

Lone Rock Still Under Consideration for Tinsel Stakes After Work

Trainer Robertino Diodoro said earlier this month that he would watch Lone Rock train for 10 days at Oaklawn before deciding if his marathon star would complete a busy 2021 campaign in its inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes. The Dec. 18 race is for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.

Lone Rock, a millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner, still has the green light after working an easy half-mile in :50.20 Nov. 27 under exercise rider Chad Torevell. The track was fast.

“I thought he worked great,” Diodoro said. “Chad has breezed him before, so he knows if he’s back to himself.”

Lone Rock, who arrived Nov. 13 at Oaklawn, was breezing for the first time since a half-mile move Oct. 23 at Keeneland. Lone Rock then shipped to Southern California and won the $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) Nov. 6 at Del Mar, setting a 1 5/8-mile track record (2:42.61) under Oaklawn regular Ramon Vazquez to surpass $1 million in career earnings.

Lone Rock has bankrolled $722,884 this year – winning 6 of 8 starts – after Diodoro re-claimed the now-6-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding for $40,000 in November 2020 at Churchill Downs on behalf of New York owner Jason Provenzano (Flying P Stable).

Prior to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Lone Rock had captured an allowance race Feb. 27 at Oaklawn, an allowance race April 11 at Oaklawn, $130,000 Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes April 27 at Churchill Downs, $400,000 Brooklyn Stakes (G2) June 5 at Belmont Park and the $120,000 Birdstone Stakes Aug. 5 at Saratoga.

The April 11 race, Isaac Murphy and Brooklyn were all 1 ½ miles. The Birdstone was 1 ¾ miles. Lone Rock also finished second in another 1 ½-mile race, the $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses, March 13 at Oaklawn.

Diodoro said Lone Rock will resurface in the Tinsel, “if he keeps doing what he’s doing.”

“We’re going to let him tell us if he’s ready,” Diodoro said. “Right now, he’s telling us it’s a go, but we’re still a few weeks out.”

Nominations to the Tinsel close Dec. 6.

Flo on the Go

Oaklawn’s normal race week in 2021-2022 is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But nationally prominent jockey Florent Geroux plans to ride four days weekly the next few months, his longtime agent, Doug Bredar, said Monday morning.

Bredar said Geroux will be based at Oaklawn for the second consecutive season during the 66-day live season that begins Friday, adding the jockey also will ride Thursdays at Fair Grounds, which opened its 80-day meet last Thursday. Geroux had been a Fair Grounds regular before moving his tack to Oaklawn for the 2021 meeting. Geroux, whose major client is 2020 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, was Oaklawn’s co-fifth-leading rider with 30 victories, including six stakes.

“He feels that the three is just not enough,” Bredar said. “He prefers to ride more. I think we’ll travel less on the weekends. I don’t have as many California horses or Florida horses that I know are going to be there. There could be some that pop up, but for the most part I think you’ll see him here riding and, like, he wants to ride at Fair Grounds on Thursdays.”

Cox’s vast operation includes winter divisions at Oaklawn and Fair Grounds, where he has won three training titles. Cox was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer during the 2021 meeting that ended in May.

Oaklawn traditionally opens in January, but an expanded calendar in 2021-2022 includes 10 December racing dates. Bredar calls Oaklawn’s holiday schedule “very kind” (there’s no racing Dec. 24-26 because of Christmas), meaning Geroux figures to ride at Fair Grounds Dec. 20, Dec. 26 and Dec. 27.

“It works out well because Brad likes to use him wherever he can,” Bredar said.

Cox and Geroux teamed to win three stakes at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting – $150,000 Smarty Jones for 3-year-olds with Caddo River, $250,000 Bayakoa (G3) for older females with two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl and the $350,000 Azeri (G2) for older females with Shedaresthedevil. Overall, Geroux amassed $2,853,818 in purse earnings and won with a robust 27 percent of his mounts at the meet.

Geroux is named on 17 horses opening weekend at Oaklawn (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), including eight for Cox.

“I feel very comfortable here this year,” Bredar said. “Hopefully, we’ll have another good meet.”

In addition to Monomoy Girl, Geroux was the regular rider of Gun Runner, who began his 2017 Horse of the Year campaign with a runaway victory in Oaklawn’s $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older runners. Geroux, through Tuesday, ranked seventh nationally in purse earnings this year ($17,975,991).

Bredar also represents Martin Garcia, who returns to Oaklawn after winning 20 races last season to finish eighth in the standings.

Jockey Ken Tohill Approaching Milestone

Different season, same goal.

Ken Tohill, 58, returns to Oaklawn on the cusp of becoming just the 80th jockey in North American history (United States and Canada) to reach 4,000 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Tohill won nine races at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting and has 3,988 overall, the 82nd-highest total in North American history. Tohill’s drive to 4,000 resumes Friday, opening day of Oaklawn’s scheduled 66-day live meeting.

“It’s very feasible,” Tohill’s agent, Becky Esch, said Tuesday morning.

After winning 22 races at Oaklawn in 2014, Tohill returned to Hot Springs last season to ride primarily for 2015 local training champion Chris Hartman. After nine victories at Oaklawn, Tohill has continued to chip away at the career milestone in 2021, riding 45 winners at Prairie Meadows to finish in the standings and six more at Remington Park.

Esch has Tohill booked on 13 horses opening weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

“Starting off, we’re five one day and seven the next,” Tohill said Tuesday morning. “I’m pretty confident about it. Last year, it had been a lot of years since I came here and I didn’t know who to hustle. Chris was naming me on horses and kind of kept me busy. Now, I know who is here. We’re just out shaking the bushes and see if we can get going.”

Tohill rode his first winner in 1979 and has been a fixture in New Mexico, Iowa and northern California (back yard of retired all-time North American riding leader Russell Baze), consistently ranking among the top 100 riders nationally in victories since 2004. He won a career-high 221 races in 2005 to finish 20th nationally.

Tohill said before the 2021 Oaklawn meeting that he “really kind of ruined the first two-thirds of his career” because of alcohol abuse and a fear of leaving northern California.

“We’ve been good since ’03,” Tohill said. “That’s when my career really started. The rest of the years, I chased Russell Baze around and never took things serious. Didn’t really chase a career. But it’s been good. I always said I’m going to keep going until the body doesn’t hold up. Right now, I feel as good as I did when I was 30. I’m going until the body tells me I can’t. I don’t want to be the guy in the way, but right now I feel good and it’s still a lot of fun.”

Oaklawn’s 2021-2022 jockey colony also features Hall of Famer Calvin Borel (5,263 career North American victories), Jon Court (4,219) and Luis Quinonez (3,912), totals that rank 26th, 66th and 85th, respectively, in North American history, according to Equibase.

Finish Lines

Matera, runner-up in the $300,000 Chilukki Stakes (G3) Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs, has returned to Oaklawn for trainer Brad Cox. Matera, a 4-year-old gray daughter of Tapit, moved to Cox’s barn for the 2021 Oaklawn meeting and won an allowance race last March in Hot Springs before recording two subsequent stakes victories, including the $125,000 Groupie Doll Aug. 15 at Ellis Park. Matera, out of Oaklawn stakes winner Miss Macy Sue, was purchased for $1.4 million at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. … In addition to Elvin Gonzalez, agent Bobby Dean said he will represent 7-pound apprentice jockey Albert Lopez at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting. Lopez has 19 career victories, including 16 in 2021. Lopez is among the top apprentice riders at the 2021 Hawthorne fall meeting with five victories. Chel-c Bailey, who also will be based at Oaklawn in 2021-2022, topped all apprentice riders at the Hawthorne fall meeting with seven victories through Saturday. Bailey was named on three horses Sunday at Hawthorne – her final day to ride there – and four horses Friday at Oaklawn, opening day of its 66-day live meeting. Lopez is named on one horse opening day. Gonzalez, in his Oaklawn debut, won 16 races at the 2021 meeting to rank ninth in the standings. … Capture the Glory worked a half-mile in :48.60 Saturday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Lindsay Schultz, who has seven horses on the grounds after recently striking out on her own. Capture the Glory is among six horses Schultz, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, has for Ten Strike Racing (Marshall Gramm and Arkansas native Clay Sanders). Ten Strike, which employs numerous trainers across the country, won six races at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting to tie for ninth in the standings. Ten Strike considers Oaklawn its home track. Super Stock and Pauline’s Pearl, winner of Oaklawn’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3), respectively, last April are back on the grounds for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. … Among the trainers with horses on the grounds in advance of the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting that begins Friday are newcomers Rodolphe Brisset and Jeff Metz. Brisset, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, won the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses in 2019 with millionaire Quip. Metz races extensively at Emerald Downs in the Pacific Northwest, Turf Paradise in Arizona and in Southern California. … Trainer Tom Amoss said the afternoon of Nov. 30 that it’s a “big possibility” Defeater runs in the inaugural $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for 3-year-olds Dec. 11 at Oaklawn. Defeater finished sixth in the $400,000 Remington Park Derby (G3) Sept. 26 at Remington Park before winning a Nov. 10 allowance race at Churchill Downs by 7 ¼ lengths. The 1 1/16-mile Poinsettia closed Nov. 22 with 24 nominations. … Wells Bayou, unraced since last April’s $400,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses, is about to rejoin trainer Brad Cox, the colt’s co-owner, Lance Gasaway, said Saturday morning. Gasaway said Wells Bayou underwent surgery for a leg injury following the Oaklawn Mile and has been based recently at LaCroix Equine, a rehabilitation breaking/early training facility, in Kentucky. Gasaway, who resides in Star City, Ark., said there’s no timetable for Wells Bayou’s return. Wells Bayou was a powerful allowance winner in 2020 at Oaklawn before winning the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds and running fifth in the second division of the Arkansas Derby later that year. Gasaway was at Oaklawn Saturday morning to watch Cole Spur, his unraced 2-year-old Flatter colt, breeze a half-mile out of the gate for Cox. Like Wells Bayou, Cole Spur is named for a tiny community near Star City.