Oaklawn Barn Notes: Speedy Nashville Returns Friday

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Speedy Nashville Returns Friday

Whitmore won the biggest sprint race Nov. 7, 2020, at Keeneland, but Nashville won the fastest.

Now, more than 13 months after setting a 6-furlong track record on that Breeders’ Cup undercard, lightly raced Nashville is scheduled to launch his comeback in an allowance sprint Friday afternoon at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and co-owners WinStar Racing and China Horse Club.

“It’s just kind of a starting point,” WinStar President/CEO and racing manager Elliott Walden said Wednesday morning. “We want to get a race in him and see where we are. It looks like a good spot. There’s some competitive horses in there and it will give us a good barometer.”

Nashville is among seven horses entered in the 5 ½-furlong eighth race, which has a $102,000 purse. Probable post time is 3:46 p.m. (Central). Nashville, to be ridden for the first time by Florent Geroux, drew the rail and is the 7-5 program favorite.

Nashville hasn’t started since suffering his first career loss in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds Dec. 26, 2020, at Santa Anita. Charlatan, who captured the first division of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) earlier that year at Oaklawn, won the 7-furlong Malibu, with Nashville finishing fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths.

“It’s been a long road,” Walden said. “Sometimes, horses make you wait.”

Walden said Nashville had a small ankle chip removed following the Malibu. After resuming training last May, Walden said the 4-year-old son of Speightstown – Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and champion sprinter in 2004 – came up “a little off behind” and he was sent home.

“Nothing major, but had a couple of starts and stops this year,” Walden said, adding Nashville returned to Asmussen Sept. 10 and “hasn’t missed a beat since then.”

Nashville has a long string of workouts at Churchill Downs and a half-mile maintenance breeze Monday morning at Oaklawn in advance of his comeback. Also entered in Friday’s race are multiple stakes winner Mr. Jagermeister, the speedy Firecrow and Hollis, an allowance winner at 5 ½ furlongs last April at Oaklawn. Nashville dazzled in his first three career starts, winning by a combined 24 ¾ front-running lengths.

“You’re always concerned about a layoff, but Steve knows how to handle these horses,” Walden said. “He said he’s ready. Just looking forward to getting him back.”

Nashville posted Beyer Speed Figures of 91 for an 11 ½-length debut victory in September 2020 at Saratoga, 103 for a 9 ¾-length first-level allowance victory in October 2020 at Keeneland and 102 for a 3 ½-length victory in the $125,000 Perryville Stakes for 3-year-olds about a month later at Keeneland.

Under perennial Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr., Nashville won the Perryville in a track-record 1:07.89 after setting fractions of :21.54 for the opening quarter and :43.87 for a half-mile. The surface was fast. Oaklawn-raced A.P. Indian set Keeneland’s previous 6-furlong track record (1:08.43) in the $250,000 Phoenix Stakes (G2) in 2016.

Roughly four hours after the Perryville, the first race on the card, seven-time Oaklawn stakes winner Whitmore captured the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to secure an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter. Whitmore’s winning time over a fast track was 1:08.61.

“We debated whether to go into the Breeders’ Cup off of two starts,” Walden said. “Just felt like it was not a fair thing to do, to run a 3-year-old against top sprinters and older horses that had more experience and everything, so we opted for the path of least resistance. But after he ran, and ran so fast, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you there was a hint of: ‘I wish we had run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that day.’ ”

Nashville has won 3 of 4 lifetime starts and earned $175,200. He was purchased for $460,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Hall of Famer Gary Stevens Back at Oaklawn as an Agent

In addition to Calvin Borel, there’s now another Hall of Fame jockey roaming Oaklawn’s barn area.

Gary Stevens, who permanently retired from riding in 2018, returned to Hot Springs Dec. 1 to begin laying the groundwork for the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting as the agent for Southern California-based jockeys Geovanni Franco and Tiago Pereira.

Stevens, 58, said he represented Corey Nakatani “during one of my retirements” and most recently had the book of Hot Springs native Drayden Van Dyke.

“So, not new at it,” Stevens said.

Stevens rode 46 career winners at Oaklawn, the first coming in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) in 1985 aboard Tank’s Prospect for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Stevens’ last major Oaklawn victory came in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) in 2018 aboard Sassy Sienna for trainer Brad Cox. Stevens retired for a third and final time later in 2018 because of a neck injury. He represented Van Dyke earlier this year and continued to work as a racing analyst for Fox Sports and the New York Racing Association.

Now, he’ll be wearing two hats (agent and analyst) the next few months in Hot Springs.

“Tiago and I had been thinking about getting together for a long time,” Stevens said Dec. 3, opening day of Oaklawn’s meet. “He was wanting to make a change, get out of California. I got a phone call from here at Oaklawn that they were running kind of short of riders, that some of the guys who normally rode here decided to stay in Kentucky. Geovanni, I know he had some real good success here in 2017, won some stakes and rode for the right people. Geovanni was wanting to make a new start. Just a good opportunity to come out here with two guys that can really ride and are hard workers.”

Franco, who missed opening weekend to ride in Puerto Rico, is named on five horses Friday, Day 4 of Oaklawn’s scheduled 66-day live meeting that ends May 8. Stevens said Pereira is taking care of “some personal stuff” in his native Brazil and will arrive in Hot Springs Dec. 26. He will begin accepting mounts Dec. 31, Stevens said.

Franco rode regularly in 2016 and 2017 at Oaklawn, amassing 61 victories, including four stakes, and $2,573,621 in purse earnings. He rode 16 winners in his 2016 debut and 45 in 2017 to tie for third in the standings.

Franco capped his 2017 meeting by guiding Inside Straight ($41.40) to an upset victory in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Franco won three other stakes races in 2017 at Oaklawn – $125,000 King Cotton for older sprinters aboard Storm Advisory for Diodoro, $125,000 Gazebo aboard for 3-year-old sprinters aboard Rockshaw for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs and the $150,000 Purple Martin for 3-year-old female sprinters aboard Golden Mischief for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

A native of Mexico, Franco relocated to Southern California shortly after the 2017 Oaklawn meeting ended. He won the $400,000 Beholder Mile Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares aboard Secret Spice for trainer Richard Baltas in 2019 at Santa Anita and finished second aboard Lieutenant Dan for trainer Steve Miyadi in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

Pereira won the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) in 2010 aboard Gloria de Campeao. He also won the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) Aug. 21 at Del Mar aboard Tripoli for trainer John Sadler.

Stevens and the still-active Borel were members of the 2018 Oaklawn riding colony. Stevens rode 26 winners to finish sixth in the standings. Stevens said he’s tentatively scheduled to work for Fox throughout the expanded 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, adding Franco and Pereira also plan to stay until the end.

“We’ll be here until they chase us out,” Stevens said.

Stevens won more than 5,000 races in his career, including nine Triple Crown events. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1997 and won an Eclipse Award in 1998 as the country’s most outstanding jockey. Injuries led to his three retirements.

Stevens’ son, T.C. was an exercise rider for Diodoro at the 2020 Oaklawn meeting.

A Red Hot Mess

Red Hot Mess, the first career stakes winner for Chelsey Moysey, is at Oaklawn preparing for a possible start in December, the trainer said.

“Shooting towards an allowance race at the end of the year, “ Moysey said, “and then we’ll see how next year goes.”

A chestnut daughter of 2011 Preakness champion Shackleford, Red Hot Mess races for owner Lewis Mathews of Bismarck, Ark., best known for campaigning multiple Oaklawn stakes-winning sprinter and millionaire Ivan Fallunovalot.

Red Hot Mess won her first two career starts at Delaware Park, including the $50,000 White Clay Creek Stakes for 2-year-old fillies Oct. 13, before finishing seventh in the $150,000 Tempted Stakes Nov. 5 at Belmont Park. The White Clay Creek marked her two-turn debut.

Red Hot Mess already has bankrolled $55,050 after being purchased for only $20,000 in May at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic 2-year-old in training sale.

“Kind of stole her for $20,000, we feel,” Moysey said. “But she’s changed a lot since then. Her before and after pictures, just having her for six weeks, it was incredible. She’s still growing. I’ve always seen her as more of a 3-year-old, anyway. We’re just trying not to get in a hurry and push her. It’s easy to get a little excited. We kind of did. Took a shot at Belmont, backfield, and we’ll start again.”

John Hiraldo, one of the country’s top apprentice jockeys, is the regular rider of Red Hot Mess and Moysey’s boyfriend. Hiraldo, in his Oaklawn debut, finished second aboard Ain’t She a Pistol for Moysey and Mathews in Sunday’s fifth race. Hiraldo, previously based in the mid-Atlantic, has hired agent Jay Fedor and plans to ride regularly at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, Moysey said.

Moysey, 28, is a former assistant under the now-retired Buff Bradley. She has a career-high 16 victories overall this year after winning 11 races in 2020 and two in 2019.

Another 2-year-old Moysey has for Mathews is recent addition Vodka N Water, a Fed Biz colt who has earned $100,710 in seven starts this year and is twice stakes placed, including the $150,000 Bashford Manor (G3) June 26 at Churchill Downs.

Mathews purchased Vodka N Water, previously with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, for $45,000 at Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale.

Vodka N Water worked a half-mile in :50.40 Monday morning at Oaklawn for Moysey, who has around 14 horses on the grounds.

The Poinsettia

Super Stock, winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April at Oaklawn, is among seven 3-year-olds entered in Saturday’s inaugural $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes.

The 1 1/16-mile Poinsettia is one of four stakes Oaklawn created to accommodate 10 racing dates in December, which marked the earliest opening in its 117-year history. The Poinsettia goes as the ninth of 10 races, with probable post 4:13 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m.

Super Stock exits a 1 ¼-length victory in the $250,000 Zia Park Derby Nov. 23 at Zia Park for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and his father/co-owner, Keith Asmussen. In addition to the Arkansas Derby, Super Stock won the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby Aug. 15 at Ellis Park.

Steve Asmussen has tapped Luis Contreras to ride Super Stock for the first time in the Poinsettia.

The Poinsettia also drew Flash of Mischief for trainer Karl Broberg. Flash of Mischief has finished ahead of Super Stock in two meetings this year – $250,000 Iowa Derby July 2 at Prairie Meadows and $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) Sept. 26 at Remington Park – and owns victories in the $250,000 St. Louis Derby Aug. 28 at FanDuel Sportsbook And Horse Racing and the $100,000 Delta Mile Stakes Nov. 13 at Delta Downs.

The projected Poinsettia field from the rail out: Last Samurai, Jon Court to ride, 121 pounds, 5-1 on the morning line; Defeater, Ricardo Santana Jr., 124, 3-1; Flash of Mischief, Ramon Vazquez, 124, 5-2; Super Stock, Luis Contreras, 124, 9-5; Myopic, David Cohen, 117, 12-1; Simovitch, Florent Geroux, 124, 8-1; and Ram, Francisco Arrieta, 124, 12-1.

Last Samurai finished fifth behind Super Stock in the Arkansas Derby for trainer Dallas Stewart. Defeater ran sixth in the Oklahoma Derby for trainer Tom Amoss. Ram broke his maiden last April at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas before being beaten a head in the $150,000 Perryville Stakes Oct. 23 at Keeneland.

Myopic adds blinkers for trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Finish Lines

Marr Time, a 2-year-old half-sister to champion Beholder, super sire Into Mischief and Grade 1 winner Mendelssohn, recorded a 5-furlong bullet work (:59.60) over a fast track Sunday morning for trainer Brad Cox. … Warrior’s Battle, a 2-year-old half-sister to millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Warrior’s Charge, broke her maiden in Sunday’s fifth race under Florent Geroux. Warrior’s Charge won the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses in 2020 at Oaklawn. Geroux rode Warrior’s Charge for Cox and Ten Strike Racing (Marshall Gramm and Clay Sanders), the same connections as Warrior’s Battle. … The inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes closed Monday with 28 nominations. The 1 1/8-mile race is expected to attract, among others, millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock for trainer Robertino Diodoro and Warrior’s Charge. … Trainer Paul Holthus of Hot Springs saddled two winners Sunday. Holthus won the fourth race with Slick Silver ($8) and the sixth race with Dr. Forman ($7.80). Luis Contreras, a two-time Sovereign Award winner as the Canada’s top jockey, rode Slick Silver. Dr. Forman marked the first career Oaklawn victory for 7-pound apprentice jockey Kylee Jordan. … Fair Grounds-based Reylu Gutierrez rode two winners Sunday. Gutierrez won the third race aboard favored Peaceful Street ($5) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and the eighth race aboard Top Gunner for ($23.40) for trainer John Ortiz. Peaceful Street was the third 2-year-old winner at the meet for Asmussen, an 11-time Oaklawn training champion. … Agent Joe Santos was represented by four winners on Sunday’s card. In addition to booking mounts for Gutierrez and Jordan, Santos also represents David Cabrera, who won the second race aboard favored Trumpet Lilly ($3.60). Trumpet Lilly was second winner at the meet for trainer Norman L. Cash …Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, dating to April 16, has 14 consecutive racing days with at least one Oaklawn victory. Asmussen has a meet-high four winners through the first three days of the 2021-2022 meeting in search of his 12th local training title. Asmussen and Hall of Famer Henry Forrest share the record for career Oaklawn training titles with 11. … Asmussen has four horses entered Friday, including 2-1 program favorite Abrogate in the sixth race, a 6-furlong allowance sprint for females. Abrogate won the $200,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters last April at Oaklawn. … Arrogates Spirit, an unstarted 2-year-old half-brother to champion Whitmore, worked a half-mile in :51 last Sunday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Moquett also trained the now-retired Whitmore, the country’s champion male sprinter of 2020. Arrogates Spirit is from the first crop of the late champion Arrogate. … Through last Sunday, Day 3 of the scheduled 66-day meeting, 22 claims had totaled $400,000.