Oaklawn Barn Notes: Un Ojo Remains on Target for Kentucky Derby

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Un Ojo Remains on Target for Kentucky Derby

Un Ojo is still eyeing the Kentucky Derby following his troubled eighth-place finish in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last Saturday at Oaklawn, trainer Ricky Courville said Tuesday afternoon.

Courville said Un Ojo emerged from the Arkansas Derby with abrasions just below the point of his left shoulder after hitting the rail when in tight on the second turn of the 1 1/8-mile race. Courville said Un Ojo was vanned Sunday to The Training Center At Copper Crowne, an Opelousas, La., facility where the trainer is based.

“He’s all right,” Courville said. “He had to have a couple of staples put in his shoulder. Little stiff right now, but he’ll be all right.”

Co-owned by Cypress Creek Equine (Kevin Moody), Un Ojo was making his first start since an upset victory in Oaklawn’s final major Arkansas Derby prep, the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 26. Un Ojo collected 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for the victory and has 54 overall to rank 10th on the official leaderboard released Saturday night by Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with points earned in designated races like the Arkansas Derby and Rebel used to determine starting preference if the race oversubscribes.

“I think we’re still on track,” Courville said. “We’re going to give him this week to see how this all heals up, but we plan on going. I think he had a legitimate excuse. That horse that ran second (Barber Road), we were both making our run together when all that happened. It was like he was getting the same trip, until all that.”

Courville said Un Ojo, who lost his left eye in an accident as a yearling, received the abrasions after striking the rail near the five-sixteenths pole. Footnotes from the official race chart said Un Ojo, “off the pace, saved ground into the far turn, was idling when in tight, checked up and fell back, did not recover.”

Un Ojo was beaten 14 ¼ lengths under Ramon Vazquez, who had guided the gelding to his Rebel victory at odds of 75-1. Courville, a former jockey, said eventual Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife triggered last Saturday’s incident on the second turn after shooting toward the lead at the 5-furlong marker, which “packed” Barber Road “on top of us.”

“Probably from the five-eighths pole to the turn, the 3 (Barber Road) was just laying all over him (Un Ojo) and bumped him four or five times to where he was right on top of the fence,” Courville said. “All the way around the turn, they were both moving together and then all over a sudden – you watch the head on and it looks like the 3 just sawed us off. Hit the fence twice. You could see the dirt fly off the fence, he hit it so hard.”

Courville said Un Ojo will be evaluated this week before resuming serious training for the Kentucky Derby May 7 at Churchill Downs.

“He seems fine; a little stiff,” Courville said. “We gave him some bute after the race just to help him out and he was pretty good the next morning. He’s walking fine. I think the staples are bugging him more than anything.”

Un Ojo ($152.80) generated the second-highest pari-mutuel win payoff in Oaklawn stakes history for his ground-saving half-length victory over Ethereal Road in the Rebel. Overall, Un Ojo, a New York-bred son of the deceased Laoban, has a 2-2-0 record from seven lifetime starts and earnings of $782,571.

Cypress Creek Equine, in partnership, finished seventh in last year’s Kentucky Derby with another son of Laoban, Keepmeinmind. Trained by Oaklawn regular and 2020 local champion Robertino Diodoro, Keepmeinmind finished sixth in the Rebel in his 3-year-old debut. Courville has never had a Kentucky Derby starter.

Cyberknife has 100 points to rank fourth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard for two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Like Cyberknife and Un Ojo, Arkansas Derby runner-up Barber Road is safely in the Kentucky Derby field with 58 points to rank ninth.

Cyberknife arrived Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs to begin preparations for the Kentucky Derby.

Arkansas Derby third Secret Oath arrived Tuesday afternoon at Churchill Downs for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Secret Oath, in her first start against males, collected 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the Arkansas Derby, but Lukas said he’s pointing the multiple stakes winner to the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Secret Oath was Oaklawn’s top 3-year-old filly this year after winning her first 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.

Ethereal Road, also trained by Lukas, is scheduled to run in the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Saturday at Keeneland. Ethereal Road collected 20 points for his runner-up finish in the Rebel and ranks 24th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The Blue Grass will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) to its top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Zozos, a 10 ¼-length entry-level allowance winner Feb. 11 at Oaklawn for Cox, has 40 points to rank 13th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles.

Finish Lines

The Skipper Too, runner-up to We the People, in a March 12 entry-level allowance race, is pointing for the $150,000 Oaklawn Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles April 23, trainer John Ortiz said last Sunday morning. The Skipper Too remained with Ortiz after previously being based in south Florida with trainer Juan Alvarado (the colt ran under his name March 12). The Oaklawn Stakes winner will receive automatic entry into the Preakness – the second leg of the Triple Crown – but must be nominated to the Triple Crown. … Trainer Karl Broberg’s End Zone Athletics pulled into a tie in the owner’s standings when Replete ($10) won last Sunday’s sixth race. End Zone Athletics and John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs each have 14 victories at the meeting. … Apprentice Jeremy Alicea finished third in his American riding debut aboard Elusive Freud in last Sunday’s first race for trainer Federico Villafranco. Alicea, who has a 10-pound apprentice weight allowance, is a protégé of eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. and represented by agent and retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. … Four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell won a 28-way shake, or blind draw, to claim favored Mrs. Beans ($3.80) out of a victory in last Sunday’s seventh race for $20,000. … Through Sunday, Day 51 of the scheduled 66-day meeting, 541 claims had totaled $11,170,750.