Oaklawn Barn Notes: Undefeated We The People Makes Stakes Debut in Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Thursday, March 31, 2022

We The People in a work recently at Oaklawn Park Racetrack.

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Undefeated We The People Makes Stakes Debut in Arkansas Derby

Normally, the preamble to the United States Constitution probably wouldn’t resonate with French-born Rodolphe Brisset. But, the first three words clearly do in 2022.

Brisset is the trainer of unbeaten We the People, who is scheduled to make his highly anticipated stakes debut in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn. A cleverly named son of multiple Grade 1 winner Constitution, We the People has won his two career starts at the meeting – both around two turns – by a combined 10 ¾ lengths.

But in order to form a more perfect union, Brisset has needed patience. We the People was scheduled to debut last fall at Keeneland before suffering a minor setback and can be a handful for the trainer to gallop in the morning.

“Literally, he was going to breeze on Sunday and the race was on Saturday,” Brisset said. “We walked into the stall and found a little something. It was nothing bad, but enough where we couldn’t take any risk. It was literally five days before the race.”

Brisset said We the People spent October at WinStar Farm – the Kentucky-based powerhouse co-owns the colt – and began jogging and galloping again in November before shipping late last year to Oaklawn.

“I think he had one work at WinStar,” Brisset said. “It was very frustrating because of all the work we did. He’s not an easy horse to train. All the work we did in July, August, September, we hadn’t gotten him to relax, got him to learn how to breeze."

Brisset said We the People has had an uneventful winter in Arkansas, adding he didn’t miss significant training time because of harsh weather. We the People, using stalk-and-pounce tactics, broke his maiden by 5 ¾ lengths at 1 mile Feb. 12 and cleared his first allowance condition by five lengths at 1 1/16 miles March 12.

We the People completed major preparations for the Arkansas Derby with a sharp half-mile work (:47.80) in company March 26. We the People breezed with stablemate and regular workout partner Kuchar, who is scheduled to run in the $150,000 Oaklawn Stakes for 3-year-olds April 23.

Brisset is normally aboard We the People for his gallops and works and tries to train him when traffic is minimal because he can be aggressive. We the People, Brisset said, always works in company.

“We have worked him on his own at the beginning, last year, and he was pretty keen,” Brisset said. “He’s very effortless. Like he does time very easily, so he has a tendency to trick you and we just do that so he won’t go too fast. We’ve have taught him how to break off behind another horse and stay behind. That’s what we’ve been doing for over six months and he’s been working pretty good. Likely, we will try at one point to get with a pony and kind of go easy to a pole with a pony. Just let him break off from the pony and then see how he does. He’s not a very easy horse to ride.”

The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. We the People likely will need a top two finish Saturday to secure a spot in the field, which is limited to 20 starters.

We the People is the 7-2 third choice on the morning line for the Arkansas Derby.

Maracuja Returns

Grade 1 winner Maracuja is scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in Friday’s featured eighth race, a $108,000 allowance for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Trained by New York-based Rob Atras, Maracuja hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles Sept. 25 at Parx. Maracuja scored her biggest career victory to date in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles July 24 at Saratoga, toppling, among others, eventual Eclipse Award winner Malathaat.

“She’s doing really well down there,” Atras said Tuesday afternoon. “We had a couple of interruptions with the weather and stuff. Kind of opted to play it safe and wait until the track was dry and fast to breeze here. We’re hoping to campaign her all year, so we didn’t want to rush anything. But we’re excited to get her started.”

Maracuja arrived New Year’s Day and headlines a small string Atlas has at Oaklawn for the first time in 2021-2022. His Oaklawn division is overseen by assistant Jesse Sauder, who regularly gallops and breezes Maracuja.

Maracuja has seven published workouts since Feb. 1 in advance of her 2022 debut, which Atras said could be an audition for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 23.

Atras said in January that he was targeting a March return for Maracuja and then “hopefully” a date in the Apple Blossom.

“She did get a little bit behind, but we made up for it and then – timing is everything,” Atras said. “When we had her right, there wasn’t a race for her for a few more weeks. It just is what it is. We’re excited to get her started again and if everything works out well, we’ll still consider the Apple Blossom. If not, she’ll probably be looking for something in Kentucky or back in New York, which is the long-term goal, anyways.”

Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is named to ride Maracuja, the 2-1 program favorite in the projected six-horse field. Probable post time for the Friday’s eighth race is 4:39 p.m. (Central).

Cotillion winner and Coaching Club American Oaks third Clairiere is on the grounds preparing for the Apple Blossom for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Champion and 2020 Apple Blossom winner Ce Ce remains under consideration for the Apple Blossom, trainer Michael McCarthy said Wednesday afternoon. The Southern California-based Ce Ce won the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 12. The Azeri was the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom.

Finish Lines

Trainer Robertino Diodoro said next-race plans are pending for Thomas Shelby, who has finished second, third, second and fourth in four stakes at the 2021-2022 meeting. … Jockey Ramon Vazquez’s first day as a regular in Southern California is now April 8, instead of April 9, his agent, Bill Castle, said Tuesday morning. Castle said Vazquez is scheduled to ride April 7 at Oaklawn and April 8-10 and April 15-17 at Santa Anita. Vazquez will return to Oaklawn to ride April 22-24 and April 29, Castle said, before heading back to Southern California when racing resumes April 30 at Santa Anita. Vazquez recorded a triple last Sunday – two victories were for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen – pushing his career Oaklawn total to 386. … Millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock is among six older horses entered in Sunday’s $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes at 1 ½ miles. Lone Rock, who is trained by Diodoro, finished second in last year’s race. Also entered are Last Samurai for trainer Dallas Stewart, millionaire Tenfold (Asmussen), Strong Tide (Mike Lauer), Goalie (Diodoro) and Warbird (Michael McCarthy). Probable post time for the Temperence Hill, the eighth of nine races, is 4:39 p.m. (Central). … Apprentice jockey Chel-c Bailey equaled her most lucrative career victory in last Sunday’s eighth race aboard heavily favored Summer Shoes ($2.60) for trainer Tom Swearingen. The purse for the Arkansas-bred female allowance sprint was $106,000. It was the 14th victory at the meeting for Bailey, who has a 7-pound apprentice weight allowance. … John Hiraldo, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion apprentice of 2021, won his first race as a journeyman aboard heavily favored Verrazano First ($3.40) in Sunday’s third race for trainer Chris Hartman. Hiraldo rode 16 winners at the meeting as an apprentice. He became a journeyman March 19. … Apprentice Jeremy Alicea is scheduled to make his American riding debut in Sunday’s first race aboard Elusive Freud for trainer Federico Villafranco. A protégé of eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr., Alicea, 20, graduated in December from Puerto Rico’s famed Agustin Mercado Reveron vocational jockey school and was winless in 14 mounts in his native country before moving to the United States, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is the agent for Alicea, who has a 10-pound apprentice weight allowance.