Ortiz Loaded with Good Sprinters

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2021


Mucho, owned by WSS Racing, LLC and 4 G Racing, LLC

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Ortiz Loaded with Good Sprinters

Trainer John Ortiz said record-setting Hollis and Grade 1-placed Mucho are under consideration for the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 29, Oaklawn’s first of three of major sprint races for older horses.

Favored Mucho ($4.60) was a half-length winner of Saturday’s eighth race, a high-end allowance sprint, under Reylu Gutierrez. The winning time for 6 furlongs over a muddy track was 1:09.90. Mucho is owned by Arkansans William Simon and Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway, who also campaign Hollis with Ortiz. Hollis set a 5 ½-furlong track record (1:02.17) in a 4 ½-length allowance victory Dec. 10 at Oaklawn.

“They might have to run against other,” Ortiz said about a half-hour after Mucho’s victory. “Who knows, right?” They both love this track, so they’re definitely going to be running back here. Right now, we’re looking at that timeline. We’ve got, obviously, the King Cotton. With Mucho, I still don’t think we’ve unlocked his abilities yet. We’ll see what we can come up with.”

Mucho finished sixth in the 2021 King Cotton, but has been competitive in subsequent graded-stakes events. The 5-year-old son of Blame was exiting a runner-up finish, beaten a head by Necker Island, in the $300,000 Bet On Sunshine Stakes Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. Mucho began his racing career with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and finished second as the favorite in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) for 2-year-olds in 2018 at Saratoga.

On behalf of WSS Racing (Simon) and 4 G Racing (Gasaways), Ortiz claimed Mucho for $80,000 in November 2020 at Churchill Downs. Mucho has subsequently won two allowance races at Oaklawn and the $100,000 Challedon Stakes July 31 at Pimlico for his newest connections. Mucho has earned $335,900 in 10 starts this year.

Hollis was a $50,000 claim for Ortiz, WSS Racing and 4 G Racing in May 2020 at Churchill Downs. Hollis, a 6-year-old Street Sense gelding, has won stakes at Pimlico and Sam Houston and two allowance races at Oaklawn for the trio.

Millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner C Z Rocket was the 5-2 program favorite for Saturday’s eighth race, but was scratched because of the off track, co-owner Tom Kagele said in a text message Saturday night. Kagele said C Z Rocket will be pointed to an allowance race early next month at Oaklawn as a bridge to the 6-furlong King Cotton.

C Z Rocket was Oaklawn’s top older male sprinter at the 2021 meeting after winning the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes and the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3). Following the King Cotton, Oaklawn’s stakes series for older sprinters continues with the $200,000 Whitmore (formerly the Hot Springs) March 19 and the $500,000 Count Fleet (G3) April 16.

Claim to Fame

Oaklawn may have a new racing calendar, but what hasn’t changed is intense activity at the claim box. Through Sunday, Day 9 of the expanded 66-day meeting, 76 claims had totaled $1,727,500.

Oaklawn needed only six days to surpass $1 million in claims at the meet and Friday marked the busiest day to date with 15 horses taken. Eight claims Sunday totaled a meet-high $291,000.

“Again, I always say when there’s lots of claiming going on, business is good for everyone, including the racetrack,” 2020 Oaklawn leading trainer Robertino Diodoro said. “People are bringing decent horses here to run and competitive horses. Right from the racing office to the horsemen, I think any time you have a meet where there’s lots of action, it’s a good sign.”

Diodoro’s major clients include M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), Oaklawn’s leading owners the last four years, and Flying P Stable, which campaigns millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock in partnership. The Diodoro-trained Lone Rock, a $40,000 claim in November 2020 at Churchill Downs, won Saturday’s inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes.

Through Sunday, Diodoro had claimed 15 horses at the meet, including eight for M and M Racing. On behalf of Flying P, Diodoro claimed W W Fitzy out of Friday’s eighth race for a hefty $62,500 and Defender out of Sunday’s eighth race for $50,000.

Diodoro also has lost 10 horses to claims at the meeting, including Manhattan Up for $50,000 Dec. 5. Flying P previously owned the gelding.

“Here, you’re not safe with anything,” Diodoro said. “But it’s been like that across the country. Again, at least it shows that people are interested, the game’s strong, the owners are gung ho.”

Southern California-based owner Tom Kagele won a five-way shake, or blind draw, to claim Manhattan Up for $50,000. Kagele dipped into the claim box again to take Guest Suite, a 7-year-old Quality Road gelding, for a meet-high $80,000 Dec. 11. Guest Suite, previously claimed for $62,500 in October 2019 at Keeneland, won the first division of the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses in 2020 at Oaklawn. Manhattan Up, a 5-year-old son of Street Boss, won the $100,000 Los Alamitos Special Stakes Sept. 19 at Los Alamitos.

Kagele already hit a claiming home run at Oaklawn with C Z Rocket, a minor stakes winner who developed into a millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner after being taken for $40,000 in April 2020 in Hot Springs. C Z Rocket returned to win Oaklawn’s $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes and $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting. The 7-year-old City Zip gelding also finished second in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in 2020 at Keeneland.

“I do like to claim horses that have class,” Kagele said. “Realistically, you’re just trying to get them back to that level that they were at. If you can, you do very well with them. If you can’t, you have some room to drop them. Both of them are just old class horses that we think we can get back to the level that they were and run some of their best races at. If you can do that, it will be good.”

Kagele, in partnership, claimed First Line out of Sunday’s seventh race for $35,000.

Oaklawn had 509 claims for $9,093,500 at the weather-shortened 51-day meeting in 2021.

Finish Lines

Apprentice jockey Kylee Jordan suffered a dislocated shoulder when she was unseated in Sunday’s fifth race, her agent, Joe Santos, said in a text message late Sunday afternoon. Santos said Jordan was treated and released from CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs hospital early Sunday night and the hope is she can resume riding when Oaklawn reopens Dec. 31. Jordan is among four apprentice riders with victories at the meet. … Arrogates Spirit, an unstarted 2-year-old half-brother to champion Whitmore, worked a half-mile in :50.20 Monday morning for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Arrogates Spirit, by the late champion Arrogate, is projected to debut in 2022 at Oaklawn, Moquett said. … Oaklawn will be closed for training Saturday (Christmas Day).