Promising 3-Year-Old Upstriker in Training at Oaklawn

Friday, February 05, 2021

Whitmore wasn’t the only horse for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs to arrive at Oaklawn Dec. 29 following a break in Kentucky.

Upstriker, Moquett’s promising 3-year-old, also made the trek south with his celebrated stablemate and newly minted Eclipse Award winner as the country’s champion male sprinter of 2020.

Upstriker ran three times last year, winning his Aug. 30 career debut at Ellis Park before finishing fourth in the $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 3 at Keeneland and seventh in the $125,000 Nyquist Stakes Nov. 6 at Keeneland.

“Upstriker’s doing well,” Moquett said. “Basically, we’re going to start working him (next week) and that will put him on the same schedule, pretty much, as Whitmore, with his fitness.”

Upstriker is from the first crop of millionaire Upstart, who won the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses in 2016 at Oaklawn.

Moquett said Upstriker’s major spring target is the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles May 1, the final day of Oaklawn’s scheduled 57-day meeting. Inaugurated in 2019 and known last year as the Oaklawn Stakes, the winner has received an automatic berth into the Preakness, traditionally the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Laughing Fox won the 2019 Oaklawn Invitational before finishing fifth in the Preakness two weeks later. Mr. Big News, last year’s Oaklawn Stakes winner, finished third in the Kentucky Derby, which was moved from the first Saturday in May to early September (COVID-19).

“I’m going to say he’s going to ease up into an allowance race,” Moquett said of Upstriker, “with the goal being the Oaklawn Derby, instead of trying to go to the Arkansas Derby, unless he was to just go up there and drag us to something.”

Both Whitmore and Upstriker had been at retired trainer Rebecca Maker’s equine rehabilitation and breaking facility before shipping to Oaklawn. Whitmore was sent to REM – normal practice – following his victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Whitmore is scheduled to begin breezing next week, Moquett said, in advance of his scheduled 8-year-old debut in the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 13 at Oaklawn, a race the gelding has won a record four consecutive years.

Moquett is scheduled to send out his multiple Oaklawn stakes winner, Man in the Can, for his 4-year-old debut in Sunday’s eighth race, an open allowance for older horses at 1 mile.

Man in the Can beat Arkansas-breds in the $100,000 Rainbow Stakes and $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes last year at Oaklawn. Moquett said the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship at 1 1/16 miles April 30 is the major spring objective for Man in the Can.

Also entered in Sunday’s eighth race at Oaklawn is millionaire Grade 1 winner Combatant for trainer John Sadler. Combatant was scratched from the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 23 at Oaklawn.

Caddo River Works Toward Rebel

Caddo River returned to the work tab Friday morning at Oaklawn, breezing an easy half-mile in :50.60 in preparation for an anticipated start in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 13 at Oaklawn.

The work was Caddo River’s first since a record-setting 10 ¼-length victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 22, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.

Caddo River breezed before the first surface renovation break under exercise rider Gustavo Abrego and recorded splits of :12.80 for his opening eighth of a mile, :26 for a quarter-mile and :38 for 3 furlongs, according to clockers, before galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:03.

Brad Cox trains Caddo River, a son of Hard Spun, for breeder/owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs. Anthony has won the Rebel a record five times.

Cox is scheduled to send out champion Essential Quality in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. The 1 1/16-mile Southwest is Oaklawn’s second of four of Kentucky Derby points races. The series concludes with the Rebel and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10.

Finish Lines

Post positions are to be drawn Saturday for the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles and the $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters. Both races are Feb. 13 at Oaklawn. Razorback probables Friday morning, according to the Oaklawn racing department, included millionaire Owendale for trainer Brad Cox, Mystic Guide (Michael Stidham) and Silver State (Steve Asmussen). Dixie Belle probables Friday morning, according to the Oaklawn racing department, included unbeatens Abrogate (Asmussen), Goin’ Good (Cox) and Windmill (Larry Jones) and Ava’s Grace (Robertino Diodoro). … Millionaire and heavy favorite Snapper Sinclair ($4) was a one-length winner of his 2021 debut in Thursday’s seventh race at Oaklawn, a 1-mile allowance for older horses. Snapper Sinclair represented a meet-high 12th victory for Asmussen, who is seeking his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title. Dating to the final day of the 2020 meeting, the Hall of Fame trainer has had at least one winner for eight consecutive racing days at Oaklawn. … Jockey Jon Court recorded his 690th career Oaklawn victory aboard Trophy Daddy ($12.40) for owner/trainer Michael Antwine in Thursday’s first race. Court, 60, was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000. … Trainer Ingrid Mason recorded her 117th career Oaklawn victory in Thursday’s third race with Macho Rocco ($23.40). Mason entered Friday as the second-winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history, trailing only Lynn Chleborad (122). … Orlando Mojica had a riding double Thursday, winning the fifth race aboard French Charm ($17.20) for trainer Norman McKnight and the ninth race aboard Wicked Flashback ($5) for Diodoro, Oaklawn's leading trainer last year. … Jackman ($24.20) represented trainer John Ortiz’s first victory for new client John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs in Thursday’s sixth race. It was the fourth victory of the young meeting for Anthony, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history. Jackman was the second victory of the meeting for 7-pound apprentice jockey Joshua Morales. … Trainer Brad Cox entered Friday with 1,498 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Cox entered Friday with 213 career Oaklawn victories, including eight this year to rank second in the standings. … First post Sunday at Oaklawn is 12:30 p.m. (Central), a half-hour earlier than normal, to accommodate the Super Bowl. Probable post time for Sunday’s ninth and final race is 4:30 p.m., an hour before kickoff.