Queen Goddess Ready for Delayed Bayakoa

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Queen Goddess Ready for Delayed Bayakoa

Southern California-based Queen Goddess will try to make the most of her extended stay in Arkansas when the Grade 1 winner faces six rivals in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn.

The Bayakoa originally was scheduled Feb. 5 before being postponed because of a winter storm that closed the track last weekend. The Bayakoa was redrawn Monday, with the original cast of seven again entered. Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa, the eighth of 11 races, is 3:47 p.m. (Central). The 10th race is the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. First post Saturday is 12:10 p.m.

Trained by Michael McCarthy, Queen Goddess exits a front-running 2 ¾-length victory in the $300,000 American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. The 1 ¼-mile American Oaks, moved from the grass to the main track because of rain, marked the dirt debut of Queen Goddess, a 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker who races for her breeder, TOLO Thoroughbreds, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

McCarthy said Queen Goddess arrived in Hot Springs Feb. 1 after being flown via FedEx to Memphis and vanned approximately 190 miles.

“Little bit of a curveball with the weather,” McCarthy said Tuesday afternoon. “Not something we get much of out here in California. But the filly seems like she’s doing well, even with the extended stay.”

Queen Goddess worked an easy half-mile in :53.40 Monday in advance of the Bayakoa, which is a major local prep for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 12 and, ultimately, the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 23. The Azeri and Apple Blossom are also 1 1/16-mile races.

Queen Goddess made her first five career starts on grass, breaking her maiden at 1 1/16 miles Aug. 7 at Del Mar and finishing fifth in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 16 at Keeneland.

McCarthy said he considered staying home for the $100,000 Megahertz Stakes (G3) at 1 mile on the turf Jan. 29 at Santa Anita before opting to keep Queen Goddess on dirt and shipping to Oaklawn.

“Nothing out here kind of made sense on the schedule,” McCarthy said. “We gave some thought to the Megahertz. Her race on the dirt was so good in the American Oaks. Thought we would go back there and try our hand on that surface and if she adapted well to it, took well to it, obviously would give some thought to the Apple Blossom in the spring.”

McCarthy won the 2020 Apple Blossom with Ce Ce, among three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion female sprinter of 2021. Ce Ce punctuated her 2021 campaign with a victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar. She finished second in the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) last Saturday at Santa Anita in her 6-year-old debut.

McCarthy said Ce Ce could return to Oaklawn this year, adding much may hinge on Queen Goddess’ performance in the Bayakoa.

“I’d like for you to see both of these there in the spring,” McCarthy said.

Queen Goddess has a 3-1-1 record and career earnings of $303,080. The Bayakoa will be her second start outside California.

The projected Bayakoa field from the rail out: Matera, Florent Geroux to ride, 119 pounds, 3-1 on the morning line; Miss Bigly, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 9-2; She’s All Wolfe, Francisco Arrieta, 119, 12-1; Jilted Bride, Joel Rosario, 119, 8-1; Mariah’s Princess, Martin Garcia, 119, 5-1; Queen Goddess, David Cabrera, 119, 3-1; and Coach, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 5-2.

Two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl won last year’s Bayakoa for trainer Brad Cox, who will send out Matera and Coach.

The 1 1/16-mile Razorback drew nine older horses: Popular Kid, Super Stock, Lone Rock, Rated R Superstar, Promise Keeper, Thomas Shelby, Last Samurai, Plainsman and Silver Prospector.

Millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock is the 3-1 program favorite after winning 7 of 9 starts last year, including the inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes Dec. 18 for trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Probable post time for the Razorback is 4:56 p.m. The Razorback is a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 23.

Oaklawn 2021 Eclipse Awards Finalists

Three-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality, Life Is Good, Medina Spirit

Older Dirt Male: Knicks Go, Maxfield, Mystic Guide

Older Dirt Female: Letruska, Marche Lorraine (JPN), Shedaresthedevil

Male Sprinter: Aloha West, Flightline, Jackie's Warrior

Female Sprinter: Bella Sofia, Ce Ce, Gamine

Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox

Apprentice Jockey: John Hiraldo, Charlie Marquez, Jessica Pyfer

NOTE Bold indicates Oaklawn-raced horses and trainers and jockeys who competed regularly at the 2021 and 2021-2022 meets.

The envelope, please.

Nine Oaklawn-raced horses, including Horse of the Year candidate Knicks Go, and three in human categories with ties to Hot Springs have been named 2021 Eclipse Awards finalists. Winners in 17 horse and human categories will be revealed during the 51st annual Eclipse Awards ceremony Thursday night at Santa Anita in suburban Los Angeles.

Knicks Go was a powerful allowance winner in 2020 at Oaklawn, which marked his first start for trainer Brad Cox. Knicks Go secured older dirt male championship honors in 2021 with a victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

Cox was honored with an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer of 2020 and is among three finalists in 2021 after setting a single-season North American record for purse earnings ($31,832,345), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Cox was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer in 2021, setting single-season personal bests in Hot Springs for victories (29), stakes victories (seven) and purse earnings ($3,544,259).

Cox’s victories included the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) last February with Essential Quality and the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) last March with Shedaresthedevil. Essential Quality and Shedaresthedevil are finalists for champion 3-year-old male and champion older dirt female, respectively, of 2021.

“To run as well as we did in the Kentucky Derby and, obviously, the success of Essential Quality, Knicks Go, Mandaloun, Shedaresthedevil, the success that those horses had (last) year at various tracks throughout the country, it’s been our best year, for sure,” Cox said.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who captured his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title at the 2021 meeting, also is a finalist for outstanding trainer. The Asmussen-trained Jackie’s Warrior, third behind Essential Quality in the Southwest, is a finalist for champion male sprinter.

Other Oaklawn-raced finalists are Mystic Guide (older dirt male), Letruksa (older dirt female), Aloha West (male sprinter), Ce Ce (female sprinter) and Gamine (female sprinter).

Mystic Guide won the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G1) last February. Letruska was runner-up to Shedaresthedevil in the Azeri before winning the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) last April. Aloha West was a career debut winner last February at Oaklawn and captured the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar. Ce Ce (Apple Blossom) and Gamine (allowance) were winners at the 2020 Oaklawn meeting. They ran 1-3, respectively, in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

John Hiraldo is among three finalists for champion apprentice jockey. He rode five winners in December at Oaklawn.

Finish Lines

The track reopened for training Monday after being closed the previous four days because of icy conditions. … Racing is scheduled to resume Friday at 1 p.m. (Central). … Barber Road worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 over a fast track Tuesday morning for trainer John Ortiz in advance of the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Feb. 26. Barber Road, who breezed with stablemate Silent Disco, finished second in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1 and the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Jan. 29. … Erick Medellin, a 7-pound apprentice, begins riding regularly Friday after previously being based at Sunland Park. Medellin began riding professionally in 2021 and has 16 career victories, including two stakes, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Medellin, 20, is being represented by Bill Castle, also the agent for journeymen David Cohen and Ramon Vazquez.