Renaissance & Year's End Stakes

Compiled by Robert Yates

Contact: Chris Ho, Vice President of Marketing,, 501-623-4411 ext. 4201

Saturday, Dec. 31, 2023

VALENTINE CANDY - Photo Credit: Coady Photography

ICE COLD - Photo Credit: Coady Photography

HOT SPRINGS, AR (Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023) – Trainer Kenny McPeek’s magic touch with 2-year-olds at Oaklawn continued Sunday when Ice Cold overhauled heavily favored Denim and Pearls in deep stretch to win the one-mile $200,000 Year’s End Stakes for fillies.

In the companion feature, the $150,000 Renaissance for sprinters, heavily favored Valentine Candy became the meet’s first two-time stakes winner and was among four winners on the card for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Sunday’s 10-race program marked the second exclusively for 2-year-olds in Oaklawn history. McPeek won four in last year’s inaugural format, including the Year’s End with future Grade 1 winner Defining Purpose. McPeek added two more victories Sunday. The biggest came with Ice Cold ($8.80), who was ridden to her three-quarter length victory by Julien Leparoux. She covered the mile over a fast track in 1:38.97.

Ice Cold, from the first crop of champion Mitole, raised her career earnings to $190,129 following her second victory from five starts.

Valentine Candy ($3.40) was in traffic on the turn before taking command in midstretch after finding running room. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Valentine Candy’s winning time for six furlongs over a fast track was 1:11.29.

Valentine Candy also won the $150,000 Advent Stakes Dec. 8 at Oaklawn. The son of Triple Crown winner Justify has a 3-1-1 mark from six starts and earnings of $263,925.

Sunday’s estimated attendance was 15,000.

Racing continues Monday with 10 races, highlighted by the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. The Smarty Jones is Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race.

Year’s End Stakes quotes:

Winning jockey Julien Leparoux: “Actually, I got the trip that I wanted. Stayed pretty close to the Brad Cox filly (Denim and Pearls). From the three-eighths pole to the quarter pole, it looks like (Denim and Pearls) is going to go away from me. But she kept digging. When I got to the straight, she switched leads and re-broke. She won nicely today.”

Winning trainer Kenny McPeek (via phone): “She just grinds it out. She’s really figured it out going two turns. Just a really hard-knocking filly. Tom Mc Greevy and Dan (Mc Greevy), the main owner and his brother, are fun guys to work for, too. Those kind are always great. It’s good (last two years on Oaklawn’s cards exclusively for 2-year-olds).”

Renaissance Stakes quotes:

Winning jockey Joel Rosario: “Very tough trip. The inside post is sometimes not easy. Looked like there was a lot of speed in the race. He broke really well, but a couple kind of fooled me. They went a little bit away from me. Looked like it was best to just let him settle a little. He did great. He was always there for me. Turning for home, I was able to work my way out and he did the work.”

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen: “Looked like it (he was a promising prospect) when he broke his maiden this summer at Saratoga. Two quick stakes to start off the meet here at Oaklawn. Great purses. Just lovely to have an extremely fast horse for a very good ownership group. It was good to see him overcome something, it really was. Obviously, his two victories were gate-to-wire. Settled in the middle there and I think Joel (Rosario) did a good job of getting him out into the clear. I loved how steady he looked to the wire. Just a quality horse.”