Oaklawn Barn Notes: Shortleaf Stable on Pace to Break Earnings Record

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, jhoyt@oaklawn.com

(501) 363-4305

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Whelen Springs, Shortleaf Stables latest stake win at the meet.

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Shortleaf Stable on Pace to Break Earnings Record

Six weeks after becoming the outright winningest owner in Oaklawn history, John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs is poised to break another record at his home track.

Whelen Springs’ victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Rainbow Stakes for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred sprinters pushed Anthony’s purse earnings at the 2021-2022 meeting to $1,653,587. M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk) set Oaklawn’s single-season record for purse earnings ($1,782,351) in 2019.

Whelen Springs represented a meet-best 15th victory for Anthony, an octogenarian who named the Street Sense colt after a small community about 60 miles south of Hot Springs. Ridden by Gabriel Saez, Whelen Springs ($15) won the Rainbow by five lengths and covered 6 furlongs in a sharp 1:10.23 over a fast track.

“It doesn't always work out that way,” Anthony said in the infield winner’s circle following his first Rainbow victory. “You don't know what you've got until you get them on the track. And, when one performs as well as this one did, it makes you very proud. It's always more fun to win than not. The knife cuts both ways and you've got to take some bumps with it, too.”

A homebred for Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable, Whelen Springs won for the second time in six starts to raise his career earnings to $176,040. Whelen Springs is trained by John Ortiz, who saddled Rolling Fork to a state-bred allowance victory Feb. 26. That victory was the 270th at Oaklawn for Anthony, making him the outright winningest owner in track history. Anthony had shared the record with the late Sharon Hild. The Rainbow was No. 275 at Oaklawn for Anthony.

“It’s been an honor to train horses for Mr. John Ed,” Ortiz said following the Rainbow. “As you can see with as much success as we’ve had, again, it’s just honor and I’m happy to be part of the team.”

Ortiz and Anthony won four races earlier in the meeting with standout Arkansas-bred sprinter Gar Hole, including the $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes March 5. Anthony also won the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12 with Plainsman, who is trained by two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox. Anthony’s first Oaklawn stakes victory came in the 1978 Razorback with Cox’s Ridge, his first nationally prominent horse.

The Razorback is a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 23. Plainsman is a candidate for the Oaklawn Handicap. Also training at Oaklawn for Cox and Anthony is 2021 Arkansas Derby runner-up Caddo River. Ortiz is scheduled to send out Arkansas-bred standout The Mary Rose for Anthony in the $150,000 Natural State Breeders’ Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares at 1 mile May 6.

The Mary Rose dominated open company in two 1 1/16-mile allowance races at the meeting, helping push her career bankroll to $438,904. A victory in the Natural State Breeders’ Stakes would make The Mary Rose the richest Arkansas-bred female in history, surpassing Humble Clerk ($503,545).

Anthony campaigned Eclipse Award winners Temperence Hill (1980 3-year-old male), Vanlandingham (1985 older horse) and Prairie Bayou (1993 3-year-old male) under his Loblolly Stable banner.

Anthony’s first victory at Oaklawn was Feb. 16, 1972.

Milestone Watch

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen recorded his 797th career Oaklawn victory when favored Defender ($5.60) won Saturday’s third race under Isaac Castillo. The late Bob Holthus is the only trainer in Oaklawn history to reach 800 career victories.

Asmussen had five horses entered Sunday – Canadian Ginger in the third race, Cairama and Charco in the fourth race, Pa Ma’s Amos in the fifth race and Demuro in the sixth race.

Asmussen topped the standings at the 2021-2022 meeting through Saturday with 42 victories – six more than runner-up Robertino Diodoro. Asmussen is an 11-time Oaklawn training champion, capturing titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021. Asmussen and the late Hall of Famer Henry Forrest share the Oaklawn record for career training titles with 11.

Asmussen ($3,004,060) became the second trainer to reach $3 million in purse earnings at the meeting Saturday. Asmussen set Oaklawn’s single-season record for purse earnings ($6,057,877) in 2021.

The Count Fleet

Post positions will be drawn Monday for the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs April 16.

The Oaklawn racing department listed five probables Sunday morning – Bob’s Edge for trainer Larry Jones, Empire of Gold (Terry Eoff), Jackie’s Warrior (Steve Asmussen), Letsgetlucky (Brian Koriner) and Mojo Man (Jimmy DiVito). Horses under consideration were Chipofftheoldblock (Mike Lauer), Hollis (John Ortiz), Home Base (Cipriano Contreras) and No Shirt No Shoes (Doug Anderson).

Jackie’s Warrior was assigned top weight of 123 pounds and will be favored in his 4-year-old debut after capturing an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter of 2021. A multiple Grade 1 winner, Jackie’s Warrior hasn’t started since finishing sixth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

Asmussen has won the Count Fleet a record-tying three times, including 2019 with Mitole, who also captured the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter.

Bob’s Edge (121 pounds) is the top locally based older male sprinter after winning the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes Jan. 29 and $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) March 19.

Empire of Gold (116) ran fourth in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and third in last year’s Count Fleet (G3). He hasn’t started since an Oct. 20 allowance victory at Remington Park.

Back to Work

Grade 1 winner Maracuja returned to the work tab Saturday morning, covering a half-mile in :51.40 for New York-based trainer Rob Atras.

Maracuja was breezing for the first time since a two-length allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles April 1, which marked the 4-year-old debut for the daughter of Honor Code. Atras, who has a small string at Oaklawn this season, said Maracuja remains under consideration for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles April 23.

“Going to breeze (her) next week, then probably make a decision,” Atras said in a text message Sunday morning.

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.

Clairiere, third in the Coaching Club American Oaks, is on the grounds for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and pointing for the Apple Blossom.

Finish Lines

Leading rider David Cabrera was released from CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs late Saturday afternoon, his agent, Joe Santos, said in a text message Sunday morning. Cabrera, 29, was hospitalized after suffering head, neck and upper back injuries in a spill in Friday’s first race. Santos said he doesn’t expect Cabrera to ride again before the Oaklawn meeting ends May 8. He has 62 victories at the meeting. … Another Santos client, Ry Eikleberry, was scheduled to make his Oaklawn debut Sunday. Eikleberry, second in the standings at the recently concluded Sam Houston meet, was named on six horses Sunday. Santos said Eikleberry will ride at Oaklawn through April 24 before departing for Lone Star Park. … Elvin Gonzalez recorded his first career riding triple at Oaklawn Saturday, winning the fourth race aboard Miniconjou ($13.20) for trainer Kelly Von Hemel, $150,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes aboard Punchy Girl ($11.60) for trainer Jason Barkley and the 10th race aboard Mahomey ($6.60) for trainer Randy Morse. The Rainbow Miss marked the first career Oaklawn stakes victory for Gonzalez, 35, who won 16 races in his local debut at the 2021 meeting. The triple gave Gonzalez 17 victories at the 2021-2022 meeting. … Mahomey represented trainer Randy Morse’s 299th career Oaklawn victory. … Jockey Isaac Castillo recorded his first career Oaklawn victory in Saturday’s first race aboard Eagle Pass ($14.20) for trainer Scott Becker. It was the eighth career Oaklawn mount for Castillo, who recently joined the colony after previously being based at Tampa Bay Downs. Castillo scored a double Saturday when favored Defender ($5.60) won the third race for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. … Jon Court, 61, recorded a riding double Saturday, winning the fifth race aboard Skyscanner ($25) for trainer Aaron Shorter and the eighth race aboard League of Legends ($13.60) for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, 81. The double gave Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, 18 victories at the meeting and 717 overall in Hot Springs. Court is the sixth-winningest jockey in Oaklawn history. … Trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs entered Sunday with 296 career victories at Oaklawn. … Moquett won a 35-way shake, or blind draw, to claim Leader of Men out of Saturday’s first race for $10,000. … Trainer Rene Amescua, wintering at Oaklawn for the first time in 2021-2022, said he plans to race next at Churchill Downs and Horseshoe Indianapolis (formerly Indiana Grand). Amescua, who had seven victories at the meeting through Saturday, previously was based in California. … There is no racing April 17 in observance of Easter.