For Immediate Release

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing or 501-363-4305


Photo credit: Coady Photography


HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, May 5, 2023) – Seven horses are entered in the inaugural $150,000 Lake Hamilton Stakes for older sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn. But the 6-furlong race, on paper, is about one horse, Skelly, the even-money program favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Chris Hicks (Red Lane Thoroughbreds LLC).

The Lake Hamilton is the ninth of 12 races on the closing-day card, with probable post time 4:48 p.m. (Central). The program also features the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes for state-breds, 3 and up, at 1 1/16 miles. Racing begins at 12:20 p.m.

The projected Lake Hamilton field from the rail out: Edge to Edge, Francisco Arrieta to ride, 122 pounds, 6-1 on the morning line; Joe Frazier, Ramsey Zimmerman, 115, 9-2; Morello, Keith Asmussen, 117, 15-1; Tut’s Revenge, Cristian Torres, 115, 4-1; Skelly, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, even money; Sir Wellington, Eduardo Gallardo, 122, 8-1; and Walker’s Win, Mitchell Murrill, 115, 15-1.

Skelly – leading at every call – has won three consecutive starts at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, including the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15. All the victories have been at 6 furlongs. Skelly earned a career-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure for the Count Fleet, which marked Steve Asmussen’s record-extending fifth victory in the race. Asmussen’s previous two Count Fleet winners, Mitole (2019) and Jackie’s Warrior (2022), captured the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) at 7 furlongs in their next starts.

However, Skelly, a 4-year-old Practical Joke gelding, is in the Lake Hamilton, not the $750,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) at 7 furlongs Saturday at Churchill Downs.


“Do what you’re good at,” Asmussen said. “Three-quarters at Oaklawn.”

Purchased for $250,000 as a yearling, Skelly has flourished since his first start at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, a 12th-place finish in a first-level allowance sprint Dec. 10. Gelded after his final start at 3, Skelly finished a distant second in his 4-year-old debut, a first-level allowance sprint Jan. 20, then won a first-level allowance by 1 ½ lengths Feb. 25 and a second-level allowance by 4 ¾ lengths March 17. Skelly broke sharply in the Count Fleet and wasn’t pressured in a 2 ¼-length victory.

Asmussen said Adolfo Garcia, Skelly’s main exercise rider at Oaklawn, has been instrumental in the gelding’s rapid development this spring.

“Adolfo, who gets on him, gets all the credit for him because, honestly, he was winning the battle early on in his training,” said Asmussen, Oaklawn’s all-time leading trainer. “He has got him acting well and following his head. Much better results when he’s not in the middle of the racetrack.”

Skelly’s biggest challenger could be Joe Frazier, who exits a powerful 4 ¾-length starter-allowance victory April 15 at Oaklawn for trainer Tim Martin of Hot Springs. Joe Frazier covered 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.77 (Skelly won the Count Fleet approximately 30 minutes earlier in 1:09.20).

Joe Frazier is also entered in the $150,000 Lake Ouachita Stakes for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Friday at Oaklawn, but Martin said last weekend that he would probably start Joe Frazier in the Lake Hamilton.

“He ran awfully huge the other day, the 6 furlongs,” Martin said. “Tough race Friday. I would rather go three-quarters with him. Heck, if I could get him in a starter, I would go in there. I want him to win again. He got a big number, speed rating, the other day, 107 Equibase. He was full of run the other day, so he’s doing good.”

Grade 3 winner Morello adds blinkers after finishing fifth in the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older sprinters March 18 at Oaklawn for Asmussen. The speedy Edge to Edge looks to rebound from a disappointing eighth in the Count Fleet for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. Sir Wellington won the $150,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters in 2021 at Oaklawn for trainer Mac Robertson. Sir Wellington exits a half-length victory over Tut’s Revenge in an April 15 allowance sprint at Oaklawn.

Walker’s Win, unraced outside Illinois, has won six consecutive races for co-owner/trainer Scott Becker.