Stakes Advance - Bayakoa

Compiled by Robert Yates

After beating the weather, Hot and Sultry (#7) will try to beat eight opponents in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Friday at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the Bayakoa, the ninth of 10 races, is 4:37 p.m. (CST). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m. The Bayakoa was originally scheduled to be run Saturday, but it was moved to accommodate a revised stakes schedule after racing was canceled Jan. 14 and Jan. 19-21 because of winter weather. Four stakes originally scheduled Jan. 27 were shifted to Saturday.

The Bayakoa field from the rail out: The Alys Look (#1), Rafael Bejarano to ride, 119 pounds, 20-1 on the morning line; Ice Orchid (#2), Chris Landeros, 119, 12-1; Misty Veil (#3), Ramon Vazquez, 121, 8-1; Just Katherine (#4), Juan Diaz, 119, 5-1; Butterbean (#5), Julien Leparoux, 119, 12-1; Comparative (#6), Manny Franco, 121, 4-1; Hot and Sultry (#7), Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 3-1; Skratch Kat (#8), Joel Rosario, 124, 15-1; and Shotgun Hottie (#9), Cristian Torres, 119, 2-1.

Hot and Sultry will be making her 2024 debut for trainer Norm Casse and Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. Already a multiple stakes winner, Hot and Sultry bids for her first career stakes victory around two turns in the Bayakoa, a major local prep for the $1.25 million G1-Apple Blossom Handicap at 1 1/16 miles April 13.

Hot and Sultry hasn’t started since a front-running eight-length victory in the one-turn, one-mile $300,000 G3-Chilukki Stakes Nov. 18 at Churchill Downs.

Hot and Sultry returned to the work tab Dec. 31 at Oaklawn and breezed again Jan. 8 before Casse opted to send her to Fair Grounds in New Orleans because of impending winter weather that closed the track for training for 11 days (Jan. 13-23). Casse’s stable is split this winter between Oaklawn and the Fair Grounds.

“Obviously, we were watching the weather pretty closely,” Casse said. “One big hiccup with Oaklawn, in general, is if you have a horse coming off a little bit of a layoff and miss training, obviously, Oaklawn can be a trying place. So, we monitored the weather and saw that we had to get her out of there.”

Hot and Sultry was able to maintain a regular work schedule, breezing Jan. 14, Jan. 20 and Jan. 26 at the Fair Grounds. Much of Hot and Sultry’s best work has come at Oaklawn, where she broke her maiden in January 2022 and won the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters in January 2023. She also finished third in last year’s Apple Blossom.

“Basically, from day one, we penciled this race in and it’s really going to dictate what goes on the remainder of the year for her,” Casse said. “I still think she’s probably best at middle distances, but there’s not a whole lot out there right now this time of the year. So, it just depends on how she runs on Friday what we do going forward.”

A strong performance in the Bayakoa, Casse said, could propel Hot and Sultry into the $600,000 G1-Maidson Stakes for older females at seven furlongs April 6 at Keeneland or the Apple Blossom.

“She runs well fresh,” Casse said.

Program favorite Shotgun Hottie returns to Oaklawn after winning the $500,000 G3-Molly Pitcher Stakes July 22 at Monmouth Park in her last start for trainer Cherie DeVaux. Shotgun Hottie gave DeVaux her first career Oaklawn victory in an allowance race last March. Both races were 1 1/16 miles. DeVaux said the Bayakoa has been a target since the Fair Grounds-based Shotgun Hottie resumed training in early November.

“It fit our timeline of when we first gave her time off of where to start her back,” DeVaux said. “She needed some time, so it just made more sense to give her time and bring her back for (2024).”

Butterbean ($150,000 Mistletoe) and Misty Veil ($150,000 Pippin) own two-turn stakes victories at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting. Comparative exits a victory in the $150,000 Ladies Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 6 at Aqueduct for trainer Brad Cox. She has won four of her last five starts.

“Doing really well,” Cox said. “Obviously, she enjoyed the fall and winter in New York. Thought that this would be a great opportunity to get some graded black type on her or maybe even a graded victory. Trained really well. Flew in on Sunday and settled in well.”

Oaklawn’s next major two-turn race for older fillies and mares is the $400,000 G2-Azeri Stakes March 9. Hot and Sultry ran fourth in last year’s Azeri.