Stakes Advance - Lake Hamilton & Arkansas Breeders

Compiled by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, AR - The freakishly fast Skelly bids for his eighth consecutive Oaklawn victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Lake Hamilton Stakes for older horses at six furlongs.

Probable post time for the Lake Hamilton, the 10th of 12 races, is 4:55 p.m. CDT. First post is 12:10 p.m. The card also features the 8 ½-furlong $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes for Arkansas-bred 3-year-olds and up.

The eight-horse Lake Hamilton field from the rail out: Straight No Chaser, Ramon Vazquez to ride, 117 pounds, 5-2 on the morning line; Mish, Samy Camacho, 122, 20-1; Ruggs, Emmanuel Esquivel, 115, 30-1; Mahomey, Luis Fuentes, 122, 30-1; Edge to Edge, Rafael Bejarano, 122, 9-2; Skelly, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 4-5; Perfect Dude, Francisco Arrieta, 115, 30-1; and Payne, Erik Asmussen, 122, 10-1.

Program favorite Skelly, owned by Texan Chris Hicks (Red Lane Thoroughbreds LLC), exits a sizzling three-length victory in the $500,000 G3-Count Fleet Sprint Handicap April 13 at Oaklawn.

Despite not breaking sharply, Skelly quickly took command and recorded some of the fastest fractions in Count Fleet history – :43.88 for a half-mile and :56.04 for 5 furlongs. Skelly completed 6 furlongs in a meet-best 1:08.82.

The meet’s previous best time for 6 furlongs, 1:09.38, also belonged to Skelly for a front-running 3 ¼-length victory in his 2024 debut, the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older horses Feb. 3 at Oaklawn.

The Count Fleet was Skelly’s first start since his seven-race winning streak was snapped with a runner-up finish in the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) over 1,200 meters Feb. 24 in Saudi Arabia. His seven-race winning streak at Oaklawn (all 6-furlong races) includes four victories last season, the last two coming in the Count Fleet and inaugural Lake Hamilton.

Skelly’s ultra-successful stretch began after he was gelded and added blinkers.

“It’s all him,” said Skelly’s trainer, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. “I mean, if we’re going to take credit for Skelly being fast, we need to take blame for the ones losing. We respect the opportunity. Know what an amazing individual that he is and we’re just lucky to be along for the ride.”

Asmussen said Skelly will continue to target 6-furlong races, with his major remaining 2024 objectives the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) July 27 at Saratoga and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 2 at Del Mar.

Skelly, 9 of 14 overall, has never started in a Grade 1 race.

“Anxious is probably the wrong word,” said Frank Alosa, Red Lane’s racing manager/bloodstock agent.“Whatever Steve decides to do with him, we’ll be along for the ride. You try not to allow yourself to get too far ahead. We have the Lake Hamilton this weekend. That’s kind of the main focus.”

Skelly’s main challengers figure to be Edge to Edge for trainer Chris Hartman and Straight No Chaser for trainer Juan Landeros.

Edge to Edge was a sharp winner of his last start, the $175,000 Eclipse Stakes April 7 at Oaklawn. Edge to Edge’s winning time for 6 furlongs was 1:09.54.

The Southern California-based Straight No Chaser hasn’t started since a front-running 7 ½-length victory in the $100,000 G3-Maryland Sprint Stakes May 20 at Pimlico. Straight No Chaser’s time for six furlongs was 1:08.27, generating a robust 107 Beyer Speed Figure.

Straight No Chaser, then with trainer Dan Blacker, was a front-running 7 ¼-length allowance winner last April at Oaklawn.


Program favorite Lochmoor (8-5) tries to give his dam, Copperelle, her third Oaklawn stakes winner.

Lochmoor was a 3 ½-length winner of the April 14 local allowance prep for trainer Bruce Riecken, bidding for his first career Oaklawn stakes victory.

Lochmoor is scheduled to break from post 2 under Francisco Arrieta and carry equal top weight of 124 pounds. Lochmoor, a 5-year-old gelded son of Laurie’s Rocket, is seeking his first career stakes victory. Copperelle has already produced Weast Hill and Usual Suspect – both state-bred stakes winners at Oaklawn – and is also the dam of Arkansas Breeders’ Championship entrant Navy Seal.

The projected 12-horse Arkansas Breeders’ Championship field also features 2020 winner Man in the Can, 2023 winner Willow Creek Road and Black Apple, a three-time winner at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting.