Stakes Advance Natural State Breeders'

Compiled by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, AR - Kaboom Baby’s second chance to become the leading accredited Arkansas-bred female money winner in history comes in the $150,000 Natural State Breeders’ Stakes Friday at Oaklawn.

The one-mile Natural State is the ninth of 11 races, with probable post time 4:36 p.m. CDT. First post is 12:15 p.m.

The Natural State drew a field of 10. Entries from the rail out are: Sulwe, Carlos Barbosa to ride, 124 pounds, 3-1 on the morning line; Mozingo, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 8-1; Rivercrest Girl, Richard Eramia, 119, 20-1; Courtney Fay, Ramsey Zimmerman, 117, 30-1; Cashmere Baby, Gabriel Saez, 119, 8-1; Kantex, Rafael Bejarano, 124, 9-5; Lassie My Girl, Chel-c Bailey, 119, 30-1; Punchy Girl, Francisco Arrieta, 124, 15-1; Kaboom Baby, Luis Quinonez, 119, 7-2; and Bennykayandsuzytoo, Walter De La Cruz, 124, 10-1.

Kaboom Baby is seeking her first victory since the 2023 Natural State for breeder/owner Tracy K. Selby, a Pottsville, Ark., elementary school teacher, and trainer Ernie Witt II.

Kaboom Baby ($495,159) would surpass The Mary Rose, now retired, as the all-time leading Arkansas-bred female money winner with a victory. The Mary Rose earned $539,894 from 21 lifetime starts in 2019-2022.

Kaboom Baby has made four starts this season at Oaklawn (all against state-breds), including a fourth-place finish in the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes at six furlongs March 2 when she would have broken The Mary Rose’s record with a victory. Kaboom Baby exits a third in a 1 1/16-mile starter allowance March 28.

“She is coming into the race really good,” Witt said. “I’m hoping that Louie can work out a little better trip than the last race, which is difficult to do coming from the 9 hole. But Louie’s got the experience. He knows the horse and hopefully he can work out the best trip. She was kind of wide going into the first turn (March 28) and you can’t lose ground at this track.”

Kaboom Baby’s workload has come almost exclusively at Oaklawn, where she has a 4-6-5 record from 19 lifetime starts and earnings of $493,659. Her only other career start came last May at Lone Star Park in the $100,000 Memorial Day Sprint Stakes. Kaboom Baby is a 6-year-old daughter of Hightail.

Witt said the plan, at this time, is to run Kaboom Baby at the 2024-2025 Oaklawn meeting.

“If you breed her, you’re probably not going to breed her until April,” Witt said. “So, you can run her in December, January, February. So, I would imagine we’ll bring her back and run her early. And if she’s still doing really well, just keep running her. But if she starts tailing off, just because she’ll be 7, you can go ahead and send her to the breeding shed later in the spring.”

Program favorite Kantex hasn’t started since a neck victory over Mozingo in the Downthedustyroad. Kantex finished fourth in the 2023 Natural State.

Sulwe and Cashmere Baby finished 1-2, respectively, in the March 28 starter-allowance prep for the Natural State. The Morse-trained Connie K ($517,195) had two chances at the meeting to eclipse The Mary Rose’s record with victories. But Connie K finished third in the Downthedustyroad and third in an allowance sprint against open company last Sunday.

The Mary Rose was a multiple Oaklawn stakes winner for breeder/owner John Ed Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable. The Mary Rose was a 9 ¾-length winner of the 2022 Natural State for trainer John Ortiz. Anthony is the winningest owner in Oaklawn history.