Stakes Advance Temperence Hill Stakes

Compiled by Robert Yates

Coinciding with a record purse is a record number of entrants for the fifth running of the $200,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses Friday at Oaklawn.

The 1 ½-mile Temperence Hill goes as the ninth of 10 races, with probable post time 4:55 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m.

The Temperence Hill, which honors the 1980 Eclipse Award winning 3-year-old, was worth $125,000 for its inaugural edition in 2020 and $150,000 the past three years. The race attracted 10 entrants in 2020 and 2021 and six the past two years. Barring scratches, 13 horses will run Friday.

The 7-2 program favorite is Speed Bias (#7) for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Speed Bias, who is normally forwardly placed, seeks his first career stakes victories after several close calls the past year.

Speed Bias finished second, beaten a nose, in the $250,000 G3-Pimlico Special at 1 3/16 miles last May at Pimlico; third, beaten a neck, in the $350,000 G2-Fayette at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 28 at Keeneland; and second, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the $200,000 Tinsel at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 16 at Oaklawn.

The most accomplished entrant is millionaire Grade 1 winner Classic Causeway (#12), one of two supplemental nominees for trainer Kenny McPeek.

Unraced since August, Classic Causeway (9-2) returns to dirt after making his last three starts on turf in Great Britian. In his last dirt race, Classic Causeway finished sixth in the nine-furlong $1 million G2-Oaklawn Handicap for older horses last April. He also ran second, beaten a length, in the $500,000 G3-Essex Handicap last March. The Essex is a major local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap.

Classic Causeway is a Grade 2 winner on dirt ($400,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles) and Grade 1 winner on turf ($1 million Belmont Derby Invitational at 1 1/4 miles). Both front-running victories were in 2022.

“Classic Causeway, he’s won at a mile and a half and he’s trained super since he’s been back,” McPeek said. “We had what I call the European experiment. That didn’t go all that well. But he’s come back here and done well.”

McPeek also entered late-running Hayes Strike (#8), winner of the $300,000 Texas Derby at 1 1/16 miles May 29 at Lone Star Park.

“That horse runs well about every time,” McPeek said. “I guess we’re going to have the engine and caboose in there.”

Other top contenders include Red Run (4-1) for trainer Mike Maker and Strong Tide (6-1) for trainer Mike Lauer.

Red Run finished third behind Next, the country’s top marathon horse last year, in the $250,000 G2-Brooklyn Stakes at 1 ½ miles June 10 at Belmont Park.

In three 2022 starts at Oaklawn, Indiana-bred star Strong Tide set a 1 3/16-mile track record (1:56.33), was a front-running 10 ½-length allowance winner at 1 ½ miles and finished fourth in the Temperence Hill.

O P Firecracker (#3) exits a fifth-place finish in the $600,000 G3-Razorback Handicap for co-owner/trainer Robert Medina. A 5-year-old son of champion Will Take Charge, O P Firecracker has competed at marathon distances and is seeking his first career stakes victory. O P Firecracker also ran third in two allowance races this season at Oaklawn, including at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 13.

“I had brought him here with the intention of that (Temperence Hill) because I saw that race was going a mile and a half,” Medina said. “He’s a long-winded horse. I was hoping he would win one of those allowance races before we ran him in there, but I always wanted to get him in there. There was an allowance race that didn’t go. I think it was a mile and a half and it didn’t go, so I just kind of put him in the Razorback and he ran really good.”

O P Firecracker, at odds of 30-1, was beaten 5 ¾ lengths in the Razorback after reaching a challenging position turning for home.

“Like in the Razorback, he approaches the (quarter pole) and catches them,” Medina said. “But he’s just a one-paced grinder, so he can’t kick on with them. Going a mile and a half in this race, I was surprised how many horses are in there. He’s one of these horses in these marathon races, he can stay with them and he’s doing awfully well. I’d be really disappointed if he didn’t go over there and fire his best shot.”

Temperence Hill was the country’s champion 3-year-old male of 1980 after winning 8 of 17 starts, including the Rebel Handicap and G2-Arkansas Derby and the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes – the final leg of the Triple Crown – at Belmont Park. Temperence Hill was campaigned by Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony, the winningest owner in Oaklawn history.