Stakes Advance - Year's End & Renaissance

Compiled by Robert Yates

Unbeaten Denim and Pearls and local stakes winner Valentine Candy are program favorites for the $200,000 Year’s End Stakes and $150,000 Renaissance Stakes, respectively, Sunday at Oaklawn.

The one-mile Year’s End for fillies and six-furlong Renaissance highlight a 10-race program exclusively for 2-year-olds, the second in Oaklawn history. Racing begins at 12:30 p.m. (Central), with probable post times for the Renaissance and Year’s End, 3:18 p.m. and 4:14 p.m., respectively.

Both races drew seven entrants.

Denim and Pearls (2-1) will be making her first start around two turns for trainer Brad Cox after winning her Oct. 21 debut at Keeneland by a nose sprinting and stretching out to a mile in an entry-level allowance Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs. Denim and Pearls won that race by 3 ½ lengths.

“Physically, she looks like she can handle two turns,” Cox said. “She’s been training at the Fair Grounds and doing well. I’m excited about her.”

Also entered in the Year’s End are Floating Beauty, unbeaten Tapit Jenallie, the early 5-2 second choice, Asternia, Neom Beach, Ice Cold and Pula.

Tapit Jenallie has won her two starts by a combined 13 ¼ lengths for trainer Eddie Milligan Jr. She exits a 5 ½-length score in the seven-furlong $100,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes Nov. 10 at Delta Downs.

Ice Cold (3-1) broke her maiden by 10 lengths against Indiana-breds in the 1 mile, 70-yard $100,000 Miss Indiana Stakes Oct. 4 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and was second behind Denim and Pearls last month. Ice Cold is a half-sister to Indiana-bred standout Corningstone, a multiple stakes winner of $400,948. Both horses are trained by Kenny McPeek, who won four races on Oaklawn’s inaugural card for 2-year-olds in 2022, including the Year’s End with future Grade 1 winner Defining Purpose.

“They’re not alike,” McPeek said, comparing Ice Cold and Corningstone. “One’s a Mitole (Ice Cold) and Corningstone’s a Kantharos. They’re definitely apples and oranges. But they both won that Indiana-bred route stake by (large margins).”

Valentine Candy (8-5) looks to become the first two-time stakes winner at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting in the Renaissance. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Valentine Candy was a romping 6 ¾-length winner of the opening-day $150,000 Advent Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 8. Asmussen is also scheduled to start Booth (3-1), a blowout debut winner sprinting Oct. 7 at Keeneland.

“Very fast horses,” Asmussen said. “Very fortunate to have them. Obviously, 3-year-old sprint races – Oaklawn gives us a nice opportunity to do it.”

The Renaissance also drew Googol Joke, Normandy Hero, General Shipman and supplemental nominees Tejon Pass and Frost Free.

Normandy Hero (5-2) finished second, beaten a half-length, in the six furlong $200,000 Bowman Mill Stakes Oct. 28 at Keeneland for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Valentine Candy was 3 ¼ lengths farther back in third. Normandy Hero, in his last start, finished third in the $225,000 Ed Brown Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.

“We think he’s a horse that can win a stakes down the line,” Brisset said. “I don’t think he wants to go too far, so we’ll see what happens.”

Tejon Pass exits a third in the seven-furlong $100,000 G3-Bob Hope Stakes Nov 19 at Del Mar for trainer Peter Miller.

Both the Year’s End and Renaissance are being run for the second time. The Year’s End is a steppingstone to Oaklawn’s 8 ½-furlong $250,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Jan. 27.

Oaklawn’s signature sprint stake for 3-year-olds, the $200,000 Bachelor, is April 27. The inaugural $150,000 Ozark Stakes for 3-year-olds is Feb. 10. Both races are six furlongs.