For Immediate Release

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing

jhoyt@oaklawn.com or 501-363-4305

Tejano Twist winning the Whitmore Stakes

Photo credit: Coady Photography


HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 14, 2023) – Trainer Chris Hartman said he claimed Tejano Twist with the thought of a late-running grass horses. Instead of grass, the late-running Tejano Twist has excelled on dirt.

Tejano Twist can pad his main-track resume again Saturday at Oaklawn in the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs. Probable post time for the Count Fleet, which goes as the ninth of 12 races, is 4:58 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:35 p.m. The card is highlighted by the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares.

The projected 10-horse Count Fleet field from the rail out: Edge to Edge, Mitchell Murrill to ride, 118 pounds, 10-1 on the morning line; Skelly, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 4-1; Pirate Rick, Gabriel Saez, 115, 20-1; Candy Man Rocket, Junior Alvarado, 122, 6-1; Tejano Twist, Francisco Arrieta, 124, 5-2; Radical Right, Cristian Torres, 117, 15-1; Surveillance, James Graham, 119, 6-1; Cogburn, Joel Rosario, 116, 15-1; Payne, Keith Asmussen, 115, 20-1; and Strobe, Florent Geroux, 119, 7-2.

The Count Fleet brings back program favorite Tejano Twist, stablemate Edge to Edge, Pirate Rick and Cogburn, 1-3-6-8, respectively, in the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs March 18. The Whitmore, the final major local prep for the Count Fleet, marked Tejano Twist’s fourth victory since Hartman claimed the now-4-year-old Practical Joke gelding for $80,000 last June at Churchill Downs.

“I really thought he was going to be an OK turfer, myself, maybe a late-closing sprinting turf horse,” Hartman said. “He turned the page for us and I think he likes the cooler weather.”

After finishing ninth and eighth in turf stakes last summer and early fall in Kentucky, Tejano Twist has been a model of consistency in his return to dirt. Tejano Twist has a 4-1-0 record in his last five starts, highlighted by victories in the Whitmore and $250,000 Steel Valley Sprint Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters Nov. 21 at Mahoning Valley. Tejano Twist, in his 4-year-old debut, finished second to Grade 1 winner Gunite in the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Jan. 28 at Oaklawn. Tejano Twist rallied from ninth to win the Whitmore by 1 ½ lengths and again has the speedy Edge to Edge to help ensure a fast pace. A victory Saturday would make Tejano Twist ($763,604) a millionaire.

“I think we’re in a great position and, hopefully, we can get the good results,” Hartman said.

Strobe will be making his stakes debut after winning 4 of 5 career starts, including an allowance sprint by 5 ¼ lengths Jan. 27 at Fair Grounds. Strobe has been favored in every career start for trainer Brad Cox, who is seeking his ninth stakes victory of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Cox has never won the Count Fleet.

Grade 3 winner Candy Man Rocket, who is campaigned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and prominent Arkansas businessman Frank Fletcher, has won his last three starts, including the $125,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes at 6 furlongs Feb. 25 at Gulfstream Park.

The consistent Surveillance – first, second or third in eight of his last 10 starts – bids for his first career graded stakes victory. The Keith Desormeaux-trained gelding won the $175,000 Thanksgiving Classic Stakes Nov. 24, $100,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial Stakes Dec. 26 and the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes Jan. 21. All three dirt sprint races were at Fair Grounds. Surveillance, in his only graded stakes start, finished fourth in the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses at 7 furlongs last April at Keeneland. Surveillance hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes at about 5 ½ furlongs on the turf Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds.

“We’ve been kind of eyeing it (Count Fleet),” Desormeaux said. “There were no more dirt sprints at the Fair Grounds and we had run him pretty hard, first part of the meet. We ran him in the Commonwealth last year and it was seven-eighths. I always thought James was crazy, but he said that horse doesn’t want to go any further than 6 furlongs. He looked like a winner in the Commonwealth and was just kind of a steady pace to the wire. The fact that it (Count Fleet) is at Oaklawn, $500,000, 6 furlongs and perfect timing – that’s what steered us there.”

Desormeaux said he believes the gelding’s stalking style should be ideal for the Count Fleet, which features several speed horses.

“He’s really going to be tough to beat because he is a really, really talented horse,” Desormeaux said.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen bids for his record-extending fifth Count Fleet victory after winning the race last year with champion Jackie’s Warrior. Asmussen has a trio of runners this year in Skelly, Cogburn and Payne. The Count Fleet will mark the stakes debut of Skelly, who exits two front-running allowance victories at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

Asmussen is seeking his recording-extending 100th career Oaklawn stakes victory.