Warrior’s Charge Returns Thursday at Oaklawn

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

If Warrior’s Charge wants to stick around for major stakes race next month at Oaklawn, he’ll have to make his case Thursday for co-owners Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables and trainer Brad Cox.

Warrior’s Charge, a multiple graded stakes winner, will make his 2021 debut in the eighth race, a 1-mile allowance for older horses that carries a hefty $107,000 purse. The speedy 5-year-old son of Munnings hasn’t started since finishing eighth in the $100,000 Ack Ack Stakes (G3) Sept. 26 at Churchill Downs.

“It’s obviously the starting point for the year,” Clay Sanders, a founding partner in Ten Strike, said Tuesday morning. “Probably not exactly the distance or race we wanted, but if we could get a stake race at Oaklawn the two options were the Oaklawn Mile or the Oaklawn Handicap. If we want to consider the Oaklawn Handicap, we didn’t want to run him not having a prep race. Going a mile and an eighth off the bench is pretty tough. We’ll give him a start and kind of see where he is fitness-wise. He’s not 100 percent cranked, but we’ll see where we’re at.”

The $400,000 Oaklawn Mile is April 10. The $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) is April 17.

Warrior’s Charge was among Oaklawn’s leading two-turn older horses last year after winning the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles and finishing second in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Following a subpar performance in the 1-mile Ack Ack, Warrior’s Charge was sent to Florida horseman Paul Sharp for a break. Sharp’s farm is the go-to vacation spot for horses connected to noted bloodstock agent Liz Crow, who is also Ten Strike’s stable manager. Ten Strike privately purchased then-unraced Warrior’s Charge from his breeder, Al Shaquab Racing, after Crow watched the horse train at McKathan Brothers Training Center in Florida.

In 12 career starts, the consistent Warrior’s Charge has compiled a 5-1-3 record and bankrolled $836,310. Warrior’s Charge also finished fourth in the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) – beaten 2 ½ lengths – in 2019 and fourth in the $500,000 Met Mile (G1) – beaten two lengths – July 4 at Belmont Park. Warrior’s Charge faded to eighth in the Ack Ack after dueling through a demanding :44.85 half-mile.

“We think he was a little over the top, as far as he’d been in training for over a year,” Sanders said. “Obviously, we wanted to go to the Breeders’ Cup with him. Obviously, off that result we didn’t feel confident going into the race and even at that point, we didn’t know Brad had Knicks Go. Exit an allowance race and then kind of showed himself (winning Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile). Probably in hindsight, it (Ack Ack) wasn’t the right spot because it was a one-turn race and there was a ton of speed in the race. He went out crazy fast and just didn’t have anything left in the tank. Brad had kind of mentioned after the race that he wasn’t training as sharply as he was earlier in the year. We wanted to give him a break there so we would have at least some shot of making Oaklawn.”

Warrior’s Charge rejoined Cox’s Fair Grounds division in January and has had seven published workouts there since Feb. 5, including three 5-furlong moves this month. Warriors Charge arrived Monday in Hot Springs.

“We’d liked to have made the Essex or the Razorback, but time just got a little short on us and didn’t get him ready in time,” Sanders said.

The Razorback and Essex are two major local steppingstones to the Oaklawn Handicap, a race Cox said he covets. Cox has never won the Oaklawn Handicap.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Ten Strike offers fractional ownership on its syndicate side (founding partner Marshall Gramm and Sanders are the claiming arm) and “probably 35 to 38” have a share in Warrior’s Charge, Sanders said. The majority of the owners are from Arkansas, Sanders said, meaning a victory in the Oaklawn Mile or Oaklawn Handicap would be a big deal for them, too.

“But then you include family and spouses and friends – you saw the winner’s circle for the Razorback,” Sanders said. “It gets pretty big pretty quick in Arkansas.”

Sanders, a Mountain Home, Ark., native, said adding a Grade 1 victory to the resume of Warrior’s Charge is a goal this year since it would boost his value as a stallion prospect.

“The tricky part with this horse is that probably a mile and a sixteenth is like his optimal distance,” Sanders said. “They don’t have any Grade 1’s at a mile and a sixteenth, so a mile and an eighth is probably at the tail end of his. But it wouldn’t even be crazy at maybe a mile and a quarter, if he could get out on a slow pace, some of these five-horse fields, maybe he could walk the dog on the front end. Those are the things we’ll kind of explore.”

In addition to the Razorback and powerful front-running maiden- and first-level allowance victories at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting, Warrior’s Charge (via disqualification for stretch interference) captured the $200,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) Aug. 22 at Monmouth Park.

Warrior’s Charge is the 8-5 program favorite Thursday, with Florent Geroux named to ride from post 6. Also entered are Mailman Money, My Sixth Sense, Home Base, Guest Suite and Final Jeopardy.

Probable post time is 4:40 p.m. (Central).

The Leaders

There was no change at the top of the standings last week as Oaklawn passed the halfway point of its now 51-day meeting.

Through Sunday, the 27th day of racing, seven-time local riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. has a meet-high 35 victories, 10 more than runner-up Francisco Arrieta. Florent Geroux is third with 23. Santana also leads all riders in purse money ($2,438,596). He enters the new race week with 581 career local victories and is poised to become the first jockey in Oaklawn history to reach $30 million in career purse earnings. Santana has $29,113,249.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen leads all trainers in victories (30) and purse earnings ($2,567,600). Asmussen is seeking his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title. Defending champion Robertino Diodoro is second with 28 victories. Brad Cox is third with 17 victories, second in purse earnings ($2,034,954) and first in stakes victories (six).

Four-time Oaklawn champion Danny Caldwell leads the owner’s standings with seven victories, one more than M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk). John Ed Anthony and Jerry Caroom, both of Hot Springs, are third with five.

Caldwell was Oaklawn’s leading owner in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. M and M was Oaklawn’s leading owner the last three years.

Finish Lines

Jon Court, who is trying to become the sixth jockey in Oaklawn history to reach 700 career victories, is named on four horses Thursday. Court has 697 career Oaklawn victories. … Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel recorded his 971st career Oaklawn victory in Sunday’s fifth race aboard favored Jack Van Berg ($6.60). It was the first victory at the meet for Borel, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001, and the second for his wife, trainer Renay Borel. Jack Van Berg was named for the late Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1983 and 1984. … Two-time Oaklawn riding champion Terry Thompson recorded his 654th career local victory in Sunday’s ninth race aboard favored Bob’s Edge ($4.80) for trainer Larry Jones. Thompson was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2009 and 2010. … David Cabrera rode three winners Sunday at Oaklawn. Cabrera won the fourth race aboard favored Longntall ($4.20) for trainer John Ortiz, sixth race aboard Lonely Private ($13.40) for trainer Wesley Hawley and the 10th race aboard favored Hillary G ($7.20) for trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs. … Jockey Ken Tohill won Sunday’s second race at Oaklawn aboard favored James’s Moonshine ($3.20) for trainer Chris Hartman. It was the 3,933rd career victory for Tohill, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Only 78 riders in North American history have reached 4,000 in a career, according to Equibase. … Cousin Larry, a half-brother to champion Proud Spell, and Gershwin, a half-brother to stablemate Mystic Guide, powerful winner of the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 27 at Oaklawn, are among the entrants in Thursday’s seventh race at Oaklawn. The 1-mile entry-level allowance is for 3-year-olds. Mystic Guide, a homebred for Godolphin and trainer Michael Stidham, is entered in the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) Saturday in the United Arab Emirates.