Win Machines Frost Or Frippery and Hunka Burning Love Back at Oaklawn

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Five runners won eight races last year to claim the title as North America’s winningest horse, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Two of those horses (Frost Or Frippery and Hunka Burning Love) were claimed last year at Oaklawn and a third, Greeleys Charm, was claimed at the 2019 meeting.

Frost Or Frippery is already off and running in 2021. He won Friday’s ninth race at Oaklawn – a starter-allowance route for older horses that had competed at a claiming price of $10,000 or less since Jan. 22, 2019 – for trainer Brad Cox and prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers. Cox, on behalf of Landers, claimed Frost Or Frippery for $20,000 last April at Oaklawn.

The gelding has won seven times for Cox and Landers, including the $75,000 Claiming Crown Stakes Dec. 5 at Gulfstream Park to close a busy 2020 campaign. That route race was open to horses that had started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less in their career.

“He’s been good,” said Cox, Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer last year and a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer of 2020. “Very solid horse. We think a lot of him. He’s definitely a barn favorite, I guess you could say.”

Cox won a four-way shake, or blind draw, to claim Frost Or Frippery at Oaklawn. There were 366 claims totaling $6,754,250 during last year’s 57-day meeting. Oaklawn is noted for intense claiming activity and success stories like Frost Or Frippery, Hunka Burning Love and Heavens Whisper, North America’s co-winningest horse in 2019, according to Equibase. Heavens Whisper won six times that year after being claimed for $6,250 late in the 2019 Oaklawn meeting. Another claim to fame, Carve, retired a millionaire after being taken out of his 2013 career debut at Oaklawn for $30,000.

“In order to win a race, you’ve got to be aggressive, I think,” Cox said. “It just allows you to pick a horse here. They’re not all successes, but it just gives you an opportunity to be successful because the purses are good. You want to be aggressive. Most of the time when you’re aggressive at the entry box in a claiming race, you’re not going to have your horse the next day or cool him out that afternoon. Look, it goes both ways. There’s some claims that work out and there’s some that don’t. He’s fortunately one that did.”

Another is Hunka Burning Love, who was entered in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn. After Karl Broberg claimed the gelding for $32,000 last April at Oaklawn, Hunka Burning Love won eight races for the owner/trainer to close 2020, including the $75,000 Lone Star Mile at Lone Star Park, $75,000 Governor’s Cup Stakes at Remington Park, $100,000 Delta Mile Stakes at Delta Downs and the $60,000 Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial Stakes at Remington Park.

“It’s one of the things that makes it worth it,” said Broberg, perennially the country’s winningest trainer. “To be honest about Oaklawn, you know when you run a horse in the right spot, you’re going to lose it. You know when you drop on a horse, you’re going to be shaking. How can you not love that place? Owners love it. Everybody loves that spot. Oaklawn is just cool.”

It was business as usual at the claim box Friday, the first day of the scheduled 57-day meeting. Nine claims totaled $174,000. Broberg claimed one and lost two.

Equibase rankings are based on horses that made at least one start in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico.

Triple Threat

As expected, it didn’t take jockey Florent Geroux long to make an impact in the Oaklawn standings in his second stint as a regular.

Geroux recorded his first career Oaklawn riding triple Friday (opening day), with two of the victories coming for his major client, trainer Brad Cox. Geroux won the third race with favored Sharecropper ($5) for trainer Mike Maker and teamed with Cox to sweep the late daily double with Caddo River ($3.20) in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds and Frost Or Frippery ($5) in the ninth race. Caddo River and Frost Or Frippery were also favored.

Geroux’s first multi-win day at Oaklawn was Feb. 1, 2020, when he teamed with Cox to win a waiver-claimer with Kurilov and the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes with Taraz.

Geroux began the 2012 Oaklawn meeting as a regular, but left early in the meeting after going winless in seven mounts. Now among the country’s most successful riders, Geroux returned to Oaklawn in 2021 after previously being based in the winter at Fair Grounds. The move allowed Geroux to stay close to Cox’s glut of two-turn stakes horses. Geroux’s triple pushed his career Oaklawn victory total to 14.

Finish Lines

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen recorded his 697th career Oaklawn victory when favored Saffa’s Day ($4.20) captured Friday’s sixth race, a maiden special weights route for 3-year-olds, under Ricardo Santana Jr. Asmussen is seeking his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title. … Ken Tohill won Friday’s fourth race aboard Five Star Moon ($18.20) to push the jockey’s career total to 3,929, which ranks 84th in North American history, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. …Post positions for the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile and the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters were to be drawn Saturday. Both races are Jan. 30. … The $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Feb. 6 at Oaklawn closed Thursday with 30 nominations. … Flagstaff, a scheduled King Cotton starter for trainer John Sadler, worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.80 over a fast track Saturday morning at Oaklawn. … Jockey Joe Talamo was off his mounts Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus Friday morning. As part of Oaklawn's COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 meeting, Talamo was required to get a rapid test because he rode last weekend at Fair Grounds. Although he showed no symptoms, Talamo won't be able to ride again at Oaklawn until he can produce a negative test, according to Oaklawn protocols. Talamo was Oaklawn’s co-second-leading rider last year.