(Trainer Brad Cox / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:

Cox Looking Ahead to Strong Oaklawn Meet

The early scouting report on trainer Brad Cox’s 2021 Oaklawn stable? Quantity and lots of quality.

Cox, Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer last year, is armed with robust numbers (40-plus horses) and proven/promising prospects across the board in advance of Oaklawn’s 57-day meeting that begins Friday.

“I was thinking that it normally takes us to the beginning of the meet to get all the horses here and get the barn completely full,” Cox said. “But it’s overflowing right now, which is a good thing. We’re at max capacity and looking for some more spots to ship horses in and run. I think we’re going to have a big meet at all different levels, probably a little more in the stake end of it.”

Cox has entrants in all three opening-weekend stakes – Caddo River in Friday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones for 3-year-olds, Night Ops in Saturday’s $150,000 Fifth Season for older horses and Vault and Getridofwhatailesu in Saturday’s $150,000 Pippin for older fillies and mares. All three races are 1 mile.

Caddo River exits a powerful front-running maiden victory Nov. 15 at Churchill Downs. Owned by prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers, Night Ops won the $350,000 Essex Handicap for older horses last March at Oaklawn and the $100,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) July 5 at Prairie Meadows in his last start.

Cox’s deep roster of older two-turn handicap runners also features millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Owendale and Grade 3 winner Plainsman. Owendale is being pointed for the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 13 at Oaklawn, Cox said.

Hidden Scroll, seventh in the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses last year at Oaklawn, is scheduled to make his first start for Cox in Sunday’s seventh race, an allowance sprint.

Recent arrival Shedaresthedevil, co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, is a finalist for champion 3-year-old filly of 2020 after winning the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn’s $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3). Cox said Shedaresthedevil could resurface in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 13 at Oaklawn.

Among the 3-year-old fillies for Cox are Jemison, an unstarted 3-year-old half-sister to Shedaresthedevil; recent addition Inject and unbeaten Southern Grayce, both entered in Sunday’s eighth race, an entry-level allowance sprint; and Coach, who won her first three career starts before finishing third in the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs. Coach is a candidate for the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 30 at Oaklawn.

Sekani and The Mary Rose, 1-2, respectively, in the $100,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred filly sprinters last year at Oaklawn for trainer Will VanMeter, and Villanelle, a lightly raced 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, are also under Cox’s care. Caddo River, Sekani and The Mary Rose are homebreds for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs. Villanelle has won her last two starts.

“I feel like we’ve pretty much got a horse for all the dirt route races and we’re excited about them,” Cox said. “Got a good group of 3-year-old colts and fillies. This is obviously the best 3-year-old program in the country for both, colts and fillies, and I think we’ll have an impact in both divisions.”

Unbeaten Essential Quality, the probable 2-year-old champion male of 2020, is under consideration for the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 15 at Oaklawn, Cox said. Champion Monomoy Girl, also now with Cox at Fair Grounds, is scheduled to make her 2021 debut in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 15 at Oaklawn.

Cox, who has 205 career Oaklawn victories, is a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer of 2020. He won 26 races last year in Hot Springs, recording single-season Oaklawn personal bests for starts (129) and purse earnings (roughly $2.4 million) during the 57-day meeting.

Cox’s Oaklawn division is overseen by assistant Jorgito Abrego.

The Great Race

Ingrid Mason is in a race to become the winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history, entering the 2021 meet that begins Friday with 116 career victories, six fewer than leader Lynn Chleboard.

Mason will have a chance to pull closer opening weekend after entering nine horses for the first three days of racing, including Lawlessness in Friday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 mile and stakes-placed Lykan in an allowance sprint for older runners Sunday. Chleborad has three horses entered for the first three days of racing.

“Lynn’s a great trainer,” Mason said. “You try to run your horses in line, but here it’s difficult. You think you’re further in line, then you look at the PPs going – ‘Wow! – I’m in really deep here.’ All we can do is try. Our horses seem to be doing good. Put them in and try to win.”

Mason has 32 horses at Oaklawn, the bulk for owner/significant other Mike Waters (Muddy Waters Stables). Waters solely owns Lawlessness, an Oct. 4 Hawthorne maiden special weights graduate who will be making his two-turn and stakes debut in the Smarty Jones, and campaigns the well-traveled Lykan in partnership with Mason.

Lykan ran seventh in last year’s Smarty Jones, then returned to sprints and captured an allowance race at Oaklawn and ran third in its $90,000 Gazebo Stakes and $100,000 Bachelor Stakes. Lykan also started at Ellis Park, Arlington Park, Churchill Downs and Hawthorne last year, bankrolling $85,162 in a 10-race schedule.

“He had a great year,” Mason said. “Are you kidding me? He paid our mortgage. That’s the truth, too. But he’s a different sort. He’s got a different type of personality. He’s matured quite a bit. We’ve tried different things with him as of late, and I think he’ll improve a great deal coming into this meet.”

Mason won the first race of the 2020 Oaklawn meet with the Waters-owned Arrival and finished with 14 victories to tie for sixth in the standings.

Since starting her first horse at Oaklawn in 2010, Mason has won at least four races at every meet and reached double digits every year since 2015. Mason has three career Oaklawn stakes victories, including her first career graded score with Sarah Sis in the $150,000 Honeybee (G3) for 3-year-old fillies in 2015, and set a personal best for victories in Hot Springs (16) in 2018 and starts (122) last year.

“It’s my favorite place on the planet,” Mason said. “I love it here. There’s not anything that I don’t like about Hot Springs, Ark., and that’s why Mike and I bought a house here, because we love it here. Probably retire here some day.”

Mason saddled her first career winner in 2005 and has 483 victories overall, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. In addition to Sarah Sis, a multiple stakes winner of $912,667, Mason won Oaklawn’s $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes and $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes, both for 3-year-old fillies, in 2016 with Marquee Miss.

Chleborad saddled her first Oaklawn winner in 1997 and has at least one victory every year in Hot Springs since 2001. She has 1,365 victories overall, according to Equibase.

Finish Lines

First post Friday, Oaklawn’s first of 57 scheduled racing dates in 2021, is 12:30 p.m. (Central). The meet concludes May 1. … Jon Court is expected to ride opening weekend after escaping serious injury when he was unseated during training hours Jan. 17, according to his new agent, Becky Esch. Court, 60, was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000 and has 688 career victories in Hot Springs, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. He is named on two horses Saturday and three Sunday. Four are for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. … Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borelhas 970 career Oaklawn victories, according to Equibase. Borel, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001, is named on two horses Friday, including K J’s Nobility in the seventh race, an allowance sprint for older horses, for his wife, trainer Renay Borel, and owner Carson McCord of Hot Springs. K J’s Nobility won the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes last year at Oaklawn under the care of Calvin Borel’s older brother, Cecil Borel, who retired from training following the meet. Renay Borel had been Cecil Borel’s assistant. … Red Again, a five-time winner at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting, is entered in Friday’s ninth race, a starter-allowance route for older horses, for trainer Aaron Shorter.