Oaklawn Barn Notes: Heartwood Favored in King Cotton on Saturday

(Wilbo returns as the defending champ in the King Cotton / Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)

From the Oaklawn Media Team:

Heartwood’s second career start came at Oaklawn and No. 26 will mark his return to Hot Springs in Saturday’s $100,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters at 6 furlongs.

Probable post time for the King Cotton, the seventh of nine races, is 4:20 p.m. (Central). Gates open Saturday at 11 a.m., with first post 1:05 p.m.

The well-traveled Heartwood began his racing career with Hall of Famer and nine-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen and finished second as the favorite in a maiden special weights race in February 2017 at Oaklawn. After being purchased for $75,000 by trainer James Chapman at Fasig-Tipton’s Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale in 2017, Heartwood has run at Mountaineer, Thistledown, Kentucky Downs, Indiana Grand, Mahoning Valley, Santa Anita, Turfway Park, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Saratoga, Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.

Heartwood completed his busy 13-race 2018 campaign with a third-place finish in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) Dec. 22 at Gulfstream Park. The gray son of Tapit will make his 5-year-old debut in the King Cotton after failing to meet his reserve at Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale, where he was entered as a racing or stallion prospect.

“It was one of the spots we were looking at,” Chapman said of the King Cotton. “We tried to put him through the sale and it backed us up a little bit and he had a foot bruise when he ran down in Florida. This was a minor thing with the foot bruise, so it set up fine for him.”

Heartwood won the $75,000 Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes Aug. 4 at Mountaineer and raced almost exclusively in graded stakes company the remainder of 2018. His past performance lines include heavyweights like City of Light, Whitmore, Promises Fulfilled and Limousine Liberal.

Heartwood, the 3-1 King Cotton program favorite, has had three published workouts this year at The Thoroughbred Center near Lexington, Ky., the last a 6-furlong move in an eye-catching 1:10 Jan. 27.

“He was coming up to where he needed to do something,” said Chapman, who is stabled at The Thoroughbred Center and co-owns Heartwood with Stuart Tsujimoto. “He likes to run every 30 days. We don’t do a lot in between races with him. We kind of simulated a race and put a couple of horses out there in front of him for him to run down. It wasn’t a frozen track, but the bottom was hard, so it was a little bit deceiving, the time. But we let him be happy and that’s we did. He’s a nice horse.”

A multiple stakes winner, Heartwood has earned $391,403 with five victories from 25 lifetime starts.

The projected 10-horse King Cotton field from the rail out: Wilbo, David Cabrera to ride, 115 pounds, 7-2 on the morning line; Bourbon Cowboy, Orlando Mojica, 119, 8-1; Gordy Florida, Alex Birzer, 115, 8-1; Toasting Master, Alex Canchari, 115, 12-1; Heartwood, 115, David Cohen, 3-1; A M Milky Way, C.J. McMahon, 119, 30-1; Sightforsoreeyes, Walter De La Cruz, 115, 15-1; Balandeen, Fernando De La Cruz, 115, 4-1; Control Stake, Ricardo Santana Jr., 115, 9-2; and Dan the Go to Man, Edgar Morales, 115, 20-1.

Defending King Cotton champion Wilbo resurfaces after a lengthy freshening for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. The Candy Ride gelding hasn’t started since finishing third in the $100,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap July 6 at Prairie Meadows, but has worked steadily the last two months at Oaklawn and received the green light for the King Cotton, Hartman said, following a Tuesday morning breeze that wasn’t published because of heavy fog.

“We don’t really map them out much,” Hartman said. “We’ve got a rough guesstimation of all these races, but I don’t like to really pencil in anything. Horses aren’t really made to be put to paper. You get an idea and you like to go with it, but they have to tell you they’re ready to do all that stuff.”

Control Stake and Balandeen, a former Hartman trainee, finished second and third, respectively, in the $72,750 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes Jan. 19 at Fair Grounds.

I was absolutely dancing into the Winner’s Circle. It was so exciting and Joel has been like one of my kids ever since he came from Bay Meadows. We tease each other a lot. We greet each other by grunting and everybody looks at us like, ‘what’s that all about’ but we’ve been doing it for years. So it’s wonderful to win with him. The owners are great people that really deserve something like this.

“This horse seems like he’s more adept at seven furlongs to a mile so I’m not sure he wants a mile and a quarter …

“I could tell my horse had won, but I was so excited in the stretch I thought I was gonna pass out.

“We are very happy with the way our horse had trained for this race, but it’s always scary when you get a look at those Baffert ‘Maseratis’, it pretty much unfolded the way we had hoped.

“The people that own this horse, they’ve got this colt a seven furlong-miler type maybe time will tell differently, but the other colt they are focusing on him going the two turns.”

JEFF BONDE, SPARKY VILLE, WINNER

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