(Oaklawn Park infield / Photo by Steve Higginbothom)
From the Oaklawn Media Team:
You might need to be a math wizard to calculate Math Wizard’s travel schedule in 2019.
As for the Reader’s Digest version, Math Wizard made three starts at Gulfstream Park between January and February, a start at Aqueduct in April, a start in May at Oaklawn, a start in June at Thistledown, a start in July at Indiana Grand, a start in August at Mountaineer, a start in September at Parx and a start in November at Santa Anita.
That final count? Ten races, eight tracks, eight states, three time zones and two coasts.
“It was pretty fun,” co-owner Taylor Bassett said Wednesday afternoon.
Math Wizard is scheduled to return to Oaklawn for the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 17, a 1 1/16-mile race that will mark the 4-year-old debut for the well-traveled son of Algorithms.
Math Wizard rewarded his many owners – Bassett Stables is among seven entities that have a piece of the colt – by earning more than $1 million last year, largely on the strength of a victory in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 21 at Parx and a fifth-place finish in his last start, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Bassett said Math Wizard’s connections, including trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., had hoped to parlay that resume into a start in the $20 million Saudi Cup – the world’s richest race – Feb. 29 in Saudi Arabia. But Bassett said when it became apparent late last month that Math Wizard wouldn’t receive an invitation to the Saudi Cup, the colt was re-routed to the Razorback, a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 18. Math Wizard also missed a potential start in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 25 at Gulfstream, Bassett said, because of uncertainty involving an invitation to that race.
“It was kind of disappointing because after the Breeders’ Cup the whole plan was to train up to the race in Saudi and maybe get a prep at Gulfstream before heading over there,” Bassett said. “Obviously, we could have considered the Pegasus World Cup if we were kind of given more of a heads up. They kind of told us a little bit late that we were far down on the list of potential invitees, so we kind of re-directed to Oaklawn. The horse seemed to get over the track well the last time there and we’re familiar with it. It seems like a good spot to get our campaign started and maybe a possible start in the Dubai World Cup if he runs well there.”
Math Wizard, as the 5-2 favorite, finished fourth in the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational last May. Laughing Fox won the race to earn an automatic berth into the Preakness and finished fifth in the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown.
A true rags-to-riches story, Math Wizard had been claimed for $25,000 early last year at Gulfstream Park by Joseph on behalf of the colt’s majority owner, John Fanelli. Bassett, 26, said he purchased a minority share in the colt about two weeks later.
Bassett, involved in the banking industry in Tampa, FL, also manages Bassett Stables, which he said has about 15 partners in on Math Wizard. After being claimed, Math Wizard also ran second in the $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) June 22 at Thistledown and third in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) July 13 at Indiana Grand.
The seven entities that own Math Wizard include Cash is King LLC of Chuck Zacney. Cash is King has campaigned, among others, 2005 champion 3-year-old male and Arkansas Derby winner Afleet Alex.
“We’ve had issues with that before,” Bassett said of including all the owner’s names in the track program. “The Breeders’ Cup fit them all in on the program.”
Bassett said it’s important that Math Wizard performs well in the Razorback since it could lead to an invitation to the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 28 in the United Arab Emirates. Math Wizard’s dam, Minister’s Baby, was a two-time winner at the 2001 Oaklawn meeting for trainer Pete Vestal and owner Mike Mackin (Lucky Seven Stable), who bred Math Wizard.
“I would say we’d have to run good at Oaklawn in the Razorback to have any shot of running well in the Dubai World Cup,” Bassett said. “I don’t think he would send him over there off a poor effort. More anxious to get the season started with him. We think he’s kind of developing into a nice horse and he’ll be a nice older horse for us this year.”
Math Wizard recorded a 5-furlong bullet workout (1:00.03) Monday at Gulfstream Park.
Nominations to the Razorback closed Thursday. Other early projected starters include locally-based millionaire Bravazo and Warrior’s Charge, who ran fourth in last year’s Preakness.
Gun Runner won the 2017 Razorback before finishing second in the Dubai World Cup in his next start. Gun Runner was named 2017 Horse of the Year.
Laughing Fox Returns
Laughing Fox, winner of the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds at the 2019 meeting, is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in Sunday’s featured eighth race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for older horses.
Owned by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark., and trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Laughing Fox hasn’t started since finishing ninth in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga to complete a compacted 2019 eight-race campaign. Laughing Fox was a three-time winner last year at Oaklawn, breaking his maiden opening day and claiming the closing-day Oaklawn Invitational to earn an automatic berth into the Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown (the Union Rags colt finished fifth).
Laughing Fox ran three other times at Oaklawn, winning an entry-level allowance race before finishing seventh to Omaha Beach in the second division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and fourth behind Omaha Beach in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). Omaha Beach was runner-up for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old male.
“We probably overdid him, just because the way the races fell,” Alex Lieblong said in early January. “Asked an awful lot of him awfully quick and he deserved some time off and we gave it to him. Right now, everybody’s tickled the way he’s acting, put it that way.”
Laughing Fox, a $375,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase, has had nine published workouts since early December at Fair Grounds, where Asmussen also has a division of horses.
Laughing Fox is scheduled to break from post 2 in Sunday’s projected 11-horse field under Ricardo Santana Jr. Also entered are Oaklawn Invitational runner-up Night Ops for trainer Brad Cox, Grade 3 winner Plainsman for trainer Reeve McGaughey, Grade 3 winner Lombo for trainer Phil D’Amato and Grade 3 winner Sky Promise for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
Probable post time for Sunday’s eighth race is 4:42 p.m. (Central).
Robertino Diodoro had a triple Thursday, extending his lead in the trainer standings to 10-7 over perennial champion Steve Asmussen. Diodoro won the third race with Conqueror ($9.40), the fifth race Mucho Macho Dan ($8.60) and the sixth race with Matrooh ($7). Defending riding champion David Cohen rode Conqueror and Matrooh for two-time defending leading owner M & M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk). Cohen’s double pulled him into an 8-8 tie with Ricardo Santana Jr. for leading rider. M and M topped the owner’s standings with five victories through Thursday. Matrooh, a 10-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, won for the 10th time to increase his career earnings to $651,174. The Grade 3 winner was making his first start since being claimed by Diodoro for $25,000 Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs. … Oaklawn surpassed $1 million in claims at the meet Thursday, the seventh day of the scheduled 57-day meeting. Through Thursday, 55 claims had totaled $1,108,500. … The Rouge Diesel, the winner of last year’s 1 ¾-mile Trail’s End, traditionally the final race of the Oaklawn meeting, finished fifth in his 2020 debut Thursday for co-owner/trainer John E. Cox. The 1 1/16-mile race was for older $8,000 claimers. The Trail’s End is the third race in the Trail’s End starter series and is scheduled to offer a $75,000 purse, a $20,000 increase over last year. The race is for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a $10,000 or less claiming price in 2019-2020. The series begins with a 1 ½-mile race March 14 ($45,000 purse) and continues with a 1 9/16-mile race April 11 ($55,000). … Mallard’s Bro, the popular Arkansas-bred stakes winner, is one work away from making his 10-year-old debut, trainer Al Cates of Hot Springs said Tuesday morning. “He’s going to have another year, he’s still holding together,” Cates said. “He likes to go to the track. He’s dropping down a little bit. He’s lost a step or two. But, this could be his last year. We’re taking it easy on him.” A gelded son of It’s No Joke, Mallard’s Bro has a 5-17-16 record from 66 lifetime starts and earnings of $340,371. He is unraced since finishing fourth against $16,000 claimers Oct. 11 at Keeneland. Mallard’s Bro won the $75,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes for state-breds in 2014 at Oaklawn. … David Cabrera, Oaklawn’s second-leading jockey in 2018, had two mounts Thursday. Cabrera, who is based at Sam Houston, said he was only in Hot Springs for the day.