(Mocito Rojo at Churchill Downs / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Oaklawn Park Media Team:
The last time trainer Shane Wilson started a horse at Oaklawn was 2005 and it was for a $7,500 claiming price. The stakes will be considerably higher Saturday when the south-Louisiana-based Wilson sends out Mocito Rojo for his local debut in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses at a mile.
Claimed out of a career-debut victory for $10,000 in December 2016 at Delta Downs, Mocito Rojo is a multiple stakes winner of $804,000 for Wilson and owner Wayne T. Davis. The 6-year-old son of Mutadda has won 16 of 26 starts since being claimed, highlighted by the $250,000 Lukas Classic (G3) Sept. 28 at Churchill Downs. The sixth-place finisher in the Lukas Classic, Quip, won Oaklawn’s premier event for two-turn horses last year, the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2).
Mocito Rojo is trying to rebound from seventh-place finishes in the $200,000 Fayette Stakes (G2) Oct. 26 at Keeneland and the $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.
“Really looking at the condition book, it has such a good program up there for your older horses,” Wilson said Wednesday afternoon. “The second-to-last race in the slop, he didn’t handle the track at all at Keeneland. It was a really different, soupy track. I’ve been hauling him 15 hours from where we are to Kentucky and I don’t think he recovered from the sloppy-track race. I ran him back too soon, so we gave him 60 days off. Looking at the schedule, it just looks like if he likes the track at Oaklawn, I know it’s short stretch mile, so I think it’s a good race to come back in.”
After 16 horses were entered Monday, Oaklawn split the Fifth Season. Each division retained its $100,000 purse.
Mocito Rojo is entered in the second division, which goes as the eighth of nine races. Probable post time is 4:38 p.m. (Central). Probable post time for the first division of the Fifth Season, the fifth race, is 3:08 p.m. (Central).
The projected field from the rail out for the first division: Sky Promise, Orlando Mojica to ride, 117 pounds, 8-1 on the morning line; Guest Suite, Walter De La Cruz, 122, 10-1; Snapper Sinclair, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 2-1; Remembering Rita, Alex Birzer, 119, 9-2; Chris and Dave, Stewart Elliott, 119, 4-1; Sonneteer, Richard Eramia, 122, 8-1; Night Ops, Florent Geroux, 119, 5-1; and Lenstar, Channing Hill, 119, 12-1.
Millionaire Snapper Sinclair is trying to win his first stakes race on dirt. Sonneteer, a supplemental nominee, won the 2018 Fifth Season. Grade 3 winner Remembering Rita, trained by Doug Anderson of Hot Springs, will remove blinkers for race.
The projected field from the rail out for the second division: M G Warrior, Geroux, 119, 8-1; Mocito Rojo, Filemon T. Rodriguez, 122, 8-1; Rated R Superstar, De La Cruz, 122, 10-1; Bankit, Santana, 122, 5-1; Bravazo, Ramon Vazquez, 115, 3-1; Pioneer Spirit, Mojica, 122, 5-2; Colonelsdarktemper, Jon Court, 115, 12-1; and Sevier, Joe Talamo, 115, 10-1.
Pioneer Spirt ran third in last year’s Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile. Millionaire Bravazo was among the country’s leading 3-year-olds in 2018 and finished eighth in the Clark, his first start since running fourth in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) last January at Gulfstream Park. Rated R Superstar won the $350,000 Essex Handicap for older horses last year at Oaklawn.
The Fifth Season begins a lucrative local series of two-turn events for older horses, which culminates with the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G1) April 18.
“I think he’ll like the track, and if he does then we have the Essex, you have the Razorback, you have the Oaklawn Mile.” Wilson said. “We beat Quip and a couple of those guys that ran in the Oaklawn Handicap last year. If he gets back into form and he likes that track, it looks like there’s a lot of opportunities for him to run at the meet there.”
Wilson, a former assistant to Sam David, started his first horse in 1998 and wintered at Oaklawn in 1999, winning three races. He said Mocito Rojo will be vanned Friday morning from his Delta Downs base to Oaklawn.
Also on Saturday’s card is the $100,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile. First post Saturday is 1 p.m.
Lara Returns at a Journeyman
Oaklawn’s leading apprentice jockey in 2019 has returned as a journeyman in 2020.
Ezequiel Lara won 13 races last year in Hot Springs and parlayed that success into a top 10 finish at Indiana Grand, where he rode 37 winners to rank seventh in the final standings. Lara, 23, rode most of the lengthy Indiana Grand meeting (April 16-Nov. 6) as a journeyman after losing his apprentice weight allowance early in the season.
“At first it was a little slow, but once we started winning a couple of races, everything just kind of took off,” Lara said. “I won almost 40 over there at Indiana Grand without my bug, so it was an awesome experience. Ever since then, slowly but surely picking up business.”
According to statistics compiled by Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, Lara finished 2019 with 54 victories from 598 mounts and purse earnings of $1,619,145 – all career highs since he began riding in 2017.
Lara said his agent, retired jockey Francisco Torres, and trainers Randy Morse and Randy Matthews have helped shape his young career. Torres rode 3,194 winners before injuries forced him to retire in late 2017. Morse, an Oaklawn regular, collected his 1,000th career victory Dec. 15 at Remington Park.
“The goal is to always be the best,” Lara said. “Go out there and show what you’re capable of. It’s a dream come true, honestly. I’ve had a lot of guys helping me out.”
Lara is named on two horses for Friday’s opening-day card, including the Matthews-trained Wild About You in the third race. Torres also represents jockey Julio Felix at Oaklawn.
Cannon Back at Oaklawn
After riding the past two winters at Tampa Bay Downs, Fair Grounds and Turfway Park, jockey Declan Cannon has returned to Oaklawn for the 2020 meeting that begins Friday.
Cannon rode 14 winners in his Oaklawn debut in 2017 and is coming off a career year in the United States when had 66 winners overall and purse earnings of $2,594,953. Cannon, 32, has ridden in the United States since 2015 after stops in the United Arab Emirates, England, France and his native Ireland. Cannon said his return to Hot Springs was based on timing, specifically the birth of his son, Kian, Jan. 2.
“I was waiting on the birth of my child and there was really no meet you could go to,” Cannon said. “It just made perfect sense and I like Oaklawn a lot. I’ve got plenty of barns here from Kentucky that I ride for and can pick up some others along the way.”
Cannon is the regular rider of Ascot Day, who is scheduled to make her 2020 debut in the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 1. Ascot Day is trained by Dan Peitz. Cannon said he also has relationships with two other Kentucky-based trainers at Oaklawn, Chris Hartman and Will VanMeter. Hartman was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015.
Cannon is represented by agent Scott Hare, who also books mounts at Oaklawn for Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Stewart Elliott.
Flat Out Speed
Unbeaten multiple stakes winner Flat Out Speed is scheduled to begin breezing early next month in advance of her 3-year-old debut that should come at the 2020 Oaklawn meeting, trainer Lynn Chleborad said.
Owned by Poindexter Thoroughbreds LLC (Allen Poindexter), Flat Out Speed won all three of her starts last year at Prairie Meadows, including the $79,430 Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes July 26 and the $92,375 Iowa Sorority Stakes Sept. 2 to complete her 2019 campaign.
“We turned her out for some time off after the last race, so now she’s just coming back around,” said Chleborad, the most successful female trainer in Oaklawn history. “It will actually be another couple of months before she’s ready.”
Chleborad said Flat Out Speed, an Iowa-bred daughter of Grade 1 winner and millionaire Flat Out, compares favorably at this stage of her career to two other Oaklawn stakes-winning fillies she trained for Poindexter, American Sugar and Chanel’s Legacy.
“We liked her from the start,” Chleboard said.
Flat Out, in his 3-year-old debut, won the $50,000 Smarty Jones Stakes in 2009 at Oaklawn. Poindexter was Oaklawn’s leading owner in 2010 and bred Flat Out Speed in partnership with Wynnstay LLC (Nancy and Tim Hamlin). Wynnstay, in partnership, also bred multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Gray Attempt, who is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in Friday’s seventh race.
Horses are on the grounds for Southern California-based trainer Doug O’Neill. … Unbeaten Play the Wildcard is entered in Sunday’s seventh race, a first-level allowance at 1 mile, for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who also co-owns the Jack Milton gelding. Play the Wildcard was privately purchased after a four-length career-debut victory Nov. 10 at Woodbine. The gelding was nominated to Friday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races. … Bye Bye J, the top Arkansas-bred 3-year-old filly last year at Oaklawn, returned to the work tab Wednesday morning, covering a half-mile in :51.60 for owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark. Bye Bye J won an allowance race last March before capturing the $100,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes in April. Both state-bred races were 6 furlongs. Bye Bye J hasn’t started since a sixth-place finish in the $150,000 Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) May 17 at Pimlico. Alex Lieblong, who is chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission, said Bye Bye J is now with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussenand will be pointed for Arkansas-bred races at the meet. Bye Bye J had been with Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, among four trainers Lieblong has at Oaklawn. The others are Steve Hobby of Hot Springs and David Fawkes. Cabot, who broke his maiden last year at Oaklawn, has also been moved from Moquett to Asmussen, Lieblong said. … Nominations closed Thursday to the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters. Both races are Feb. 1. Unbeaten Taraz is scheduled to make her two-turn debut in the Martha Washington, trainer Brad Cox said. Defending champion Amy’s Challenge is expected to head the American Beauty field for trainer Mac Robertson.