(Trainer Ron Moquett after Whitmore wins Breeders’ Cup Sprint / Coady Photography)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
Moquett Wins 300th Race at Oaklawn
Trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs became just the 14th trainer in history to reach 300 career victories at Oaklawn when he saddled Spurrier to win Saturday’s fifth race.
Moquett, 51, exchanged a high five with winning jockey Rafael Bejarano on the sloppy racing surface after Spurrier ($48.20) splashed to a 1 ¼-length debut victory in the maiden special weight sprint for 2-year-olds run in the rain. Moquett, who co-owns Spurrier with Ella Lou Smith of Hot Springs, started his first horse at Oaklawn in 1998 and saddled his first winner in Hot Springs in 1999, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
“I’m super proud of that,” Moquett said Sunday morning. “I didn’t even think about it (300). But to have that many wins at one of your favorite spots is pretty cool. Almost a third of my wins have come from here.”
Spurrier, who is named after Heisman Trophy winner and college football coaching legend Steve Spurrier, marked the 2,482nd Oaklawn start for Moquett and his third winner of the 2022-2023 meeting. Moquett and owner Harry Rosenblum of Little Rock, Ark., teamed to win two races Friday, Day 1 of the scheduled 68-day meeting.
“We’ll take it,” Moquett said. “This is a good spot to get hot.”
Moquett, who has a home adjacent to Oaklawn’s backstretch, entered Sunday with $14,112,273 in career purse earnings at Oaklawn. Moquett has 22 career stakes victories at Oaklawn, including seven with his most noted runner, 2020 champion male sprinter Whitmore. Moquett entered with 930 career victories overall, according to Equibase. The first came in 1998.
The late Bob Holthus (867) is the winningest trainer in Oaklawn history. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen (820 through Saturday) is the only other trainer in Oaklawn history with more than 800. Randy Morse became the 13th trainer to reach 300 career Oaklawn victories during the 2021-2022 meeting.
Yuugiri Nears Return
Yuugiri is scheduled to breeze Monday morning at Oaklawn in advance of her scheduled comeback race this month in Arkansas or California, trainer Rodolphe Brisset said Saturday afternoon.
Yuugiri was among Oaklawn’s leading 3-year-old fillies last season after finishing third in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and winning the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). Both races were 1 1/16 miles. Yuugiri hasn’t started since finishing 13thin the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks – the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies – at 1 1/8 miles May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Following a 60-day vacation, Yuugiri resumed training around Labor Day and had seven published workouts since Oct. 12. The last four have come at Oaklawn.
“I thought it was time to give her a break,” Brisset said. “She has done super, like she has really, really changed physically, put weight on. So, I’m going to go race by race. The first step is breeze on Monday.”
Brisset said Yuugiri is eyeing a 6-furlong allowance race Dec. 18 at Oaklawn and the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1) at 7 furlongs Dec. 26 at Santa Anita.
“Plan B is the La Brea at Santa Anita,” Brisset said. “Hopefully, the race here will go.”
Regardless of where she runs next, Brisset said he intends to target shorter races in 2023 for Yuugiri, who has compiled a 2-2-1 record from six starts and earned $556,110. She is a daughter of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford.
“More than likely, we’re going to keep her to one turn,” Brisset said. “She won at a mile and a sixteenth here, so maybe she can run a mile here. But more than likely, we’re going to keep her around one turn.”
Oaklawn’s beefed-up stakes series for older female sprinters is highlighted by the inaugural $250,000 Matron March 31. The Matron is preceded by the $150,000 American Beauty Jan. 21 and the $150,000 Carousel Feb. 25. All three races are 6 furlongs.
“We’ll map something out,” Brisset said. “I’m going to take it race by race.”
Brisset, WinStar Farm’s in-house trainer, is wintering at Oaklawn for the second time. He has 20 stalls for the 2022-2023 meeting that began Friday. Brisset compiled a sparkling 8-6-5 record from 31 starts last season at Oaklawn, with his horses earning $962,745 in purse money.
“We have an OK group,” Brisset said. “Some of these look like they’ll need a race or two to figure out what we’re going to ask, but I’m sure through the winter they’re going to show their true talents. Hopefully, we have something that can go on to the big stage, Oaks and Derby. Kind of the same idea we had last year. Now, we have to see if anybody will take us there.”
In addition to getting Yuugiri to the Kentucky Oaks, the Brisset-trained We the People was an eye-catching winner of his first two career starts at Oaklawn before missing a chance to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby with a seventh-place finish in the $1.25 Arkansas Derby (G1) last April. We the People, co-owned by WinStar, became a Grade 3 winner and concluded his 3-year-old campaign with an eighth-place finish in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 24 at Parx.
“We gave him some time, 60 days, and he should be on his way back, starting to jog, pretty soon,” Brisset said. “I don’t think he’s going to make it back here.”
Four of a Kind
Jockey Cristian Torres equaled single-day career highs for victories (four) and stakes victories (two) on Saturday’s 10-race Oaklawn program that was run over a sloppy track after strong thunderstorms rolled through the area shortly before racing began.
Torres won the third race aboard Love My Jimmy ($9.60) for trainer Robertino Diodoro, fourth race aboard Big Success ($24.60) for trainer John Henry Prather Jr. of Hot Springs, $150,000 Ring the Bell Stakes aboard favored Flash of Mischief ($5) for trainer Karl Broberg and the $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes aboard Lovely Ride ($11.40) for Diodoro.
Torres, whose agent is former trainer Cody Autrey, made his Oaklawn debut in 2021 after relocating from south Florida, and previously had recorded two winners on a card three times (March 27, 2021; Jan. 14, 2022; and Feb. 11, 2022) in Hot Springs. Torres’ only Oaklawn stakes victory had been the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship in 2021.
“Beautiful day and a rainy day,” Torres said after winning the Mistletoe. “My best day at Oaklawn. It’s been unbelievable. I was talking to my agent in the morning and we felt, since the entries came out, that we were going to have a good weekend, especially with those two stakes. Those two horses in the stakes are beautiful horses and they showed up in those races.”
Torres, 25, holds a commanding lead in the rider standings at Remington Park, which closes Dec. 17. Torres won two stakes there Sept. 25, including the $150,000 David M. Vance aboard Flash of Mischief, and four winners Nov. 2. He had multiple four-win days when based in south Florida. Torres recorded his first career victory April 21, 2019, at Gulfstream Park. Torres has never won a riding title.
Torres rode 22 winners at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting and 19 last season, when he missed the final six weeks after suffering hairline fractures to his tailbone and ankle in a March 27 spill. Torres is originally from Puerto Rico.
Unbeaten Count de Monet emerged in good order from his three-length victory in Friday’s $150,000 Advent Stakes for 2-year-old sprinters, trainer Tom Swearingen said Saturday morning. Swearingen said Count de Monet (3 for 3) will be considered for two upcoming stakes at Oaklawn – the inaugural $150,000 Renaissance at 6 furlongs Dec. 31 and the $250,000 Smarty Jones at 1 mile Jan. 1. The Smarty Jones is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races and would mark the two-turn debut for Count de Monet. He earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 85, a career high, for his stakes debut in the 5 ½-furlong Advent. The Dec. 31 card is strictly for 2-year-olds. … Newcomer Nik Juarez swept Saturday’s early daily double, winning the first race aboard Dr. Forman ($14.80) for trainer Bentley Combs and the second race aboard Choctaw Zip ($10.40) for trainer Ernie Witt II. … Trainer Norm Casse (5 for 21 in his Oaklawn debut last season) had his first scheduled runner of the 2022-2023 meeting, Yacht Rock, in Sunday’s sixth race.
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