Wednesday, August 09, 2017
Razorback Handicap winner Gun Runner asserted himself as one of top horses in the country with his victory Saturday in the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga; Oaklawn maiden winner Colonelsdarktemper won the $750,000 West Virginia Derby.
Oaklawn Runners Score Major Wins
It was a banner day for one of the world’s top-rated horses, and for Oaklawn.
Heavily favored Gun Runner, who began his 2017 campaign in Hot Springs, received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 112 for his 5 ¼-length victory in the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (G1) Saturday at Saratoga.
A 5 ¾-length winner of the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 20 at Oaklawn, Gun Runner crossed the wire at almost exactly the same time as Colonelsdarktemper did in winning the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs.
Owned by auto racing legend A.J. Foyt, Colonelsdarktemper won his Feb. 18 career debut at Oaklawn and was among three of its maiden special weights graduates to become stakes winners Saturday.
The accomplished Gun Runner – third in the latest Longines world racehorse rankings – won for the ninth time in 16 career starts to push his career earnings to $5,288,500. The 4-year-old Candy Ride colt is co-owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Three Chimneys Farm and trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen (eight Oaklawn titles since 2007).
Following the Razorback, Gun Runner ran second in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 25 in the United Arab Emirates and was an easy winner of the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) June 17 at Churchill Downs.
Under regular rider Florent Geroux, Gun Runner ($3.20) recorded the fastest Whitney (1:47.71) since Lawyer Ron’s track-record performance (1:46.64) in 2007. Lawyer Ron won the Arkansas Derby in 2006 and the Oaklawn Handicap in 2007.
Gun Runner carried top weight of 124 pounds Saturday, plus a horseshoe entangled in his tail that Cautious Giant, the eventual last-place finisher, lost on the backstretch. Cautious Giant finished fourth in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in 2016 at Oaklawn.
Other Oaklawn maiden special weights graduates to become stakes winners Saturday were Ivy Bell ($75,000 West Virginia Secretary of State at Mountaineer) and Big Changes ($50,000 John Henry at Louisiana Downs).
Ivy Bell, a 4-year-old daughter of 2011 Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, broke her maiden at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting.
Big Changes broke his maiden in 2016 at Oaklawn for Brad Cox, the track’s third-leading trainer this year. Big Changes is owned by prominent automobile dealer Steve Landers, a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Colonelsdarktemper increased his career earnings to $653,050 following his first stakes victory and third in eight starts overall. Under regular rider and 2000 Oaklawn champion jockey Jon Court, Fires’ son-in-law, Colonelsdarktemper ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.68 and paid $16.
The son of Colonel John, a front-running one-length winner over Game Over, became the fourth consecutive Oaklawn-raced horse to capture the West Virginia Derby, following Tapiture (2014), Madefromlucky (2015) and Cupid (2016).
Game Over, who won his March 25 career debut at Oaklawn, finished 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Lookin At Lee. Lookin At Lee ($1,052,795) surpassed $1 million in career earnings with his third-place finish. Lookin At Lee also ran third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 and second in the Kentucky Derby.
Hot Shot Kid, runner-up to Colonelsdarktemper Feb. 18, returned to win the $85,000 Minnesota Derby July 29 at Canterbury Park. Perplexed, third in the Feb. 18 sprint, paid $232.50 in breaking his maiden July 24 at Saratoga.
Five of a Kind
The familiar Oaklawn connections of jockey Ramon Vazquez, trainer Federico Villafranco and owner Danny Caldwell teamed for five victories on Sunday’s nine-race card at Prairie Meadows.
They won the second race with favored Scatin Around ($3.40), fourth race with favored Enchanting Around ($4.40), fifth race with Erratic Behavior ($5.20), eighth race with favored Altito ($2.60) and ninth race with favored Bipartisan ($4.80).
Caldwell has led the owner’s standings the last four years at Oaklawn. Vazquez was Oaklawn’s second-leading rider in 2015, 2016, 2017.
Vazquez (109 victories) and Caldwell (66) lead the Prairie Meadows standings entering the final week of the meeting. Villafranco (66) is second to Karl Broberg, who has 70 victories.
Villafranco and Broberg ranked fourth and 13th, respectively, this year at Oaklawn.
Broberg (296) is the runaway leader nationally in victories this year. Eight-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen is second with 228.
Eight of a Kind
The 2-3-4 finishers from one of last year’s major Triple Crown prep races at Oaklawn have combined for eight stakes victories in 2017 after American Dubai’s powerful performance in the $200,000 Downs At Albuquerque Handicap Saturday at Albuquerque.
Richard Keith’s American Dubai won the 1 1/8-mile race by nine lengths and paid $7.80 as the 5-2 second choice.
Trained by Rodney Richards, American Dubai has won 5 of 9 starts this year, including the $150,000 Sunland Park Handicap April 16 at Sunland Park.
American Dubai finished third in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) last year at Oaklawn. The runner-up, Whitmore, is a three-time stakes winner this year, including the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 11 at Oaklawn and $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15 at Oaklawn.
Collected, fourth as the favorite in last year’s Southwest, is 3 for 3 (all stakes) in 2017, including the $200,000 Californian Stakes (G2) April 22 at Santa Anita. Collected was a 14-length winner of his last start, the $100,000 Precisionist (G3) June 24 at Santa Anita.
Petrov, the only horse to compete in all four of Oaklawn’s Triple Crown prep races this year, won an allowance sprint Friday at Saratoga for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Facing older horses for the first time, Petrov beat Gray Sky, who ran in three of Oaklawn’s Triple Crown preps in 2016, by four lengths, covering 7 furlongs over a fast track in 1:21.57, a little more than a second off the track record. Petrov began 2017 with runner-up finishes in Oaklawn’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 and $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20. … Warrior’s Club, fourth in the Smarty Jones in his 3-year-old debut, finished second, beaten a neck, in a conditioned allowance/optional claiming sprint Saturday at Saratoga. The winner, Neolithic, was making his first start since finishing third behind Arrogate and Gun Runner in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 25 in the United Arab Emirates. … Dance Caller, who won the $75,000 Northern Spur Stakes in 2009 at Oaklawn, recorded his 15th career victory Monday at Louisiana Downs. The 11-year-old gelding began his career with nine-time Oaklawn training champion Bob Holthus. … Oaklawn-raced Plentiful won the $75,000 Manitoba Derby Monday at Assiniboia Downs in Canada. …Amy’s Challenge, a 2-year-old Artie Schiller filly, earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 91 for a 16 ½-length debut victory sprinting Sunday at Canterbury Park for Mac Robertson, among Oaklawn’s top 10 trainers this year. Robertson sent out a 2-year-old debut winner at the 2008 Canterbury meeting, Win Willy, who would become a multiple graded stakes winner at Oaklawn. Robertson trains Amy’s Challenge for Novogratz Racing Stables Inc., a longtime client. … Brad Cox, third in Oaklawn’s trainer standings this year, recorded his first career Saratoga stakes victory in Sunday’s $250,000 Troy Handicap with Green Mask. Cox won four stakes races Saturday, three at Louisiana Downs and one at Mountaineer ($75,000 West Virginia Senate President’s Cup) with La Pipa, sixth in a 2016 allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn.