Championships on the Line for Several Oaklawn Runners in the Breeders’ Cup
Several Oaklawn-raced horses are positioned for division championships, depending on the outcome of the 34thannual Breeders’ Cup Friday and Saturday at Del Mar.
Saturday's $6 million Classic (G1) will settle Horse of the Year and champion older male, with Gun Runner the 9-5 program favorite for the 1 ¼-mile race. Gun Runner began his 2017 campaign with a front-running 5 ¾-length victory in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 20 at Oaklawn.
“We’re just blessed to have a horse like him, obviously,” trainer Steve Asmussen said of Gun Runner. “He’s very confident. He’s a popcorn right now; ready to run.”
Like Gun Runner, Collected is also in the hunt for multiple Eclipse Awards (Horse of the Year and champion older male) after winning all four of his starts this year, including the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) Aug. 19 at Del Mar. He has lost just once since finishing fourth as the favorite in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds in 2016 at Oaklawn.
Also entered in the Classic are defending champion Arrogate and Oaklawn-raced Win the Space. Probable post time for the 1 ¼-mile race, which goes as race 12, is 7:35 p.m. (Central).
Friday’s $2 million Distaff (G1) at 1 1/8 miles should settle the older female and 3-year-old filly divisions. Stellar Wind, unbeaten in three starts this year, including the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14 at Oaklawn, is the 5-2 program favorite. She is poised for a second Eclipse Award after being named champion 3-year-old filly of 2015.
The six-time Grade 1 winner drew post two for her career finale, which trainer John Sadler was fine with.
“I think at a mile and an eighth, with eight horses, everyone should be able to work out the trip that they want,” Sadler said. “I’d always prefer to be outside of the speed horses and we’re inside of the real speed but I think it’ll be OK for her.”
Stellar Wind was pulled from Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale last year, which was always the hope if she was still sound and game for another year of racing after the Breeders’ Cup. This time, though, there is no thought that she might come back to run at six.
“We’re down here with a small group of horses so we’re just enjoying every minute that we still have with her,” Sadler said. “She loves her peppermints so we’re going to put some in her travel bag when she goes back. I actually have to go to Kentucky for the sale so I’ll be over there with her a couple days. We’re just enjoying her and it’ll be sad when she walks out of here.”
A victory Friday would also propel 2016 Apple Blossom winner Forever Unbridled (2 for 2 this year) to champion older female honors.
Elate, a troubled third as the favorite in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 11 at Oaklawn, would secure champion 3-year-old filly honors with a Distaff victory or a top placing ahead of Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman. The daughter of Oaklawn stakes winners Medaglia d’Oro and Cheery is seeking her third consecutive Grade 1 victory.
Probable post time for the Distaff, which goes as race 9, is 6:35 p.m. (Central).
Oaklawn stakes winners Mor Spirit and Cupid are entered in Friday’s $1 million Dirt Mile (G1).
Mor Spirit won the $250,000 Essex Handicap for older horses March 18. Cupid won the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds in 2016.
Probable post time for the Dirt Mile, which goes as race 7, is 5:05 p.m.
Whitmore, Oaklawn’s top sprinter this year, is entered in Saturday’s $1.5 million Sprint (G1) at 6 furlongs. He won the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 11 and $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15.
Probable post time for the Sprint, which goes as race 8, is 4:37 p.m. (Central).
In other Breeders’ Cup events, Hogy, who raced three times at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting, is entered in Saturday’s $1 million Turf Sprint (G1) at 5 furlongs. Hogy finished third, fourth and sixth in allowance or allowance/optional claiming races in Hot Springs.
Oaklawn-raced Guns Loaded is an also-eligible for the Turf Sprint, which goes as race 5. Probable post time is 2:37 p.m. (Central).
Finley’sluckycharm, winner of an allowance/optional claimer in her 3-year-old debut at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, is entered in Saturday’s $1 million Filly & Sprint (G1) at 7 furlongs.
Probable post time for the Filly & Sprint, which goes as race 6, is 3:14 p.m. (Central).
Midnight Storm, third as the favorite in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 15 at Oaklawn, is scheduled to break from the rail in Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Probable post time for the grass race, which goes as race 9, is 5:19 p.m. (Central).
Oaklawn’s stable area opens Nov. 13, with the track opening for training Nov. 20. …Kathballu, winner of the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes March 4 at Oaklawn, is entered in the $200,000 Chilukki Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares Saturday at Churchill Downs. Also entered in the mile race are Oaklawn-raced Tiger Moth,Fuhriously Kissed and Steel Cut. Probable post time for the Chilukki, which goes as race 9, is 6:25 p.m. (Central). …Kobe’s Back, seventh in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds in 2014 at Oaklawn, is entered in the first race Friday at Del Mar, the $200,000 Damascus Stakes at 7 furlongs. Probable post time is 1:25 p.m. (Central). … Hard Aces, sixth in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in 2015 at Oaklawn, is entered in Friday’s fifth race at Del Mar, the $200,000 Marathon Stakes (G2) at 1 ¾ miles. Probable post time is 3:45 p.m. (Central). Hard Aces was second in last year’s Marathon. … Oaklawn-raced Oak Brook is entered in the $100,000 Buck’s Boy Handicap Saturday at Hawthorne. Probable post time for the Buck’s Boy, which goes as race 4, is 4:45 p.m. (Central).