Thursday, March 16, 2017
This Saturday, Bob Baffert will be on his way to Dubai to prepare for the March 25 Dubai World Cup while assistant Jimmy Barnes handles things at Oaklawn Park.
“Hopefully, we can have some luck and I’ll be able to enjoy my long trip better (after watching on a mobile device),” he said by phone from his Southern California base.
Baffert is optimistic that the son of 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister will move forward. In the Sham Stakes, only his second start, American Anthem dug down deep and fought back on the rail and down the lane to lose by a nose to the John Shirreffs-trained Gormley.
“Mike was really impressed with his toughness last time when he ran against Gormley,” said Baffert. “He had every reason to give in. We know he’ll fight. He’s got a big heart.”
Barnes said he'll head out to the U.A.E. himself after returning to Santa Anita.
LOOKIN AT LEE / UNTRAPPED
Steve Asmussen has won three runnings of the Rebel Stakes, and on Saturday he takes a double shot with Lookin At Lee and Untrapped.
Jonesboro native Mike Langford, who owns a home in Hot Springs, purchased Untrapped for $125,000 as a 2-year-old at the Ocala Breeders Sales April auction and was at the barn Thursday morning to visit his color bearer.
“I look for us to run really big,” he said. “He looks great, and he’s been training really forwardly and is doing real good. After looking at the PPs, I feel even better. When you look at them and see names like Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher coming in, and obviously they’ve got the top horses, it gets your attention. But those horses have a lot to prove also. So I feel real good. Our horse has grown and matured.”
Nervous about maybe getting a starter in the Kentucky Derby for the first time?
“I’m not sleeping real good now. I can only imagine what that day will be like," Langford said. "But, I’m also confident. Just by the way he’s training, and going back and watching those last two races, we’re not going in there with an empty wagon.”
Lookin at Lee, who worked an easy half-mile in 50 flat on Wednesday the day before, walked the shedrowThursday.
Untrapped galloped 1 1/2 mile under Alphonso Garcia.
Sumaya US Stable's Malagacy, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, galloped 1 1/8 miles under assistant Adele Bellinger and then stood in the gate today in preparation for his third start and first venture into graded stakes company and around two turns.
In an interesting twist, owner Ossama Aboughazales also owns the first reported foal by American Pharoah, who won the 2015 Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby on his way to completing a sweep of the Triple Crown.
Trainer John Shirreffs has brought some big girls to Oaklawn – namely the iconic Zenyatta and Manistique for the Apple Blossom Handicap – and now returns to Hot Springs with a big boy, literally, in Royal Mo.
A son of Uncle Mo, Royal Mo is “close to 17 hands,” Shirreffs said Thursday morning, and the colt figures to keep growing. Zenyatta stood 17.2 hands, while Manistique, fourth in the 1999 Apple Blossom, was close to 17 hands.
“He’s just an early 3-year-old, so he’s really just going through a developmental stage,” Shirreffs said.
Royal Mo will represent the Southern California-based trainer’s first Oaklawn starter since Stanwyck ran third in the Apple Blossom for older fillies and mares in 2014. The colt, who has never raced outside California, won his last two starts in front-running fashion, including the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4.
Shirreffs said he believes the Rebel will be a good gauge for Royal Mo because it has drawn the top locals and shippers from both coasts.
“It’s a good race, with tough horses,” Shirreffs said. “We’ll just have to see how it ends up.”
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss purchased Royal Mo for $300,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Shirreffs said Royal Mo galloped 1 1/2 mile Thursday morning under exercise rider Juan Jurado-Gutierrez.
Calumet Farm’s homebred Sonneteer has only raced in California, has never won in three shots at the 1 1/6-mile distance of the Rebel Stakes and is the only maiden in the field. Nonetheless, trainer Keith Desormeaux said he has confidence in the dark bay son of champion sprinter Midnight Lute.
“He’s an improving colt, and he took a little bit more time to come around,” said assistant trainer Julie Clark, who is in charge of Sonneteer until Desormeaux arrives for the races. “The owner (Brad Kelly) would love to see him on the Derby trail. Then there are points available, the money’s good, and he’s an easy horse to be around. He travels well. Why Not come? It’s getting down to the wire where we need the points and the experience. They have to move forward. This race will tell us not what kind of horse he is, necessarily, but it will tell us if he’s ready to stay on the Derby trail.”
Sonneteer will also get the chance for some sweet revenge on fellow Rebel runner Royal Mo, who got the better of him by 2 1/4 lengths when they matched up Nov. 16 in a one mile maiden special weight at Del Mar.
“We get another shot at him, and maybe we can turn the tables this time,” she said.
Sonneteer gets in at 115 pounds, thus getting a seven-pound break from the 122 pound co-highweighted Royal Mo and Uncontested. Should he pull off the upset, it will not just be the first graded stakes win at Oaklawn for Desormeaux, it would be his first Oaklawn win period. Desormeaux is 0-for-14 in Hot Springs.
On Thursday morning, Sonneteer walked the shedrow, and before the races Clark brought him to the paddock and infield for a schooling session. Dalmore is also at Oaklawn from Desormeaux's barn in California.
Uncontested galloped 1 1/4 mile under exercise rider Antonio Ramos Thursday morning for trainer Wayne Catalano. Following a record-setting performance in the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 16, Uncontested faded to sixth as the favorite in the Southwest Stakes five weeks later.
Co-owner Harry Rosenblum initially said Uncontested would likely make his next start in the Arkansas Derby on April 15, but Uncontested is getting a shot in the Rebel after recording two bullet workouts this month. Catalano gave Uncontested the green light after he went furlongs in :58.80 on March 10 under regular rider Channing Hill, galloping out six furlongs in 1:10.60 and seven in 1:24.80.
“That’s what I wanted to see,” Catalano, Hill’s father-in-law, said Thursday. “When he did that, we were ready. If he hadn’t, we would have waited.”
Uncontested was a wire-to-wire winner of the Smarty Jones on a sloppy track, setting a stakes records for time and margin of victory.
Uncontested is scheduled to break from post 2 in the projected 11-horse Rebel field.
“I do like my post,” Catalano said. “I can go on about my business.”
Catalano won the 1997 Arkansas Derby with late-running Crypto Star.
Edited Oaklawn release