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Heaven's Runway Targets Arkansas Derby

Heaven's Runway Targets Arkansas Derby
Photo: Oaklawn Park

An unexpected entry, a rolling thunderstorm and a wet track combined to give Heaven’s Runway a surprising third-place finish behind Super Ninety Nine in Monday’s Southwest Stakes (G3), but those unique circumstances are tempering any Derby Fever among his connections. The 3-year-old colt will likely make an all-or-nothing play to get into the Kentucky Derby (G1) by racing next in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn April 13.

With a new points system in place to gain entry into an oversubscribed Kentucky Derby, by holding on for the show spot at nearly 60-1 in Monday’s race Heaven’s Runway managed to make only a small blip on the radar screen. The three points he earned for owners Dr. K.K. Jayaraman and his wife Dr. Devi Jayaraman and trainer Joe Martin won’t help much in May. But rather than chase points in a race like the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) here next month, the team will rest up and aim for the season finale in April.

“The Doc seems to be really planning on going straight to the Arkansas Derby,” said Martin Wednesday morning. “I know he would need points, but right now he seems pretty convinced. We’d have to win the Arkansas Derby, I know, but Doc seems pretty sure this is what he wants to do.”

Jayaraman is best known for campaigning Summer Bird to a championship season in 2009 with wins in the Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Famously demanding of his trainers, he has hired and fired dozens of conditioners in 25-plus years in racing – including himself, he often adds with a chuckle. Martin credited Jayaraman for entering Heaven’s Runway at the last minute despite three previous disappointing races on natural dirt. His last win came in the Fitz Dixon Memorial Juvenile on a synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs last September.

“He’s doing good and we’re so happy with the way he ran [Monday],” said Martin. “It’s always great to run like that and show up at big odds. This colt, when he won the Presque Isle race, he was a big price (16-1) and I won that race last year with another horse (Big Wednesday, 22-1) also at a big price.  So I know strange things can happen in races like that. And that mud can change a lot of stuff.”

Other thoughts on the Southwest:

Trainer Steve Hobby, Big Lute, 7th: “He’s tired. He made those two runs at him and it took a lot of him. He did everything professionally though. We’ll give him the chance to tell us what’s next.”

Trainer Tim Ice, Brown Almighty, 8th: “That was our last race on dirt. He’s trained really well on the dirt, but he was just climbing Monday. We could blame the track, but the owners and I don’t like excuses. He’s already proven himself on the turf, so hopefully we’ll have a really nice turf horse this year. His next race will actually be the OBS Sales Stakes on the Polytrack (March 11), but then we’ll nominate to all the big turf stakes.”

Trainer Danele Durham, Texas Bling, 9th: “God Bless him, he never even ran hard enough to get a work out of it. He’s doing great. We’ll send him back to track tomorrow and get ready for the Rebel. You hate to blame the track because they all had to run over it, but our horse just didn’t handle it. Kudos to the winner.”

Trainer Lynn Whiting, Officer Alex, 10th: “He should be alright. He took too long in one place. We’ll shorten him up and look for a little different competition.”

 

 

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