Mike McCarty’s Lemon Drop Dream and jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. took advantage of a dream trip in the 41st running of the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap
(G3) at Oaklawn Thursday to give trainer Steve Asmussen his second consecutive win in the six furlong dash.
Photo: Oaklawn Park
The 4-year-old son of
Lemon Drop Kid was brushed leaving the gate and dropped back as Heitai,
the 3-5 favorite in the field of five horses, and Alsvid hooked up and
set blistering fractions of :21 1/5 and :43
3/5 for the first half mile. Alsvid, ridden by Ken Tohill, shook off
his rival inside the eighth pole, but Lemon Drop Dream closed with a
powerful kick and strong urging from his rider to prevail by a neck in
1:09 on a fast track.
Apprehender was another 2
¼ lengths back in third and was followed by Picko’s Pride and front
runner Heitai, the winner of 4 straight stakes races in Louisiana and
five of his last six efforts. Breeders’ Cup Sprint
winner Secret Circle, who would have been the prohibitive favorite, was
scratched earlier in the day by trainer Bob Baffert after it was
discovered he had been given a tranquilizer prior to boarding the flight
from California to Hot Springs on Wednesday.
“It was the best possible
scenario,” said Asmussen, who won his first Count Fleet Sprint during
Oaklawn’s signature Racing Festival of the South last year with Justin
Phillip. “Heitai came in with the great form
and somebody chose to tackle him. That worked out perfectly for us.
It’s great to win this race two years in a row and the Racing Festival
of the South is huge for us in the Midwest.”
Karl Broberg, Heitai’s
trainer said, “That’s a tough way to lose a race when they go the half
in forty-three and three. He got eye-balled, and hopefully, we can
regroup and come back at five-eighths on the grass.”
The Kentucky-bred Lemon
Drop Dream returned $16.20, $4.80 and $9.60 at odds of 7-1 . The victory
was his fourth in nine starts and his first stakes score while he
increased his bankroll to $168,130.
“We targeted this
opportunity for him. He’s put together some really big sprint races this
winter, but this is obviously his biggest win,” said Asmussen, who is
well on his way to his third straight and sixth overall Oaklawn
training title and who will saddle 9-5 morning line favorite Tapiture
in the $1 million Arkansas Derby Saturday.
Trainer Steve Asmussen (1st,
Lemon Drop Dream), won this race last year with Justin Phillip: “It was
the best possible scenario. Heitai came in with the great form and
somebody chose to tackle him. That
perfectly worked out for us. It’s great to win this race two years in a
row and the Racing Festival of the South is huge for us in the Midwest.
We targeted this opportunity for him. He’s put together some really big
sprint races this winter, but this is obviously
his biggest win.
Trainer Chris Hartman (2nd,
Alvid): “That’s a tough one. They were really cutting a run. They were
flying. We knew we didn’t want to let him get away. I was hoping we’d be
close. I didn’t think we’d
be right on top of him.”
Trainer Karl Broberg (Beaten 3-5 favorite and 5th,
Heitai) “That’s a tough way to lose a race when they go the half in
fourty-three and three. He got eye-balled and hopefully we can regroup
back at five-eighths on the grass.”