Photo: Coady Photography
Racing Festival of the South participants from the stables of Bill
Mott, Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse went out on the Oaklawn Park racing
strip Wednesday morning to stretch their legs
and are all acclimating nicely to their surroundings.
Stakes winner Close Hatches, the 3-5 morning line favorite for Friday’s
Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) seemed as though she took Tuesday’s flight
from Florida in stride and she never
turned a hair.
an easy shipper. She’s settled in beautifully and is wonderful,” said
Katie Caddel, Mott’s assistant. “She went one-turn around this morning
and couldn’t be doing better.”
Farms’ striking 4yo dark bay daughter of First Defence will carry top
weight of 121 pounds, including Joel Rosario, in the short but talented
field of five fillies and mares
traveling 1 1/16 miles for the $600,000 purse.
and Danza, Pletcher’s pair for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), and
stable mates Golden Lad and Revolutuionary, who will run in the $600,000
Oaklawn Handicap (G2) also
on Saturday, were on the same plane and also handled the trip without
shipped just fine and they all seem to be enjoying the colder weather
here,” said Adele Bellinger, Pletcher’s assistant. “All four went out
and galloped an easy mile this morning.
Everything is right on schedule with each of them.”
Paul Robsham’s homebred Golden Lad, the impressive 6 ¾ winner of the
Razorback Handicap (G3) here Mar. 15, looks for his fifth consecutive
win in the Oaklawn Handicap, and the multiple
graded stakes winning Revolutionary most recently ran seventh in the
Donn Handicap (G1), behind reigning champion Will Take Charge, who was
second that day.
who took third in the Sunland Derby (G3) in his last race after
breaking badly and then reportedly throwing a shoe, tries to earn enough
points in the Arkansas Derby to propel
him into the Kentucky Derby field. The WinStar Farm homebred, who has
10 points and is in 33rd place, can only get there with a big
effort on Saturday when 170 (100-40-20-10 for firth through fourth) are
there for the taking. Eclipse Thoroughbred
Partners’ Danza also needs a top notch effort as the lightly-raced son
of Street Boss has yet to compete in any of the Kentucky Derby
qualifying races and consequently, has not earned any points to date.
two Arkansas Derby runners, Conquest Titan and Thundergram, each
galloped 1 ½ miles on Wednesday in preparation for their test at 1 1/8
miles and Conquest Titan was scheduled to
school in the paddock on Thursday afternoon.
Titan and I flew in from Louisville and the trip was uneventful,” said
Norman Casse, who is his father’s top assistant. “Thundergram has been
here for the meet and stayed behind
for the Derby after we shipped the rest of our division to Kentucky.”
Conquest Stables’ Conquest Titan stands in the 36th spot for the Kentucky Derby with nine points and Saturday will also be his last chance to qualify for one of the 20 starting
“Obviously, we’d love to run in the Kentucky Derby and this race presents that opportunity,” said Casse.
Oxley’s Thundergram, who gets blinkers for the first time, broke his
maiden here two starts back and then was second in a first level
optional claiming race on Mar. 16 so he’s taking
a significant class hike into Grade 1 company. Conquest Titan already
has a stakes win on his resume.
he first came into serious training, I knew he was pretty special,”
Casse said of Conquest Titan. “What that means is that he was playing a
different game than the rest of our 2-year-olds.
We were disappointed when he didn’t run well (4th) in the
Tampa Bay Derby in his last start, but he broke his maiden by
five-and-a-half lengths in a stakes (the Sywnford) in only his second
start, so we think he’s really a special horse.”
Titan, who will be ridden by Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, will come from
the back of the pack in a race that figures to have a lively pace that
should involve Thundergram.
know that the Arkansas Derby will be a dog fight,” said Casse. “I hope
that both Conquest Titan and Thundergram show up and run a good race. If
so, we’ll be right there at the end.”
field for the $1 million Arkansas Derby was drawn on Wednesday and from
the rail out, with riders and odds, is: Danza, Joe Bravo, 15-1; Knock
Em Flat, Luis Quinonez, 20-1; Tapiture,
Joel Rosario, 9-5; Ride on Curlin, Jon Court, 12-1; Thundergram,
Norberto, Arroyo, Jr., 30-1; Commissioner, Mike Smith, 8-1; Conquest
Titan, Calvin Borel, 10-1; Bayern, Gary Stevens, 2-1; String Mandate,
Luis Saez, 9-2.
flight carrying the contingent of California horses competing in the
Racing Festival of the South arrived on the grounds Wednesday afternoon
at 2:45 p.m.. Among those aboard were Bayern,
who comes from Bob Baffert’s barn and Apple Blossom candidates Let
Faith Arise, the Santa Margarita (G1) winner, and Stanwyck, who is
trained by John Shirreffs, who is returning to Oaklawn for the first
time since winning the Apple Blossom with 2010 Horse
of the Zenyatta.