Oaklawn Park opened its gates to a festive crowd of more than 18,000 fans last Friday at the National Park location in Hot Springs, Arkansas. And the first race was quite a statement race for apprentice rider Alex Canchari, who registered his first career victory aboard Run Mama Beare Run. By the end of the day there were whispers amongst the railbirds of iconic Oaklawn Hall of Famer Pat Day, as young Alex had claimed the leading rider title with two wins from just two starts! Said Canchari, “I was riding for less than a week in Chicago and my agent convinced me to come down here. We’ve been out there hitting the barns every morning. Just trying to get on horses. I need to say thanks to everybody that’s put me on horses, whether it’s galloping or working. I really appreciate all the support so far.” With numerous talented trainers and horses on the grounds, Oaklawn is surprisingly light on top jockeys, so I believe Alex will get his chance to get live rides thanks to his 10 pound “bug” allowance.
Check out the sires in the opening card’s race #3, a MSW for three year-old males going 1 1/16th miles; Tapit, Unbridbled’s Song, Dynaformer, Mineshaft, Candy Ride, Indian Charlie, Lawyer Ron, Rock Hard Ten, Limehouse and Leroidesanimaux. And there’s no cherry picking here, that’s the entire field! Oddly enough, the top four finishers were arguably from the “weakest” four sires, at least by measure of stud fees.
Race 7, a non-winners of two allowance, produced a most impressive win by a filly you will be hearing more from… Lulu Wong. The Steve Hobby charge previously broke her maiden at Delaware Park by ten lengths then ran second under Rosie Napravnik at the Fair Grounds to close out her juvenile season. The daughter of Badge of Silver was heavily backed at Oaklawn and easily held the second choice in check, Our Domain, who was recently stakes placed at Hawthorne. Her time was just a second slower than the deep field of colts in the Smarty Jones, a race that was contested mightily through the stretch.
Speaking of Steve Hobby, the Oaklawn veteran also has a budding star in Junebugred, an upset winner over Reckless Jerry in Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes. The son of Corinthian is owned by the Lieblong’s of central Arkansas and Joe Bravo thought enough of him to fly into town just for a day to ride. Toby Keith’s Dream Walkin Farms Reckless Jerry was a solid second, rolling along the outside after breaking from post 12 and being wide around both turns. The son of Cactus Ridge came into the race off a runner-up finish in the $315,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park, yet went off at juicy odds of 17-1 on Monday. Favored On Fire Baby ran a solid third in her first attempt tackling males in the one mile race and will likely return to the filly division. Jake Mo pushed the pace in the Smarty Jones and finished fourth, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Other impressive winners over opening weekend included Ken McPeek trained Antigun in a second level allowance score and Shadwell Farm’s Najjaar, who was a fast closing winner of a MSW for North Little Rock native trainer Dan Peitz.
And I will end with a filly that has all the makings of the next Smarty Jones (female version of course). In easily winning Saturday’s Dixie Belle stakes at Oaklawn, Now I Know (below) has yet to be headed in her six race streak of perfection. The daughter of Pure Prize out of a Maria’s Mon mare (she’s also a beautiful light gray) ran her Oklahoma bred competitors into submission last fall before shipping to Delta Downs to win the Grade 3 Princess Stakes to cap off 2011. Not only is she wicked fast, but her breeding suggests an extra 1/16th or even 1/8th should not limit her effectiveness. Thus, I’m dropping my Fantasy Stakes/Kentucky Oaks tout while you can still get decent odds in a Vegas futures bet! I’ll have more updates every couple of weeks from Oaklawn, so y’all come back now, ya here?
Photo courtesy of Coady Photography