Oaklawn’s highly anticipated 2013 live racing season gets underway Friday with a nine-race card highlighted by the $75,000 Fifth Season Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile race for older horses drew a field of nine led by fan-favorite Win Willy and multiple stakes winner Endorsement, who is among the horses trainer Eoin Harty sent to Oaklawn for the first time this year.
Jer-Mar Stable’s Win Willy, who won the race in 2011, will likely be the sentimental choice as his biggest career wins have come at the Hot Springs track, including the 2009 Rebel Stakes and 2011 Oaklawn Handicap. The 7-year-old Monarchos horse will once again be partnered with jockey Alex Cintron, who was aboard for all three of his victories last year, including two stakes. He prepared for the race with a five-furlong breeze in 1:03 1/5 Tuesday.
Casner Racing’s Endorsement last raced at Oaklawn in 2010 when he broke his maiden. One race later, he easily won the $800,000 Sunland Derby to stamp himself as a possible Kentucky Derby contender, but has unfortunately had a stop and start career since that race. Unraced since the Whitney Handicap (G1) last August, Endorsement has had a series of works at Oaklawn, including a bullet three-furlong blowout Tuesday in 35 1/5.
The veteran runners will have to contend with a pair of stakes-winning newly turned 4-year-olds in the Fifth Season, who were winners at Oaklawn last year. Richard Davis’ Master Rick, who closed out his 2012 Oaklawn meet by winning the Northern Spur Stakes, enters the Fifth Season off a second-place finish in the Dec. 1 Zia Park Derby. Bluegrass Hall’s Skyring, who broke his maiden at Oaklawn, went on to prove versatile on both dirt and turf. His stakes win came in the James W. Murphy Stakes on the turf at Pimlico Preakness Day.
Jockey Calvin Borel, who is just one win away from career win #5,000, was named on Eye of the Leopard, but broke a bone in his wrist Tuesday and will not be riding for at least 18 days.
The complete field for the Fifth Season, in post-position order, with riders: 2011 Razorback Handicap winner It Happened Again, Victor Lebron; Skyring, Jon Court; Endorsement, Robby Albarado; Stachys, Alex Birzer; Eye of the Leopard; rider tobe named; Master Rick, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Donoharm, Cliff Berry; Win Willy, Alex Cintron, and Double Rah Rah, E.T. Baird.
First post is 1 p.m. opening day. Racing continues Saturday and Sunday. Next week, Oaklawn races Thursday-Monday with a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day card. For more information, visit, www.oaklawn.com.