Back to Plan A, the Oaklawn Mile, for Mr. Money's season debut

Back to Plan A, the Oaklawn Mile, for Mr. Money's season debut
Photo: Coady Photography

Since Mr. Money returned to the work tab in February at Fair Grounds, trainer Bret Calhoun had circled on the calendar Saturday’s $150,000 Oaklawn Mile for the return spot.

But as the Goldencents colt tends to do in the mornings, he impressed connections, and so they considered bringing him back elsewhere in a graded stakes race.

That was, of course, before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Keeneland’s Spring Meet and the back half of Aqueduct’s season, among other race dates across the country.

“We came back to our original plan, which was to run in this race,” Calhoun said ahead of Wednesday’s Oaklawn Mile entry deadline. “Everything as far as preparation, timing and the distance seemed to fit for us. We’re pretty excited about the way he’s prepped for all of this.

“He had a really nice last work on Saturday at the Fair Grounds. It was just what we wanted, and we’re looking forward to getting his year started.”

Campaigned by Chester Thomas’ Allied Racing Stable and Spendthrift Farm, Mr. Money excelled on the cutback after two tries last season along the Kentucky Derby trail. He reeled off a quartet of Grade 3 victories from a mile to 1 1/16 miles before stretching out once more in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby (G1), coming up a neck short.

“That was kind of a heartbreaker, and then I think you draw a line through the Breeders’ Cup,” said Calhoun, who saddled Mr. Money for a seventh-place finish to end his sophomore season in the Dirt Mile.

“Maybe he’d had too hard a campaign, or maybe he just didn’t like that track. I don’t know what it was, but he didn’t run well. We didn’t have any issues with him afterward. We freshened him up, and he seemed to come back well.”

As of late, Calhoun has seen in training the type of horse that won the Pat Day Mile, Matt Winn Stakes, Indiana Derby and West Virginia Derby in succession, and with relative ease. Mr. Money completed his preparations with a 5-furlong breeze Saturday in 1:00.60.

Calhoun doesn’t anticipate complications shipping from Fair Grounds to Oaklawn Park. He’ll have an assistant on the grounds caring for Mr. Money and at least one other anticipated entry for Saturday.

Mr. Big News, a Giant’s Causeway 3-year-old for Allied Racing, broke his maiden two starts back before running fifth in a division of Fair Grounds’ Risen Star Stakes (G2). Career earnings of $47,000, however, left him short of making the body of the Louisiana Derby (G2) field.

“I was disappointed he didn’t get to run in the Louisiana Derby,” Calhoun said. “He’d trained well over that track.”

Wanting to send Mr. Big News longer, Calhoun will give him a shot at Saturday’s $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes. The top three finishers are guaranteed a berth to the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1).

“We’re trying to figure out where he fits in the 3-year-old division on dirt,” Calhoun added, with Digital, a Fair Grounds allowance winner by Into Mischief another possibility to try the Oaklawn Stakes for owner Tom Durant.

2020 Oaklawn Mile (LS)

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