Fire Coral gets her maiden win at Oaklawn on January.
Credit: Coady Photography
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has a pair of starters in Friday’s Fantasy Stakes (G3) and both divisions of the Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday as he looks to add to his impressive resume of Oaklawn Stakes victories. He has won the Fantasy three of the last four years and has also won the Arkansas Derby three times.
In the Fantasy, Asmussen will saddle Susan Moulton’s Fire Coral, who is 2-for 2 this year at Oaklawn, and Ed & Susie Orr’s Alta’s Award, who is coming off a second in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7. Neither filly fared well in the draw with Fire Coral getting post 11 and Alta’s Award drawing post 14 of 14 in one of the strongest fields in recent memory with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner British Idiom and Grade 2 winner Venetian Harbor among the starters.
“Obviously, this running of the Fantasy is extremely deep,” Asmussen said. “I’m disappointed in both our draws. Both will be forwardly placed and with 14 horses it will be a little hard to get the positions we want.
“Both fillies have been running well and running well at Oaklawn, so they deserve this opportunity. They have trained very consistently and are doing well physically. We’re anxious to see how they stack up. The one thing about the racing here at Oaklawn, you won’t be kidding about how good you are after this race.”
In the first division of the Arkansas Derby, Asmussen will be represented by Jackpot Farm’s Basin and Calumet Farm’s Jungle Runner. Basin is coming off a third in the Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and a fourth in the Oaklawn Stakes April 11 according to Equibase.
“We definitely haven’t gotten the best of Basin yet this year,” Asmussen said. “This is his third start off the layoff, so it’s time to get it done. The weather looks good this weekend after catching off tracks in his other two races. There’s certainly more there.”
Jungle Runner, who won the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington as a 2-year-old, has not started since running fifth in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park Feb. 23.
“He’s a horse I’ve had a little trouble with attitude wise,” Asmussen said. “If he gives any kind of effort, he can be very competitive in there. He hasn’t given us his best to this point. He’s a stakes winner and physically capable. We just need to see more of an effort out of him.”
Asmussen is hoping Ed & Susie Orr’s Silver Prospector can return to the form he showed winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17 after a disappointing sixth in the Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14. He drew post 7 in what many consider the harder division of the Arkansas Derby.
“The second division is pretty loaded,” Asmussen said. “The first half looks a little more wide open. There are some extremely accomplished horses in the second division, but he’s one of them. He’s a graded stakes winner himself. He’s training beautifully. It think it’s another situation where everyone that is training well showed up.”
Asmussen will also send out Calmut Farm’s Code Runner in the second division of the Arkansas Derby.
Oaklawn Park Press Release