Barber Road in a work at Oaklawn last spring. (Coady Photography)
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Multiple graded stakes-placed Barber Road is scheduled to make his first start since early June, and first against older horses, in Saturday’s eighth race at Oaklawn for trainer John Ortiz and owner William Simon (WSS Racing). The $104,000 conditioned allowance is for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.
Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is named to ride Barber Road, the 4-5 program favorite, from the rail in the projected 10-horse field. Probable post time is 3:46 p.m. (Central).
Barber Road hasn’t started since finishing seventh in the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, June 11 at Belmont Park. Although he has bankrolled $685,720 in his career, Barber Road is looking to snap a seven-race losing streak. He has four runner-up finishes during that span, including the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles last April at Oaklawn. Barber Road’s major objective during the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting is the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles April 22.
“We’re definitely looking at the stakes here, but we’ve got to make the smart decision for the horse,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz had circled Dec. 17 for Barber Road’s comeback and chose the allowance race over the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at Oaklawn. The 1 1/8-mile Tinsel will be run approximately 30 minutes after the allowance race.
“The horse is a little bit short to go a mile and an eighth,” Ortiz said. “I think it’s definitely a softer spot, the allowance.”
Following a lengthy break from racing, Barber Road resumed training around Labor Day and has eight published workouts – five at The Thoroughbred Center in Kentucky and three at Oaklawn – since Oct. 9 for his comeback. Ortiz said Barber Road flourished physically during his vacation, gaining approximately 200 pounds. He will run on Lasix for the first time Saturday. Barber Road will not wear blinkers, equipment he’s worn throughout most of his career and trained in this season at Oaklawn.
Ortiz said he would like to see Barber Road more forwardly placed early Saturday. The gray son of 2015 Oaklawn Handicap winner Race Day was farther back than expected, Ortiz said, in some of his races earlier this year.
“Obviously, he’s going to be a little bit fresher,” Ortiz said. “I don’t expect him to be in the front or anything like that, but I do want a good break and be a little bit part of the race, like he was in the early stages of his career. Obviously, we’ve got Ricardo back and he knows the horse.”
Santana, an eight-time Oaklawn riding champion, was aboard Barber Road for his second-place finish in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles last January at Oaklawn. Barber Road was among only three horses to go through Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby points series in 2022. In addition to the Southwest and Arkansas Derby, Barber Road finished second in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile and third in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles. Barber Road finished a closing sixth, beaten 4 ¾ lengths, in the Kentucky Derby.
Saturday’s race will be the first non-stake for Barber Road since whipping starter-allowance company Nov. 10, 2021, at Churchill Downs. It was also his last victory.
“Again, we’re just looking for the best opportunity to give this horse some confidence,” Ortiz said.
Barber Road has a 2-4-1 record from 10 lifetime starts.