Rodolphe Brisset (Coady Photograpahy)
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Rodolphe Brisset said he doesn’t expect to have a starter in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Jan. 1 at Oaklawn. But the trainer has eight nominees, a number that reflects the type of stock he brought to Oaklawn for the first time as a regular.
Brisset’s 16-horse stable is flush with well-bred young talent.
“We are mainly here to develop horses for the Derby and the Oaks,” said Brisset, who started his first horse in 2017 after previously assisting Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “We have a lot of 2-year-olds. Some of them are unraced, some of them have already raced. But the goal is to see if we have anything that can qualify. It’s the right place. It’s the right races. The timing is good. Now, it all depends on how we do our job and how these horses develop.”
Brisset is no stranger to Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby prep series. He finished second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2018 with Quip, who returned to Hot Springs a year later to capture the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses. Quip made those two starts for powerhouse owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing. Brisset said WinStar and the all-star conglomerate of SF Racing, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables, aka “The Avengers,” are his two biggest clients.
Camp David and Great Escape are among the 2-year-old colts Brisset has for WinStar. Camp David, by Pioneerof the Nile, broke his maiden in his last start, a 1 1/16-mile off-the-turf event Oct. 16 at Keeneland. Great Escape, from the first crop of millionaire Grade 1 winner Midnight Storm, broke his maiden Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs and finished ninth in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) Oct. 9 at Keeneland in his last start.
“We kind of wheeled him back a little quick in the Futurity,” Brisset said. “He had a rough trip. We gave him a break.”
Camp David and Great Escape are nominated to the Smarty Jones, along with unraced stablemates Breslau (by Violence), Humero d’Oro (Distorted Humor) and We the People (Constitution) and lightly raced maidens Kuchar (Uncle Mo), Western River (Tapit) and Winterwood (Maclean’s Music).
The 1-mile Smarty Jones is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
“I don’t think we are going to have anything ready for that,” Brisset said. “Some of them, they are playing a little bit of catch up, so we all know it’s not really easy being a maiden or unraced. But it’s been done. We’ll let the horse take us there if they can.”
Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Jan. 29, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Feb. 26 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2.
Brisset could have a major player for Oaklawn’s Kentucky Oaks prep series in Yuugiri, a 2-year-old daughter of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford who finished second, beaten a length, in the $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs in her last start.
Oaklawn’s Kentucky Oaks points series begins with the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 29 and continues with the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 26 and the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 2.
“She already has points for the Oaks,” Brisset said of Yuugiri. “She’s having a break right now, but she’ll go back to the track in a couple of weeks and get back at it. Could come back in the Honeybee. Could come back in an allowance. We’ll see. We’re mainly here to develop horses, focusing on the Derby and the Oaks.”
Brisset’s first starter of the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meet, Beau Luminarie, finished third in Saturday’s inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. Brisset also has a division of horses in Kentucky after splitting his stable last winter between Florida and Kentucky.
Brisset, who gets on his horses in the morning, also has trained Grade 2 winners My Majestic Rose and Positive Spirit and Grade 3 winner Talk Veuve to Me.
Lone Rock earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 98 for his victory in Saturday’s inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for trainer Robertino Diodoro. … Joel Rosario, the favorite to collect an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding jockey of 2021, is scheduled to begin riding regularly at Oaklawn Jan. 14, according to a social media post Wednesday afternoon by his agent, Ron Anderson. Rosario rode six days during the final weeks of Oaklawn’s 2020 meeting and won 15 races, including the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile Stakes aboard Tom’s d’Etat for trainer Al Stall, $100,000 Rainbow Stakes aboard Man in the Can for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes aboard Man in the Can and the second division of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) aboard Nadal for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Coupled with a double in March, including the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) aboard Nadal, Rosario finished with a spectacular 17-10-7 record from just 45 mounts and amassed $2,030,576 in purse earnings. Rosario ranked second in stakes victories at the meet (five), fourth in purse earnings and 11th in victories – just one shy of cracking the top 10 – with an eye-popping 38 percent strike rate. Rosario added three more stakes victories at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting, including the $1 million Rebel (G2) for Baffert with Concert Tour. … Kavod is under consideration for the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Jan. 1, the colt’s trainer, Chris Hartman, said Sunday afternoon. Kavod won the $150,000 Advent Stakes Dec. 3. The 6-furlong Advent was Oaklawn’s first stakes race for 2-year-olds since 1973. The 1-mile Smarty Jones is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates