Super Saturday: Post positions will be drawn Monday for three April 23 stakes
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—It was a good Friday for Steve Asmussen, who became just the second trainer in Oaklawn history to reach 800 career victories when favored Chakra ($4.20) won the sixth race under Ricardo Santana Jr.
The late Bob Holthus, based on Daily Racing Form chart results and statistics from Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, had a record 867 training victories at Oaklawn before his death in November 2011.
Asmussen, a 2016 inductee into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, collected his 799th Oaklawn victory in Friday’s second race with favored Hightailing ($3.40), who also was ridden by Santana.
After finishing seventh with his next starter Friday, Ottoman Empire in the fourth race, Asmussen reached the milestone with class-dropping Chakra, who beat older $10,000 female sprinters by 1 ¼ front-running lengths for owners Troy and Mike Langford of Jonesboro, Ark.
“On our way, you know,” Asmussen said following Friday’s ninth and final race. “We feel like we’re in the middle of it and it’s a great milestone, but we’ve got a lot of winning left to do at Oaklawn.”
Based on volume and win rate, Asmussen should threaten Holthus’ Oaklawn record next season. Friday’s double pushed Asmussen’s 2021-2022 meet-leading total to 45. He had 14 horses entered Friday and Saturday.
Asmussen is an 11-time Oaklawn training champion, capturing titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. Asmussen and the late Hall of Famer Henry Forrest share the Oaklawn record for career training titles with 11. Holthus won nine Oaklawn training titles.
Asmussen started his first horse at Oaklawn in 1989 and won his first race Feb. 9, 1996, with Honest J. The following day, Asmussen won the $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters with Valid Expectations, who was ridden by the trainer’s older brother, French champion jockey Cash Asmussen.
Steve Asmussen has said the success of Valid Expectations, who won the $75,000 Bachelor Stakes later in the 1996 Oaklawn meeting, opened doors to better stock because the colt was the first nationally prominent horse he trained.
“He was everything for us,” Asmussen said.
Asmussen entered Saturday with 800 victories, including 96 stakes, from 3,965 starts and purse earnings of $44,836,693 in his Oaklawn career. The stakes victories and purse earnings are Oaklawn records.
Asmussen set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings at the 2021 meet ($6,057,877) and has at least one stakes victory at every Oaklawn meeting since his first with Valid Expectations in 1996. The 26-year stakes streak also is an Oaklawn record.
Asmussen became the all-time winningest trainer in North American history last August and entered Saturday with 9,710 in his career, according to Equibase. Asmussen had 9,712 worldwide because Equibase doesn’t recognize Curlin’s two victories in 2008 in the United Arab Emirates.
Asmussen, 56, started his first horse and saddled his first winner in 1986. He was honored with Eclipse Awards as the country’s outstanding trainer in 2008 and 2009.
Post positions will be drawn Monday for three April 23 stakes – $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles and the $150,000 Oaklawn for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.
The Oaklawn racing department listed four probables Saturday morning for the Apple Blossom – champion and 2020 winner Ce Ce for trainer Michael McCarthy, millionaire Grade 1 winner Clairiere (Steve Asmussen), champion and 2021 winner Letruksa (Fausto Gutierrez) and multiple stakes winner She’s All Wolfe (Donnie K. Von Hemel).
Grade 1 winner and Oaklawn-based Maracuja worked a half-mile in :48.40 Friday morning for trainer Rob Atras for a possible start in the Apple Blossom.
“Still under consideration, but not definite,” Atras said in a text message Saturday morning.
The Oaklawn racing department listed eight probables Saturday morning for the Oaklawn Handicap – Beau Luminarie for trainer Rodolphe Brisset, Caddo River (Brad Cox), Idol (Richard Baltas), Last Samurai (Dallas Stewart), Plainsman (Cox), Rated R Superstar (Federico Villafranco), Super Stock (Asmussen) and Thomas Shelby (Robertino Diodoro). Proxy (Michael Stidham) also was under consideration.
Millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Rated R Superstar completed major preparations for the Oaklawn Handicap by working 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 Friday morning under eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. David Cabrera, Oaklawn’s leading rider this season, guided Rated R Superstar to victories in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 15 and $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) March 19, but the jockey is out indefinitely after sustaining head, neck and upper back injuries in an April 8 spill. Santana will ride Rated R Superstar in the Oaklawn Handicap, the 9-year-old gelding’s owner, Danny Caldwell, said in a text message Friday morning.
“That is the plan once David went down,” Caldwell said. “Would love to have David and wish him a speedy recovery. Ricardo has won on Rated R and is a very competent rider, plus he should fit Rated R’s running style perfect.”
The Oaklawn racing department listed six probables Saturday morning for the Oaklawn Stakes – Home Brew (Cox), Kuchar (Brisset), Long Crow (Asmussen), Ruggs (Ron Moquett), Stellar Tap (Steve Asmussen) and The Skipper Too (John Ortiz).
The winner of the Oaklawn Stakes, if Triple Crown eligible, will receive automatic entry into the Preakness
There is no racing Sunday in observance of Easter, but the track will be open for training from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. (Central). … Trainer Dan Peitz said Friday morning that he still plans to run Beguine in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies May 6 at Churchill Downs, if the daughter of Gun Runner secures one of the 14 starting spots. Beguine has continued to train at Oaklawn following her runner-up finish in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 2 and remains just outside the points cutoff list used for starting preference in the latest rankings released by Churchill Downs. Peitz said Beguine is nominated to the Kentucky Oaks. … Arkansas Derby runner-up Barber Road departed late Friday afternoon for Churchill Downs to train for the May 7 Kentucky Derby for trainer John Ortiz and former Walmart executive William Simon. … Arkansas Derby third Secret Oathworked 5 furlongs in :59.20 under new rider Luis Saez Friday morning at Churchill Downs for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in advance of the Kentucky Oaks. … Jockey Alex Canchari recorded his 990th career victory in Friday’s first race aboard Ghost Strategy ($7), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Ghost Strategy represented the 130thcareer Oaklawn victory for Lynn Chleborad, who is the winningest female trainer in its history. … Apprentice jockey Kylee Jordan ($1,001,513) surpassed $1 million in career purse earnings with a third-place finish aboard Cycologist in Friday’s third race for Ortiz. Jordan, 20, began riding last May and entered Saturday with five victories at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting. She is the leading rider at Will Rogers Downs, with 24 victories through the first 11 days of racing. … Girls a Bullet finished third in Friday’s sixth race, her first start since trainer Coty Rosin won a 39-way shake, or blind draw, to claim the mare for $6,250 March 18. Trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs won a 10-way shake to claim Girls a Bullet out of Friday’s race for $10,000. … Trainer Allen Milligan won a 16-way shake to claim favored Chakra ($4.20) out of Friday’s sixth race for $10,000. Chakra represented Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s 800th career Oaklawn victory and the third on the card for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. … Vulcan ($13) represented jockey Ry Eikleberry’s first career Oaklawn victory in Friday’s seventh race.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
Photo credit: Coady Photography