Cox Still Has 3-Year-Olds to Unveil

February 25, 2023

Heroic Move winning his debut Feb. 18 at Oaklawn. (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Outlining plans for his army of Kentucky Derby prospects in early January at Oaklawn, two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox was asked if he had any unstarted horses that he believed still had a chance to make the starting gate May 6 at Churchill Downs.

“It’s a little early to say, but listen, I have several unraced horses that I think we may see,” Cox said. “I don’t want to say any names because there is a small handful, but I’m hopeful that one of them do jump up and could be a factor.”

One of those horses, Triple Crown nominee Heroic Move, may have given Cox something to think about after winning his career debut Feb. 18 at Oaklawn under Joel Rosario. 

A homebred for Gary and Mary West, Heroic Move ($5) captured the 1-mile maiden special weight race by a half-length as the 3-2 favorite. The winning time over a fast track was 1:38.17. Heroic Move, through Friday, was one of just three starters to win a route race from post 10 at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. He also galloped out strongly past the wire, indicating the son of Quality Road wants more ground.

“I think he’s a good horse,” Cox said Thursday morning. “We’re kind of letting the dust settle right now before we come up with an exact (next) race. But I’m excited about his future and think he’s a good horse.”

Cox also trains Dec. 17 Oaklawn entry-level allowance winner Hit Show for the Wests. Hit Show captured a Kentucky Derby points race, the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3) Feb. 11 at Aqueduct, in his last start. Cox was scheduled to send out the top two program choices in Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn in Verifying and Giant Mischief.

The Rebel offered 100 points (50-20-15-10-5, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The Rebel was the final major local prep for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 1. The 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby is Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race. 

Mott, Claiborne Team for Victory

Traverse in her allowance victory on Feb. 12 at Oaklawn. (Coady Photography)

Trainer Riley Mott’s third and most lucrative career victory to date came with favored Traverse ($4) in a $106,000 second-level allowance for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12 at Oaklawn under leading rider Cristian Torres.

The victory was noteworthy for another reason, too, since it marked Mott’s first for Kentucky’s famed Claiborne Farm, which also bred the 4-year-old daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. 

“The colors and the silks and their name speak for themselves,” Mott said. “That was an allowance race, but I think it could do a lot for my career down the line.”

Mott, 31, went out on his own Nov. 1 after assisting his father, Bill Mott, for eight years. Claiborne has had a long relationship with Bill Mott, campaigning, among others, graded stakes-winning homebreds Stroll, Watch and Wend with the Hall of Fame trainer. Claiborne, in partnership with Adele Dilschneider, also bred and raced millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner Elate, who was also trained by Mott. 

Riley Mott, as a traveling assistant, saddled Elate to a third-place finish in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies in 2017 at Oaklawn.

Traverse began her racing career with trainer Reeve McGaughey, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. She was moved from trainer Tom Drury Jr. to Riley Mott following an entry-level allowance victory Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs. Traverse, in her first start for Mott, finished fourth in the $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares Jan. 7 at Oaklawn. 

“That’s the only one I have for Claiborne, but I’m meant to get some 2-year-olds,” Mott said. “They did me a favor by sending me a nice horse to start out with. Pretty cool.”

The Feb. 12 victory was the third in seven lifetime starts for Traverse and moved her earnings to $188,065. Mott said Traverse “possibly” could start again at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

“We’re looking at maybe some black-type races in the spring for her, so there’s a 50-50 shot,” Mott said. 

Traverse represented the second victory at the Oaklawn meeting for Mott, who is wintering in Hot Springs. 

Claiborne recorded its first Oaklawn victory in a March 24, 1967, allowance race with a homebred, Monitor, who was trained by future Hall of Famer Harry Trotsek. Monitor won the Arkansas Derby 15 days later. 


Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and his son, jockey Keith James Asmussen, teamed to win Friday’s first race with Cape Horseshoe ($6.60). It was the 835th career Oaklawn victory for Steve Asmussen – No. 2 all time – and the fourth victory at the meeting for his son. Cape Horseshoe also represented the 11th career victory for Keith James Asmussen and the 10th riding for his father. The jockey and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas teamed to win a Jan. 14 race at Oaklawn with Papa Rocket. … 

Trainer Lindsay Schultz saddled Westover – her first starter for all-time leading Oaklawn owner John Ed Anthony (Shortleaf Stable) – to win Friday’s second race under Francisco Arrieta. Westover ($8.40) was among three horses Shortleaf recently moved to Schultz, 34, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Westover was the 282nd career Oaklawn victory for Anthony, an Arkansas lumberman. … 

Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode three winners Friday. Bejarano won the third race aboard unbeaten Cactus ($11.60) for trainer Randy Morse, fifth race aboard Alex’s Strike ($12.40) for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs and the ninth race aboard favored Stellar Lily ($6.20) for Moquett. Bejarano ($1,998,653) was poised to become the fourth jockey at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting to reach $2 million in purse earnings Saturday. …

Morse also recorded a double Friday, winning the sixth race with Mo Silver ($37.40). … 

Ingrid Mason won Friday’s fourth race with G T Five Hundred ($28.80) to pull within 133-129 of Lynn Chleboard in the chase for winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history. 

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