Dash Attack’s Connections Eying Rebel Stakes

February 2, 2022

Locally based Dash Attack emerged in good order from his fifth-place finish in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds last Saturday at Oaklawn and will remain on the Kentucky Derby trail, his trainer, Kenny McPeek, said Tuesday night.

Dash Attack won his first two career starts, including the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, before being beaten 7 ¾ lengths by heavily favored Newgrange in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest. Dash Attack was racing over a fast track for the first time in the Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. 

“I think between that racetrack being a little bit deep and cuppy, and we kind of had to adjust our work schedule, I think we left him short,” McPeek said. “He got tired in the race. He seemed to come back fine, but I wish I had done a little more with him in hindsight. But the night before, it was extremely cold and I don’t think they had much water on it (track) and he didn’t handle it well.”

Dash Attack splashed to a two-length victory in the 1-mile Smarty Jones, which was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series continues with the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Feb. 26 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2.

McPeek said Dash Attack “definitely” will be considered for the Rebel, which will offer 85 points (50-20-10-5, respectively) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest point totals earned in designated qualifying races.

Dash Attack ranks No. 9 on the latest Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 10 points for his Smarty Jones victory.

“We’re not ruling the Rebel out at all,” McPeek said. “We’re going to kind of regroup and put another plan together and hopefully it unfolds a little better than the Southwest did.”

Southern California-based Bob Baffert said he will “definitely have something for the Rebel,” a 1 1/16-mile race the Hall of Fame trainer has won a record eight times. Barber Road, runner-up in the Smarty Jones and Southwest, is likely headed to the Rebel, trainer John Ortiz said. 

Vivar is off the Kentucky Derby trail following his 10th-place finish in the Southwest, trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re going to give him a break and freshen him up,” said Cox, who trains Vivar for breeder/owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs. “Don’t really think he’s a dirt horse. Kind of always thought he was more grass. We’ve given him the opportunity and he really didn’t answer the questions we were asking, so it’s time to back up and give him some time and maybe point him for a grass campaign this summer.”

Vivar finished fifth in the Smarty Jones.

Mucho Man

Mucho is again training at his home base, The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Ky., but trainer John Ortiz said the horse is under consideration for a return trip to Oaklawn for stakes action later this month or in March.

The speedy Mucho was already an allowance winner sprinting at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting before finishing second, beaten a neck by Rated R Superstar, in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 15. The 1-mile Fifth Season marked the two-turn debut for Mucho, a 6-year-old son of Blame who races for former Walmart executive William Simon (WSS Racing) and Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway of Little Rock, Ark. (4 G Racing). 

Mucho shot to the front in the Fifth Season and turned back challenges from Thomas Shelby and Concert Tour before finally being overtaken on the outside in the shadow of the wire by millionaire Rated R Superstar.

“This was our test,” Ortiz said. “It was exactly what we wanted to see. We wanted to see if he could do the two turns. Now, I think we’ve got a good sprinter and you have a good two-turn horse. Honestly, we get to play a game with him and see where he takes us.”

It could be back to Oaklawn, Ortiz said, for the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12 or the $200,000 Whitmore (G3) at 6 furlongs March 19. Both races are for older horses.

Mucho returned to the work tab Tuesday at The Thoroughbred Center, covering a half-mile in :50. Ortiz’s stable is split between Oaklawn and The Thoroughbred Center training facility. 

“He comes here, runs and then goes back,” Ortiz said. “It’s just a little bit quieter up there for him. We’re not planning on running him very often. We just want to make sure we pick and choose our spots this year. We’ve got bigger goals. We’ve got to get to the Breeders’ Cup with him.”

Ortiz noted Mucho finished just two lengths behind 2021 Oaklawn debut winner Aloha West in the $250,000 Phoenix Stakes (G2) Oct. 8 at Keeneland, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event. After finishing second in the Phoenix, Aloha West returned to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland, which is about 12 miles from The Thoroughbred Center. Also on the table is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Ortiz said.

“Two turns, short stretch, just like here,” Ortiz said. “That’s probably going to be a good target. Breeders’ Cup Day is where we want to be with him. We were very close last year. We finished third behind Aloha West and we opted out of going to the Breeders’ Cup because of the logistics. But this year, we’re going to be running from our backyard, from our stall, and I think home-track advantage here. I think we’ll be very competitive. But that’s the goal. Not just with him, but with many horses from our barn.”

On behalf of WSS and 4 G, Ortiz claimed Mucho for $80,000 in November 2020 at Churchill Downs. Mucho was an allowance winner at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting for his new connections and captured the $100,000 Challedon Stakes July 31 at Pimlico. Mucho has a 7-8-3 record from 30 lifetime starts and earnings of $716,729.

The Razorback closed with 38 nominations. Post positions will be drawn Monday. It is a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 23. The newly graded Whitmore (formerly the Hot Springs Stakes) is a major local steppingstone to the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at 6 furlongs April 16.

Finish Lines

Smokin Boots ($68.40) gave jockey Ken Tohill his 3,990th career victory in Sunday’s third race, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Tohill is trying to become the 80th jockey in North American history (United States and Canada) to reach 4,000 career victories, according to Equibase. Tohill rode Smokin Boots for 2000 Oaklawn training champion Joe Petalino and owner Sara Patterson, who manages nearby Cedar Run Farm. … Jockey Jon Court notched his 4,229th career North American victory in Sunday’s fourth race aboard Nic and Zoe ($21) for trainer Greg Compton. Court was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000 and ranks 66th in North American history in victories, according to Equibase. … Maracuja worked a half-mile in :52.20 over a fast track Tuesday morning for New York-based trainer Rob Atras, who is targeting a March return for the Grade 1 winner. Maracuja breezed under exercise rider/assistant trainer Jesse Sauder, who is overseeing Atras’ small Oaklawn string. Atras said he hopes to use the March race as a steppingstone to the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 23. Maracuja won the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies July 24 at Saratoga. … Jockey Martin Garcia is now being represented by agent Bobby Dean. Garcia had been represented by Doug Bredar, the longtime agent for Florent Geroux. … Through Sunday, Day 23 of the scheduled 65-day meeting, 238 claims had totaled $5,238,500. Oaklawn surpassed $5 million in claims Sunday after a meet-high 21 horses were taken. 

Oaklawn Press Release

Photo: Dash Attack (Coady Photo)

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