Ginobili Back West After Powerful Oaklawn Victory

January 20, 2023

Ginobili wining the Fifth Season. (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Following his powerful victory in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 14 at Oaklawn, Ginobili returned Tuesday to his Southern California base to begin preparing for his yet-to-be determined next start, trainer Peter Miller said Thursday afternoon.

Miller said Ginobili will be considered for the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18 at Oaklawn and races this winter and early spring in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). The Saudi Arabia race would be a sprint Miller said, with the UAE race either a sprint or at a mile.

“We’re deciding between the Razorback and the Middle East,” Miller said.

Ginobili received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 96 for his four-length Fifth Season victory under Ricardo Santana Jr. Ginobili ($5.80) covered the mile over a fast track in 1:37.35 as the 9-5 favorite in the 10-horse field. 

Following the Fifth Season, Santana, an eight-time Oaklawn riding champion, said he believed Ginobili was only “75 percent” fit for the race. The 6-year-old Munnings gelding was making just his second start in a little more than year.  

“That’s a scary proposition,” Miller said. “I hope he’s right. We were tickled over how he ran and how he came back. Certainly, the Razorback makes a lot of sense, timing wise. I imagine there will be one or two new shooters, but I would imagine it’s roughly the same bunch.”

In his first start for Miller, Ginobili finished second, beaten a head by stablemate Get Her Number, in a Nov. 20 allowance sprint at Del Mar. It marked Ginobili’s first race in almost a year following a physical setback, Miller said. Ginobili had concluded his 2021 campaign with a sixth-place finish in the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) in December at Aqueduct.

The Fifth Season was redemption for the horse’s ownership group, Slam Dunk Racing, after Ginobili ran poorly in two allowance races (finishing fifth and seventh) late in the 2020 Oaklawn meeting. Ginobili, as the 4-5 favorite, was beaten 9 ½ lengths in the first start, a 6-furlong race that marked his first outside California. Santa Anita, where Ginobili had made his previous two starts, both stakes, was shuttered in the spring of 2020 because of the coronavirus. 

“We think he’s a different horse now,” Nick Cosato, Slam Dunk’s managing partner, said in the Larry Snyder Winner’s Circle following the Fifth Season. “He’s healthy. He had some time off. I think he got a little bit sour when he was here and it wasn’t the track itself. It was just the way he was doing. Now, he’s in good form, and I mean we saw the real Ginobili today.”

The Fifth Season was Ginobili’s fourth victory from 17 starts and bumped his career earnings to $561,050. It was his second stakes victory. Ginobili recorded his biggest career victory to date in the $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) at 7 furlongs in August 2021 at Del Mar. He also ran second in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in November 2021 at Del Mar. Ginobili was purchased for just $35,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Nominations to the Razorback close Feb. 3.

Back to Work

Count de Monet returned to the work tab last Sunday for the first time since suffering his first career loss with a fourth-place finish in the inaugural $150,000 Renaissance Stakes for 2-year-old at 6 furlongs Dec. 31 at Oaklawn.

Trained by Tom Swearingen, Count de Monet covered 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 under Chel-c Bailey. The track was fast. Count de Monet had won his first three career starts, including the $150,000 Advent Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 9 at Oaklawn. Count de Monet was beaten 9 ¾ lengths in the Renaissance after leading to the top of the stretch.

Count de Monet taking the Advent. (Coady Photography)

“I think there was a little sickness in my barn and he might have been just a little under the weather,” Swearingen said. “He didn’t seem as sharp as usually does in the morning when he’s out there. Everything was fine. It wasn’t like he was sick or nothing, but he just didn’t seem as sharp as usual.”

Swearingen said next-race plans are pending for Count de Monet, who had won his first two career starts, both sprints, at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

“I’m hoping that we can run him back here and get him back on track,” Swearingen said. “We’ll see how he runs the next time and maybe we’ll look down the road to pursue two turns if he shows us what we’re looking for.”

FINISH LINES

The $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28 closed Jan. 13 with 51 nominations. The Southwest is Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. Post positions for the Southwest and two other stakes races Jan. 28, the $200,000 Martha Washington for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles and the $150,000 King Cotton for older sprinters, will be drawn Monday. The Martha Washington is Oaklawn’s first of three Kentucky Oaks points races. … 

Unbeaten Martha Washington nominee Olivia Twist (3 for 3) has been working this month at Oaklawn for trainer Todd Fincher. Olivia Twist won the $100,000 Trapeze Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 mile Dec. 17 at Remington Park in her last start. … 

Background, who captured the $100,000 Longacres Mile (G3) in August 2021 at Emerald Downs, is scheduled to make his 2023 debut in Saturday’s ninth race, a $107,000 allowance for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, for jockey Rocco Bowen and trainer Mike Puhich. Bowen and Puhich teamed to win the 2021 Longacres Mile, which is the biggest race in the Pacific Northwest. Background, a multiple Oaklawn allowance winner, hasn’t started since finishing fifth in the 2022 Longacres Mile Aug. 14 at Emerald Downs. … 

“Oaklawn Raceday,” featuring David Longinotti, director of Oaklawn Anywhere, and Equibase representative Jeff Taylor, can be heard Saturdays 11 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (Central) during the 2022-2023 meeting on Little Rock, Ark., radio station KABZ-FM 103.7 and www.1037thebuzz.com. Because of a conflict with Arkansas basketball, this week’s show will move to sister station KBZU-FM 106.7.

@jonathanstettin Wonderful article! You’re a great ambassador for the game! We’ve been spoiled with elite equine athletes in recent memory.

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