HOT SPRINGS, Ark – P. F. Mayboy’s Feb. 16, 1972, victory was noteworthy for being more than John Ed Anthony’s first as an owner at Oaklawn. It’s what happened after the race that he laughs about 50 years later.
After finishing fifth in the 1970 Arkansas Derby, P. F. Mayboy was now running for Anthony’s fledgling Loblolly Acres Corp., and a $15,000 claiming tag, after he purchased the son of Nashua Blue and two other horses from fellow Arkansas lumberman Dick Sturgis, who operated a breeding/training farm approximately 55 miles south of Hot Springs.
P. F. Mayboy opened a commanding six-length lead on the backstretch of the 1 mile and 70-yard race for older horses and held on to win by a head. Anthony, poking fun at himself, said he didn’t know how to get to the winner’s circle, so he wasn’t in the win picture following his landmark victory.
“I have the picture, but my friend Dick Sturgis is in it,” Anthony said Saturday night. “As I remember, it may have been a photo and I waited until the photo was posted before I started down there and before I got there, they had already taken the picture.”
Anthony, 83, would more than make up for his rookie mistake. Already among the most celebrated owners in Oaklawn history, Anthony reached another milestone in Saturday’s 12th race when his homebred Rolling Fork captured an Arkansas-bred allowance sprint under Reylu Gutierrez. Based on chart results, favored Rolling Fork ($6.60) marked Anthony’s record 270th career Oaklawn victory, breaking a tie with the late Sharon Hild.
Anthony won 172 races at Oaklawn under his Loblolly banner before it was phased out in the mid-1990s following his divorce from Mary Lynn Dudley. Rolling Fork became the 98th Oaklawn winner for Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable. Loblolly and Shortleaf are species of pine trees native to south Arkansas, where Anthony’s family has held vast timber interests for more than 100 years.
Some of the most famous horses in Oaklawn history have carried Anthony’s familiar chocolate brown and yellow silks, including Eclipse Award winners Temperence Hill (champion 3-year-old male of 1980) and Vanlandingham (champion older male of 1985) and Cox’s Ridge, who became Loblolly’s first nationally prominent horse in the late 1970s. Loblolly also campaigned a third Eclipse Award winner, Prairie Bayou, the country’s champion 3-year-old male of 1993.
After some lean times in the post-Loblolly era, Anthony has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years with the help of his son Ed, a pedigree expert, and racing manager John Gasper. Shortleaf runners won 28 races and amassed $2,312,041 in purse earnings overall last year, single-season highs, dating to 2000, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Temperence Hill won the Rebel Handicap and Arkansas Derby in 1980 at Oaklawn before capturing the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown. Loblolly added two victories in its second leg, the Preakness, with Pine Bluff in 1992 and Prairie Bayou in 1993. Pine Bluff also won the Rebel and Arkansas Derby.
Like many of Anthony’s horses, Rolling Fork, a 4-year-old Midshipman gelding, is named for a point in the breeder/owner’s native south Arkansas (it is a tributary of the Little River). For his towering accomplishments, Anthony was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
“It’s an honor to have somebody like that supporting you,” said John Ortiz, who trains Rolling Fork. “It’s an honor. That’s just great, with a horse that everybody loves. He’s sweetest horse in the barn. ‘Sweet Potato,’ that’s what we call Rolling Fork. All he does is eat sweet potatoes.”
Shortleaf has approximately 22 horses in training, the bulk at Oaklawn with Ortiz and two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Shortleaf also has 2021 Oaklawn allowance winner The Sound with trainer Jimmy Jerkens in New York.
Anthony stands three stallions and boards about a half-dozen broodmares at McDowell Farm near Sparkman, Ark., approximately 60 miles south of Hot Springs. Anthony also boards some 18-20 other broodmares at famed Stone Farm in Kentucky.
“We bought horses for a while and I always like colts,” said Anthony, a native of Fordyce, Ark. “I finally decided that the name of the game was really homebreds and so we developed a broodmare band.”
Anthony said Shortleaf develops five or six Arkansas-breds and 12-15 Kentucky-breds each year “from scratch.”
“We won’t buy much anymore,” Anthony said.
The breeding/buying mix has yielded spectacular results during the first 33 days of Oaklawn’s scheduled 65-day meeting in 2021-2022. Through Sunday, Shortleaf was the runaway leader among owners in victories (11) and purse earnings ($1,133,556). Loblolly, between 1980 and 1993, led all Oaklawn owners in purse earnings six times. Loblolly won 20 races at the 1988 and 1993 meetings. Shortleaf already has equaled its Oaklawn-best 11 victories, which came at the 2021 meeting. Shortleaf entered Wednesday with $932,976 in purse earnings this year to rank second nationally, according to Equibase.
“I mean, that’s great for him,” Gasper said, referring to Anthony. “It’s good for everybody, but I feel so good for him. When I went to work for him, I said: ‘I’m going to try to do my best to get you back to where it was.’”
Anthony has won three races at the 2021-2022 meeting with Gar Hole, a promising homebred and 2-1 program favorite for Saturday’s $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred sprinters.
Plainsman – almost 50 years to the day since Anthony’s first Oaklawn victory – surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a neck decision over Thomas Shelby in the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12.
On the advice of Gasper, Anthony purchased Plainsman, a 7-year-old son of Flatter, for $350,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Cox’s Ridge gave Anthony, a Hot Springs resident, his first career Oaklawn stakes victory in the 1978 Razorback.
“He (Anthony) obviously loves Oaklawn,” said Cox, who trains Plainsman. “It’s his home track and he always wants the horses ready to run here. Obviously, between his open horses and Arkansas-breds, this is a meet he points for. He plays a big role in Arkansas racing.”
Ortiz trains Gar Hole and saddled Shortleaf homebred Ice Orchid to a runner-up finish in last Saturday’s $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies. Anthony recorded his 271st Oaklawn victory in Sunday’s eighth race when Arkansas-bred standout The Mary Rose, another homebred, whipped open company in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race. Gutierrez rode favored The Mary Rose ($6) for Ortiz.
And yes, Anthony was in his latest Oaklawn win picture.
“I go back to the first win in February of 1972 – 50 years ago this month – so that was pretty special,” Anthony said in the Larry Snyder Winner’s Circle following The Mary Rose’s Feb. 27 victory. “And where we’ve gone from there has been rewarding and, obviously, you wouldn’t do something for 50 years if it weren’t a lot of fun. I’m proud to be in Arkansas and I’m proud to support Oaklawn and I’ve cheered for Oaklawn throughout all 50 years and found it to be very receptive and very cooperative and a great place to race. In fact, I’ve said it over and over again – the best place to winter in American racing is Hot Springs, Ark.”
Calling a Derby Prep
Triple Crown nominee Call Me Jamal is headed for a major Kentucky Derby points race following his entry-level allowance victory Saturday, the gelding’s trainer, Mike Puhich, said Sunday morning.
Call Me Jamal overhauled Great Escape on the outside in deep stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths under Geovanni Franco. Puhich had considered running Call Me Jamal in Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds before opting for the 1 1/16-mile undercard race. Call Me Jamal, exiting a troubled seventh-place finish in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29, ran the distance over a fast track in 1:45.45. The winning time for the Rebel approximately two hours later – the surface was transitioning from fast to sloppy because of rain – was 1:45.69.
“Was really, really pleased with him, the way he’s matured and settled in,” Puhich said. “We’ve been kind of teaching him to rate a little bit. He just had a much better trip. He handled the dirt in his face better than last time. I think he moved forward off of the Southwest and ran like we were hoping. Just keeping us alive in the dream, at least.”
Puhich said Call Me Jamal, a son of the late Malibu Moon, will make his next start in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2 or the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) April 9 at Keeneland. Both 1 1/8-mile races will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10) to its top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Call Me Jamal likely would need a top two finish in either race to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. The gelding has no qualifying points.
A $70,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, Call Me Jamal races for prominent Pacific Northwest heart surgeon Mark DeDomenico. Call Me Jamal broke his maiden in his two-turn debut Dec. 18 before running seventh in the Southwest, which was Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race. Ethereal Road finished third behind Call Me Jamal Dec. 18 and returned to run second, beaten a half-length, in the Rebel.
Triple Crown nominee Great Escape will be considered for the Arkansas Derby following the runner-up finish in his 3-year-old debut, trainer Rodolphe Brisset said Sunday morning. Great Escape, from the first crop of Grade 1 winner Midnight Storm, was making his first start since finishing ninth in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 9 at Keeneland.
“I don’t know the number yet, but they ran faster than the Rebel, so I think everything is under consideration,” Brisset said. “If he’s good enough to run in the Arkansas Derby, I don’t know. But it was a solid race coming back. He got on the lead; he got his own way. I don’t know if he saw that horse (Call Me Jamal) coming. But that horse won pretty easy, too. We may have run out of training, too, a little bit. That was the first race off a layoff. We’re going to monitor his training the next two or three weeks and go from there, but his next race could be a points race, Arkansas Derby, Jeff Ruby. We have all the options. We’re going to keep everything open.”
The $600,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) is April 2 at Turfway. The 1 1/8-mile race will be run on a synthetic surface. Great Escape, who is owned by WinStar Farm, has been a regular workout partner of stablemate Yuugiri, a distant third behind Secret Oath in Saturday’s $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies.
Ignitis won’t be considered for the Arkansas Derby following his third-place finish in the allowance race, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning. Ignitis, who added blinkers, finished third in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1 – Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race – before running 11th in the Southwest.
“Ignitis looks like he wants to run a mile or less,” Lukas said. “He’s a talented horse and a nice horse, but I think he maybe wants to stay under a mile.”
Lukas said Ignitis could be pointed to a race like the Pat Day Mile this spring at Churchill Downs. Lukas already has two Arkansas Derby candidates in Rebel runner-up Ethereal Road and Secret Oath, the top 3-year-old filly on the grounds. The Rebel was Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race.
Jockey Ken Tohill recorded his 3,991st career victory in Sunday’s first race aboard Latin Casino ($11.20) for trainer Burl McBride. 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, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Grade 1 winner Maracuja, targeting a March return for her 4-year-old debut, worked a half-mile in :49.20 Monday morning for trainer Rob Atras.
Oaklawn passed the halfway point of its scheduled 66-day meeting Sunday. The track lost four dates to winter weather, but is making them all up by adding four Thursdays – March 17, March 24, March 31 and April 7.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
Photo: All-time leading Oaklawn owner John Ed Anthony/Coady Photography