HOT SPRINGS, AR – Lone Rock began 2021 winning an $89,000 allowance race at Oaklawn. The stakes are much, much higher to begin 2022 when Lone Rock launches his 7-year-old campaign in the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Razorback, the 10th of 11 races, is 4:56 p.m. (Central). The eighth race is the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. First post Saturday is 12:10 p.m.
Trainer Robertino Diodoro said if all goes well in the Razorback, Lone Rock will be seriously considered for the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at approximately 1 ¼ miles March 26 in the United Arab Emirates. That scenario would have been unimaginable a year ago as Lone Rock was preparing for the late February allowance race at Oaklawn after Diodoro reclaimed the gelding for $40,000 in November 2020 at Churchill Downs.
After Lone Rock won at 1 1/16 miles to open 2021, he flourished when Diodoro began targeting races beyond the American classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. Lone Rock won 7 of 9 starts last year, including the $130,000 Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes in April at Churchill Downs, $400,000 Brooklyn Stakes (G2) in June at Belmont Park, $120,000 Birdstone Stakes in August at Saratoga and the $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) Nov. 6 at Del Mar in which he set a track record for 1 5/8 miles (2:42.61) under Oaklawn regular Ramon Vazquez. The Isaac Murphy and Brooklyn were 1 ½ miles, the Birdstone 1 ¾ miles. He also won a 1 ½-mile allowance race at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting.
“This horse, the crazy thing is – Oaklawn, Churchill, Belmont, Saratoga, Del Mar – he’s won stakes at all those places,” Diodoro said Tuesday morning. “Pretty neat.”
Lone Rock’s stakes victory at Oaklawn came in his last start, the inaugural $200,000 Tinsel at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 18, when he outdueled stablemate Thomas Shelby by three-quarters of a length. Lone Rock returns to 1 1/16 miles for the first time since his February 2021 allowance victory and faces a much deeper field than the Tinsel. The Razorback drew nine horses, eight being stakes winners. Thomas Shelby is seeking his first career stakes victory after nearly toppling his heralded stablemate in the Tinsel. Lone Rock is the 3-1 program favorite after bankrolling $1,148,641 in his career, including $842,884 last year.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2020. “Good race. I think any horse in the field can win it. You’re not going to be going, ‘Wow! What the heck?’ It’s a very wide open, competitive race. Our horses are doing great. Touch wood, keep them happy for the next 96 hours, or 72, and give it our best shot.”
The projected Razorback field from the rail out: Popular Kid, Francisco Arrieta to ride, 116 pounds, 20-1 on the morning line; Super Stock, Ricardo Santana Jr., 120, 9-2; Lone Rock, Ramon Vazquez, 122, 3-1; Rated R Superstar, David Cabrera, 119, 8-1; Promise Keeper, Florent Geroux, 119, 4-1; Thomas Shelby, David Cohen, 117, 6-1; Last Samurai, Jon Court, 118, 8-1; Plainsman, Joel Rosario, 120, 7-2; and Silver Prospector, Luis Contreras, 115, 15-1.
Lone Rock has recorded three half-mile workouts since the Tinsel. The son of Majestic Warrior, who began his racing career with prominent Arkansas owner John Ed Anthony and now-retired trainer Will VanMeter, is a three-time winner at 1 1/16 miles, but those were in allowance or claiming company.
“Obviously, the farther the better,” Diodoro said. “This is what we’re handed right now. The horse is sharp and he handled the mile and an eighth. Hopefully, he’ll be able to handle this.”
Multiple Grade 3 winner Plainsman will be making his 7-year-old debut for trainer Brad Cox and Anthony after finishing a troubled third in the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) Dec. 4 at Aqueduct.
“Doing great,” Cox said. “Wow! His Cigar Mile race, for him to be into his 6-year-old year, I thought it was the best race he’s ever run in his life. He bounced out of it in great shape. He’s been here training and looks amazing.”
A victory Saturday would make Plainsman a millionaire. Rated R Superstar ($1,271,014) and Super Stock ($1,181,677) are already millionaires.
Rated R Superstar exits a victory in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 15 in his 9-year-old debut for trainer Federico Villafranco and four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell. Rated R Superstar has run in the Razorback the last four years, finishing sixth in 2018, third in 2019, seventh in 2020 and fifth in 2021.
Super Stock, who will be facing older horses for the first time, won the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Silver Prospector, also trained by Asmussen, won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds in 2020. Last Samurai edged Super Stock in the inaugural $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for 3-year-olds Dec. 11 for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Promise Keeper recorded his biggest career victory to date in the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds May 8 at Belmont Park. Promise Keeper will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) June 26 at Thistledown for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who said the son of Constitution was freshened for a 4-year-old campaign. The Razorback also will be Promise Keeper’s first start against older horses.
“He’s a horse that likes to attend the pace,” Pletcher said. “We’ll let him run to the first turn and see what everybody else is doing. Get into a good rhythm and go from there. Kind of up to Florent to see how fast they’re going.”
Popular Kid exits a one-length victory in the $100,000 Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial Stakes Nov. 19 at Remington Park for trainer Shawn Davis. Lone Rock recorded his first career stakes victory in the 2018 Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial. He ran 12th in the 2019 Razorback.
The speedy Thomas Shelby was a seven-time winner in 2021 and narrowly missed an eighth in the Tinsel. Thomas Shelby is campaigned by M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), Oaklawn’s leading owner the last four years. Thomas Shelby finished third in the Fifth Season, beaten three-quarters of a length by Rated R Superstar.
“I think this distance is going to be in his favor, if you want to compare the two horses,” Diodoro said, referring to Thomas Shelby and Lone Rock. “Definitely going to be in his favor and I like being towards the outside, too. It seems like every time he’s near the inside, he kind of breaks flat-footed and he didn’t break flat-footed last time. I definitely like him being towards the outside.”
The Razorback is a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G3) at 1 1/8 miles April 23.
Oaklawn Park Press Release
Photo: Lone Rock wins the 2021 Tinsel Stakes at Oaklawn: Coady Photography