HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—After Chasing Time crossed the finish line first in Friday’s sixth race at Oaklawn, a group of boisterous fans on the grandstand apron began chasing Steve Asmussen as he strolled toward the Larry Snyder Winner’s Circle to have his picture taken.
Asmussen wouldn’t be alone.
Those fans tracking the Hall of Fame trainer also were headed to the winner’s circle. And, many more followed. When the photo was snapped, Abbey Huffman estimated 55 of Chasing Time’s 3,220 owners, including some Arkansans, had crammed into the winner’s circle to celebrate the victory. Huffman is a Midwest racing manager for MyRacehorse, which offers fractional ownership in horses to shareholders, including Chasing Time, a promising 3-year-old son of Not This Time who represented the first Oaklawn winner solely owned by the entity.
Chasing Time’s entry-level victory was noteworthy for another reason, too. It marked the first for nationally prominent jockey Joel Rosario since he suffered a hairline fracture of a rib when he was unseated shortly after a Dec. 2 race at Aqueduct. Rosario resumed riding Friday, which also marked his first day as a regular at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 3.
“Me, I was excited after the race and then to see so many people in there cheering – it was very emotional for me and very good to see that,” Rosario said Saturday afternoon. “It was unbelievable, and that’s what I do every day.”
Nobody did it better in 2021 than Rosario.
Rosario ($32,944,478) was eyeing a single-season North American record for purse earnings before the injury. In addition to leading the country in purse earnings, he topped all other riders in stakes victories (69), graded stakes victories (49) and tied for 10th in victories (228), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Rosario, as expected, was announced Saturday as one of three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding jockey of 2021. Despite already compiling a Hall of Fame resume – more than 3,200 career victories, including 15 in Breeders’ Cup races and three in Triple Crown events, and roughly $264 million in purse earnings – Rosario has never been honored with an Eclipse Award. The winner will be announced Feb. 10.
“We always hope,” said Rosario, who is represented by super agent Ron Anderson. “We’re really grateful for everything we have and everything we’ve done. Appreciate everybody who has given me the opportunity. Yeah, we look forward for this one, this year again.”
Rosario, who turned 37 Friday, is scheduled to ride regularly at Oaklawn through at least early April, Anderson said. Chasing Time was Rosario’s 29th career Oaklawn victory. He rode six horses Friday, all for Asmussen, and four Saturday, including Concert Tour in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for 2020 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Lured by highest purse structure in the country this winter and the opportunity to ride A-list stock for Asmussen and Cox, Rosario is riding regularly at Oaklawn for the first time. Physically, Rosario said he’s ready to go following the injury.
“I feel fine,” Rosario said. “It’s always tough in the beginning, when you get started, but I’ve been working out. I feel fine.”
MyRacehorse, in partnership, won the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares last year at Oaklawn with two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl. MyRacehorse was founded in March 2019.
9 + 9 = 2 Fifth Season Wins for Caldwell
Danny Caldwell recorded his second career Oaklawn stakes victory Saturday and he used an old script to do it.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Oaklawn’s four-time leading owner said. “That’s probably not been done much.”
Caldwell struck again with millionaire Rated R Superstar ($53.80), who collared front-running Mucho on the outside near the wire to win the 1-mile race for older horses by a neck under David Cabrera. Caldwell also won the 2017 Fifth Season with another 9-year-old gelding, Domain’s Rap, who, like Rated R Superstar, was making his seasonal debut in the race.
On behalf of Caldwell, trainer Federico Villafranco claimed Domain’s Rap and Rated R Superstar for $10,000 and $50,000 respectively, the latter coming last January at Oaklawn.
“I was actually thinking about an allowance race for him this time, bringing him back off a layoff,” Caldwell said. “But he was doing so good and Freddy told me: ‘He’s doing as good as he’s ever been doing in our barn, coming off the layoff.’ He was fresh and seemed like he was ready.”
Rated R Superstar hadn’t started since finishing second in a Sept. 11 allowance race at Remington Park. Caldwell said the gelding came out of the race with a minor splint bone issue, necessitating a short break from training. Rated R Superstar had five published workouts since Dec. 2, the last two coming at Oaklawn, in advance of the Fifth Season.
Last entering the backstretch, Rated R Superstar zoomed past most of the field along the rail to reach contention at the half-mile pole. Rated R Superstar had to wait briefly on the second turn before Cabrera guided the gelding to the outside, three-wide, approaching the quarter-pole. Rated R Superstar wore down a stubborn Mucho in the short run to the wire (mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth pole).
Rated R Superstar’s winning time of 1:37.16 was the fastest since the Fifth Season was shortened from 1 1/16 miles to 1 mile in 2020, when the race was split. Rated R Superstar ran sixth in the second division in 2020. The track was fast Saturday.
“The pace set up well for us and he’s a late runner,” Caldwell said. “David made a good move on the backside here to get him up in there. We didn’t want to get shuffled back and end up going 15-wide. So, he made that move up the rail and I’m thinking, ‘I hope we didn’t move too quick.’ But I could tell he still had some horse. Luckily, they kept going and we had an opportunity down the stretch to run them down.”
The victory was the 10th in 57 lifetime starts for Rated R Superstar and raised his career to $1,271,014. He is a five-time stakes winner.
Rated R Superstar has been an ATM throughout his lengthy career, bankrolling $518,367 and becoming a multiple Grade 3 winner in his first 30 starts for trainer Kenny McPeek. Rated R Superstar made 18 starts for trainer Cipriano Contreras after being claimed for $62,500 in November 2018 at Churchill Downs. Highlighted by a victory in the $350,000 Essex Handicap for older horses in 2019 at Oaklawn, the gelding earned $363,656 before Contreras lost him to Caldwell almost a year ago. In nine starts for Caldwell and Villafranco, Rated R Superstar has made $388,991 and posted three victories, including the $175,000 Governor’s Cup Stakes Aug. 20 at Remington Park.
“Amazing,” Caldwell said.
Oaklawn’s two-turn stakes series for older horses continues with the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12. Rated R Superstar has already started four times in the Razorback, finishing sixth for McPeek in 2018, third for Contreras in 2019, seventh for Contreras in 2020 and fifth for Villafranco last year.
“We’ll see,” Caldwell said of another potential Razorback start. “He’ll tell us.”
Rated R Superstar is a son of 2008 Oaklawn allowance winner and 2009 champion sprinter Kodiak Kowboy.
Multiple stakes winner Optionality is on the grounds preparing for her 3-year-old debut for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and breeder/owner Winchell Thoroughbreds (Ron and Joan Winchell), who teamed to capture 2017 Horse of the Year honors with the filly’s sire, Gun Runner. Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Oaks points race is the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1/16 miles Jan. 29. … Powerful New Year’s Eve allowance winner Secret Oath, who is headed to the Martha Washington, recorded a half-mile bullet work (:46.80) Tuesday for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. … Grade 3 winner Background arrived Thursday at Oaklawn, trainer Mike Puhich said Friday morning, and will probably resurface in mid-February. Background was a two-time allowance winner at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting before capturing the $100,000 Longacres Mile Handicap (G3) Aug. 15 at Emerald Downs near Seattle in his last start. The Longacres Mile is the biggest race in the Pacific Northwest. Background, a 5-year-old gelded son of Khozan, has been breezing at Pegasus Thoroughbred Training Center near Seattle in preparation for his 2022 debut. … Grade 2 winner Dream Lith returned to the work tab Saturday at Fair Grounds, covering 3 furlongs in :37 for 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro. Dream Lith won the $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) for 2-year-old fillies Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs in her last start. Diodoro Friday morning that Dream Lith will make her 3-year-old debut in the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds or the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 26 at Oaklawn. “We’re going to take it one step at a time and then decide on the two races in February,” Diodoro said Friday morning. … Golden Rod runner-up Yuugiri has recorded two 3-furlong workouts this month at Oaklawn in advance of her 3-year-old debut, which could come in the Honeybee or an allowance race, trainer Rodolphe Brisset said.
Oaklawn Press Release
Photo: Rated R Superstar (Coady Photo)