Count de Monet winning the Advent at Oaklawn. (Coady Photography)
Jennifer Hoyt/Oaklawn Racing
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.– Unbeaten and improving, Count de Monet is among six horses entered in the inaugural $150,000 Renaissance Stakes for 2-year-old sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the 6-furlong Renaissance, the sixth of 10 races, is 2:50 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m. The card, the first in Oaklawn history exclusively for 2-year-olds, also features the inaugural $150,000 Year’s End Stakes for fillies at 1 mile.
Count de Monet (3 for 3) exits a three-length victory in the $150,000 Advent Stakes Dec. 9 at Oaklawn. The 5 ½-furlong Advent was headlined by Iowa-bred sensation Tyler’s Tribe, but a tracking Count de Monet overhauled the heavily favored gelding in midstretch and drew off late under Sanjur. Count de Monet earned a career-high 85 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory over a muddy track. Count de Monet received a 60 Beyer in his Aug. 30 debut and a 74 Beyer in an entry-level allowance Sept. 29. Both sprint races were at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Count de Monet has won his three starts by a combined 11 lengths.
“I kind of thought I would win my first Oaklawn stakes race with Summer Shoes,” trainer Tom Swearingen said, referring to his lightly raced Arkansas-bred who is 2 for 3 in her career. “But this is a nice horse, he really is. He’s getting better. He’s just a baby, but he’s getting better all the time. He’s just grown up like a weed.”
Count de Monet tuned up for the Renaissance by working 5 furlongs in 1:04.40 Dec. 22 at Oaklawn. Oaklawn lost three days of training (Dec. 23, Dec. 24 and Dec. 26) because of arctic temperatures. The track was also closed Dec. 25 for Christmas.
“We’re just going to try our best and see where it ends up,” said Swearingen, who trains Count de Monet for owner Charles Galli of St. Louis. “Losing the four days of training wasn’t ideal, but everybody’s in the same boat and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just Mother Nature.”
Program favorite Two Eagles Rivers, purchased for $220,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training, won his Oct. 30 career debut at Churchill Downs before finishing second, beaten a neck, by Victory Formation in a Nov. 26 entry-level allowance sprint at Churchill Downs. Victory Formation (2 for 2) is among several highly regarded Kentucky Derby prospects for two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox.
Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015, calls Two Eagles River “probably my best 2-year-old.” From the first crop of 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing, Two Eagles River will be running on the anti-bleeder medication Lasix for the first time Saturday and owns competitive Beyer Speed Figures of 84 and 83 in his brief career.
“It’s going to be a good test for him,” Hartman said. “Swearingen’s looks like a nice horse.”
Frosted Departure, who finished fourth in the Advent, will be making his ninth career start Saturday for trainer Kenny McPeek. Two-time Grade 1 participant Bourbon Bash broke his maiden by eight front-running lengths in an Aug. 13 sprint at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Bourbon Bash exits a troubled sixth in the $200,000 Ed Brown Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. Bourbon Bash will also run on Lasix for the first time Saturday.
“I thought about going in the Smarty Jones, but he had such a horrible trip the other day that I thought I would sprint him once more,” Lukas said.
Sunday’s $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes – a mile event for 3-year-olds – is Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
Spurrier returns after a Dec. 10 debut victory, which marked the 300th at Oaklawn for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.