HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Plainsman beat one horse in his first career start. He beat every horse in his last, a gritty neck decision over Thomas Shelby in the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 12.
The victory in the 1 1/16-mile race for older horses made Plainsman a millionaire and came almost exactly 50 years after his owner, John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, won his first race at Oaklawn. Now among the most celebrated owners in Oaklawn history, Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable, boosted by runners like Plainsman, topped the 2021-2022 meet standings in victories (eight) and purse earnings ($919,116) through Saturday.
“Just proud we could get a graded stake for him here,” said two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox, who trains Plainsman. “It was big. And this horse, he’s a cool horse. We had him before, he left us for a while and he came back. He really, really seems like a horse that’s gotten better with age.”
Anthony purchased Plainsman, 7-year-old son of Flatter, for $350,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Plainsman began his racing career with now-retired trainer Will VanMeter and finished ninth in his October 2017 debut at Keeneland.
After breaking his maiden for VanMeter in 2018 at Oaklawn – Plainsman earned a Lasix-free bonus, 10 percent of the first-place share, for winning without the anti-bleeder medication – he ran sixth in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) later in the meeting and captured the $200,000 Discovery Stakes (G3) for Cox in November 2018 at Aqueduct. Plainsman made all three 2019 starts in New York for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and finished seventh in his 2020 debut, a February allowance route at Oaklawn, for McGaughey’s son, Reeve, who had just gone out on his own. Plainsman returned to Cox later in 2020.
A physical issue (hind feet) has limited Plainsman to just 28 lifetime starts. Now healthy, he’s in the best form of his career with nine consecutive 90-plus Beyer Speed Figure ratings, including a preliminary 99 for his Razorback victory. He paid $5.80 as the 9-5 favorite. Plainsman earned a career-high 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the $300,000 Ack Ack Handicap (G3) Oct. 2 at Churchill Downs under Joel Rosario, who also rode him in the Razorback. Plainsman entered the Razorback off a troubled third-place finish in the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) Dec. 4 at Aqueduct. He also received a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the Cigar Mile.
John Gasper, Anthony’s racing manager, called Plainsman’s 7-year-old debut “amazing” because it wasn’t certain the nine-time career winner could remain in training roughly a year ago because of feet issues. The Razorback was his fifth career stakes victory and third in a Grade 3 event. He’s bankrolled $1,203,207.
“It’s like Brad and I were talking after he ran in the Cigar Mile,” Gasper said. “That was the best race, probably, of his life and he got beat. Then the other day, Joel told me after the race, he said: ‘This horse wanted to win today.’ He just has that kind of fighting instinct in him, I guess.”
Cox said Plainsman, first, second or third in 20 of 28 lifetime starts, could “very well” make his next start in the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles March 19. The Essex is a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles April 23.
Anthony’s first Oaklawn winner (P. F. Mayboy) came Feb. 16, 1972, in a $15,000 claiming event for older horses at 1 mile and 70 yards. The purse for $7,500. Anthony has since campaigned Eclipse Award winners Temperence Hill, Vanlandingham and Prairie Bayou. Temperence Hill and Vanlandingham also are Oaklawn stakes winners.
Born on the Bayou
Major stakes winner Wells Bayou is scheduled to launch his second comeback in Monday’s featured eighth race, a stakes-level $101,000 allowance for older horses at 1 mile. Probable post time is 4:39 p.m. (Central).
Trained by Brad Cox, Wells Bayou appeared headed for the 2020 Kentucky Derby following a front-running victory in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) that March at Fair Grounds. Then COVID-19 hit hard, the Kentucky Derby was moved to September, Wells Bayou finished a disappointing fifth in the second division of the rescheduled $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) that May and bone bruising sidelined the son of champion Lookin At Lucky for the remainder of 2020.
Wells Bayou resurfaced with a third-place finish in the $125,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3) for older horses in January 2021 at Fair Grounds before illness and a foot issue put his racing schedule on hold. Wells Bayou returned to run a good third in last April’s $400,000 Oaklawn Mile but came out of the race with a leg injury that required surgery. Monday’s race marks a return to the allowance ranks for the first time since a powerful first-level score at 1 mile in his January 2020 3-year-old debut at Oaklawn.
“We’re just hope he runs his race,” co-owner Lance Gasaway said Saturday morning. “More than likely, it’s going to take a race to get him back. He’s been working good. Look forward to it.”
Before returning to Cox late last year, Gasaway said Wells Bayou was in light training at LaCroix Equine, a rehabilitation breaking/early training facility in Kentucky, following the surgery. Wells Bayou has three published works this year at Oaklawn, including a half-mile move in :47.80 Feb. 15, in advance of his 5-year-old debut.
Despite just eight career starts, Wells Bayou has earned $912,793. He also finished second in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds in February 2020 at Oaklawn.
“Obviously, we want to get him back into graded company, graded stakes races,” Gasaway said. “Hoping to try and make him a millionaire. That’s kind of the goal.”
Oaklawn’s two-turn stakes series for older horses includes the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) March 19, $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) April 2 and the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 23.
Wells Bayou is 9-2 on the morning line for Monday’s race, which also drew, among others, Grade 3 winner Mo Mosa, millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner C Z Rocket, Grade 2 winner and stablemate Concert Tour and the speedy Mucho, runner-up in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 15 in his last start. Mucho is the 5-2 program favorite. Concert Tour adds blinkers.
On the advice of bloodstock agent Liz Crow (BSW/Crow Bloodstock), Gasaway and his father, Clint, both lifelong southeast Arkansas residents, purchased Wells Bayou for $105,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-old in training sale. Crow brokered a deal before the Louisiana Derby to bring in BSW/Crow clients Sol Kumin (Madaket Stables) and Marc Lore (Wonder Stables) as partners.
Clint Gasaway named Wells Bayou after a small community about 70 miles southeast of Little Rock, Ark.
The Gasaways also are scheduled to send out first-time starter Coach Happy, a 3-year-old son of champion Runhappy, in Monday’s seventh race, a maiden special weights sprint. Lance Gasaway named Coach Happy after the late Star City (Ark.) High School football coach Happy Grayson. Gasaway graduated from Star City and worked an assistant coach there in the late 1990s under Grayson. Cox trains Coach Happy, a $165,000 OBS April 2-year-old in training purchase.
David Cabrera rode four winners Saturday, taking the third race aboard Lord M ($7) for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, fourth race aboard River Echo ($9.80) for trainer Karl Broberg, seventh race aboard Novel Squall ($14.20) for trainer John Ortiz and the eighth race aboard Trident Hit ($9.40) for Moquett. Trident Hit represented the 13th victory at the meeting and 290th overall at Oaklawn for Moquett.
Francisco Arrieta rode two winners Saturday. Arrieta won the fifth race aboard favored Royal Daaher ($6.80) for trainer Jimmy DiVito and the sixth race aboard favored Eastside Cool ($5.20) for trainer Scott Becker. Royal Daaher ran the fastest 6 furlongs of the 2021-2022 meeting (1:09.23) in the 1 ¼-length allowance victory.
Heavily favored Happy Soul ($4) became the first Oaklawn stakes winner sired by sprint champion Runhappy with a three-length victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old filly sprinters. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Happy Soul’s regular rider, was aboard for trainer Wesley Ward, who said in a telephone interview following the race that she will return Tuesday to her Keeneland base. Ward said he was using the Dixie Belle, Happy Soul’s first start since June, as a prep for Keeneland’s $600,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) April 8 or its $400,000 Beaumont Stakes (G3) April 10. The Ashland, a major Kentucky Oaks prep, is 1 1/16 miles. The Beaumont is about 7 furlongs on the main track. Happy Soul has never raced around two turns. The Dixie Belle gave Ward an Oaklawn stakes victory for the third consecutive year after Kimari captured the $100,000 Purple Martin for 3-year-old filly sprinters in 2020 and the $200,000 Spring Fever for older female sprinters last February. Happy Soul’s winning time in the Dixie Belle was 1:10.44. The track was fast.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
Photo: Plainsman wins the Razorback over Thomas Shelby/Coady Photography