Protege Ready for Two-turn Test

December 15, 2022

Protege breaking maiden at Churchill Downs Sept. 21. Coady Photography

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—After reaching a career milestone last weekend at Oaklawn with a promising 2-year-old, trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs is scheduled to send out another in Saturday’s sixth race.

Protege, from the first crop of champion Good Magic, is scheduled to make his two-turn debut in the 1-mile entry-level allowance. The 5-2 second choice in the program was nominated to the $150,000 Advent Stakes for 2-year-olds at 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 9 at Oaklawn.

“That’s one good thing about having a 2-year-old here,” Moquett said. “There’s plenty of action. You can go short, long, allowance if good enough to justify it because the purses are so good, or you can go to a stake and get points for the (Kentucky) Derby. We’ve got tons of stuff that we can look at.”

After a sharp debut victory Sept. 21 at Churchill Downs, Protege’s last start was an entry-level allowance race at 7 furlongs on the Breeders’ Cup undercard Nov. 4 at Keeneland. Protege was fifth, beaten 20 lengths, in what was a match race between a ground-saving Giant Mischief for two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox and Arabian Lion for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Giant Mischief edged Arabian Lion by three-quarters of a length. It was 17 ½ lengths farther back to the third-place finisher. Giant Mischief (2 for 2) is entered in the $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes Saturday at Remington Park. 

Moquett said he’s drawing a line through the Nov. 4 race because of how the Keeneland surface played during the fall. Protege was parked three- and four-wide, which was not advantageous, Moquett said.  

“I’m not saying we were ever going to beat that horse,” Moquett said. “OK, I’m not saying that. But I am going to say this: ‘Anybody from the three-path out were in different air. All I know is that we watched it all meet and horses from the three-path out were running on a different surface. Every jockey, regardless of whether it was Joel Rosario or Luis Saez, all came back saying: ‘I couldn’t get over and then once I don’t, I’m running this much deeper.’ The rail was fast. Everything else was deeper.”

Moquett and Protege’s owner, Harry Rosenblum of Little Rock, Ark., teamed to win two races Dec. 9, opening day of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Moquett recorded his 300th career Oaklawn victory last Saturday when Spurrier, a 2-year-old son of Tunwoo, won his career debut in a maiden special weight sprint. Spurrier’s workmate, Citizen, is scheduled to make his career debut in Friday’s sixth race at Oaklawn, a 1-mile maiden special weight for 2-year-olds, for Moquett and Alabama owner Gus King.

Purchased for $370,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s June sale of 2-year-olds and horses of racing age, Citizen is by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

Probable post time for Saturday’s sixth race at Oaklawn is 2:50 p.m. (Central).

Finish Lines

Barber Road, runner-up in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April at Oaklawn, is the 4-5 program favorite for Saturday’s eighth race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance that will mark his first start since early June. Probable post time is 3:46 p.m. (Central). Barber Road’s major objective at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting is the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles April 22, trainer John Ortiz said. …. 

Early bird nominations close Friday for Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby points series in 2023 – $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1, $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1. … 

Knocker Down, a recent addition for two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, worked a half-mile in :49.20 Monday morning at Oaklawn. The track was muddy. Knocker Down was a powerful Nov. 12 allowance winner at Churchill Downs before finishing second nine days later in the $250,000 Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Mahoning Valley. The $134,000 allowance purse represented the most lucrative career victory to date for Oaklawn-based jockey Kylee Jordan. She also rode Knocker Down, a 3-year-old Cairo Princegelding, in the Steel Valley Sprint. 

Nice score King! @jonathanstettin Well played with the 4 singled on one ticket. 2 times! Big congrats.

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