Rated R Superstar Going For Perfect 10

January 13, 2023

David Cabrera and Rated R Superstar put up a tenacious, gritty fight to win by a neck in last year’s edition of the Fifth Season. (Coady Photography)

by Robert Yates/Oaklawn Park

He’s trying to become the Perfect 10.

Millionaire Rated R Superstar is scheduled to make his 10-year-old debut in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn for four-time local leading owner Danny Caldwell and trainer Martin Villafranco. 

A repeat victory in the 1-mile Fifth Season would make Rated R Superstar the oldest horse in Oaklawn history to win a two-turn stakes race. He would also join Leading Article as the only 10-year-old to capture a black-type event in Hot Springs. Leading Article is the oldest horse in Oaklawn history to win a stakes race, claiming the $1,000 KTHS Handicap as a 10-year-old March 29, 1941. The 6-furlong race was run on the Arkansas Derby undercard and reportedly featured Kentucky Derby nominees.

Rated R Superstar is coming off a career year, bankrolling $600,266 in nine starts. The late-running chestnut gelding won four races – all stakes – including the $150,000 Fifth Season and Oaklawn’s $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles and the $100,000 Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial at 1 mile and 70 yards Dec. 17 at Remington Park in his last start.

After a gritty run as a 9YO, RR Superstar gets a grateful and happy pat from Davi Cabrera after the pair won the Essex Handicap G3 by 2 1/4 lengths March 19, 2022. (Coady Photography)

“Unbelievable,” Caldwell said Thursday afternoon. “He’s an unbelievable horse, maybe a once in a lifetime horse for one that old. Hope he continues to run at the level he’s racing at. I had Fifth Date. He made over $100,000 his 10-year-old year, but he didn’t run in the kind of races Rated R has been running in as a 9-year-old.” 

Caldwell claimed Rated R Superstar for $50,000 out of a Jan. 30, 2021, victory at Oaklawn. Caldwell, who didn’t have to shake for the gelding, struck gold with his investment. In 17 starts for the Oklahoma owner, Rated R Superstar has six victories, including five stakes, and earnings of $899,257. A victory Saturday would nudge Rated R Superstar’s career earnings to almost $1.9 million. He’ll be running, again, against horses half his age.

“Any time they go out there, you get a little nervous,” Caldwell said. “But I think he’ll take care of himself because he’s smart. Really the reason he’s been sound, I guess, all these years is because he took care of himself. He runs hard the last half a mile, really, and kind of just gallops around the track and kicks it down the lane.”

Rated R Superstar is the 4-1 second choice in the program for the Fifth Season. The 7-5 favorite is Grade 2 winner Ginobili, a 6-year-old gelding for Southern California-based trainer Peter Miller.

Caldwell said Rated R Superstar is in good form coming into the Fifth Season after winning two of his last three starts and posting a half-mile work in :48.80 Jan. 5 at Oaklawn. But as always, Caldwell noted, Rated R Superstar is pace dependent.

“Everything’s got to fall into place to win a horse race to begin with,” Caldwell said. “And with this horse, it’s a little more. You’ve got to have a good pace for him to run at. You’ve got to have a fair playing track. A speed-favoring track, he’s not going to have a shot to run down those speed horses. It’s not going to happen. Hopefully, we get a fair track. I think we’re going to get enough speed in the race. The way I handicapped it, there’s definitely some speed in the race. The other factor is him feeling good and he’s doing that, for sure. He’s acting like he’s ready to run.”

Since being claimed by Caldwell, Rated R Superstar has spent most of his time with trainer Federico Villafranco, Martin Villafranco’s father. The trainers have switched venues this year, with Federico overseeing Caldwell’s 16-horse string at Sam Houston Race Park and Martin handling the owner’s Oaklawn contingent, roughly 35. Martin Villafranco started his first horse in 2021 and saddled his first winner last year. 

“We were finishing up over at Remington and it overlapped with Oaklawn, so I needed to get horses to Oaklawn early and Martin was available,” Caldwell said. “So, I just sent Freddy to Houston. He won a race for me there this weekend. As far as the credit for this horse (Rated R Superstar), Freddy’s done a great job with him. Martin, he’ll tell you himself that his dad’s the one that’s had all the success and done a great job with him. He’s just proud be around a horse like him. The credit goes to Freddy.”

A Kentucky-bred son of sprint champion Kodiak Kowboy, Rated R Superstar has a 13-10-8 record from 65 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,781,280. He is an eight-time stakes winner.

Oaklawn allows 10-year-olds to race with approval of racing secretary Pat Pope and its board of stewards.

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