HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – There’s a lot riding on the $150,000 Natural State Breeders’ Stakes Friday at Oaklawn, particularly for breeder/owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.
Anthony has been maybe Oaklawn’s biggest story in 2021-2022, becoming its all-time winningest owner in late February and setting a single-season record for purse earnings by an owner in early April.
With three days remaining in the 66-day meeting, Anthony also holds an 18-16 lead over four-time defending champion M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk) in the race for leading owner.
Anthony, who races under the Shortleaf Stable banner, has two horses entered during the final three days of racing, notably 2-1 program favorite The Mary Rose in the Natural State Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares, 3 and up, at 1 mile. A victory would not only help secure leading owner honors for Anthony, but it would make The Mary Rose the richest Arkansas-bred female in history.
“My wife names the fillies and she named this after a great warship back in the 1400s,” Anthony said after The Mary Rose’s Feb. 27 allowance victory at Oaklawn. “So, Mary’s still sailing.”
The Natural State Breeders’ Stakes highlights a 10-race program that begins at 12:15 p.m. (Central). Probable post time for the Natural State Breeders’ Stakes, the eighth race, is 4:15 p.m.
The Mary Rose is seeking her second career stakes victory after capturing the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders’ for state-bred female sprinters last year at Oaklawn when with Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. The Mary Rose also finished second in the $100,000 Rainbow Miss at 6 furlongs in 2020 when with now-retired trainer Will VanMeter and third against males in the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship at 1 1/16 miles last year. Both state-bred races also were at Oaklawn.
During the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, The Mary Rose has whipped open allowance company twice at 1 1/16 miles (Dec. 31 and Feb. 27) to help boost her overall bankroll to $438,904. A $90,000 first-place check Friday would push The Mary Rose past Humble Clerk ($503,545) as the all-time leading Arkansas-bred female money winner. The Mary Rose, a 5-year-old daughter of Macho Uno, has a 5-4-2 record from 18 lifetime starts.
“We’re expecting her to do good things,” said John Ortiz, who trains The Mary Rose. “She’s been training really well. She just likes the dirt better. We’re excited to have her back here.”
Sandwiched around the allowance victories was a fifth-place finish in the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 30 at Sam Houston. The Mary Rose exits a fifth-place finish in the $200,000 Latonia Stakes at 1 1/16 miles April 2 at Turfway Park. It marked her first career start on a synthetic surface.
“Nothing happened in the last race that was concerning, beside the fact that the surface wasn’t her favorite,” Ortiz said. “We did try her on the turf before and didn’t think she liked that. We’re happy to have her back on the dirt where she belongs.”
Anthony is seeking his fifth stakes victory at the meeting. His meet-high fourth came April 30 when the Ortiz-trained Whelen Springs beat open company in the $150,000 Bachelor for 3-year-old sprinters.
Caddo River, Cox’s 2021 Arkansas Derby runner-up, represented Anthony’s 278th career Oaklawn victory in an allowance race Sunday and pushed his purse earnings to $1,993,045 at the 66-day meet that began Dec. 3. M and M set the previous single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings by an owner ($1,782,351) in 2019.
The projected 11-horse Natural State Breeders’ field from the rail out: The Mary Rose, Emmanuel Esquivel to ride, 124 pounds, 2-1 on the morning line; Flatoutandfoxy, John Hiraldo, 115, 20-1; Chai Tea, Kylee Jordan, 112, 30-1; Too Pretty, Francisco Arrieta, 118, 9-2; Summer Shoes, Chel-c Bailey, 124, 5-1; Connie K, Geovanni Franco, 124, 5-1; Punchy Girl, Elvin Gonzalez, 118, 8-1; Hot Springs Bling, Kelsi Harr, 124, 12-1; Unbridled Twister, Martin Garcia, 124, 12-1; Kaboom Baby, Luis Quinonez, 118, 12-1; and My Dams Atitude, Isaac Castillo, 124, 10-1.
The Natural State Breeders’ Stakes brings back Connie K, Unbridled Twister, Too Pretty and Kaboom Baby, 1-2-3-5, respectively, in the $150,000 Downthedustyroad March 5.
Punchy Girl returns to a route after winning the $150,000 Rainbow Miss April 9 in her last start. Summer Shoes will be making her stakes and two-turn debut after two sharp victories against state-breds earlier in the meeting for trainer Tom Swearingen.
“She deserves a chance to compete in it, I think,” Swearingen said. “I think we’ll be OK (going two turns).”
Oaklawn Park Press Release
Photo: The Mary Rose, (Coady Photography)