HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – There was a Vance-trained winner Feb. 20 at Oaklawn, but it wasn’t for David or his son, Tommy.
Trisha Vance Duncan – David’s daughter and Tommy’s younger sister – recorded her first career victory in the seventh race, an allowance sprint for older horses, when Heart Rhythm ($16) edged favored Macron by a half-length under Geovanni Franco.
Heart Rhythm marked the second career starter for Vance Duncan, 57, who also co-owns the Flat Out colt with her husband of three years, Kelly. Heart Rhythm and Girls a Bullet, her first starter, previously had been with David Vance, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976.
Vance, on behalf of Vance Duncan and her husband, had claimed Heart Rhythm for $50,000 Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. Vance Duncan, at one time, worked as her father’s assistant and was instrumental in keeping the stable afloat immediately following a December 2007 automobile accident that left him confined to a motorized wheelchair.
Now, Vance Duncan has a winner under her name.
“That’s the difference,” she said Sunday morning.
Vance Duncan’s decision to go out on her own came after her husband closed his Dallas-area restaurant, Big Daddy’s Roadhouse BBQ, in November 2020. They had three horses with David Vance during the 2021 Oaklawn meeting that she groomed and cared for.
“My dad was training the horses and we didn’t have anything else to do,” Vance Duncan said. “I worked for my dad for about a year again and then we decided that I would train the ones that we owned.”
Vance Duncan said she officially struck out on her own about seven weeks ago. Girls a Bullet finished third, beaten a head, in a Feb. 13 sprint for older $16,000 female sprinters. She was claimed out of the race by 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro.
Heart Rhythm toppled heavily favored Macron, who is trained by Hall of Famer and North American all-time wins leader Steve Asmussen.
“That was awesome,” Vance Duncan said. “That’s a good horse. We claimed him at Churchill. My dad ran him back up there and he ran third, then we brought him here and he ran second, then we ran him again and he won.”
The only other horse Vance Duncan trains is Alexandros, a Jan. 7 starter/optional claiming winner for her father. Vance Duncan and her husband own the Flatter gelding.
Vance Duncan said she’s looking to claim “a couple” of horses and “get up to five” for the Churchill Downs spring/summer meeting that begins April 30. David Vance is among the all-time winningest trainers at Oaklawn and Churchill and one of just 34 in North American history (United States and Canada) with 3,000 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
“I learned everything I know from my dad,” Vance Duncan said.
David Vance, 81, said he’s proud of what his daughter has already accomplished in the brief time on her own.
“She’s always worked for me,” Vance said. “She does all the work, so why not be the trainer? Hell, she’s probably the best groom back there are far as a groom goes. There’s no groom back there better than she is. She’s been my assistant before, before she went off and came back. After I had my accident, she started being a trainer, too. Not only my assistant, but a trainer, too. Tommy wasn’t training at the time and he came and helped her, but she did a great job.”
Tommy Vance saddled his first career stakes winner last year at Oaklawn and has two runner-up finishes and three thirds during the 2021-2022 meeting that began Dec. 3.
Hollis Eyes Whitmore
Record-setting Hollis is targeting the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older sprinters March 19, trainer John Ortiz said. The 6-furlong Whitmore is the final major local prep for the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 16.
Hollis has started three times at the meeting, sandwiching two 5 ½-furlong allowance victories around a fifth-place finish in the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes at 6 furlongs Jan. 29. Hollis set a track record (1:02.17) in his 4 ½-length victory Dec. 10 and posted another swift time (1:03.16) in his 4 ¼-length victory Feb. 20. Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. was aboard for both of the gelding’s victories.
“He’s just a little rocket ship and he’s a boxer,” said Ortiz, who trains Hollis for William Simon and Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway. “He’s going to go out there as fast as he can for as far as he can. He’ll take the 6-furlong distance, but the 5 ½, I don’t think there’s a faster horse. He’s proven that there isn’t a faster horse here at 5 ½. I was telling Ricardo, ‘Hey, take it easy. Save some horse. We don’t need to break another track record.’ We want to win that Whitmore and, hopefully, that Count Fleet at the end of the meet.”
King Cotton winner Bob’s Edge is pointing for the Whitmore, trainer Larry Jones said. Bob’s Edge worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.40 Tuesday morning. Greeley and Ben, who has won 12 of last 13 starts, is under consideration for the Whitmore, owner/trainer Karl Broberg said. Greeley and Ben was a Feb. 21 starter-allowance winner at 6 furlongs.
Nominations to the Whitmore, formerly known as the Hot Springs, close Friday. The Whitmore honors the seven-time Oaklawn stakes winner and champion male sprinter of 2020. Whitmore won the Hot Springs a record four consecutive years (2017-2020). March 19 is also “Whitmore Day” at Oaklawn.
Reylu Gutierrez recorded his first career Oaklawn riding triple last Sunday, taking the fourth race aboard Let’s Cruise ($9.60) for trainer Mac Robertson, seventh race aboard Cherished ($16.20) for trainer F. Dewaine Loy and the eighth race aboard favored The Mary Rose ($6) for trainer John Ortiz. The triple gave the Fair Grounds-based Gutierrez 11 victories at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting and The Mary Rose represented the jockey’s fifth victory in an allowance race worth more than $100,000. All five victories have been for trainer John Ortiz.
The $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares closed Feb. 25 with 31 nominations. The 1 1/16-mile race is March 12. Among the nominees is 2021 winner Shedaresthedevil for two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox and co-owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs. Shedaresthedevil is scheduled to make her 2022 debut in the Azeri, which is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 23. Post positions will be drawn Monday.
Through Sunday, Day 33 of the scheduled 66-day meeting, 359 claims had totaled $7,945,500.
Flash of Mischief was freshened following his third-place finish in the inaugural $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 11, trainer Karl Broberg said, and pointing for a campaign this summer at Lone Star Park.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
Photo: Heart Rhythm (inside) gets trainer Trisha Vance Duncan her first training win/Coady Photography