How do you not root for a one eyed New York Bred to make it to the Kentucky Derby?
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022) – Despite darkening and rain-filled skies, Cypress Creek Equine LLC’s Un Ojo, and jockey Ramon Vazquez managed to see a clear inside path to victory in Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.
The gelded son of Laoban, who was given his name after losing one eye in a paddock accident as a baby, shocked the crowd of 31,000 with the half-length win as the longest shot on the toteboard at 75-1. It was good enough to earn 50 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby and gave trainer Ricky Courville the biggest stakes win of his career.
Ethereal Road rallied into the stretch along with Barber Road, but those two faded in the final yards to finish second and third. Kavod set the pace, but was squeezed back to fourth. Un Ojo stopped the clock in 1:45 3/5 over a wet-fast track.
Un Ojo, who had previously collected four points with his second in the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, moved into second-place on the leader board with 54 total points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility. Ethereal Road is now ranked fourth after collecting 20 points for second and Barber Road, who had been second in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) Stakes leading up to the Rebel, is now fifth with 18 points. Fourth-place finisher Kavod is ranked 19th with seven points. Only 20 horses can start in the Kentucky Derby.
Un Ojo improved his record to 2-2-0 in six starts and has earned $776,321. He returned $152.80, $41.80 and $18.60.
The Rebel Stakes is the last of three races leading up to the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby April 2, which offers a total of 170 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility.
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 1 p.m. first post.
Winning assistant trainer Clay Courville, Un Ojo: “I’ve loved this horse since Day 1. I knew he had the talent to be this kind of horse. I always had the confidence in him. He just improved so much every single day, every single race. This is a dream come true. Two strong efforts in his last two races. Closed really well in the last two races with (trainer) Mr. Anthony Dutrow, who has done a great job with the horse. He sent him down here for us to run and he came here. We were hoping he would close good. He kind of laid a little closer than we thought. He grinded away today.”
NOTE: Clay Courville, 25, is the son of trainer Ricky Courville and said he broke and gallops the horse. Said the horse lost his left eye in a pasture accident as a baby.
Winning trainer Ricky Courville, Un Ojo: “It’s crazy. It’s kind of shared between me and Tony (trainer Tony Dutrow) because I sent him to Tony, to Aqueduct, for the winter and Tony had him until Monday and sent him back to us. Gosh, I feel bad for Tony. The owners (Cypress Creek Equine) kind of decided (on the Rebel). I think Tony was wanting to keep him up there for the Gotham, but they wanted to not go back to a one-turn mile and (Kevin Moody of Cypress Creek Equine) wanted to send him down here and take a shot at the money. He kept saying the two turns is going to be better for us.”
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, second with Ethereal Road: “This horse is a really nice colt. When he encountered all that trouble in his last start and was able to overcome it that showed his type of talent. He’s worked like a good horse. We now leave this race with a really nice prospect for the races moving forward.”
Trainer John Ortiz, third with Barber Road: “We are really proud of the way he ran today under these conditions. It seems like as the distances keep getting longer he will keep improving. That’s what’s going to be most important to getting him to the derby.”
Trainer Bob Baffert, six with 4-5 favorite Newgrange: “I thought he was in a good spot. When the running started, he didn’t have it today. But that happens. He didn’t show up today. I really can’t think of any excuses today.”
Oaklawn Park Press Release
Photo: Coady Photography