Hot and Sultry winning an Allowance at Churchill Downs before her stakes score in the American Beauty at Oaklawn Jan. 21, 2023. (Coady Photography)
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Hot and Sultry will be considered for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 11, trainer Norm Casse said following her victory in the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.
The Azeri would mark the two-turn debut for Hot and Sultry, a promising 4-year-old filly who races for prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. The Azeri is a major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. Both races for older fillies and mares are 1 1/16 miles.
“Well, that’s kind of the idea when we came down here,” Casse said. “We thought, ‘Man,’ this is a very talented horse. She seems like she can do anything. I, personally, when I watch her train, I feel like she’s a better route horse, just the way that she moves. So, we came down here with the intention, this weekend, actually, of running in an allowance race, two turns. Things changed because this race came up a little easier than it normally would have and we went for the glory today. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some comes back in maybe a race like the Azeri, something like that, and try our hand there.”
A $475,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, Hot and Sultry was a flashy maiden special weight winner last season at Oaklawn and returned to finish second behind Grade 3 winner Yuugiri in a third-level allowance sprint Dec. 30 at Oaklawn. It marked Hot and Sultry’s first start since July 1 – an entry-level allowance victory in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs – and her first for Casse, who began training for the Lieblongs last year. Hot and Sultry had previously been with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Favored Hot and Sultry ($4.60) showed a new dimension in the American Beauty, coming from off the pace to beat I’m the Boss of Me by a half-length after breaking a step slow under David Cabrera. Hot and Sultry had led at every point of call in her previous two victories, including the 6-furlong race last January at Oaklawn.
“Almost feel like this was probably for the best, her breaking poorly like that today,” Casse said. “The idea was maybe to stretch her out next time. We would have just sent her running off her feet all the way in a sprint race. That would have kind of geared her up going into this route race. But I don’t know what we’ll do next. We’ve got options.”
Hot and Sultry’s first career stakes victory, and third in five starts overall, increased her earnings to $256,395. Hot and Sultry is a daughter of Grade 3 winner Speightster.
Secret Oath, the 2022 Kentucky Oaks champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner, is pointing for the Azeri, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. Multiple graded stakes winner Interstatedaydream is also targeting the Azeri, owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs said. Interstatedaydream, who is trained by Brad Cox, was a powerful entry-level allowance winner last year at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.