Will’s Way, VanMeter Making His Mark

April 19, 2020

Trainer Will VanMeter put an exclamation point on his most successful Oaklawn Park meeting to date when he finished 1-2 in Friday’s $100,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes.

Sekani and The Mary Rose – both homebreds for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs – were separated by 1 ½ lengths in the 6-furlong race for Arkansas-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Sekani ($6.60) represented the first local stakes victory for VanMeter, 36, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas who saddled first career winner March 14, 2014, at Oaklawn (Pearl Turn). VanMeter had saddled eight winners from just 28 starters through Friday. His previous career high for victories in Hot Springs was five (2017 and 2018).

“If you’ll grade us, we’ve had some rough meets down here, we’ve had some good meets,” VanMeter said. “It feels good have to have – quote, unquote – a great meet. We love what we do. We’re just as happy when we win races. When we lose them, we show up here and try to work hard and continue to keep doing the same thing, no matter what. Credit to our owners for sticking with us through bad meets and giving us an opportunity to bring down some good horses this year.”

VanMeter has been maneuvering 10-13 horses at the meeting, the bulk for Anthony, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history. VanMeter has excelled with young horses, as six had broken their maidens since the meet began Jan. 24. That list includes Sekani, The Mary Rose and Turnstone, another Anthony homebred, and Lucky Betty and Edgemont Road in special weights company. Lucky Betty, a 3-year-old daughter of Munnings, is owned by a new client, Dennis Park of Joplin, Mo., while VanMeter and five of his first cousins campaign Edgemont Road, a 4-year-old son of Speightstown.

“My great grandfather lived on Edgemont Road in Maysville, Ky.,” VanMeter said. “We still have a lot family that live there.”

VanMeter and Anthony (Shortleaf Stable) have been strong supporters of Oaklawn’s “Lasix-free Bonus Program,” which was introduced at the 2015 meeting. The first American track to offer the incentive, the program provides a 10 percent bonus to the winner’s share of the purse. Sekani became the first Lasix-free stakes winner under the program, earning an additional $6,000. VanMeter (trainer) and Anthony (owner) each have a record nine Lasix-free victories under the program.

Sekani raced without Lasix in her first two career starts, including a 10-length maiden score Feb. 17, and was taken off the medication Friday after finishing fourth in her prior start against older state-bred allowance runners March 6.

“I think the main thing was representing that Arkansas-breds can run and win Lasix-free,” VanMeter said.

VanMeter has six career stakes victories. His first came for Anthony in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup (G3) in 2016 at Arlington Park (Trace Creek).

VanMeter, who has 15 permanent stalls in Keeneland’s Rice Road barn area, is the son of prominent Kentucky sales consignor/equine veterinarian/owner Tom VanMeter.

Tom VanMeter foaled American Pharoah, who won Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby before sweeping the Triple Crown in 2015.

@jonathanstettin Great article!

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