75-1 Win Puts Spotlight on One-Eyed Un Ojo, Courville

Longshot Rebel winner runs in Arkansas Derby with Kentucky Derby spot assured.


For the last few weeks, Ricky Courville’s family and friends have been peppering him with suggestions for the first week in May. They have been urging the Louisiana-based trainer to buy airline tickets or make hotel and restaurant reservations. Some have recommended buying a new suit. But at the moment, Courville would prefer to wait until next week before handling all those details.

“It’s been an exciting time,” Courville said, “but I know anything can happen in this game so I just keep on working like normal and think about what’s going on. I’ve got family talking about making reservations in Kentucky but I tell them, ‘Whoa, we have one more race to go. Let’s not jinx anything now.”‘

For Courville, who has a string of about 30 horses based in Louisiana and spent the first 13 years of his training career without experiencing the thrill of a graded stakes win, his life finally shifted into the fast lane Feb. 26 through the heroics of Un Ojo , a one-eyed gelding by the late stallion Laoban owned by Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm.


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Un Ojo Among Trio To Post Final Workouts For Arkansas Derby

Three projected starters for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2 recorded their final workouts over a fast track Saturday morning at Oaklawn.

The trio of workers included Un Ojo, the one-eyed gelding who recorded an upset victory in Oaklawn’s final major Arkansas Derby prep, the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Feb. 26, for Louisiana-based trainer Ricky Courville.

Un Ojo breezed by himself after the surface renovation break under Rebel-winning rider Ramon Vazquez and covered a half-mile in :48.80. The gelding galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:02.

“Easy half, in hand,” said Clay Courville, who assists his father and regularly gallops Un Ojo. “Just a maintenance work. Northing hard. Just something to keep him happy.”

Un Ojo was breezing for the second time since winning the 1 1/16-mile Rebel at odds of 75-1. Un Ojo arrived Wednesday afternoon after a 5 ½-hour van ride from his south Louisiana base, The Training Center At Copper Crowne. Un Ojo returned to the work tab March 19 at The Training Center At Copper Crowne, clocking 5 furlongs in 1:03.

Working a half-mile approximately 15 minutes after the track opened at 7 a.m. (Central) was unbeaten We the People for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. We the People, as he normally does, breezed in company, this time with Triple Crown nominee and stablemate Kuchar, who is being pointed for the $150,000 Oaklawn Stakes April 23. We the People went in :47.80 and galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 under Brisset, his normal morning partner.

“Very good,” Brisset said. “Usual work for him. Same work we did last time before the allowance – :48, a minute and change – galloped out strong. Just a maintenance work at seven days. It was very good. Hopefully, he came out of it OK and we go from there.”

Also working in company just after the track opened was Ben Diesel for trainer Dallas Stewart. A full brother to multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Girls Secret, Ben Diesel recorded a 5-furlong bullet (:59) under regular rider Jon Court. Ben Diesel breezed with older stablemate Last Samurai, who won the $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for 3-year-olds Dec. 11.


Storm the Court Confirmed for Arkansas Derby

Juvenile champion finished third in San Felipe Stakes (G2) last out.


Southern California-based trainer Peter Eurton said April 21 that he plans to have two entrants in the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2 at Oaklawn Park, including juvenile champion Storm the Court.

The Court Vision  colt worked six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 April 20 at Santa Anita Park in advance of the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, which will mark his first start outside California. Storm the Court, campaigned by Exline-Border Racing, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson, and Dan Hudock, secured an Eclipse Award as the 2019 champion 2-year-old male with a frontrunning victory in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at 45-1.

Eurton said he also plans to enter ERJ Racing, Exline-Border Racing, and Hudock’s Shooters Shoot, a first-level allowance winner at a mile April 11 at Oaklawn, in the Arkansas Derby.

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Arkansas Derby Attracts 99 Nominations

Large number of candidates could lead to split divisions of grade 1 stakes.


Based on nominations alone, the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) figures to have an overflow field.

The reality of the situation, with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) moved to Sept. 5 and the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) unlikely to be run in their traditional spots, also paints an equally compelling picture of a large field—and possibly two divisions—when the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds is contested May 2 at Oaklawn Park.

A long list of 99 nominations for the race, pending late mail, was released April 18, and while the vast majority of them have no intention of running, the connections of a core group of about 20 candidates have expressed an interest in a stakes that stands at the moment as the final points race for the Kentucky Derby. It is also five weeks removed from the last grade 1 stakes for 3-year-olds at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty about when the next major race for the division will be run.

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HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, March 20, 2020) – Oaklawn announced today that it is moving its signature race – the Arkansas Derby (G1) – from Saturday, April 11 to Saturday, May 2, closing day of the 2020 live meet. Due to the closing of the casino and racetrack to the public, Oaklawn could have raced with purses intact through April 18, but, upon discussions with the HBPA, decided instead to reduce purses across the board and “stay until May.” As a result, the Arkansas Derby purse will be reduced to $750,000.

“Churchill Downs understands the circumstances created by the current health crisis, and, therefore, will allow the full 170 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility (now scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5) as long as we meet the minimum purse threshold of $750,000,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “The purse reductions are across the board. If operations return to normal between now and May, we will adjust them accordingly.”

Of the total 170 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility, 100 points will be awarded to the winner of the Arkansas Derby.

Oaklawn is also moving the Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Friday, May 1, and will reduce its purse to $400,000, but, like the Arkansas Derby, it will still offer the full 170 points towards eligibility in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), which is now scheduled for Friday, Sept. 4.

The Arkansas Derby and Fantasy are among 15 remaining stakes that have had their purses reduced along with all overnight purses. Other date changes: The Oaklawn Invitational moves to Saturday, April 11 and will carry a $200,000 purse. The Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) moves to Saturday, April 18, and now shares the card with the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). The Oaklawn Handicap (G2) moves to Saturday, May 2, and now shares the card with the Arkansas Derby (G1).

“We are trying to make the best of a bad situation,” continued Cella. “And we greatly appreciate the cooperation we have received from our horsemen and the Arkansas Racing Commission.”

An announcement regarding all ticket sales and dining reservations will be made at a later date.

Oaklawn’s remaining 2020 stakes schedule is as follows:

2020 Date Race Name Conditions Distance Purse
Saturday, March 21 Gazebo 3-Year-Olds 6 Furlongs $90,000
Saturday, March 28 Nodouble Breeders’ 3-Year Olds & Up, (AR) 6 Furlongs $100,000
Saturday, April 04 Purple Martin 3-Year-Olds, Fillies 6 Furlongs $100,000
Saturday, April 11 The Oaklawn Mile 4-Year-Olds & Up 1 Mile $150,000
Saturday, April 11 The Oaklawn Stakes 3-Year-Olds 1 1/8-Miles $200,000
Friday, April 17 Rainbow Miss 3-Year-Olds, Fillies (AR) 6 Furlongs $100,000
Friday, April 17 Rainbow – Open 3-Year-Olds (AR) 6 Furlongs $100,000
Saturday, April 18 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) 4-Year-Olds & Up 6 Furlongs $350,000
Saturday, April 18 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) 4-Year-Olds & Up, Fillies & Mares 1 1/16-Miles $600,000
Saturday, April 25 Carousel 4-Year-Olds & Up, Fillies & Mares 6 Furlongs $125,000
Saturday, April 25 Bachelor 3-Year-Olds 6 Furlongs $100,000
Friday, May 01 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship 3-Year-Olds & Up (AR) 1 1/16-Miles $165,000
Friday, May 01 Fantasy (G3) 3-Year-Olds, Fillies 1 1/16-Miles $400,000
Saturday, May 02 Arkansas Derby (G1) 3-Year-Olds 1 1/8-Miles $750,000
Saturday, May 02 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) 4-Year-Olds & Up 1 1/8-Miles $600,000