No Parole Sprints to Victory in Oaklawn Allowance

Son of Violence rebounded from eighth in March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2).

 

The decision to return No Parole to shorter distances proved to be a good one for owners Maggi Moss and Greg Tramontin as the son of Violence  aired in a $61,000 allowance optional claiming race going six furlongs April 24 at Oaklawn Park.

Seeking to rebound from an eighth in the March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2) over a 1 1/16-mile trip, the Tom Amoss trainee was sent off as the even-money favorite in a field of 10 3-year-olds. He ran to his odds under Joe Talamo, finishing under wraps in a final time of 1:09.34 on a fast track.

 

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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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OAKLAWN MOVES ARKANSAS DERBY TO MAY 2

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

 

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Amoss to Self-Quarantine After Interaction With Payton

Trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time.”

Trainer Tom Amoss tweeted March 19 that he would self-quarantine for 14 days after learning that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton—who was in the winner’s circle with him at Oaklawn Park March 14—tested positive for COVID-19. The trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time” but feels great and has no symptoms.

Amoss, whose primary winter training base is Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans, was at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., to watch Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress win the March 14 Azeri Stakes (G2) by 6 1/4 lengths under Joe Talamo. Fair Grounds and Oaklawn raced last week, mostly without spectators.

 

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Midnight Fantasy Wins $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn Park

Spring Fever Stakes
Oaklawn Park, 2-29-20, 5.5 furlongs
Four-Year-Olds and Upwards, Fillies and Mares, $125,000

midnight_fantasy_-_spring_fever_-_32nd_running_-_02-29-20_-_r09_-_op_-_finish_02_big
Midnight Fantasy wins Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Coady Photography

MIDNIGHT FANTASY
Midnight Lute-St. Jean
Breeder: J. Adcock & Hume Wornall
Owner: Carl R. Moore Management LLC
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Martin Garcia

2nd
Amy’s Challenge
Artie Schiller-Jump Up
Breeder: Sierra Farm (KY)
Owner: Novogratz Racing Stable Inc.
Trainer: McLean Robertson
Jockey: Alex L. Canchari

3rd
What A Fox
Bernardini-Twisted Tale
Breeder: Gary & Mary West Stables Inc (KY)
Owner: Lawrence P. Roman
Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
Jockey: Orlando Mojica

 

Carl R. Moore Management LLC’s Midnight Fantasy gained the lead at the top of the stretch and had just enough left to hold off defending champion Amy’s Challenge by a neck in Saturday’s $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes before a crowd of 20,000.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Midnight Fantasy settled behind the early leaders in fourth as Mt. Brave held a narrow advantage through opening fractions of :21.43 and :45.10 for the first half mile. The winner began to make her move rounding the turn for home and was well clear of the field until Amy’s Challenge rallied late. She completed the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.61 over a fast track.

“She was doing really good,” Garcia said. “That was exactly where I wanted to be. I was able to stay on the outside and when I asked her to go, she just took off. It was really nice.”

What a Fox finished third and was followed by Mt. Brave, Artistic Diva and 4-5 favorite Break Even.

 

The victory was the second of the day for owner Carl Moore and trainer Joe Sharp and third for jockey Martin Garcia.

When asked if he expected to win two races Saturday, Moore replied, “No. I was just hoping to hit the board twice. It was a tough race. I mean that race right there, she beat some good horses. She ran huge. Joe (Sharp) and I, we talked about it (Spring Fever) and we saw it up here. The distance – she likes 5 1/2 (furlongs). I think she’ll stretch out and go farther, too. We’re trying to decide. She’s doing so good short.”

Midnight Fantasy, a 4-year-old Midnight Lute filly, improved her record to 5-3-0 in 12 career starts and has now earned $327,180. She returned $19.40, $6.60 and $3.80 at odds of 8-1.

Live racing resumes Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. first post.

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OAKLAWN ANNOUNCES FIRST PURSE INCREASE OF THE MEET

Keeping with the trend that has become the norm over the last 14 years, Oaklawn’s purses are on the rise again.

Beginning with Saturday’s race card, Oaklawn will increase purses for all overnight races by as much as $4,000.

“This is only possible because of the tremendous support we continue to receive from our horsemen and fans,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “We promised a New Level of Racing at the beginning of the season and we are delivering. Our field sizes (9.5 avg.) are among the highest in nation, we have horsemen participating from both coasts as well as the Midwest, and the fans are responding. We could not be more excited about the rest of the season.”

First level allowance races will be worth at least $90,000, after receiving a $4,000 increase, and maiden special weight races will be boosted to $87,000, with a $2,000 increase. Purses for all claiming races with a claiming price of $20,000 or more will also receive a $2,000 bump, and all other overnight purses are increasing by $1,000 per race.

“Everything is coming together nicely,” Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith said. “We have completed the expansion of our casino, and construction is moving right along on the hotel and event center. This is an exciting time for Oaklawn and we are very happy to share our good fortune with the horsemen. It’s awesome to be offering the richest winter racing in North America with allowance races starting over $90,000.”

The purse increase was welcome news to the horsemen.

“I think it’s great,” said trainer Mike Puhich, who is among several new trainers wintering at Oaklawn this year. “Most tracks are kind of hoarding the money, and these guys are throwing it back to the horsemen, which is always good. You love to see that.”

Added trainer Brad Cox, perennially among Oaklawn’s leading trainers. “We’re supporting the program already, but it’s great. These are the best purses in the country. It’s rewarding to show up and have a barn here. It makes it worth your while. It’s great for wintertime racing.”

“I try to run more horses where the money’s at,” owner Mike Waters said. “Every time Oaklawn announces a purse increase, the California and the East Coast guys all take notice. It’s a nice place to run for these purses, that’s for sure.”

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Talamo Moves Tack To Arkansas/Kentucky Circuit

The Southern California invasion is underway at Oaklawn and among the big names already on the grounds in advance of the Jan. 24 opening is jockey Joe Talamo.

Talamo’s resume includes an Eclipse Award as the country’s top apprentice jockey in 2007, a Breeders’ Cup triumph in 2009 and 2,003 victories and more than $100 million in purse earnings in his career through Tuesday, with the bulk of that success coming in Southern California, where he rode regularly for more than a decade before announcing in November that he was relocating to the Midwest.

“It was a big decision,” Talamo said during training hours Monday morning. “At the same time, I think there’s a lot more opportunity out here, as far as riding more and possibly winning more, hopefully. It was a hard decision, but kind of an easy one at the same time.”

Talamo had more than 1,000 mounts annually in 2007-2014, including a career-high 1,472 in 2007 and 1,247 in 2013. But mirroring the shrinking horse population in Southern California, and an accompanying decline in field sizes, Talamo rode only 547 horses last year, fewest since his first year to ride professionally in 2006.

“I just turned 30, so I know I’m getting older, but I still feel like I have a lot of good years left in me,” said Talamo, who grew up in suburban New Orleans. “And again, it’s nobody’s fault, really. The horse population out there just, every year, seems to kind of dwindle down a little more and more. Like I said, I still feel like I have lot more in the tank, so I felt like making the move out here would keep the momentum going.

“The way things are out here, the purse money is incredible. The horse population is incredible. Everything seems in growth mode right now. I thought if there is a time to do it, I thought it would definitely be a good time.”

No winter racing venue in the country has higher purses than Oaklawn and purses are also skyrocketing in Kentucky, where Talamo said he plans to be based the remainder of the year. Talamo said his family is also now in Hot Springs. The jockey is married to the former Elizabeth Ellis, the daughter of Southern California-based trainer Ron Ellis, and has two young children.

“It’s pretty much a 100 percent move,” Talamo said. “I kept my house in California, just to rent it out. We’re in with both feet, pretty much. I would love to buy a house in Hot Springs. When we get to Kentucky, we’ll look for a house and that’s pretty much going to be the circuit – Oaklawn and then Kentucky after that.”

High-percentage trainer Brad Cox is expected to be one of Talamo’s biggest clients at Oaklawn, but the jockey said he won’t be choosey, particularly when it comes to volume, adding he has been working horses “for a little bit of everyone” since arriving Jan. 6 in Hot Springs.

“The more the merrier, absolutely,” Talamo said. “Trust me, I’m one of those guys that if it’s a $5,000 claimer or a $1 million race, I’m going out there with the same mindset – just try and win.”

Talamo’s new agent is Jake Romans, the son of nationally prominent trainer Dale Romans. The jockey has had only six career mounts in Hot Springs.

“I’m just excited for something new,” Talamo said. “Change can be good.”

Other jockeys with strong Southern California roots scheduled to ride at the 2020 Oaklawn meet are Martin Garcia and Tyler Baze. Southern California-based trainers John Sadler, Peter Miller and Phil D’Amato had horses on the grounds Wednesday morning. Sadler had 21 horses arrive in Hot Springs Tuesday. Horses for another Southern California-based trainer, Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, were being flown to Arkansas Wednesday.

“I think there’s five or six guys from California with strings here and I’ve been in touch with them,” Talamo said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll ride a little bit for them. But again, hopefully, we can spread the wealth out. I’ll ride a little bit for everybody and hopefully win a little bit for everyone.”

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OURS TO RUN EXTENDS STREAK WITH MILD CAROUSEL UPSET

OURS TO RUN/Photo Credit: Coady Photography
OURS TO RUN/Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Colonel Thoroughbreds LLC.’s Ours to Run extended her win streak to five with a dominating performance in Saturday’s $150,000 Carousel Stakes before a crowd of 16,000 in attendance for the annual Boat & Truck Giveaway. It was the fifth straight stakes victory for the Louisiana-bred daughter of Half Ours and first against open company.

“She’s done really well,” trainer Larry Jones said. “There wasn’t anything else to do with her in Louisiana right at this moment. We had a little space and she was doing good. It was maybe the time to try it. They were predicting rain. She loves the off track, so that was not against us at all when this happened. I can’t say that we maybe won’t keep her with some open company because now Louisiana is penalizing her so much. She’s packing so much more weight than the other horses. Her last win, she was 9 pounds heavier than anybody. There comes a time when you’ve got to start taking that into consideration. She handled this so well, so we may go to the drawing board and try to see what else we can come up with.”

In the Carousel, Ours to Run patiently raced behind the early speed in fourth as Salt Brae led for a quarter mile in :21 4/5. Shanghai Tariff took over before a half mile in :45, but that was short lived as she was quickly headed by heavy favorite Mia Mischief and the eventual winner at the top of the stretch. As soon as jockey Terry Thompson asked, Ours to Run responded by drawing away from her competition and winning easily by 3 ¾ lengths in 1:10 4/5 for six furlongs over a sloppy track. Mia Mischief held second with Shanghai Tariff third.

“It was a short field with lots of speed on the inside,” Thompson said. “I had the perfect post position to see how the race set up. It worked out just like Larry and I thought. She engaged them at the top of the stretch and gave me all that she had. She dominated at the end.”

Ours to Run improved her record to 11-2-1 from 19 starts and has now earned $427,988. The 5-year-old mare returned $8.80, $3 and $2.20 as the 3-1 second choice in the field of five. Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Amy’s Challenge scratched from the race in favor of the Grade 1 Madison Stakes where she finished a narrow second.

The other big winner Saturday was Julie Erkel from Brentwood, TN, who won a new 2018 Ford F150 Supercab 4X2 courtesy of Crain Automotive Team and a 20ft Sylvan Mirage 820 CC Pontoon courtesy of Gregg Orr Marine. Erkel was one of 16 finalists selected by the winning jockey after each of the first eight races. Winning jockey Terry Thompson drew her name after winning the Carousel.

 

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OAKLAWN GETS A NEW NAME

One of the most iconic names in Thoroughbred racing and Arkansas tourism is adding a new level of excitement to its storied 115-year history. Oaklawn Racing & Gaming will now be known as Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. As a full-service casino, Oaklawn will begin offering live craps, live blackjack, and continue offering popular slot games Monday, April 1. It will be adding sports betting in the coming weeks.

“There has never been a more exciting time in Oaklawn’s history than right now,” Oaklawn’s President Louis Cella said. “We are already reaping the benefits of racing all the way through May 4 with amazing crowds and world-class racing. We couldn’t be more thrilled about our future as we continue to elevate Thoroughbred racing and strengthen regional tourism in Hot Springs and Arkansas.”

Oaklawn announced a $100 million expansion last November and will begin construction in early May. This expansion includes 28,000 square feet of additional gaming space that will open prior to the 2020 live racing season. The expansion also includes a 200-room luxury hotel with pool, spa and fitness center, a 14,000 square foot, multi-purpose entertainment center to open prior to the 2021 racing season along with additional dining options, and more.

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