03/20/2012 3:36PM

Milligan planning to send a string to Churchill Downs

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Tom Keyser
Jake Mo will be part of a division headed to Churchill Downs for trainer Allen Milligan.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Trainer Allen Milligan, who has established himself as one of the leading trainers in this region, will be branching out when the Oaklawn Park meet closes next month. Milligan said he will have a division of horses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., for the first time in his career, with the group to include the Arkansas Derby-bound Jake Mo.

Shraded Edge, who is being pointed to next month’s Grade 2, $350,000 Oaklawn Park Handicap, and I Am Awesome, who seeks his fourth win at the meet Thursday, also will be part of Milligan’s 12-horse string at Churchill.

“And I’ve got a group of 2-year-olds to go,” Milligan said. “I have a Kafwain filly that’s very nice.”

Milligan enters Thursday’s card at Oaklawn tied atop the trainer standings with Steve Asmussen. Milligan won the Oaklawn title in 2009, and while a number of factors are driving his strong meet this season, two key players for the barn have been Shraded Edge and I Am Awesome, who also has picked up three wins at Oaklawn.

“I Am Awesome and Shraded Edge have been very good surprises here,” Milligan said.

I Am Awesome runs in Thursday’s second race, a $7,500 starter allowance at a mile. He was a front-running winner at the same level in his last start, over 1 1/16 miles on March 4. For the effort, I Am Awesome earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 89.

“He showed more speed than I thought he would,” Milligan said.

I Am Awesome won by 2 1/2 lengths, then galloped out strongly, Milligan said. The horse will be shortening up some in distance Thursday, and that is a “little bit of a concern,” said Milligan, who has given the mount to Martin Escobar.

“I’d like it to be a little further,” he said. “He’s just a big, long, lanky horse. It takes him a while to get going.”

Milligan said Thursday’s race will serve as I Am Awesome’s springboard to the Trail’s End, a starter allowance marathon on April 14. It is traditionally the last race of the meet at Oaklawn.

Jake Mo, also set to run on the final card of the meet in the Arkansas Derby, was second in the first division of the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest in January, then on Saturday ran fourth in the Grade 2 Rebel. He closed from seventh to finish 3 3/4 lengths behind winner Secret Circle.

“We’ll ask him to be a little closer next time,” Milligan said. “I think he got a little too far out of it. He made his run down the lane. I have no complaints. It was a good race, but going into the first turn, he had to kind of steady a little bit, and I think he just got a little too far out of it from there.”

Jake Mo, who was not an early nominee to the Triple Crown, has since been made eligible for the series. He has $85,000 in graded stakes earnings to rank 35th among potential candidates for the Kentucky Derby.

◗ Winner To Be seeks her first score at the meet in the eighth race, a $20,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares at a mile. She will be stretching back out to two turns after running second and fourth in a pair of sprint races at Oaklawn.

◗ There is a pick-six carryover of $47,976 for Thursday.