01/31/2012 3:19PM

Oaklawn: Admiral Rocket has found his niche sprinting


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Admiral Rocket has stepped up his game noticeably since he began sprinting on a regular basis, and on Thursday he can collect his second win in his last four starts in the eighth race at Oaklawn Park.

The first-level allowance is for 4-year-olds and up, and it drew a field of 10. Other key players include Anthony and Parody, a pair of three-time winners facing less experienced rivals, and Shimmy Tinjo, who exits a race that produced next-out winners at Parx Racing, Delaware Park, and Colonial Downs.

Admiral Rocket was beaten just a half-length at this level in his last start Jan. 20. The race came in a six-furlong sprint at Oaklawn, and he rallied at 8-1. For the effort, Admiral Rocket earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 79.

“We were satisfied with his race,” said Tom Howard, who trains Admiral Rocket for Arkansas businessman Frank Fletcher. “He kind of got behind a wall of horses, didn’t get out quick enough. We were real, real pleased with the way he did run. We’re expecting him to step up.”

After making the first seven starts of his career at a mile or longer, Admiral Rocket began sprinting in September, and won a $25,000 maiden claiming sprint at Arlington Park. He rallied from off the pace for a neck win, at 6-1. One start later, Admiral Rocket closed fast to finish second in a $30,000 conditioned claiming sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 20. His next race came in the first-level allowance at Oaklawn. Eddie Razo Jr. was aboard for that start, and again has the mount Thursday. Admiral Rocket will break from post 3, and could get a stalking trip behind Cup of Joy and Anthony.

“He laid up close [last time] and he does pretty good when he’s pretty close,” Howard said. “He doesn’t have that real quick turn of foot. He has gradual-grind kind of close, and we tend to want him to be up closer sprinting.”

Anthony owns the field’s best last-race Beyer Figure, an 83, earned for a wire-to-wire score in a $12,500 claimer at Oaklawn on Jan. 14. The race was arguably Anthony’s best ever, and it came in his second start following a “tieback” procedure to correct a breathing issue caused by a paralyzed flapper, said his trainer, Randy Morse. The procedure improves airflow. Anthony will break from post 5 and figures to be prominent under jockey Shane Laviolette.

“He’s a really quick horse,” said Morse.

Anthony is a 4-year-old by Badge of Silver named for the Kansas hometown of his owner, Randy Patterson.