03/01/2012 4:55PM

Oaklawn: Exfactor shortening up for Gazebo


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Oaklawn Park on Saturday offers a reprieve from the 3-year-old route-racing mania that envelops the calendar each spring leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The track is putting young sprinters in the spotlight instead, with the running of the $60,000 Gazebo.

Exfactor, a Grade 3 winner at one-turn, and Mighty Monsoon, who is Grade 2-placed sprinting, are part of a strong, nine-horse field for the six-furlong race formerly called named the Mountain Valley. The field also includes Lake Victor, a runner building a win streak for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Exfactor is shortening up from two turns Saturday. He was 11th in the Grade 3 Lecomte, a one-mile and 70-yard race at Fair Grounds on Feb. 11.

“I’m going back to sprinting with him,” said Bernie Flint, who trains Exfactor for Stoneway Farm. “That’s his forte. That’s his game.”

Exfactor is a two-time stakes winner at one turn, having won the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs in July, and the $58,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds in December. Terry Thompson has the mount, from post 9.

Mighty Monsoon cut back to one-turn for a $65,000 optional claiming sprint at Oaklawn in his last start Feb. 15, and finished second but was placed first after the winner was disqualified for impeding a rival. Earlier in his career, the horse was third to Creative Cause in the Grade 2 Best Pal at 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar in August.

“We’re looking at staying at shorter races with him,” said Jeff Bonde, who trains Mighty Monsoon for the partnership of Allen Aldrich, Mark Hanna and Philip Lebherz. “I believe he’s an off-the-pace sprinter type of horse.”

Luis Quinonez has the mount on Mighty Monsoon, who is a half-brother to Meadow Breeze, winner of the Grade 1 Matron at seven furlongs at Belmont in 2006.

Lake Victor will be making his stakes debut after winning his maiden and a first-level allowance at Fair Grounds.

“He’s won his last two going three-quarters,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Lake Victor for Mike McCarty.

“He’s a nice horse.”

Cliff Berry will ride Lake Victor, a son of Langfuhr who will break from post 7.

Mr. Bluegrass Music exits a $50,000 optional claiming allowance won by Scatman, who returned in his next start to finish second in the second division of the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 101.