01/26/2012 3:45PM

Oaklawn: Hamazing Destiny returns in King Cotton


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Hamazing Destiny will make his first start since the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday in the $50,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn Park. The six-furlong race for 4-year-olds and up is the first prep on the road to the meet’s biggest prize for the division, the Grade 3, $200,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap.

The King Cotton drew a field of five, including River Bear, who won the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park in his last start Dec. 31, and Riley Tucker, who comes off a third-place finish in a Fair Grounds allowance Dec. 26.

Hamazing Destiny spent most of last year locking horns with top-flight competition in such races as the Grade 1 Forego, in which he finished fourth, and the Grade 3 Phoenix, in which he was third. He closed out his season with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the Nov. 5 race in which he was sent off at 15-1.

“I thought he could actually win it,” said D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Hamazing Destiny. “I really felt comfortable after he ran second the year before and he’d actually come into the Breeders’ Cup better this year.

“I thought he was a better horse, but the trip . . . In the Sprint, getting away and getting in position is so important that he just didn’t get the trip I’d had hoped for. But he’s actually doing very well here. He’s really having a good month. He’s having a great month.”

Terry Thompson has the mount on Hamazing Destiny, who races for the partnership of Westrock Stables and Barry Butzow.

River Bear was a romping winner of the Holiday Cheer, rolling home by five lengths to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

“It was one of his best performances ever,” said Rusty Hellman, who trains River Bear for Dana Waier Thoroughbreds. “It was a very solid field that was in there, and I was actually thinking I’d be happy to hit the board in the race. He ran huge.”

River Bear, who was third by a half-length in last year’s King Cotton, will break from post 4.

“He likes to stalk – that’s his best running style,” said Hellman.

Hellman said Tim Thornton is to fly in from Chicago to ride River Bear. He was aboard for the Holiday Cheer.

◗ Jockey Calvin Borel, who long has wintered at Oaklawn but this year has been riding at Gulfstream Park, will be moving his tack back to Arkansas on Feb. 4, said his agent, Jerry Hissam.