02/13/2013 5:08PM

Oaklawn Park: Atigun, Endorsement prep for Razorback Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Atigun will make his first start as a 4-year-old on Friday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Atigun will make his first start since the Breeders’ Cup on Friday at Oaklawn Park in a $75,000 optional claimer that also drew graded stakes winners Endorsement and Hurricane Ike. For some in the 10-horse field, the 1 1/16-mile race for older horses will serve as a stepping-stone to next month’s Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn.

The Razorback, as well as the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 13, are meet objectives for Atigun, said Ken McPeek, who trains the horse for Shortleaf Stable. Atigun was an allowance winner at Oaklawn last year at 3 and went on to run third in the Belmont Stakes and a close fourth in the Travers. He last raced Nov. 2 and finished third in the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Marathon run over 1 3/4 miles at Santa Anita.

“He’s doing well,” McPeek said. “We’re just trying to get him geared up for a 4-year-old campaign. He was a really good 3-year-old and ran at a high level against the 3-year-olds; how he transitions from 3 to 4 is going to be interesting.”

McPeek said Atigun was freshened following the Breeders’ Cup. He has been based at Oaklawn, where McPeek has a division, and in his final prep for his return he breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on Feb. 9.

“He does everything you ask him to; when he’s worked, he’s worked well,” said McPeek, who has given the mount to Victor Lebron.

Endorsement is another older horse settled in for the Oaklawn meet, and he is a candidate for the Razorback, trainer Eoin Harty said. Endorsement won last year’s Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park and also was third in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, efforts that contributed to his being favored in the opening-day Fifth Season at Oaklawn on Jan. 11.

Endorsement finished an uncharacteristic eighth after pressing the pace over a very laboring track, with the final time for the 1 1/16-mile stakes a pedestrian-like 1:49. Since the start, Endorsement has fired a series of bullets at Oaklawn, among them five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Feb. 4.

Robby Albarado has the mount on Endorsement for Casner Racing. The horse might get an ideal tracking trip behind Hurricane Ike, who was third in the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds in his last start Jan. 19.