01/17/2013 5:12PM

Oaklawn Park: Calhoun has strong pair in Pippin Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Jemima's Pearl will make her 4-year-old debut in Saturday's $75,000 Pippin at Oaklawn.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Trainer Bret Calhoun snatched up the first stakes of the Oaklawn Park meet last week and will attempt to make it two in a row Saturday when he sends out Jemima’s Pearl and Minesave in the $75,000 Pippin.

A field of nine fillies and mares will start in the Pippin, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as the initial local prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 12. Among those taking on the Calhoun runners are Bahama Bound, making her first start since running third in the Grade 2 Top Flight at Aqueduct last March, and Don’t Tell Sophia, who won an $80,000 optional claimer at Churchill Downs in November.

Calhoun won the $75,000 Fifth Season on Oaklawn’s opening-day card last Friday with Donoharm. Jemima’s Pearl, a multiple graded stakes-placed winner coupled with the Steve Asmussen-trained Vuitton, and Minesave, who was stakes-placed in her last start, give Calhoun a strong hand Saturday. Jemima’s Pearl is facing older rivals for the first time, but is dropping in from the Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct on Nov. 24, a race in which she finished sixth. She had several stakes options in the region for her 4-year-old debut, but the Pippin got the nod for one key reason, Calhoun said. “She was third in the Fantasy last year at Oaklawn,” he said. “We had her nominated to a lot of places, and we were looking at those spots, but we felt this was the best place for her. She has a history over the track already.”

Following the Grade 2 Fantasy, Jemima’s Pearl went on to finish a troubled 10th in the Kentucky Oaks. From there, she was third in the Grade 3 Monmouth Park Oaks and second in the $250,000 Remington Park Oaks. She will break from post 6 under jockey Robby Albarado.

“She kind of comes off of it and grinds it out,” said Calhoun, who trains Jemima’s Pearl for Gillian Campbell, Greenwood Lodge Farm, Dan Clark, and Greg Skoda.

Minesave enters the Pippin off a late-running second in the $70,000 Orleans, a restricted stakes run around two turns at Delta Downs on Nov. 17.

“The last race she got away bad,” Calhoun said. “She had a tough trip in that race, and I think she deserves a shot in here.”

Victor Lebron has the mount on Minesave, who races for the partnership of Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, the owners of Donoharm.