01/28/2010 12:00AM

Oaklawn Park roundup



The winners of the 72 races run over the first two weeks of the Oaklawn meet last started at an astounding 22 tracks. And the locations accounting for the most winners indicate recency of form and class were key components in succeeding during the first eight race dates in Hot Springs, Ark.

Among the tracks, none has produced more Oaklawn winners so far this season than Remington Park, with 14. The stat is a nod to recency, as Remington, located in Oklahoma City, closed out its meet just a month before the season opened in Hot Springs. Hawthorne Race Course, which is third on the list of Oaklawn winners this meet with 8, is another testament to the fitness variable as it closed out its meet Jan. 4.

As for class, horses who last raced at Churchill Downs, which closed its fall meet at the end of November, have accounted for nine of the races run at Oaklawn through Jan. 24, including the $100,000 Smarty Jones. Dryfly won the Jan. 18 race, which is the first local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., was in the top five for producing Oaklawn winners. There would seem to be a couple of reasons for that success rate. Delta's surface is a sandy, laboring kind of track, similar to Oaklawn's in the winter months. In addition, the quality of Delta's racing has improved over the last several years, with its slots operation fueling record purses.

Other reasons Delta horses might continue to succeed at Oaklawn is because the Delta meet has been ongoing since October. Further, some horses simply excel when moving from a smaller oval, such as the six-furlong track at Delta, to a larger one, such as the mile track in Hot Springs. And with defending Oaklawn training champ Allen Milligan keeping a division this winter at Delta, more and more shippers from that track might turn up this meet at Oaklawn.

One additional point from the last-track winners list: Horses coming off synthetic surfaces have accounted for nine races this meet at Oaklawn. Below is the complete list of tracks that have produced winners so far at the meet. It represents 70 races, because two races have been won by first-time starters.

Remington Park - 14

Churchill Downs - 9

Hawthorne - 8

Turfway Park - 6

Delta Downs - 5

Fair Grounds - 4

Philadelphia Park - 3

Oaklawn Park - 3

Delaware Park - 2

Keeneland - 2

Mountaineer - 2

Sam Houston Race Park - 2

Aqueduct - 1

Canterbury - 1

Ellis Park - 1

Hoosier - 1

Louisiana Downs - 1

Monmouth - 1

Prairie Meadows - 1

Saratoga - 1

Woodbine - 1

Zia Park - 1


Jockey Corey Nakatani is on top of his game, having moved here from Southern California with a goal of picking up a horse for the Kentucky Derby. Nakatani had a triple here last Saturday, and each of his winners paid double digits. Nakatani won the first race with Custer County ($12.40), for trainer Steve Asmussen; the second with Live From Appollo ($17.20), for trainer Ingrid Mason; and the $75,000 Pippin with Taptam ($15.80), for trainer Bret Calhoun.

"He seems to be making all the right moves," Calhoun said. "He seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He's been pretty impressive. Of course, he's a top-notch rider."

Nakatani had not ridden for three months when the Oaklawn meet began, and Calhoun said he had been eager to see how Nakatani would come back physically and mentally off the layoff. He has not been disappointed. In the Pippin, Taptam was tucked in on the rail but was angled out in timely fashion and nearing the wire caught favorite Euphony.

"That was the winning move, when he switched out down the backside," said Calhoun.

Nakatani is winning with 23 percent of his mounts at Oaklawn.


The race of the week did not happen at Oaklawn, but it had a significant impact on the local results. A pair of horses who last started in the $100,000 Star of Texas at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 5 won races here in the last week, led by Taptam in .

Crook's Bodgit, who won the Star of Texas, also won here in his next start, taking a $7,500 starter allowance on Jan. 17. In all, the Star of Texas has produced six next-out winners. Taptam, who finished ninth in the Star of Texas, was the last of the 11 horses from that race to run back.

The other next-out winners to emerge from the Star of Texas were runner-up Ablaze With Spirit, who came back and took an allowance at Sam Houston; third-place finisher Becky's Express, who accounted for a $30,000 claimer at Fair Grounds; fifth-place finisher Windy Lou, winner of a $20,000 optional claimer at Sam Houston; and 10th-place finisher Bourbon Road, who won a $5,000 starter allowance at Sam Houston.


Hamazing Destiny, who put up a Beyer Figure of 107 when he won an allowance at Churchill in November, is being pointed for the $50,000 King Cotton here Saturday. The six-furlong race begins Oaklawn's series for older sprinters that continues with the $60,000 Hot Springs on March 20 and the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 9. The King Cotton is also expected to draw Country Day, who earned a Beyer of 106 for a recent allowance win at Fair Gorunds.


Even though retired trainer Larry Jones is regularly galloping horses at Oaklawn, he has slowed down. Proof of that is his cell-phone bill. It was hitting $900 a month for a while when Jones was training a number of high-profile horses. His wife, Cindy Jones, had to adjust his minutes plan to cut back on costs.

In more recent times, though, Cindy Jones said she noticed her husband has compiled 11,000 rollover minutes. It sounds as if Larry Jones is getting a little rest since he retired in November. But Cindy Jones might need to up her plan. She had a promising 3-year-old allowance winner at Oaklawn last week in Backwater Blues.


Posse Cat

Trainer: Jinks Fires

Last race: Jan. 22, 8th

Finish: 1st by 3 1/2

Once a deep-closing sprinter, he rolled out new pace tactics in his first start for Fires. Posse Cat dueled for much of the $40,000 optional claiming sprint Jan. 22 and then drew clear to earn a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93. One start earlier, he was third in a second-level allowance at the fall Churchill meet, with the winner, Flavor, taking two more races since, including last weekend's $50,000 Forego at Turfway Park.


Trainer: Dan Peitz

Last race: Jan. 23, 9th

Finish: 3rd by 1 1/2

He was bet down to 4-5 for his first start against winners off a maiden special weight score at Aqueduct. He raced greenly, failing to keep a straight course in the stretch. Matters were further complicated for him when a riderless horse traveled in front of him for some of the drive. Moojab also was racing on a wet track for the first time in his career. A $200,000 weanling purchase at Keeneland, he is a son of Smarty Jones, winner of the Kentucky and Arkansas derbies.

No Such Word

Trainer: Cindy Jones

Last race: Jan. 24, 9th

Finish: 4th by 2 1/2

She did not get the break in a first-level allowance sprint over six furlongs, bobbling at the start to come away last in the field of 11. Still, she was not deterred and came rolling for fourth in what was her first start since November. Jones feels she will be better going longer, and two turns could be next for this daughter of the Gone West stallion Canadian Frontier.