03/25/2010 12:00AM

Oaklawn roundup

Email

STRONG MEET FOR CALHOUN

Trainer Bret Calhoun has not started any horses in the local preps for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, but that does not mean his stable is light on good 3-year-olds. His strength has been with 3-year-old sprinters.

Calhoun sent out two impressive ones here last week in separate allowance features. Henshin Hero won a second-level sprint over such older rivals as Hamazing Destiny on March 19. A few days later, Thunder Jack improved his record to 2 for 2 when he took a first-level allowance. On the same March 21 card, Ballistic Blonde, a 3-year-old filly, won a conditioned claiming race at a mile for Calhoun.

Overall, the barn is 9 for 26 with its 3-year-olds this meet at Oaklawn. That's a 35-percent strike rate with young horses that is driving a season in which Calhoun had won 15 races from 46 starters through Tuesday and is fourth in the standings. He is in his second season at Oaklawn, having set up a division at the track for the first time in 2009, when his stable went 15 for 69.

Henshin Hero is 2 for 3 at the meet, with his wins coming by a combined margin of 11 lengths. For both scores, he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

Thunder Jack earned a Beyer Figure of 81 when he won his maiden at Oaklawn on Feb. 6. He equaled the number last week, when he made his first start in blinkers after having drifted out several paths around the turn in his maiden win. Calhoun put a scoop, or extended, blinker on the horse's outside eye, and the result was a 1 3/4-length win March 21.

"The blinkers just helped him to kind of stay focused more around the turn," said Chris Rosier, the regular rider on Thunder Jack. "It did a lot more, as far as getting him to point down the track and stay more focused, and he finished well.

"I don't know how much is left in this horse. He's never really been pushed at the end. Nothing's really been running up to him, and he's only run twice and he's won twice, so I've got to like him. I think this horse, on down the road, he's going to be real good."

Thunder Jack is a son of Golden Missile.

BREAKOUT MEET FOR MASON

Trainer Ingrid Mason has had a breakout season at Oaklawn. She has won with 5 of 15 starters through Tuesday in her first season at the track. Mason, a former jockey, opened a public stable last September at Arlington Park after spending a few years training her own horses. Her first stakes win came in December, when she sent out Crook's Bodgit, a former $5,000 claimer, to win the $100,000 Star of Texas for statebreds at Sam Houston Race Park.

He is part of a five-horse stable she has in Hot Springs. Other horses for the barn include Lissa's Star, a $30,000 claim two races back at Hawthorne who in his last start ran sixth in the $60,000 Hot Springs Stakes here March 20.

"He didn't run bad," Mason, 38, said. "I learned about him. He doesn't like a figure-eight [noseband]. That's why he threw his head up in the race. We're going to have to adjust a few things with him. He trained all right in it, but he just didn't run good in it.

"When he throws his head up and a jock has to take a hold of him, that's a 10-length difference you have to make up."

Mason said Lissa's Star is set to run next in the $50,000 Premiere, a one-mile race for Texas-breds at Lone Star Park on April 8. She said she believes he is best at distances of up to a mile.

"I love the horse," Mason said. "I think he's going to do great things in Texas."

Crook's Bodgit, meanwhile, won at 1 1/16 miles in the Star of Texas and long-term will target another statebred stakes at that distance, the $75,000 Assault at Lone Star on July 10.

"That horse has been good to me," she said of Crook's Bodgit.

Mason rode in Northern California, but strictly horses owned by her former husband, Brett Mason. She wanted to do more in racing, and after serving as an assistant to trainer Brian Koriner decided to take out her trainer's license in 2004. She will head to Arlington after the Oaklawn meet closes April 10, and is looking forward to a pair of 2-year-olds who are headed her way. They are by Medaglia d'Oro and Came Home.

"I love babies," Mason said. "I do really well with them. That's something I haven't had a chance to prove, that I'm good at training babies, so I'm looking forward to that."

Mason credits her loyal groom, Jose Juan Ferral, as being a big part of her success at Oaklawn.

WHO'S HOT

Trainer Mac Robertson and jockey Cliff Berry win at about a 22-percent clip together at Oaklawn from a good-sized sample of starters, and are coming off a strong week. They had a double here March 18, winning the sixth with Five Star Swank ($4.80) and the seventh with Blue Haze Day ($5.60). Robertson and Berry scored again on March 20, with So Busted ($16.20). The return on investment for the team averages $5.12. The most notable payoff for a Robertson-Berry horse was Win Willy, who took last year's Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn at 56-1.

Other trainer-jockey combos of note at the meet include Bret Calhoun and Israel Ocampo, who are winning at a 27-percent rate together. Their return on investment averages $3.76. And then there is leading trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Corey Nakatani, who sat atop the standings as of Tuesday. They are winning at a 23-percent rate together at Oaklawn, with their average return on investment being $1.41.

HORSES TO WATCH

Lyin' Heart

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Last race: March 20, 1st

Finish: 4th by 2 1/2

He launched what looked like a winning bid on the turn of a $25,000 claiming sprint but had his momentum stalled approaching the quarter pole as he hit traffic while racing along the rail. He was able to weave his way out in the stretch and ran on well. The race was his first since June.

Mambo Dancer

Trainer: Lynn Whiting

Last race: March 20, 6th

Finish: 3rd by 1 3/4

He had a rough trip in a $30,000 conditioned claiming sprint that escalated in the stretch run. He appeared on his way to split horses in the late stages, but the hole closed. Mambo Dancer then had to steady while in tight behind those two leaders, was angled out, and made another run to finish third as the favorite.

Woman Soldier

Trainer: Olivio Inirio

Last race: March 20, 10th

Finish: 3rd by 8 3/4

A good-looking, Florida-bred daughter of Werblin, she had the misfortune of catching Grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick in the $60,000 Prima Donna. Closed well for third in the six-furlong race, but given her physical assets and pedigree, she might prove in time to be at her best at two turns. Although she won her maiden at five furlongs, she did earn her best career Beyer Speed Figure for an allowance win at two turns back in November.