03/27/2012 2:53PM

Oaklawn: Tapajo comes off facing a tough Princess Arabella


HOT SPRINGS, Ark.- A filly who hooked leading Kentucky Oaks contender Princess Arabella at Santa Anita, and an older horse who has been knocking on the door all meet at Oaklawn Park, head a pair of first-level allowance features to be run at the track on Thursday.

Tapajo comes into the eighth race, at six furlongs for 3-year-old fillies, off a fifth-place finish to Princess Arabella in a first-level allowance sprint Feb. 12. She dueled with a rival through an opening half-mile in 44.20 seconds, then ended up 15 lengths back of the winner in the seven-furlong race. Princess Arabella, who is undefeated, has started one more time since, taking the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks by eight lengths on Sunday.

As for Tapajo, she shows a pair of forward works at Oaklawn in preparation for Thursday’s race, which will be her second start back since a maiden special weight win at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26. Steve Asmussen trains Tapajo for Winchell Thoroughbreds.

Cliff Berry, the current leading rider at Oaklawn, has the mount from post 4. Berry is closing in on a riding milestone, as he enters Thursday’s card six wins away from career victory 4,000. Of his 3,994 wins, 3,885 have been aboard Thoroughbreds. Berry has had 26,240 career mounts through Tuesday, for mount earnings of $54,185,121.

Others in the 11-horse field include Making Waves, a daughter of the multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire mare Somethinaboutlaura.

Dryden goes in the seventh race, for 4-year-olds and up at six furlongs. He has not missed a check in four starts at the meet. Dryden last ran on March 9, and was favored in another first-level allowance at Thursday’s distance, and finished fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. Dryden, who earlier in his career placed in two stakes, will break from post 7. Trainer Tim Ritchey has given the mount to Alex Cintron. The horse races for MGRT Ventures LLC.

The field of 12 also includes Grinning Gang, who is a half-brother to Smiling Tiger, a multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter who has earned $1.2 million. Grinning Gang will break from post 3 for Vinery Stables and Asmussen, who has given the mount to Roman Chapa.

Chapa’s first day at Oaklawn this meet will be Thursday. He invades from Sam Houston Race Park, where he finished fourth in the standings and over a two-week period there won three stakes in a row aboard horses trained by Asmussen.