03/10/2012 1:14PM

OBS Sale: Top-shelf jockeys lined up for OBS stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Vexor, winner of the Grade 2 Nashua last fall, is among six colts and geldings entered in the male division of the Ocala Sprint.

If the quality of racing can be judged by the jockeys riding those races, well, Monday should be a good day in Ocala, Fla.

John Velazquez, Julien Leparoux, Kent Desormeaux, Rajiv Maragh, Elvis Trujillo, and Leandro Goncalves are among those named to ride on the annual Day of Champions program at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales. The four-race series of betless exhibitions, all for 3-year-olds over the one-mile Safetrack synthetic surface in use at OBS, begins at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Velazquez has the mount for Todd Pletcher on Big Blue Nation, while Leparoux will be aboard Burn the Mortgage for Wayne Catalano in the co-richest event in the series, the $100,000 OBS Championship for colts and geldings at 1 1/16 miles.

Burn the Mortgage, a Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred by Kitten’s Joy, exits a series of turf allowances at Tampa Bay Downs and looks as good as any in a field of 11.

“We think he’s going to run very well,” said Catalano. “Those Kitten’s Joys, they’ll run over anything. He’s trained well over the synthetic, handles it all right. Handicapping the race, it doesn’t look all that tough, so hopefully we’ll be in good shape.”

If there was betting on the race, Burn the Mortgage would have to be considered one of the main contenders in a wide-open event, along with Big Wednesday, Big Blue Nation, Patrioticandproud, and Hello Prince.

Big Wednesday, shipping in from Oaklawn Park for Joe Martin, was a dismal 10th and last in the Southwest Stakes last month but must be respected for what he did last year at 2, winning a $150,000 stakes over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs.

The male division of the OBS Championship anchors the abbreviated Monday card as the last race. In the preceding Day of Champions events:

◗ $100,000 OBS Championship, filly division (race 3): Golden History probably would be considered the favorite in this field of 12, considering she was a decent fourth last fall in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs for trainer Mark Casse. The cast also includes Xunlei and a Pletcher-trained maiden, Direction, both of whom are cross-entered in an earlier race on the card.

◗ $50,000 OBS Sprint, colt and gelding division (race 2): Trippi’s Secret, in from Laurel Park off a runner-up finish in the Dancing Count Stakes, and Devoted Wildcat, in from Gulfstream for trainer Bob Hess Jr., look like the ones to beat in a six-horse field that also includes an off-form Vexor, winner of the Grade 2 Nashua last October at Belmont.

◗ $50,000 OBS Sprint, filly division (race 1): Two trainers account for half the field of eight. Dale Romans has Xunlei and My Due Process, while Casse counters with Delightful Magic and Quality Lass. Any of them can win, as can the stakes-seasoned Runfor Ro, who gets Leparoux. Both sprint races go at six furlongs.

The OBS races were devised and continue to exist largely as a financial incentive to breeders and buyers of horses that go through the OBS sales ring. All races are restricted to OBS-sold horses, with owners maintaining eligibility for their horses through futurity-style payments. OBS hosts year-round simulcasting on its property but is not allowed to accept bets on its one day of live racing.

Ocala has a modest grandstand, with results and race times posted on an infield board. Calder announcer Bobby Neuman provides the race calls. There is no television coverage of the races, although live streaming video and other useful information and services are available on the website obssales.com.

The OBS purses peaked in 2008 and 2009, when Darley helped sponsor five races worth a total of $425,000. In 2010, the program reverted to four races worth $300,000 after the sponsorship ran out. Inaugurated in 1990, the series has had races won by such standouts as Forever Together, Traitor, Golden Bri, Meadow Monster, Plenty of Light, and Valid Video.

The races are held to coincide with the 2-year-old OBS select sales scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.