10/08/2010 2:51PM

Oklahoma Derby attracts a diverse group

Barbara D. Livingston
Pleasant Prince will be looking to add to his Grade 3 Ohio Derby victory in Sunday’s $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.

Sunday’s $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park has attracted horses from France, Canada, California, Kentucky, and New York.


“It’s one of the last times you can race with 3-year-olds only, for that kind of money,” said Fabrice Chappet, a French-based trainer who will send out Paris Vegas.

The Oklahoma Derby is the richest race of the Remington meet and the centerpiece of a program of five stakes worth a cumulative $825,000. The card also includes the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks led by No Such Word and the $150,000 Remington Green.

Pleasant Prince could rule as a slight favorite in the 10-horse Oklahoma Derby after his July win in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. No Hesitation, meanwhile, is seeking his sixth straight win Sunday after winning the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.

Distorted Economy, who is based in Southern California, enters the Oklahoma Derby off a runner-up finish in last month’s Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, while New York-based Monsignor will be testing stakes competition for the first time after an allowance win for which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

“This is the toughest group we’ve ever hooked into,” said Jim Meyaard, who two weeks ago brought No Hesitation in from Alberta, Canada. “I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but I think he’ll be competitive. I would say he’s training as strongly as he was going into the Canadian Derby.”

Trainer Wesley Ward also is pleased with how Pleasant Prince has trained up to the Oklahoma Derby. The horse flew in from Keeneland two weeks ago and has had two big works over the track. On Sunday, Pleasant Prince will be making his first start since finishing third in the $300,000 Smarty Jones at a mile and 70 yards at Parx Racing on Sept. 6.

“It was too short,” Ward said of the Smarty Jones. “The biggest appeal of this race was that the distance was a mile and an eighth. And it’s on a conventional dirt surface, which my horse wants.”

Pleasant Prince won the Ohio Derby at 1 1/8 miles at Thistledown, and in one of his other starts at the distance, he missed by a nose in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. If he turns in a strong effort Sunday, the horse could advance to next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Ward said. Joel Rosario has the mount on Pleasant Prince from post 8.

“He just kind of falls away from there, then just comes running the last three-eighths of a mile,” Ward said. “Hopefully, the speed comes back to us.” Monsignor was a front-running winner of a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park in his two-turn debut Sept. 6. For the effort, he earned the best Beyer in the Oklahoma Derby.

“Without a doubt, he seems like he’s found his home around two turns,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Monsignor. “He’s a big, imposing colt with a lot of size and substance. He has tactical speed and showed he can carry it last time. The only thing he’s lacking is a little bit of seasoning, but he’s catching up in a hurry.”

The Oklahoma Derby will be the sixth start for Monsignor, who will break from post 2 under David Cohen.

Paris Vegas also won a Monmouth allowance in his last start. He rallied from last and earned a 98 Beyer. It was his second start in North America after he set the pace and finished sixth in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame on turf at Saratoga on Aug. 13.

“He’s much better on dirt and much better waiting and coming from off the pace like he did last time,” Chappet said.

Paris Vegas won his maiden and a listed stakes on an all-weather track this past winter in France.

No Hesitation won the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby on a five-eighths-mile track and was wide for much of the four-turn race, Meyaard said. Cliff Berry takes over for the horse’s regular rider, Rico Walcott, a native of Barbados who is riding on a work permit at Northlands and could not get approval to ride in the United States on Sunday.