News and STORIES

Field of 13 Targets Oaklawn Stakes

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Thursday April 09, 2020
With the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) postponed until Sept. 5, attention has turned to Oaklawn Park. The biggest opportunity for those seeking a spot in the Derby will come from the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1). 

It is one of the last major graded races in the spring, and it will likely attract many runners due to the cancellations from COVID-19.

Oaklawn Stakes

Before the Arkansas Derby, there is the important April 11 $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes. The top three finishers of the race automatically receive a spot in the Arkansas Derby, which has caused a large field of 3-year-olds to target it. 

The 1 1/8-mile contest has a field of 13 entered, including Thousand Words from California and Farmington Road, coming from his South Florida training base. There are various other Arkansas runners set to participate, including Runhappy Hopeful (G1) winner Basin. 

Oaklawn Park is one of the few Thoroughbred Tracks that is still running during the pandemic, but there are still no spectators in the stands. 

Asmussen's Entrants

One of three of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen's entrants, Basin, has earned $361,000 already. The Arkansas Derby can increase that number, and it is important since the race uses a preference system based on earnings. Because of that, the Oaklawn Stakes have increased importance. 

Basin has only started once since last summer, in the March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn. It was his first race since scoring the Sept. 2 Hopeful for owner Terry Green of Jackpot Farm. It was the first time Basin raced two turns, and he finished third in a show photo, 7 3/4 lengths behind the winner Nadal.

"We were wondering how he would come back. We were all real happy with him," said Green. "All those other horses had been running pretty steady, so to come back and run third to them, we felt was pretty darn good."

According to Green, Basin missed races in the fall and winter due to a right rear ankle injury. Asmussen has said that the colt is now doing better. 
Green has said that the postponement of the Kentucky Derby could be beneficial to Basin. 
"He's a May foal," he said. "He's grown quite a bit compared to where he was, and he's still growing."

Florent Geroux will be the jockey for the 3-year-old son of Liam's Map. He is replacing Javier Castellano, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March. Geroux was the regular jockey for Asumssen's 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. 

Asmussen has the second-most wins all-time by trainers, coming in behind Dale Baird. He is coming into Oaklawn on a 43-race losing streak at the track, with his last win being on March 26. 

Asmussen has also entered Shoplifted, winner of the Remington Springboard Mile, and Gold Street, who took the Sugar Bowl Stakes and Smarty Jones Stakes. 

Other Runners

Thousand Words will also see a rider change, with Joe Talamo replacing Flavien Prat, who was the jockey for all four of his starts on the West Coast. 

The son of Pioneer of the Nile took a debut maiden victory, followed by victories in the Los Alamitos Futurity and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) for owners Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm. He went on to finish fourth in the March 7 San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park. 

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert is the trainer for Thousand Words. 

Other runners in the Oaklawn Stakes include Sir Rick, winner of the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park; Taishan, a fast allowance winner at Oaklawn Park March 14; and Farmington Road and Digital, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Feb. 15 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.