News and STORIES

Mr. Big News Upsets Oaklawn Stakes FIeld

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Monday April 13, 2020
The stakes schedule at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., originally had the Arkansas Derby (G1) planned for April 11 and the second edition of the $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes for May 2, the same day as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

Everything has changed since there have been delays and cancellations at tracks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Kentucky Derby was postponed until Sept. 5, while the Arkansas Derby, which is normally a major prep race for the Derby, moved to May 2. The Oaklawn then took the spot of the Arkansas Derby on April 11. The Oaklawn, traditionally a prep for the Preakness Stakes (G1), now became a prep for the Arkansas Derby. 

Big Upset

Adding on to all the unexpected developments, the Oaklawn Stakes was a big surprise. The field was topped by multiple stakes winner Thousand Words from Bob Baffert's barn, Steve Asmussen's grade 1 winner Basin, and the Oaklawn allowance winner Taishan. 

However, the race was taken by the 46-1 long shot Mr. Big News, crossing the line by a half-length under jockey Gabriel Saez.

Mr. Big News is trained by Bret Calhoun for owner Allied Racing Stable.

Calhoun was not surprised with the big upset by Mr. Big News, who paid $96.60 to win.

Calhoun also sent out Digital, who finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile stakes.

"We weren't that surprised, honestly. I thought he had a big shot," said Calhoun. "We've been confident in this horse for the last few months, and he trained sensationally since his last race. I understand why the bettors made him a longshot, but if you studied the films of his last few races closely, you could have made a case for the horse and seen what we were seeing."

Preakness and Arkansas Derby

By scoring the victory, Mr. Big News was given a guaranteed spot in the Preakness. Besides that, Mr. Big News was also awarded a spot in the Arkansas Derby, along with second-place finisher Farmington Road and third-place finisher Taishan. 

The Arkansas Derby is important because of the uncertainty around all other racing, meaning there will likely be an overflow field for the event. 

Even with the awarded spot, Calhoun said that he plans to ship the 3-year-old to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on April 12. He may decide to return for the chance at getting qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, since the Arkansas Derby offers 170. 

"I think we're smarter to space his races out, but that being said, he doesn't have any points for the Kentucky Derby," Calhoun said. "Hopefully, Churchill Downs will come out with its schedule of new point races soon. It's a difficult situation. We'd be better off skipping the Arkansas Derby, but if we can't figure out by then where the points are, and he's doing well, we may come back for it."

Mr. Big News' Background

Mr. Big News was bred by Don Alberto Corporation out of the Galileo mare Unappeased. He was purchased for $95,000 by Allied Racing from Taylor Made Sales Agency's consignment to The October Sale, Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky fall yearling sale, in 2018.

After scoring the Jan. 20 victory at Fair Grounds, Mr. Big News ran in the second division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2). There, he finished fifth, but he was only four lengths behind with 44-1 odds. 

Calhoun has said that he believes Mr. Big News should have taken a shot in the March 21 Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.

I was pretty disappointed he didn't get to run in the Louisiana Derby. He was the first also-eligible, and after the race I was mad I didn't scratch the owner's other horse in the race (Mailman Money, who was 11th) and run Mr. Big News," Calhoun said.