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Barn notes 4/10
Barn notes 4/10

Jake Mo ‘Perfect’ In Final Work Before Ark. Derby


Stephen Brown’s Jake Mo had some hop to his step during an Easter morning workout at Oaklawn as he lays in wait as a potential upsetter in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).


The fourth-place finisher in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and runner-up in a division of the Southwest Stakes (G3) has been close to breaking through all season for trainer Allen Milligan. Sunday’s work was further evidence in his mind the son of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo deserves a chance in the marquee event of the Oaklawn season.


“He’s always overcome everything and he’s always running at the end,” said Milligan, who is in contention for leading trainer this season. Jake Mo breezed five furlongs in 1:00 under Martin Escobar in a move described as “perfect” and “super.” Regular jockey Cliff Berry took the holiday off but will be back aboard Saturday.


Jake Mo’s biggest win came last summer in the Prairie Gold Juvenile in Iowa, but he’s quietly had a presence at major events since then despite losing six straight. The record has Milligan realistic about his charge, but excited about what a big effort Saturday could portend.


“He’s always seemed just a notch below a really good horse,” he said. “But I like the fact that he’s always trying. He’s found a way to get through traffic. He keeps coming.”


The Arkansas Derby Draw will take place at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in the first floor of the Oaklawn Grandstand. It is open to the public.

Team Baffert Arrives for Racing Festival Engagements

A horse van bearing six Bob Baffert-trained contenders for the Racing Festival of the South arrived on the Oaklawn Park backside around 12:00 p.m. Tuesday. The equine invaders came to Arkansas via a Tex Sutton charter that left Santa Anita at 4:55 a.m. PST and touched down at 9:38 a.m. CDT.

“We’re in good shape,” said assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes as the runners settled down in borrowed stalls in Bret Calhoun’s barn. “Everyone will go out to the track tomorrow morning.”

Heading up the California contingent were Secret Circle, likely favorite for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), and fellow Arkansas Derby contender Bodemiester. Plum Pretty, the 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner who heads up Friday’s Apple Blossom Handicap (Gr. 1), was also on the flight.

Northern Spur contender Drill and two runners for Wednesday’s Fantasy Stakes (Gr. 2) – Mamma Kimbo and Jamima’s Pearl – rounded out Baffert’s team. Jockeys Mike Smith and Joe Talamo were en route from California Tuesday as well to fulfill assignments on the respective fillies.

Also on the flight from California was Jeff Bonde trainee Izzy Rules, the precocious filly who will take on the boys in Saturday’s Count Fleet Handicap after impressively winning the March 11 Las Flores Stakes (Gr. 3) at Santa Anita last time out.

Sabercat, Nehro Seem Set to Rebound After Final Workouts


Two of trainer Steve Asmussen’s biggest Racing Festival stars posted final maintenance workouts the past two mornings at Oaklawn with Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Sabercat breezing Monday for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and the runner-up in that race last year, Nehro, tightening the screws Tuesday morning ahead of Saturday’s $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2).


Under the direction of assistant trainer Darren Flemming, Sabercat went a half-mile in 50 2/5 as he seeks to bounce back from a dull eighth-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (G2) in what was his first start of the year. He closed out his 2-year-old campaign with a win in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3) where the lucrative purse has kept the son of Bluegrass Cat above the scramble for Graded stakes earnings this season. Those earnings help determine which horses qualify for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby.


“He went good in a little half-mile,” said Flemming, who oversees the Asmussen strings in Texas and Louisiana throughout the year. “I took him down to the Delta race and I think he’s moving just as good now as he was then. Hopefully he should move forward off his last race. This is a different scenario and I expect him to run a big race.”


For Zayat Stable’s Nehro, the rebound isn’t from a disappointing last race but from muscle cramps that popped up at an inopportune time the day before he was scheduled to run in the New Orleans Handicap (G2). He has posted two workouts at Oaklawn since including five furlongs Tuesday morning in 1:02 1/5.


“His work was nice,” said Flemming, who was managing at Fair Grounds when Nehro “tied up.” “It was terrible. It wasn’t his first time doing it, but it just seems the hot weather and the muggy weather were the circumstances this time. He’s done much better getting out of that.”


Among other Asmussen workers at Oaklawn this week were 3-year-old Verne, an impressive maiden winner by four lengths March 10 at Sunland Park, going a half-mile in 49 3/5 on Monday for owners Stonestreet Stable. On Tuesday 4-year-old Astrology breezed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 as he continues to work his way back into shape. He last raced in the Haskell Invitational (G1) in New Jersey and was third in last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1).


Handsome Mike Getting Sick; Won’t Run In Arkansas Derby


The star-crossed winter of Paul Reddam’s Handsome Mike spilled into the spring as the 3-year-old colt is getting sick according to blood tests taken by his connections and he will not enter the Arkansas Derby this Saturday.


“When he got here, we tested him and the results were borderline,” said Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “We gave him vitamins and stuff and trained him through it and he seemed super. Then we gave him another check and I noticed a him coughing a couple times and this time the blood work came back and he’s not 100%.”


Well-traveled since joining the Southern California string of O’Neill, the son of Scat Daddy had hit the board in three straight stakes but needed a big effort on dirt to continue on to the Kentucky Derby. That hope isn’t completely squashed, but it is certainly dimmed.


“We were looking forward to him getting a good chunk of it so he could qualify,” said Mora. “Now we will see if we can clear it up in time and maybe try to get to Keeneland (for the Lexington Stakes).


Well-traveled Hymn Book Looks to Add Oaklawn Handicap to his Resume

Stuart S. Janney III’s Oaklawn Handicap contender Hymn Book walked the shedrow of the Smarty Jones barn Tuesday morning, having traveled via airplane from Florida to Kentucky then to Oaklawn Park via horse van on Sunday.

The gelded son of Arch heads into Saturday’s $400,000 event for older horses off a determined score by a nose over Mission Impazible in the Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11.    

“He went through a lot to get that win,” said Anna Martinovsky, who came with the horse for trainer Shug McGaughey. “He had every excuse to say, ‘I’m done,’ and he didn’t. He just doesn’t take it from anybody.”

Hymn Book will go up against the likes of Alternation and Ron the Greek looking to extend his lifetime record of 7-4-1 from 14 starts and earnings of $601,187. Prior to the Donn, he ran second in the Nov. 26 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1).

“I think the reason he gets a lot of time between races is because he does give you his all,” Martinovsky said. “He’ll take a little time to recover and he’ll let us know when he’s ready again.”

After breaking his maiden at Monmouth Park in August of 2009, Hymn Book strung together a four-race win streak that included victories at Belmont Park, Aqueduct, and Gulfstream. His first stakes score came last May 19 in the Three Coins Up Stakes at Belmont, after which he ran second in the Suburban (G2). Aside from a sixth-place finish in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) last summer in Saratoga, he has never finished worse than second in stakes company.    

“I’ll tell you, there’s never been a dull moment with this horse,” said Martinovsky. “He’s always full of surprises and he never disappoints.” 

QUICK HITS: Trainer Randy Morse indicated Don Dulce will try and upset the $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap for owner Michael Langford. The 4-year-old son of Maria’s Mon won a salty allowance race at Oaklawn March 4 in his last start and has finished in the money in his three starts here this year. Jon Court will ride … Win Willy has “looked better and better after all three of his works” said trainer Mac Robertson as the 6-year-old prepares to defend his title in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). The popular gray winner of the 2009 Rebel Stakes (G2) plodded through a desultory return to action in the Razorback Handicap (G3) in his last effort, but “should be better this time if he gets a fair track that he likes,” said Robertson.