by Melissa Bauer-Herzog
A four-time winner of the $400,000 Springboard Mile, Steve Asmussen hasn’t seen the winner’s circle for the race since 2014 when Bayerd beat Shotgun Kowboy by a head, but Remington’s leading trainer looks to break that streak on Sunday.
The trainer has five horses entered in the one-mile 2-year-old feature from those who have spent their whole career at the track to those shipping in for the first time.
The leader of the group according to the morning line odds is Bankit, a Central Banker colt who is coming into the race off a victory in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont Park and broke his maiden at Saratoga over the summer.
Originally pointed to the Remsen, co-owner Winchell Thoroughbreds’ manager David Fiske said for a variety of reasons they changed course to this race.
“We had some other horses for the Kentucky Jockey Club, we seem to have a lot of stakes winning- and stakes placed-two year old colts this year,” Fiske said. “Not that I’m complaining and we’re very fortunate to be in that position but trying to find spots to run them and not run them over the top of one another and that’s just ours. Steve’s got a bunch of other nice 2-year-old colts as well. The $400,000 [purse] is attractive, Steve’s got a division at Remington, Darren [Fleming’s] there. All that works out, it’s not really out of the way for us.”
While Asmussen’s string is formidable, a field of 12 horses searching for Kentucky Derby points makes this anything but a slam dunk for the trainer on paper.
Kelly Breen ships in Epic Dreamer, who has been named the morning line favorite at odds of 8/5. Coming into this race off a 2 ½ length maiden victory at Belmont Park on October 26, Epic Dreamer was making his second start. The month previously at the same track, the Orb colt had finished second by 1 ¾ lengths behind next-start Grade 3 Nashua Stakes winner Vekoma.
Another shipper coming in for the race is Brad Cox’s Marquee Prince, who has already tested stakes company when finishing fifth in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs behind future Grade 1 winner Improbable.
“He’s doing really well,” Cox said. “After the Street Sense he had a few really nice works at Churchill and we shipped him over to Oaklawn from Churchill, which is obviously a little closer to Remington. He had a good breeze here on Monday. He’s a 2-year-old who has won two races and you don’t have many options with those type of horses this time of year. We wanted to get him back around two turns. The Street Sense was just a race where we were obviously at Churchill and he was doing well. I took a shot there, he ran respectable and we’re excited about getting him back around two turns.”
Of the local challengers, Danny Pish’s D Toz and Asmussen’s Long Range Toddy seem to have the two best opportunities for a fully Southwest region-raced horse to get back to the winner’s circle for the first time since Louies Flower in 2013.
Second in a maiden race at Remington on September 30 behind Cowboy Mischief, D Toz broke his maiden next out by 1 ¾ lengths. The gelding’s most recent start came in the Don C. McNeill Stakes on November 24, where he beat the field by two lengths – including Cowboy Mischief. With a field that looks full of speed, D Toz won’t get the lead easily, which is a downside but the gelding has proven to like this track and has regular rider Lane Luzzi aboard for this contest.
One of two horses owned by Willis Horton Racing along with Bankit, Kentucky-bred Long Range Toddy was also bred by Horton, who is still looking for his first victory in this race after Will Take Charge finished second to 128-to-1 longshot Texas Bling in 2012.
Fourth first out in an August 31 maiden going 5 ½ furlongs here, Long Range Toddy has put that beat behind him in a big way. Next out, Long Range Toddy proved too good for the field when romping by 5 ¾ lengths at the one mile distance of the Springboard Mile. In the local prep for this stakes race, he wasn’t as dominant but proved to be too good for the field when pressing the pace and winning the Listed Clever Trevor Stakes by a length over seven furlongs. The Take Charge Indy colt seems to enjoy more distance – something that could be expected from his breeding – so the return to a mile should suit him well.