2018 Remington Springboard Mile Picks and Analysis

For a preview of the field of the Remington Springboard Mile, make sure to read Melissa Bauer-Herzog’s article.  In separate articles, she also spotlights Brad Cox’s runners on Springboard Mile Day, and points out some pedigree and auction facts about some of the contenders.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out five of the eleven horses in the Remington Springboard Mile.  One of them, Bankit, looks downright imposing.  The New York-bred son of Central Banker does step forward from state-bred stakes company to open, but is fast enough to do so.  The pace versatility he has shown makes him particularly appealing.  Though Bankit carved the early fractions in his first four career starts, he showed an ability to endure a contested pace.  Then, in his longest race to date, he settled well off the pace and won the Sleepy Hollow Stakes impressively.  It is that newly shown rating gear that makes Bankit so appealing: with Epic Dreamer, Marquee Prince, :Long Range Toddy, Dunph, and D Toz all best right on the pace, staying out of that fight holds the key to victory.  Two turns is a question, as Bankit has only gone the one-turn mile of the Sleepy Hollow — but he can get a mile, and even though sire Central Banker was a stone-cold one-turn horse, dam Sister in Arms (Colonel John) scored both of her career wins over two turns.  He should stretch out.

Tobacco Road has been a tough horse to predict during his nascent career.  He is still unproven at two turns, as his three best races have all come at seven furlongs: a pair of victories at Ellis, and a third-place finish behind Long Range Toddy in the Clever Trevor.  But, Tobacco Road does have some upside in this spot.  He didn’t get too fast a pace to chase in the Clever Trevor, as Long Range Toddy was at the vanguard from start to finish, and even second-place Cajun Firecracker came from closer up than Tobacco Road did.  With more to chase here, Tobacco Road could make better account.  The switch to Ramon Vazquez is a positive — Vazquez is a 24% rider at Remington, and (as I see it, wisely) abandons both Kaziranga and Dobbins G to take this call.  And, the breeding does suggest two turns should suit, at least someday, since Tobacco Road is a Quality Road half-brother to class turf routers Isabella Sings and Alaura Michele.

We can’t spend all day talking about the Steve Asmussen entries, even though he has so many live ones.  The morning line favourite is Epic Dreamer from the Kelly Breen shedrow, but he has never faced winners, and will be one among a well-populated brigade of frontrunners.  More appealing — and likely a better price — is Paul Holthus’s offering, Six Shooter.  The son of Trappe Shot has come a long way from debuting in a $20,000 maiden claimer in September — a race from which his current connections claimed him.  Six Shooter has since won twice in four starts against protected company.  That includes a victory over the one-turn mile at Churchill on November 25.  These foes are tougher, of course; that came in a washed-off grass race.  But, Six Shooter did beat horses intended for the dirt when he broke his maiden at Indiana Grand in October.  And, his running style should suit the Springboard Mile beautifully, since nothing about it suggests that he’ll be lured into the likely pace battle.  He has proven that he can sit just off the pace and make a smart rally.


#8 Bankit (3/1)
#9 Tobacco Road (15/1)
#4 Six Shooter (8/1)

Longshot:  Like his stablemate Tobacco Road, #6 Tone Broke (15/1)  should benefit from the plethora of speed horses entered in the Springboard Mile.  Despite a short field and a dawdling early pace, he kicked on smartly in the lane to run them all down.  Tone Broke will have to improve off of what he showed in his N2L victory on November 23 to win this, but he can.  The last-out win showed he could handle the course and distance, and it was his first start after a two-month break.  It’s also a positive that he keeps David Cabrera in the irons — Cabrera is a 22% rider at Remington, has finished in the money in 10 of his last 11 starts for Asmussen leading into the final race week at Remington, and has ridden Tone Broke for his last two starts.  Both were victories over the course and distance; it’s safe to say they have a rapport.

Asmussen Enters Five in Competitive Remington Springboard Mile

by Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Remington Park, home of the Springboard Mile. (Photo: 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.

Brad Cox trainee Marquee Prince, before the 2018 Street Sense Stakes. (Photo: Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

“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.

Trigger Warning, 2015-2018

a duty that would douse the fire to race
that gently glows inside a lesser horse
instead it only served to stoke the blaze
and power him with ever stronger force

when asked to clash with titans, his heart stirred
he found the will to stare them in the eye
each time, and come back tougher, undeterred
if, grudgingly, he had to let one by

he fought through rain to long-sought victory
but never made it back where laurels fell
a heart, alone, lacks manifest to be
without an equine body to propel

if only raw desire could reknit
the bone and sinew charged to carry it

Breeders’ Cup, All In One Place

Here’s where you can find links to all my Breeders’ Cup work!

My race previews, in detail, are over at Picks and Ponderings.  There are separate pieces for Friday and Saturday; between them, I discuss every race.

I also discuss my thoughts on several of the races, and several of the more general themes of Breeders’ Cup, in the latest issue of Horseplayer Monthly magazine.  My Q&A runs from pages 21-23, but make sure to read the entire issue for in-depth Breeders’ Cup analysis and opinions!

I’m also on several panels where we share our picks, including Big Race Showdown on America’s Best Racing, the TwinSpires Betting GuideThoroFan, and Hello Race Fans.

Enjoy them, good luck, and happy Breeders’ Cup!


Book Six – Episode 4: Gone West to Indiana

In Episode 4 of Book Six, we head to Indiana to look at a filly from Elusive Bluff’s first crop since moving to the Crossroads of America.

Though the sale is a mixed sale, we continue with the fall theme of yearlings.  This episode focuses on Hip 6: a filly named Explosive Justice, by Elusive Bluff out of Explosive Miss.  Elusive Bluff is by Elusive Quality, a son of Gone West.  Explosive Miss is by Gone West.  This 3×2 inbreeding to Gone West made me wonder: what happens when Gone West is crossed closely with Gone West?

Find out in Episode 4 of Book Six!

Listen here, or subscribe on Google Play or Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode!

Frontier Red

Frontier Red
a bay more brown than blood
when shrouded by sweat and twilight
only occasionally sparkling
when she passes under the burning floodlights

most of the time the winner trots back
easily, head held high
a quarter-mile victory stroll

she laboured back, dragging her empty rear hooves behind her
hanging her head, bobbing it up and down, searching
for any current of spare oxygen her flaring nostrils could catch
to replenish reserves run empty
by fighting to the wire to beat
six other non-winners
     of one pari-mutuel
     to be claimed for eight thousand dollars
a level that wouldn’t test so many on the grounds
but only left her with enough
to perform the herculean labours of
lifting her eyes to the winners’ circle camera
and trudging home

Book Six – Episode 3: Honest Ohioans

Episode 3 pays a visit to the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners Sale, coming up October 7.

The sale is a mixed sale — but it’s yearling season, and I zoom in on Hip 33, a yearling filly by new Ohio sire Cryptolight out of the Shakespeare mare Be True.  Cryptolight is a rarity in the stud barn nowadays, a horse to raced to age 11.  Both his female family and Be True’s pop up frequently in state-bred stakes ranks, though some close dam-side relatives have shown up in stakes races in New York and California, too.

Get to know an honest Ohio pedigree in the third episode of Book Six!

Listen here, or subscribe on Google Play or Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode!

Lone Sailor Wins His Derby in Oklahoma; Asmussen and Santana Win Five Stakes

by Melissa Bauer-Herzog

One of the most consistent 3-year-olds in the division this year, Lone Sailor has been a bright light for G M B Racing after the loss of owner Tom Benson in March. But there was one thing the colt couldn’t manage to do – win a Derby.

Lone Sailor (outside) got the nod over Believe In Royalty (between) and Diamond King (inside) to win the 2018 Oklahoma Derby. (Photo: Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

That all changed in the 1 1/8 mile Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby on Sunday night at Remington Park when the Tom Amoss trainee stuck his nose in front of Believe In Royalty and Diamond King. The victory was the shortest margin in the history of the race and was his fourth attempt at a “Derby.”

Sitting near the back of the field throughout the early running of the race, Lone Sailor was over five lengths behind the pacesetting Diamond King during multiple calls as they clocked the first half in :46.94. Jockey James Graham swung the colt out five wide in the stretch then the game was on. But it wasn’t easy sailing with both Diamond King and Believe In Royalty determined to get the win as well. None of the three horses yielded in the final strides, with a photo called to determine the placings.

The three-way photo finish was so close that even the jockeys weren’t sure who won when they crossed the wire with Graham jubilant when the photo was announced. Believe In Royalty was second with Diamond King in third.

“I had no idea who of the three of us won when we hit the wire,” Graham told track publicity. “But I did know this, I could feel my horse stretching his neck out, so I thought we had a chance. Tom didn’t give me any instructions, he just said that he thought this horse was continuing to get better and better. I could feel that too. He would run second and second and second, but I think now he is finally figuring it out.”

Lone Sailor went off at odds of 3.40-to-1 and completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.97.

Lone Sailor has made nine starts in 2018 for $749,600 in earnings. In his career thus far, the colt has finished second or third in five graded stakes but this is his first stakes victory.

Also notable on the card was a day of epic proportions for trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. The pair combined for five stakes wins, a new record for the track. The pair’s biggest win of the night was in the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks when favorite She’s a Julie won by 1 ½ lengths over Remedy and Cosmic Burst.

Jockey Ricardo Santana with E.L. Gaylord Memorial Stakes winner Adventurous Lady. (Photo: Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

But that wasn’t the only spectacular filly on the day for the pair with Kantharos’ 2-year-old Adventurous Lady taking out the E.L. Gaylord Memorial Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths for her third win in five starts. The duo swept the baby races with B.B. Dude getting their day off to a winning start when taking out the Kip Deville in the first stakes of the day. Both victories were for owner Jerry Durant.

Hence also returned to the winner’s circle for the pair when winning the Governor’s Cup for Calumet Farm. Forevamo was second and crowd favorite Shotgun Kowboy was third. Adore shut out the big day of stakes at Remington Park in the Ricks Memorial Stakes with a 3 ½ length victory over Hachi – again for the Asmussen/Ricardo Jr. pair, this time for Winchell Thoroughbreds.

2018 Oklahoma Derby Selections

This year’s Oklahoma Derby drew a competitive field of eleven, which Melissa Bauer-Herzog previewed here yesterday. The wagering appeal is as strong as the field size, particularly given the question marks hovering over the likely favourites.

Lone Sailor is the most proven horse in this field, and it looks like he’ll get some pace to chase from Sea Foam, Diamond King, Eisenstaedt, Limation, and possibly even Retirement Fund in the field. However? Dirt routes at Remington have been relatively kind to forward placings, and Lone Sailor himself has been a frequent runner-up. It is difficult to see that changing today — it would be likely to see Lone Sailor run into a placing, but there isn’t a compelling reason to think he will break the cycle and find the line.

Morning line favourite Limation, from the imposing shedrow of Steve Asmussen, has questions surrounding him. His Super Derby was a huge effort, and his tactical speed makes him a threat. It was a career best, though anyone willing to toss his Ellis Park Derby clunker will notice it wasn’t such an anomalous effort compared to the form he was coming around to earlier in the year at Churchill and Ellis. A repeat of the Super Derby effort will make him tough. But, that race came on good dirt, and Limation’s better work has come on off tracks. He merits a look for a defensive use or a spread ticket, but isn’t the most exciting as an affirmative play.

So, who gets the nod?

Todd Pletcher has not won an Oklahoma Derby yet, but he has a live one in Wooderson. Pletcher picks a reasonable spot for the lightly-raced colt’s stakes debut. His breeding suits a mile and an eighth well — he is an Awesome Again half-brother to Rachel Alexandra — and that has borne out on the track. Wooderson has blossomed at this trip. He broke his maiden July 22 at Saratoga going nine furlongs, and then missed by just half a length at the same distance last time out. It was his first attempt against winners, and he was beaten by an older horse. Now he drops back against his own age group. Though he takes the blinkers off, his single start without blinkers had him forward, suggesting he should be able to gain a forward position.

Sea Foam gets a class test in this, as he spent most of his summer running aganst New York-breds. His only open stakes try was on grass, so not necessarily a reflection of how he will perform on dirt in this race. He has won his last two, including a wire-to-wire victory in the Albany Stakes on August 24. That came at a mile and an eighth, a positive since this race covers that same trip. Though he will not likely get the decisive lead he got that day, looking back into his two-year-old form suggests that he can be more tactical if he has to be. If his new rider Florent Geroux can tap into that, he can stalk and pounce at attractive odds.

#2 Wooderson (4/1)
#9 Sea Foam (12/1)
#4 Limation (3/1)

Longshot: #3 Believe in Royalty (20/1) has yet to prove himself at this level, but should be able to make better account of himself at this mile and an eighth trip. During his career he has shown some tactical versatility; he cleared his maiden and one-other-than conditions on the front end, but rallied from well off the pace to take down the Ellis Park Derby on August 12. That gives rider Gabriel Saez some options. he has never gone past a mile and a sixteenth, but he is bred to thrive with the extra bit of distance: he is by Tapit out of Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can. Don’t let the price get too low, since Believe In Royalty still has to take a step up from that Ellis Park Derby outing. But, the upside is there, and Larry Jones has a plan when he puts his horse on the van.

2018 Oklahoma Derby Features Big Names and Big Pedigrees

by Melissa Bauer-Herzog

A day after watching Super Saturday races across the nation, attention turns to Remington Park on Sunday for a 12 race card boasting 10 stakes and headlined by the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby.

Worth $400,000, the Oklahoma Derby has attracted a field of 11 with some of the biggest trainers in the country – Steve Asmussen, Christophe Clement, and Todd Pletcher among them – sending runners. Pletcher’s shipment to Remington has a horse with a familiar pedigree in Wooderson, the Awesome Again half-brother to Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra.

Lightly raced, Wooderson provides a bit of an unknown with the colt breaking his maiden at Saratoga two starts ago then finishing second to the year-older Weather Wiz in an allowance next out. He has never tried stakes company before and the step up here may be more difficult than the older horses he faced in Saratoga with two Kentucky Derby contenders in the field. However, a graded stakes victory would look good on his stallion resume and if there are two things Pletcher knows how to do it’s getting a horse ready to win a targeted race and the best way to develop a stallion prospect.

Steve Asmussen sends out four horses in the Derby including Grade 3 Super Derby winner Limation who beat Lone Sailor last out but an even more interesting entry from the barn is Combatant. Second in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes here last year, Combatant was on the Kentucky Derby trail this year. His results on the trail earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby and he finished 18th in the race before finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes a month later.

The most interesting thing about Combatant is that even though he’d done fairly well on the dirt, placing in four stakes races his connections opted for turf after the Matt Winn. The colt didn’t disgrace himself on the turf when running his fastest Equibase Speed Figure to date on the surface at Saratoga but after two off-the-board finishes he’s back on dirt here. A placing on this track already and running again horses on the Derby trail and at Saratoga should give bettors some confidence here but this race definitely isn’t a walk in the park.

The horse with the best credentials in this race is almost certainly the Tom Amoss-trained Lone Sailor.

Lone Sailor misses by a nose to Core Beliefs in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, run at the same nine-furlong distance as the Oklahoma Derby. (Video: JACK Thistledown YouTube channel)

Admittedly, he does have two strikes against him with no wins this year and the 5 ¾ length trouncing Limation gave him in the Grade 3 Super Derby. But for the most part Lone Sailor has been consistent. He’s spent the last year butting heads with some of the best 3-year-olds in this class and was third two starts ago to champion Good Magic.

The worrisome thing about Lone Sailor that the Majestic Warrior son doesn’t seem to love to win but perhaps a drop in class here will help him. Even if he doesn’t get to the winner’s circle, it’s hard to see him finishing off the board.

A sleeper in this field may be the extremely lightly raced First Mondays, who has only made three starts in his career. Debuting in late June, the Curlin colt won his first two starts before finishing third in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx. Diamond King, the second place finisher in that race is also running here, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see First Mondays make a big leap from his first stakes start to his second. No matter how he runs here, the best to come from him will probably be next year.

First post for the 12 race card is at 3:06 p.m. central time with the Oklahoma Derby scheduled to go off as the second to last race at 8:06 p.m., one race after the recently upgraded Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks.