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.

#1: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria
#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company
#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally
#2: Whisper to Curlin Fights On In Chicago

#1: Keen Ice Upsets the Suburban

Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) did not always win, but when he did, he did so when it looked an impossible task.

Even though he went off the favourite in a Churchill Downs maiden race in September 2014, he had eight lengths to make up on Tiznow R J and Starbound with a furlong to go.  Keen Ice got there.

The next year, in the Travers (G1), few thought Triple Crown champion American Pharoah could be beaten.  No one bothered to tell Keen Ice that, and he took command in the final sixteenth.

Antepost, most had already handed this year’s Suburban Stakes (G2) to Shaman Ghost.  The son of Ghostzapper had come closest to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), then followed that up with victories in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the Pimlico Special (G3).  He had the form, the stamina, and the tactical ability to shine at a mile and a quarter in a field of five.  Among the few who thought Shaman Ghost could be beat, most of them leaned toward Matt King Coal, figuring he could just wire the field.

Keen Ice, dismissed at 5/1, had other ideas.

Continue reading “#1: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#2: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria
#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company
#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally

#2: Whisper to Curlin Fights On In Chicago

I’ve loved Whisper to Curlin (Whisperifyoudare, by Red Ransom) as long as I’ve known who he was — and, why wouldn’t I?  After all, Palace Malice got me into Curlin’s progeny in the first place, and there’s no Curlin baby so closely related to him as this Iowa-bred bay.  Whisper to Curlin’s dam, Whisperifyoudare, also produced Palace Malice’s dam Palace Rumor.

It took a while for him to break his maiden, but once he did, he had an excellent three-year-old summer culminating with a win in the 2014 Iowa Breeders’ Derby.  After one more start that year, however, he dropped off the map for over a year and a half.  He struggled in allowance and stakes ranks last year, but during his seven-year-old year he showed some moments of form in the claiming ranks, including a win and a second at Prairie Meadows.

This fall, he came to my home track.

whispertocurlinpaddock-2
Whisper to Curlin in the paddock before his race on October 18, 2017

Continue reading “#2: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#3: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria
#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company

#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally

To say I had been looking forward to Volgograd’s debut for a while is an understatement.  Back in 2013, I stumbled across a picture on Facebook of a Curlin foal.  I did a little sleuthing about the dam, and found out she was someone I could get excited about, too.  Though she raced before I began to follow the races, Magnetic Miss was a local: an Illinois-bred who made 24 of her 36 lifetime starts in the state of Illinois.  She was also a good one, a six-time stakes winner.  Finally, she was an interesting match for Curlin: as Curlin had classic stamina, Magnetic Miss (like her sire Artax) did her best work going around one turn.

I waited, and waited, and waited for Volgograd to appear in the entry box, and hoped that would happen here.  His two-year-old year passed quietly.  His three-year-old year passed quietly.

In September of his four-year-old year, closing week at Arlington, he finally passed the entry box.

volgogradblinksoff
Up close with Volgograd after a third-place finish at Hawthorne.

Continue reading “#3: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#4: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria
#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel

#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company

Races I feature in the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies range from races of national interest to races of personal interest.  Curlinup’s run in the Avers Wexler Memorial Stakes falls as squarely in the latter category as a race ever can.

For one, I’ve always taken a special interest in her due to her breeding.  I’ve followed Curlinup (Almost Sma, by Cure the Blues) since first she showed up on the worktab.  After all, she is an Illinois-bred Curlin baby, and you can still count the Curlin babies born here on one hand.  Secondly, she played a role in a career milestone of mine: she saw the starter in the first stakes race for which I ever wrote chart notes.

curlinupsilly
Curlinup heads back to the barns after finishing second at Hawthorne on April 9, 2016.

Continue reading “#4: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#5: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria

#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel

Early in his career, Majestic Hussar got into a little habit of defeating Curlin babies.  When he debuted at Saratoga in August of 2012, he romped; Air Squadron, who also debuted in that spot, finished fourth, eight and three quarters lengths adrift.  His next victory came in January at Gulfstream.  The race was Palace Malice’s first since a maiden win at Saratoga; despite the lay, the public sent the promising son of Curlin away at odds-on.  Yet, Majestic Hussar got the jump, got the lead, and made every call a winning one.  Palace Malice chased him home second, two and a quarter lengths back: a prelude to his prep season that had him finding underneath shares all spring, and only getting his own day in the sun when he won the Belmont.

Four and a half years later, it would be a different son of Curlin — Iredell (Plenty, by Boundary) — who would dance home as easily over Majestic Hussar as Majestic Hussar had once defeated Palace Malice.

Continue reading “#5: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#6: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta

#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria

This summer, things looked great for Handsome Franco (Overnightsensation, by Bertrando).  After being beaten by wire-to-wire winner Tensas Secret on his June 30 debut, his fortunes reversed on his second start.  Though he crossed the wire second once again on July 15, he was impeded by Son Son Son — to the advantage of Son Son Son’s stablemate Sykologist.  Sykologist was belatedly disqualified as a result, giving Handsome Franco his maiden win.  Handsome Franco followed that up with an allowance win the next month, no disqualification needed.

September 3, Handsome Franco became the first of Curlin’s sixth two-year-old crop to win a graded stakes.  In the Clásico José Coll Vidal (G3) Handsome Franco relished the sloppy conditions, rallied from last along the rail, and forged clear to beat longshot Mi Amigo Pablo home by a length and a half.

Later that month, Hurricane Maria made landfall.  The storm devastated the island of Puerto Rico.  Hipódromo Camarero was not spared: the storm ripped roofs from the barns, and left hundreds of horses stabled on the premises without clean water or hay.  I hoped for the best of all the horses…but I wondered most intently about the son of Curlin.  How was Handsome Franco doing?  Did he make it?

Continue reading “#6: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”