Millionaire Grade 1 winner Street Band is scheduled to work Monday or Tuesday in advance of a scheduled start in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 18, trainer Larry Jones said Saturday morning.
Street Band will be breezing for the first time since finishing fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths by Serengeti Empress, in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. The Azeri, run over a sloppy, sealed surface, continued Street Band’s pattern of following up a strong performance with a disappointing one, Jones said.
Among the country’s leading 3-year-old fillies of 2019, Street Band won the $400,000 Fair Grounds (G2), then finished sixth in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), won the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3), then finished third in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) and won the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (G1) before finishing eighth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
“She does not prefer the mud track and it was also the every-other race that was her time to throw a bad race,” Jones said. “So, if that was her bad race, it will be very similar to the Alabama, when she came out of it and won the Cotillion. We’re right on Street Band’s schedule. It may not be Larry’s schedule, but, apparently, it’s Street Band’s schedule.”
Jones said Sophie Doyle, Street Band’s regular rider, is scheduled to have the mount for the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom, one of the country’s most prestigious two-turn events for older fillies and mares.
Jones saddled Havre de Grace to win the 2011 Apple Blossom, one of her five stakes victories that year en route to Horse of the Year honors. She won the Azeri in her seasonal debut.
Jones has won the Fantasy, Oaklawn’s biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies, three times and said he may have a starter in the $400,000 Grade 3 event May 1 in unbeaten Quick Decision, who cleared her first allowance condition sprinting Thursday.
Ridden by Terry Thompson, Quick Decision ($17.20) came from just off the pace to post a three-quarter length victory for Jones and longtime client Brereton Jones, who bred and owns the daughter of Istan. Quick Decision, who has never raced around two turns, broke her maiden Feb. 17.
Larry Jones said the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy is now in play after it was moved from its original date, April 10.
“We’re going to take a look at it and see, but that is what we’re going to start training toward,” Jones said. “There aren’t a lot of other options right now. That’s stepping off the deep end pretty quick, or could be, but we’ve just have to go take our shots.”
Jones won the Fantasy in 2003 with Ruby’s Reception, his first career graded stakes victory, in 2008 with Eight Bells and in 2011 with Joyful Victory.
Nominations to the Fantasy close April 23.
Projected Fantasy starters British Idiom and Shedaresthedevil each worked a half-mile over a sloppy surface just after the track opened Saturday morning for trainer Brad Cox. British Idiom, the country’s champion 2-year-old filly, went in :51.60 under exercise rider Gustavo Abrego, the brother of Jorgito Abrego, who oversees Cox’s Oaklawn division. Shedaresthedevil went in :49.40 under exercise rider Edvin Vargas.
Co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Shedaresthedevil won the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 in her last start. The Honeybee is traditionally the final major local prep for the Fantasy.
Oaklawn Offers California Trainers a Good Option
Several Southern California-based trainers are happy they set up divisions at Oaklawn in 2020 and Sunday’s ninth race at Oaklawn is a good example of the influence these California trainers are having on the program.
Two entrants, Ginobili and Rager, have traveled roughly 1,600 miles for an entry-level sprint that will be over in roughly 70 seconds. In a perfect world, Ginobili and Rager could be running against others in their backyard, Santa Anita.
“It’s crazy,” Rager’s trainer, Andrew Lerner, said Friday afternoon. “The hard part is, if you don’t run them, the owners, understandably, they don’t want to be paying day rate at the track. It’s expensive and I get that. But if you put them on a farm for two months, then you’ve got to bring them back and they’re not as fit. You’ve got to kind of back track and you take a few steps back. It’s a weird position to be in for everybody.”
Faced with that weird position, Lerner said he vanned Rager, stakes-placed on turf, to Oaklawn a little over a week ago. Trainer Richard Baltas, already with a small string at Oaklawn, now has seven horses on the grounds after Ginobili was flown to Arkansas Friday.
Baltas is among seven Southern California-based trainers with divisions this year at Oaklawn, the others being Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Doug O’Neill, John Sadler, Phil D’Amato, Peter Miller and Peter Eurton.
“We were lucky that we had horses stabled there and a barn set up,” Baltas said Thursday afternoon. “We’re happy and pleased that we came to Oaklawn.”
Baltas will have the 5-2 program favorite in Ginobili, who exits a runner-up finish in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) Feb. 9 at Santa Anita. Nadal, a three-quarter length winner of the 7-furlong race, returned to capture the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and remain unbeaten in three lifetime starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The Rebel is traditionally Oaklawn’s final prep for the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) May 2.
“He should be salty in there,” Baltas said. “I don’t know how the race came up, but I know my horse is pretty good.”
Rager (15-1) will be adding blinkers for his return to dirt. The Into Mischief colt ran second in the $75,000 Baffle Stakes Feb. 7 at Santa Anita and, in his last start, eighth in the $100,000 Pasadena Stakes at a mile Feb. 29 at Santa Anita. Rager, in his only dirt race, was last of four in the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3) Nov. 16 at Del Mar.
“This horse is a turf sprinter, I think,” Lerner said. “But he’s really not had a chance, an opportunity, to sprint on dirt. I think he’s a sprinter and after he broke his maiden first time out on turf, we put him in the Bob Hope, but those were some tough horses and it was a tough task. He’s really kind of had a lot of tough races and we’ve figured out that he’s just a sprinter. But I still think he can run on the dirt. I think he’s better on the turf, but this is our only opportunity, only race, I guess.”
Rager is co-owned by NHL player Erik Johnson. Lerner – with his first career Oaklawn starter – and Johnson teamed to win a March 8 claiming race with Canadian Game.
Lerner said he trains approximately 40 horses and hopes to send more to Oaklawn before its scheduled closing, May 2, adding he might have a much greater presence in 2021.
“You see more trainers going there and having strings there – Phil and Doug, and different guys, and obviously, Jerry’s been there,” Lerner said. “I think next year you’ll see even more guys over there. They’re going to split their strings up from California. (Oaklawn) has good purses over there, good races. You’ve got great jockeys, a lot of SoCal jockeys that went over there. I’m strongly considering having a string of 15 or 20 over there next year.”
Post time for today’s ninth race is 5:09 p.m.