Maiden Win the Space Takes Arkansas Derby Shot
Champion American Pharoah isnâ€™t the only Southern California-based 3-year-old scheduled to run in Saturdayâ€™s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn. On the other end of the spectrum is Win the Space, winless in two career starts this year at Santa Anita. The Arkansas Derby, trainer George Papaprodromou said, is a Hail Mary attempt to reach the Kentucky Derby.
â€œThe owner wanted to give it a shot,â€ Papaprodromou said Wednesday morning, referring to Rustin Kretz (Kretz Racing LLC). â€œThatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing.â€
Win the Space will represent the first Oaklawn starter for Papaprodromou, who scored his biggest career victory in last yearâ€™s $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (G2) with Imperative.
Win the Space, a gray son of Pulpit, will be making his two-turn debut in the Arkansas Derby after running third in his Feb. 22 career debut and third in a March 8 maiden-allowance event.
â€œHeâ€™s a nice 3-year-old,â€ Papaprodromou said. â€œI know my horse needs to go two turns. Hopefully, the two turns will benefit us. Iâ€™m running out of time and he [Kretz] wants to get to the Derby. Second weâ€™re in, I think.â€
The Arkansas Derby - as a Kentucky Derby qualifying race - offers 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. Points earned in designated races determine starting preference if more than the maximum 20 horses enter.
Papaprodromou said Win the Space didnâ€™t run as a 2-year-old because he injured a hind leg when he kicked a wall.
Multiple stakes winner Sugar Shock will be scratched from Wednesdayâ€™s $100,000 Carousel Stakes and run in Fridayâ€™s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), the 4-year-old fillyâ€™s co-owner/trainer, Doug Anderson, said Wednesday morning.
â€œWe want to try and get a Grade 1 on her resume,â€ Anderson said. â€œWe got a good post position, so weâ€™re going to take a shot and see what happens.â€
Sugar Shock is scheduled to break from post 7 Friday under regular rider Channing Hill.
Sugar Shock was entered in the six-furlong Carousel as a backup plan in case the track came up sloppy for the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom.
Anderson said Sugar Shock doesnâ€™t handle an off track well, but a favorable weather forecast Friday helped steer her toward the Apple Blossom, which has been her major spring objective.
Anticipating an off track, Anderson scratched Sugar Shock from the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. Sugar Shock is coming off a fourth-place finish behind Apple Blossom entrant Call Pat in a March 20 allowance race at a mile.
â€œIt looks like itâ€™s going to be a dry track,â€ Anderson said. â€œThey keep knocking the forecast down, even tomorrow a little bit more.â€
Sugar Shock, in her 4-year-old debut, won the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 24. She recorded her biggest career victory in last yearâ€™s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn. She has only failed to cross the finish line first once in six career starts at Oaklawn. She was the co-3-1 second choice in the program for the Carousel.
Trainer Will VanMeter is scheduled to saddle his first career Grade 1 starter, Pearl Turn, in Fridayâ€™s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for older fillies and mares. VanMeter, 31, said Pearl Turn will always hold a special place in his heart because she represented his first career winner, March 14, 2014, at Oaklawn.
â€œI like to say that sheâ€™s cloaked in class,â€ VanMeter said Monday morning.
VanMeter, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said he seriously considered running Pearl Turn in last yearâ€™s Apple Blossom, but decided to send her to Keeneland for the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes (G3). Pearl Turn finished last of 10.
â€œI guess last year we learned a lesson,â€ said VanMeter, the son of prominent Kentucky sales consignor Tom VanMeter. â€œOn paper, it looks likes last yearâ€™s race was tougher because there were about three horses that were really salty.â€
VanMeter said the two horses to beat Friday, obviously, are Untapable and Gold Medal Dancer, who toppled the champion in the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14. Pearl Turn punched her ticket to the Apple Blossom with a conditioned allowance/optional claiming victory about an hour before the Azeri. She also ran third in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 and fourth in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 15.
â€œSheâ€™s eating well, training well, looks well,â€ VanMeter said. â€œShe obviously loves running down here. I figured we would give her a shot to kind of step up.â€
Pearl Turn is scheduled to break from post 3 under Jesus Castanon and carry 113 pounds. The 5-year-old daughter of Bernardini, co-owned by Tom VanMeter, has a 3-2-4 record from 16 lifetime starts and earnings of $139,534.
Untapable (121) and Gold Medal Dancer (117) are the two scheduled starting high weights.
Off The Bench
Pickoâ€™s Pride is scheduled to make his comeback in Thursdayâ€™s $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for trainer Mac Robertson.
Robertson saddled Pickoâ€™s Pride to a runner-up finish in the 2013 Count Fleet, but the 7-year-old son of Cactus Ridge hasnâ€™t started since winning a Sept. 27 allowance/optional claimer at Delaware Park. Robertson said his horseâ€™s lengthy layoff is the result of having a knee chip surgically removed.
Pickoâ€™s Pride enters the Count Fleet with several eye-catching workouts, notably a six-furlong move in 1:12.60 from the gate April 1.
â€œHe came out of the work as good as a 7-year-old could,â€ Robertson said Wednesday morning. â€œHeâ€™s been an overachiever his entire life. Hopefully, heâ€™ll keep overachieving.â€
Pickoâ€™s Pride enters the Count Fleet with eight victories from 26 lifetime starts and earnings of $348,907.
Oaklawn Barn Notes - Wednesday, April 8 - Early Edition
Maiden Win the Space Takes Arkansas Derby Shot