Saturday’s Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest passes through Hot Springs, Arkansas and Oaklawn Park for the running of the $1 million Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. Also on the card are the Azeri Stakes with the return of 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, the $500,00 Essex Handicap, the Temperence Hill, and the $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes featuring Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Whitmore, who has won this stake four consecutive years.
“It’s a very tough race,” she said. That might be an understatement as in the seven-horse field is the Exacta from the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. “You have a Breeders’ Cup winner and Eclipse Award winner.” Lund is referring to Whitmore who won the BC Sprint at Keeneland in 2020 and was subsequently named Eclipse Award winner as male sprinter. The second choice on the morning line at 2-1 is C Z Rocket who won a pair of graded sprints in Southern California last year before finishing second behind Whitmore in the Breeders’ Cup. Neither has run since the Sprint.
“I really think [Mr. Jagermeister] is the speed of the race,” Lund said. There is concern however that Ron Moquett, trainer of Whitmore, may have entered a ‘rabbit’ in the speedy Firecrow. “I think he plans to send Firecrow.”
Mr. Jagermeister last raced Feb. 6 in the King Cotton at Oaklawn, his first start since Aug. 13. He set the fractions over a sloppy track before tiring slightly to finish third, just 1 1/4 lengths behind Baldor who is also entered in the Hot Springs.
“I was thrilled. I thought he was going in a little short,” Lund said.
There is but one workout on paper since that February race, a 58 and 4 bullet for five furlongs on March 6. Lund however says a prior workout went unrecorded and that the six-year old worked “a half from the 3/8ths” in what she has as 45 2/5 seconds. There were a couple of horses seven to nine lengths in front of him and Mr. Jagermeister “ran them both down” leaving the trainer breathless. “It was so visually impressive,” Lund said.
On Saturday, Mr. Jagermeister will break, under jockey Rocco Bowen, from post position three.
“We are expecting rain,” Lund said. Rain means slop and a lot of kick back. “I wish he had an outside draw instead of the three. We’re going to have to jet out of there.”
So, yes indeed, this is a very tough race facing graded stakes winners and in Whitmore an 8-year-old who has won nine of 14 starts at Oaklawn, but Valorie Lund remains optimistic about Mr. Jagermeister. She always has been and he rarely has let her down. “He looks and feels so good,” she said. “I really think we can beat Whitmore.”
Road to Kentucky Contest entry deadline is noon. The Racebook opens at 9am. Here are the contest rules.
Another Lund Entrant With A Bullet Drill
H’rayforcaberneigh — a 3-year-old half sister to Mr. Jagermeister. They share the dam Frangelica. A caller asked Lund if the reported 34 2/5 work from the Oaklawn gate on March 4 was for real. The work was a full second faster than the next fastest three-furlong workout that day and that one was not a gate work.
“I was surprised,” Lund said. “She trains like she wants to go long. When she left [the starting gate], the gate crew went ‘Wow. That one’s fast.’ That day she was.”
H’rayforcaberneigh makes her career debut in the opening race at Oaklawn, a sprint, on Saturday.
“I do she think she wants to run long. Maybe we can get a piece of it and then I stretch her out.”