The Signal Of The Return Of Racing

by Ed Meyer

posted on January 4, 2009 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

Whether a champion colt like Smarty Jones or Afleet Alex, or a champion filly like Eight Belles, will surface this spring at Oaklawn Park remains to be seen, but the tradition-rich horse racing track will see well-known trainers with solid stables of horses when the race season opens Jan. 16th.

Oaklawn’s leading trainer for the past two years, Steve Asmussen, will be back with his talented thoroughbreds, and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be saddling young horses with eyes on the top stakes races.

Larry Jones, who had the heartbreak of seeing his Eight Belles break down just moments after she finished second in the Kentucky Derby last May, had contemplated retiring from the game through all the bad press that followed, but is scheduled to train again at Oaklawn. “He had an unbelievable year in 2008 where he had such success, especially with Eight Belles before her breakdown,” says longtime Oaklawn race announcer and publicist Terry Wallace. Jones’ other top filly, Proud Spell, is the likely Eclipse Award winner for top filly in 2008.

After rethinking his retirement plans, Jones will be back and likely with talented 3-year-old Old Fashioned. The horse could be brought in for the Southwest Stakes, scheduled for Presidents Day (Feb. 16th), as he gears for a run at the Triple Crown. Old Fashioned won 2008’s Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

Familiar Oaklawn names Lynn Whiting, Bob Holthus, Jenks Fires and Rick Jackson again will be on board with horses, along with Steve Hobby, runner-up in 2008 among Oaklawn trainers. “He had a great year with us last year and has his share of good horses,” Wallace said. “Everybody who was in our top group of trainers last year is back.”

“We really are rich with good horses.”

As of Dec. 16th, 747 horses were already on the Oaklawn grounds in preparation for the live meet.