HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Exulting will try to remain perfect in two Oaklawn starts in Monday's $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles.
The 7-year-old Tapit gelding, co-owned by Michael Hui of Little Rock, Ark., and trained by Mike Maker, won the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile last May in his local debut. The Oaklawn Mile marked Exulting's first start after being claimed for $62,500 three weeks earlier at Aqueduct. The angle pricey claims of older horses has proven to be extremely profitable for Hui and Maker, who teamed to win the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park with Zulu Alpha. The 7-year-old Street Cry gelding was claimed for $80,000 in September 2018 at Churchill Downs.
Oaklawn Park | Fields set for Monday's racingRead more
Exulting hasn't won since the Oaklawn Mile, but he hasn't finished worse than fifth in his last four races (all on turf), including the $100,000 Tropical Turf Stakes (G3) Jan. 11 at Gulfstream Park in his last start.
"We wanted to get him back on dirt," Hui said Thursday afternoon. "He's been very steady, very consistent. Can run on either surface. He likes Oaklawn. Had a good work a couple of weeks back. Threw a bullet. Didn't expect it. Just kind of happened."
Exulting has breezed twice this month at Oaklawn, the first a half-mile bullet (:48) Feb. 1. The gelding is scheduled to face, among others, Grade 1 winner Math Wizard, Grade 2 winner Bravazo, millionaire Snapper Sinclair and local stakes winner Pioneer Spirit and Guest Suite in the Razorback.
"It came up tough," Hui said. "Be great if the track was sticky, but I don't think so. I think we're going to get three days of sunshine, Saturday, Sunday and Monday."
Hooties Racing LLC (Brian "Hootie" Moore of Fayetteville, Ark.) and WSS Racing, LLC (William Simon) purchased interests in Exulting following the Oaklawn Mile. Simon, a former Walmart executive, has a home in Rogers, Ark.
Six-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. moved closer to a career milestone after recording one winner on Thursday's card.
Santana's victory aboard Fayette Warrior ($15.60) in the sixth race was the jockey's 497th at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing's official data gathering organization. Santana was Oaklawn's leading jockey in 2013-2018 and finished second last year. Santana's 1,000th North American career victory came April 12, 2018, at Oaklawn aboard Westfest for the jockey's main client, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Santana, 27, is named on five horses Friday and six horses Sunday. Santana is riding Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Santana began riding at Oaklawn in 2011. His 497 victories include 35 stakes from 2,535 mounts and purse earnings of $23,504,742.
Fayette Warrior is campaigned by four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell and trainer Federico Villafranco.
SWEET AS HONEY?
Saturday's 10th race, an entry-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, could produce a starter, or starters, for the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7.
The 2-1 program favorite is Shedaresthedevil for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox and co-owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs. Previously based in Southern California with trainer Simon Callaghan, Shedaresthedevil ran third in the $200,000 Sorrento Stakes (G2) Aug. 3 at Del Mar and was second as the favorite in her last start, the $75,000 Anoakia Stakes Oct. 13 at Santa Anita. The daughter of Daredevil was relocated to the Midwest after being purchased for $280,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
Shedaresthedevil was scratched from the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 1 the first of two major local preps for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 10 but recorded a half-mile bullet workout that morning (:48) after arriving from Fair Grounds.
"She seems to be a really good work horse," Cox said. "When we first got her, we thought she was all right. But she seems to be doing exactly what you like to see a filly do get better the longer you have them. She had a fantastic work here (Feb. 1). It was her first work over this track and it was very similar to the ones at the Fair Grounds."
Shedaresthedevil posted a half-mile work (:47.60) Jan. 24 at Fair Grounds and breezed another half-mile in :47 last Saturday.
Shedaresthedevil, who is removing blinkers, has started only once around two turns, finishing fourth as the favorite in the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes Sept. 2 at Del Mar.
Joe Talamo is named to ride Shedaresthedevil from post 8 Saturday.
The early 4-1 second choice is Perfect Happiness for trainer Larry Jones and breeder-owner Brereton Jones. Perfect Happiness, by Majesticperfection, was a front-running 8 -length maiden special weights winner Jan. 26 in her 3-year-old debut.
Perfect Happiness was nominated to Saturday's $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters, but Larry Jones opted for the following race for her two-turn debut.
"I don't want to get her all speed crazy," Jones said. "We're going to try to stretch her out."
Perfect Happiness is scheduled to break from post 6 under apprentice jockey Kelsi Harr.
Probable post time for Saturday's 10th race is 5:37 p.m. (Central).
Cox figures to have the Honeybee favorite in unbeaten Taraz, who was a front-running 3 -length winner of the Martha Washington in her 3-year-old and two-turn debut.