One of the top horses on the Kentucky Derby trail, going the Arkansas route this year, Combatant is expected to compete in the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park on Sunday, Sept. 30.
The 3-year-old colt, a son of Scat Daddy, out of the Boundary mare Border Dispute, was prominent at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. this spring after he ran second in the $400,000 Springboard Mile as a juvenile at Remington Park in 2017.
A total of 33 horses were nominated for the Oklahoma Derby when nominations closed today. National Horse Racing Hall of Famer and 13-time top trainer at Remington Park, Steve Asmussen, put six horses in as possibilities for this race, including Combatant.
Combatant made his 2018 debut in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn, running second, followed by a runner-up finish in the Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes to My Boy Jack, another Kentucky Derby runner. He then was beaten only three lengths by Magnum Moon in the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes before finishing four lengths behind the same horse in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby. He qualified for the Grade 1, $2 million Kentucky Derby, collecting enough points in all those races. However, breaking from the 20-hole in a full field at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Combatant had a difficult task, finishing 18th over the sloppy going.
Combatant was a fast closing fourth at Saratoga in upstate New York in his last race on Aug. 27 for Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC, beaten a little more than a length in the $100,000 Better Talk Now Stakes. Combatant has earned $405,520 in 11 lifetime starts.
Another nationally prominent horse who is a probable for the Oklahoma Derby and would be the top money earner in the field with more than $600,000 in his bankroll would be Lone Sailor out of Tom Amoss' barn, racing for owner GMB Racing.
Lone Sailor raced in the Kentucky Derby, finishing eighth, and the second leg of the Triple Crown – the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore. This colt, by Majestic Warrior, out of the Mr. Greeley mare Ambitious, was beaten only two lengths in the Preakness by Triple Crown winner Justify. He was also beaten only a neck in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans in March.
Lone Sailor is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3, $300,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. as the 6-5 betting favorite. He has earned $633,237 in 13 starts.
Lone Sailor finished almost six lengths back of Limation in the Super Derby, one of six Asmussen's nominees for the Oklahoma Derby. Limation is a son of Alternation, out of the Limehouse dam Lime Lady and was in peak form for the Super Derby on Sept. 2, winning at 26-1 odds for owner Michael Langford. Asmussen and Langford will attempt their second straight Oklahoma Derby victory, having won the 2017 edition with Untrapped. It was the first Oklahoma Derby win for Asmussen.
The other four horses nominated by Asmussen are Lionite, who won the Prairie Mile in Iowa; Reride; Retirement Fund and Title Ready. The latter of those four, owned by Charles Fipke, is likely for the Oklahoma Derby. He ran third in the Grade 3, $500,000 Indiana Derby and fourth in the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn this spring.
A couple of other intriguing possibilities for the Oklahoma Derby are a lightly raced horse from the West Coast – Tatters to Riches – and a horse that raced the early part of his career in Ireland and Dubai – Yulong Warrior. Tatters to Riches is conditioned by Jeff Mullins who is a multiple graded stakes-winning trainer and whose horses have earned more than $48 million in his career. Mullins had the 2009 Kentucky Derby favorite I Want Revenge, who was scratched the day of the Derby due to injury. Tatters to Riches has won three of four starts lifetime, all at Del Mar in California. He last won the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at the San Diego area track as the wagering favorite at 6-5 odds.
Yulong Warrior is also trained by another standout conditioner on the national scene – Doug O'Neill. O'Neill led I'll Have Another to wins in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and had a second Run for the Roses winner in Nyquist in 2016. Yulong Warrior had four seconds and a third in maiden races in Ireland before moving to Dubai where the son of legendary sire Street Cry, out of the Bernardini mare Mahkama, eventually won a $250,000 stakes.
Others likely for the Oklahoma Derby include Ellis Park Derby winner Believe in Royalty, who was sixth in the 2017 Springboard Mile at Remington Park; Draft Pick, who won the Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes in June at Santa Anita and was runner-up in both the Grade 3, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby and the Grade 3, $500,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park in August; Eisenstaedt, winner of two non-stakes races in a row; Plainsman, sixth-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby; and Sea Foam, winner of two New York-bred stakes races in a row coming into this race.
More information on possible Oklahoma Derby contenders will be available in the days leading up to the race.
The Oklahoma Derby is one of 10 stakes races on the Sept. 30 program, which starts at 3pm-Central. The Grade 3, $200,000 Remington Park Oaks is the main stakes race on the undercard. The derby program will mark the first time in Remington Park, and Oklahoma, Thoroughbred racing history that more than one graded stakes race has been contested on the same program.
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