The Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby will likely include many horses that hit the spotlight on the national level this year; top trainers from across the country are expected to send competitors for the race set for Sunday, Sept. 29.
Among the contenders likely to vie for the top purse on the keystone day at Remington Park are this year's Rebel Stakes winner from Oaklawn, and last year's Springboard Mile winner at Remington, Long Range Toddy, a Steve Asmussen trainee; trainer Brad Cox may send Owendale, who only got beat a little more than a length in the Preakness; Mucho Gusto, who Bob Baffert hit the board with in second place at the Haskell and third in the Travers Stakes; and Tax, winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes for trainer Danny Gargan.
Nominations closed Friday with 41 named as possibilities for the race. Here is a look at some of the horses likely to go to the gate for the 31st Oklahoma Derby at 1-1/8 miles:
· LONG RANGE TODDY
Owned and bred by Willis Horton Racing of Marshall, Ark. He worked handily in 1:00 4/5ths for five furlongs on Sept. 8, the third fastest of eight that day. A son of Take Charge Indy from the Unbridled's Song mare Pleasant Song, Long Range Toddy won Remington Park's top 2-year-old race last year and also scored the $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes here.
This spring at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., Long Range Toddy was second in the $150,000 Smarty Jones; third in the Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes; and won a division of the Grade 2, $750,000 Rebel Stakes before finishing sixth in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby.
Long Range Toddy was awarded a 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He was then third in the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown followed by a fifth-place run in the Indiana Derby.
Already a multiple graded stakes winner this season, Owendale could use the Oklahoma Derby as a rebounding experience after running fifth in the Grade 1, $1,250,000 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in upstate New York on Aug. 24.
Trained by Cox for owner Rupp Racing, Owendale closed well to finish third in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Preakness Stakes, 1-1/4 lengths behind victorious War Of Will. The Preakness effort was sandwiched between a pair of victories for this colt by Into Mischief. He won the Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13 and then followed his Preakness showing by winning the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown outside of Cleveland on June 22.
· MUCHO GUSTO
Five-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert has led this son of Mucho Macho Man to multiple stakes wins and has been Grade 1 stakes placed in his last two, running second, 1-1/4 lengths to Maximum Security in the Haskell and third, beaten 3-1/2 lengths by Code Of Honor, arguably the leader of the 3-year-old division at this point in the year, in the Travers Stakes.
This son of Arch is also a multiple stakes winner this year, taking the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct and then visiting the winner's circle in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 27. He has won $786,300 with three wins from nine tries for Gargan.
· CHESS CHIEF
Also coming out of the Travers Stakes, Chess Chief finished farther back than Owendale, running eighth, 8-1/2 lengths behind the winner Code Of Honor. A second-place run in the Grade 3, $500,000 West Virginia Derby in early August earned Chess Chief an opportunity in the mid-Summer Derby at Saratoga.
Trained by Dallas Stewart, Chess Chief is still searching for his first victory in a graded event, hopeful that the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby will fill the bill.
· CARLOS L
This one is 50-50 about either coming to the Oklahoma Derby or going to the Pennsylvania Derby, according to Remington Park stakes coordinator Don Thompson. If he does come to Oklahoma City, he will add a little international flavor to the race as Carlos L has only raced in Panama his first two years and the horse would get in off a 13-3/4 lengths win in the Grade 1, Cl Pres de la Republica Stakes. The colt by Hold Me Back has been in training this summer at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
· EXTRA HOPE
National Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella is hoping this son of Shanghai Bobby can get some revenge against Long Range Toddy, who beat him in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn in March. This colt has not run since that race that saw him finish fourth, 3-1/2 lengths behind Long Range Toddy for Mandella and jockey Mike Smith. Extra Hope shows four works in California to prep for this, two of them bullet workouts at Del Mar near San Diego. He has yet to win a stakes race.
Other prominent horses nominated to this year's Oklahoma Derby include Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach; New York Derby winner Bankit, who was beaten only a head in the Springboard Mile to Long Range Toddy last year; Iowa Derby winner Kauai; Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher and runner-up in the Arkansas Derby, Improbable; Indiana Derby and West Virginia Derby winner Mr. Money; Super Derby winner Rotation, and close-up Super Derby second-place finisher Vangilder.
The Grade 3, $200,000 Remington Park Oaks is the top event of the Oklahoma Derby undercard with 3-year-old fillies going 1-1/16 miles. In all, there will be eight stakes events on Oklahoma Derby with total purses exceeding $1.1 million.
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