Doug O'Neill waited 19 years for his second stakes victory at Oaklawn. The Southern California-based trainer will have a chance at Nos. three and four at the Hot Springs, Ark., track in a span of about 19 days, with unbeaten Landeskog entered in Saturday's $150,000 Bachelor for 3-year-olds at 6 furlongs and Fight On pointing for the inaugural $250,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses May 3.
O'Neill's first Oaklawn starter, Classy Cara, won the $200,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies in 2000. Exactly 19 years later, Fight On won the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes April 14.
Landeskog will be making his stakes debut after a front-running 5 3/4-length debut victory March 31. A gelded son of Munnings, Landeskog was among approximately six horses O'Neill shipped to Oaklawn last month.
“He was ready maybe a few weeks prior to his debut, in my mind,” O'Neill said Wednesday afternoon.
Following his sharp debut victory, Landeskog was scratched from a first-level allowance sprint on the Arkansas Derby undercard. The April 13 program was impacted by heavy rain that left the track sloppy.
“Not so much the track,” O'Neill said of scratching. “He was just coming back too quick. I think he drew the rail and the race was really deep. There was a couple, like holy mackerel. It was a combination of things that just seemed like, 'OK, it wasn't the right place to have his follow-up race.' I'm glad we did. Win, lose or draw on Saturday, we gave him a few extra weeks. He's doing super. We drew the rail again, but he's ready to go.”
Edwin Maldonado is named to ride Landeskog, who is the 7-2 second choice in the program. Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Gray Attempt is the 2-1 program favorite.
Landeskog races for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, John Fuller, Dave Kenney and Madaket Stables LLC. Madaket (Sol Kumin) purchased an interest in Landeskog following his debut victory, O'Neill said. The gelding is named for Gabriel Landeskog, captain of the NHL's Avalanche.
Purchased for $75,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Landeskog was reported as a gelding Feb. 8 in past performances carried by Daily Racing Form.
“He was kind of a good-feeling horse and he battled a lit bit of shins early in his career,” O'Neill said. “I just thought between the little bit of shins he had and then the high energy, we thought castrating him would help him. Lo and behold, it definitely seemed to work.”
Landeskog is out of Minewander, an allowance winner at the 2008 Oaklawn meeting for four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance.
Fight On has made three starts at the meeting, winning a March 30 allowance race bya nose and the Fifth Season by the same margin. The 1 1/16-mile Fifth Season figures to send a handful of starters to the Oaklawn Mile.
“He's doing super,” O'Neill said. “That's the goal, the Oaklawn Mile, and we're super pumped about him. Man, he loves Oaklawn, so we're hoping he loves it on May 3.”
Lightly raced Mason Dixon has been invited to the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational May 4, but O'Neill said the Union Rags gelding will pass the 1 1/8-mile race and remain in one-turn races. Mason Dixon – in his 3-year-old debut – finished third in the April 13 allowance race that Landeskog was scratched from.
“We're very grateful and honored,” O'Neill said, referring to the invitation. “But we're going to keep him one turn, so you'll probably see him, I think, May 2. There's a high claimer or first condition (allowance), 3-year-old only, sprinting. I think we're going to keep him there.”
Mason Dixon worked a half-mile in :52.80 Thursday morning. The gelding has one victory in three lifetime starts.
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