Hours after Sonneteer's breakthrough victory in the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Friday at Oaklawn, trainer Keith Desormeaux was already plotting his next move. That move is a return trip to Arkansas.
The Southern California-based Sonneteer won for the second time in 18 lifetime starts, overhauling Futile on the outside in deep stretch to win the 1 1/16-mile Fifth Season, his 4-year-old debut, by three-quarters of a length under C.J. McMahon.
Sonneteer, as a maiden, ran twice last year at Oaklawn, finishing second in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and fourth in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G2), before running 16th in the Kentucky Derby.
“There's no doubt that would have happened a lot sooner if his home base was Oaklawn,” Desormeaux said, referring to a second victory. “No doubt about that. I don't think I've ever had a horse that has such an affinity for a certain track. Really is amazing. That's why we play this game. It's got plenty of variables that are fun.”
Desormeaux said Sonneteer will be pointed for the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 19, Oaklawn's second of three major preps for the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 14.
Sonneteer lost his first 12 career starts, broke his maiden by a nose on the turf July 23 at Del Mar, then lost his next four races, including a third in a Dec. 3 allowance/optional claimer at Los Alamitos to conclude his busy 2017 campaign.
Desormeaux said an equipment change helped fuel Sonneteer's Fifth Season victory.
“If you've look at his form, I've tried everything with the horse,” Desormeaux said. “Polytrack at Golden Gate, turf at Del Mar and then I finally added blinkers in his last start and put him back on dirt and that seemed to invigorate him.”
Desormeaux said Sonneteer is scheduled to ship Monday to Fair Grounds and fly back to Southern California – his base is Santa Anita – Tuesday to begin preparations for the Razorback.
“It's worked out too well not to bring him back,” Desormeaux said. “It's a little bit of a hassle and expense, but he's obviously earning his way and doing well training here.”
Sonneteer ($61.60) provided Desormeaux with his first victory in 18 Oaklawn starts, according to Equibase, racing's official data gathering organization. It was the second Fifth Season victory for McMahon. Sonneteer, a career winner of $426,050, races for his breeder, Calumet Farm, and is by sprint champion Midnight Lute.
Sonneteer was flown Wednesday to Arkansas.
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