Arkansas-bred star Hoonani Road is back at Oaklawn and took his first step toward a 2020 local campaign by working a half-mile in :51.80 over a fast track Friday morning for trainer Wayne Catalano and owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs.
Hoonani Road is unbeaten in seven career starts at Oaklawn – all against state-breds – including the $100,000 Rainbow Stakes in 2018 and the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes and inaugural $200,000 Arkansas Breeders' Championship Stakes in 2019.
Hoonani Road has started only once since the May 4 Arkansas Breeders' Championship, that coming in a salty allowance sprint Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs where he finished fifth, beaten 3 ½ lengths by stakes-winning Zipp On By. Hoonani Road finished a half-length behind fourth-place finisher Pete's Play Call, who returned to win the off-the-turf $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes Saturday at Fair Grounds.
“I think he kind of established last year as being pretty valuable, so it was a planned layoff,” Caroom said after watching Friday's breeze. “Did a full vetting and found some chips in his ankle. The theory there was let's go ahead and get the surgery done right away. If he was going to lay off, might as well let him recuperate at the same time. Did that and came back good.”
Caroom said Hoonani Road began galloping about 2 ½ months ago and “got tired” in his comeback start. Friday's work was his first since the race.
“Look at him right there,” Caroom said, pointing at the 4-year-old gelding in his stall. “He's just full of himself. Got a great personality.”
A towering chestnut son of millionaire and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Jonesboro, Hoonani Road has an 8-1-0 mark from 13 lifetime starts and earnings of $454,926 to rank just outside the top 10 for leading all-time Arkansas-bred money winners. Nodouble, the country's champion older male in 1969 and 1970, earned $846,749, a record for Arkansas-breds, in his 42-race career. In addition to seven victories at Oaklawn, Hoonani Road beat open company in a June 2018 allowance sprint at Churchill Downs.
Regarding Hoonani Road's 2020 Oaklawn racing schedule, Caroom said he believes the gelding will have “pretty much the same path” as his four starts in 2019. Hoonani Road used an allowance sprint as a prep for the 6-furlong Nodouble, then raced around two turns for the first time in another allowance race that was a bridge to the Arkansas Breeders' Championship, also at 1 1/16 miles.
“I'm really focused on the 2-year-olds that are here for the first time,” Caroom said. “This one, we know he's going to do well.”
Caroom also owns unraced Earvin, a 2-year-old Arkansas-bred colt by Hightail; unraced Aunt Sunshine, a 2-year-old Arkansas-bred filly by Brahms; and unraced Destiny Way, a 3-year-old Arkansas-bred gelding by Hamazing Destiny. Earvin is named for basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Caroom said, while Destiny Way is a half-brother to Hoonani Road. All four horses were bred by Bobby Lee Hall, who has a farm near Oaklawn.
The $125,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes is March 28; the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders' Championship Stakes is May 1.
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