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Springboard does not fall flat as Derby prep

By Ron Flatter  ( 

With last year’s winners Richard Eramia riding and Steve Asmussen training, Rowdy Yates will try to win Sunday night’s Springboard Mile, a Kentucky Derby points prep at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. (Remington Park photo)

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It is an ungraded stakes. Along with the Jerome and the El Camino Real, it is one of only three among the American points preps for the Kentucky Derby.


And like the Jerome, it has never produced a Derby winner.


But Sunday’s $400,000 Springboard Mile is not a race to ignore. Consider the recent successes of Suddenbreakingnews and Will Take Charge. They both came through Oklahoma City on their way to starting in the Derby.


Add it up, and the Springboard Mile has produced five Derby starters this decade. They came from the barns of five different trainers, including national Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas, Allen Jerkens and Steve Asmussen, who saddled Long Range Toddy’s victory last year.


With a record five wins in the 18-year history of the Springboard, Asmussen has three of the 12 starters entered into the $400,000 feature on closing night this weekend at Remington Park. But it is Brad Cox – he of Monomoy Girl, Covfefe and Owendale fame – who has the morning-line favorite.


Coming off a blinkers-off sprint victory at Churchill Downs that earned him a Brisnet speed rating of 96, this stalker by Answer In (5-2) gets Javier Castellano in the saddle Sunday. Perhaps more telling was that this gelded son of Dialed In finished a close second to South Bend in his six-furlong debut at Churchill. This is the same South Bend that went 3-for-3 in sprints before fading late in the two-turn Kentucky Jockey Club.


The trick to finding a good price in the Springboard may be identifying value among the Asmussen trio – Rowdy Yates (7-2), Shoplifted (5-1) and Jungle Runner (15-1). The obvious choice would seem to be the double-digit long shot, but do not ignore the possibility that there could be an overlay on Rowdy Yates.


If betting support for Asmussen is spread thinly, then Rowdy Yates, with last year’s Springboard-winning jockey Richard Eramia, might yet be a worthy play. Against state-bred competition, he won his last two at Remington Park by an average of 3½ lengths, including a mile stakes last month.


Already 4-for-6 in his young career, the pace-chasing colt also won the Ellis Park Juvenile during the summer. With that victory Rowdy Yates started to pay off on the $42,000 that L and N Racing paid for him at the October 2018 Fasig-Tipton Keeneland auction.


“We had a tip that he was going to be a nice horse at the sale,” said Lee Levinson, one of the partners in L and N. “He’s a Morning Line out of a nothing mare, and people thought we were crazy to give 40-some thousand for him. We just thought he was good looking, and we rolled the dice hoping to get lucky.”


(Levinson’s group is the same one that campaigns 2017 Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, which, by the way, is a 15-1 long shot in the $100,000 Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial Stakes, Sunday’s finale at Remington Park.)


Although Hopeful Stakes runner-up Shoplifted makes a class drop from a distant seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he has failed twice trying to close on an honest pace. If tough competition was the reason, so be it. But bettors have good reason to be skeptical.


Jungle Runner is certainly bred to belong in Derby prep company. Sired by Candy Ride out of a Tapit mare, he has won his last two races, both at Remington Park. He broke his maiden going a mile over the same two turns that he will race Sunday. And jockey Ramón Vázquez has won 5 of 19 races in the past week at Remington. Coming off a well-regarded, 48.80-second breeze over four furlongs Monday, Jungle Runner is worth more than a passing glance from bettors, especially those who buy into the “other Asmussen” angle.


Among the five frontrunners in the field, Maximiliano (5-1) figures to carry the most respect. Trained by Wesley Ward and ridden for the first time by ex-California jockey Martín García, the $425,000 Quality Road colt broke his maiden in a Keeneland sprint two months ago. The other two horses that hit the board won their next time out. But he drew post 10, so anything but a perfect start could be costly.


Another shipper, Mike Stidham-trained Embolden (9-2) is a risk because of his switch from turf to dirt. He finished second last month adding blinkers for a sprint stakes at Aqueduct. But he has never gone two turns, and his only dirt start was a distant second on debut in a Monmouth Park sprint in July.


The play here is chalky at the top with Answer In over Rowdy Yates. But Jungle Runner will figure prominently in boxed exacta and trifecta plays. And if there is enough money left in the till, Maximiliano and Shoplifted may find some spots underneath in the exotics.


Anyone venturing out of the Silks Dining Room or the Bricktown Brewery on Sunday night will be a hearty soul. The Weather Channel forecasts a dry, cloudy, calm night at Remington Park with a post-time temperature of 40 and a low of 29.


Racing notes and opinions


Trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed that two-time graded-stakes winner Pavel will lead his string of 12-15 horses that he sends to race this winter at Meydan in Dubai. “I think Jan. 12 is the date we’re set to go over there,” O’Neill told VSiN on the Ron Flatter Racing Pod. “I had some conversation about Pavel going back there for the third year in a row.” Pavel finished fourth in the last two runnings of the Dubai World Cup, both won by Thunder Snow. Oh, yes, the shaky landscape at Santa Anita brought on by the equine-death crisis was influential in O’Neill’s decision to send some but not all his horses overseas. “The uncertainty of California makes you start looking outside of California,” he said last Saturday at Los Alamitos. “I wanted to be back at the Great Race Place again. Hopefully someday soon it will be.” Assistant trainer Leandro Mora will be in the Middle East to look after O’Neill’s horses.


Owner Peter Brant decided that Sistercharlie should not go out on a losing note. He announced Thursday that last year’s champion female turf horse will race on as a 6-year-old. Sired by Myboycharlie and trained by Chad Brown, Sistercharlie won six consecutive Grade 1 races before being upset as an odds-on favorite in a third-place finish to Iridessa in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Connections have not yet said what Sistercharlie’s first 2020 race will be other than to say that she will be in Florida.


A disagreement over future plans for 2017 and 2018 Breeders’ Cup-winning turf sprinter Stormy Liberal led to his being sold and moved out of Peter Miller’s stable. David Bernsen bought out his partner Rockingham Ranch, and he hopes to race last year’s male turf champion in 2020. That flies in the face of Miller’s publicly state plan to retire the soon-to-be 8-year-old gelding. Miller and Bernsen posted dueling statements Tuesday. “Both my veterinarian and I believe the horse should be retired,” Miller said. Bernsen countered by saying no decision has been made to race Stormy Liberal yet. “Stormy is being relocated to Florida to a top farm where he will undergo a complete and detailed physical evaluation, and then I will decide,” said Bernsen, who has recently moved 13 horses out of Miller’s barn.


Two-time former Italian champion jockey Umberto Rispoli is moving his tack from Hong Kong to Santa Anita. In a story first reported by the Australian website, Rispoli, 31, plans to ride starting on opening day of the winter-spring meeting Dec. 26. Before moving to Hong Kong three years ago, Rispoli rode in his native Italy and then in France from 2012 to 2016. He has ridden winners in Europe, Asia and Africa.


Unable to recover from a recent leg injury, jockey Thierry Jarnet, 52, announced his retirement from racing nearly 35 years after riding his first winner. A four-time champion rider in his native France in the ’90s, Jarnet is best known for having ridden Trêve to victories in the 2013 and 2014 runnings of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. I vividly remember interviewing him for Australian radio in the Longchamp parade ring after the 2013 Arc. He admitted that his English was not so good, but he gave it a good run – as he also did for so long on the racetrack.


Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at From Los Alamitos, trainer Doug O’Neill and track owner Dr. Ed Allred are on the RFRP. O’Neill talks about how he has helped to organize counter-protests to promote horse racing. Allred discusses the state of the sport in southern California. There is also a preview of Sunday’s Kentucky Derby points prep – the Springboard Mile at Remington Park, Okla. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher, and it is sponsored by Xpressbet.

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