Back on the fast track he prefers, the Florida shipper It's a Bird swept past pacemaker Jonesboro on the turn for home and left his rivals in the dust, romping to a six-length victory in the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) April 4 in Hot Springs, Ark.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, It's a Bird scored the first grade II victory of his career and went over the $1-million mark in career earnings in the process. Trained by Marty Wolfson for Edmund Gann, the 6-year-old son of Birdonthewire is having quite a year after capturing the $1-million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park Jan. 24.
It's a Bird probably was compromised by a sloppy track in his last start, the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, a race won by Oaklawn Handicap favorite Honest Man, who finished next-to-last this time as the 7-5 choice.
Pressing a solid pace set by Jonesboro -- who was also looking to go over the $1-million threshold with a victory -- It's a Bird drove steadily clear through the Oaklawn Park homestretch while under firm handling from Leparoux, who has ridden the dark bay horse in his past three starts. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:48.96, more than two seconds off the track mark established by Snow Chief in this race in 1987.
The Brazilian-bred Runforthedoe wound up a distant second in the final strides with Jon Court aboard. He finished a neck in front of Jonesboro, who carved fractions of :23.37, :46.72, and 1:10.62 under Calvin Borel before giving way grudgingly in the battle for the runner-up spot. Secret Getaway, Prom Shoes, Honest Man, and Catmantoo followed in the seven-horse field.
Honest Man was wide on the first turn for jockey Gabriel Saez and then made a modest move on the final bend while still racing wide. He faded in the stretch, finishing nearly 10 lengths behind It's a Bird.
Winner of the Spend A Buck Handicap at Calder Race Course last fall, It's a Bird posted his 10th lifetime win in 29 starts while boosting his earnings to $1,172,885 with the Oaklawn Handicap winner's share of $300,000.
Bred in Florida by White Cross Farm, It's a Bird is out of Faithful City, by Hooched.
Sharing the top weight assignment of 119 pounds, the winner paid $6, $3.60, and $3 as the second choice. Runforthedoe, a grade I winner in Argentina making his U.S. stakes debut for trainer Paulo Lobo, returned $5.40 and $4.60 in his third American start. The $2 exacta was worth $49. The hard-trying 7-year-old Jonesboro, bouncing back from a sixth-place finish in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III), was $5 to show.