Westrock Stable's Decelerator and Jay Em Ess Stable's Rapid Racer head a field of seven talented 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs in the $50,000 Dixie Belle Stakes as Oaklawn opens its 54-day meet Jan. 15.
The Oaklawn meet, with a total of 30 stakes worth $4.7 million, is highlighted by the April 10 Arkansas Derby (gr. I), which doubled its purse to $1 million this season and will be run as a grade I race for the first time since 1989. The Arkansas Derby is now the nation’s only $1 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) graded prep race.
Preps for the Arkansas Derby include the $100,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 18, the $250,000 Southwest (gr. III) Feb. 15, and the $300,000 Rebel (gr. II) March 13.
Oaklawn, located in Hot Springs, Ark., recently completed renovations on its new multi-million dollar gaming and simulcasting area.
Decelerator, from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, established her reputation quickly as a 2-year-old, winning the Debutante Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs in June. Eventually Lukas stretched her out to two-turn races and she responded with second place finishes in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. III) and Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II), both at Churchill.
The 8-5 morning-line favorite will drop back to six furlongs in the Dixie Belle, but has been working up a storm for Lukas, scooting through a bullet :48 half-mile on Jan. 4. Defending riding champion Terry Thompson gets the call from post 4.
Rapid Racer comes to Oaklawn off a solid win in the Gowell Stakes at Turfway Park in December. Trained by Paul McGee, she now sports a record of two wins from four tries and is in very sharp form.
The nation's leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, will seek his third win in the Dixie Belle when he sends out Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Vertical Vision. A winner of three of seven lifetime starts, the speedy daughter of Pollard's Vision comes off a narrow loss at Remington Park in the Oklahoma Classic Lassie Stakes.
Prior to that, she notched stakes wins in the Prairie Gold Lassie and Prairie Meadows Debutante Stakes, both at Prairie Meadows. Orlando Mojica, riding as a regular at Oaklawn for the first time, has picked up the call for Asmussen, who was leading trainer at Oaklawn in both 2007 and 2008, before being edged out by Allen Milligan in 2009.
$50,000 Dixie Belle Stakes (Race 8, 4:33 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 6 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Crossfirehurricane (KY), Q Hamilton, 114, W B Calhoun, 7/2
2. Rapid Racer (KY), L J Sterling Jr., 119, P J McGee, 8/1
3. Enticing Girl (AR), C S Nakatani, 114, T A Ice, 15/1
4. Decelerator (KY), T J Thompson, 119,, D W Lukas, 8/5
5. Vertical Vision (OK), O Mojica, 122, S M Asmussen, 5/2
6. Shotgun Gulch (OK), L S Quinonez, 122, K S Ewing, 6/1
7. Cosmo Girl (KY), B McNeil, 117, J Petalino, 12/1