Two-time leading rider Cliff Berry got the 2013 Oaklawn Park season off to a good start Jan. 11 by guiding outsider Donoharm to the horse's fourth consecutive victory in the $75,000 Fifth Season Stakes before an opening day crowd of 19,633 (VIDEO).
In the first of 56 race cards that culminates with the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 13, Berry drove 13-1 shot Donoharm to a neck victory over Skyring. Fan favorite Win Willy rallied from last to get third, a half-length behind the runner-up. Endorsement, the 7-5 favorite in the field of nine, faded to finish next-to-last. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile race for older horses was 1:49.07 over a track rated good.
Berry kept Donoharm forwardly placed from the break as Double Rah Rah assumed the early lead and proceeded through leisurely fractions of :24.75, :50.01, and 1:16.15 for the opening six furlongs. Several horses were in contention heading into the stretch, but it was Donoharm that was the most determined to get to the wire first.
Donoharm held off a closing Skyring, who closed from fifth at mid-stretch, in a long drive. After encountering traffic entering the far turn, Win Willy showed interest to get the third spot.
"He kept trying," said Berry of the winner. "I thought at every pole he was going to get tired, but he kept running. He won with determination. The track is a little tiring today, but he was determined. I just hope to keep up the winning, especially in these stakes races."
Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch's Donoharm, trained by Bret Calhoun, returned $29, $11.40, and $5.80 while carrying 119 pounds. With the victory, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Lemon Drop Kid gelding improved his record to 4-2-3 in 14 starts and has now earned $182,080.
Bred by Double Eagle Ranch out of the Cherokee Run mare Tasso Run, Donoharm won his stakes debut in the Sam's Town at Delta Downs in his most recent start Nov. 17.
Likely to give Berry a run for his money as leading rider is Robby Albarado, who won three races on the nine-race opening-day program, including two for trainer Cody Autrey.
Albarado, best known to Oaklawn fans as the regular rider of 2007 Arkansas Derby winner and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin , is riding regularly in Hot Springs for the first time since 1997 when he was leading rider.