Trainer Steve Asmussen took the top two spots in the $125,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) when It Happened Again registered his first graded stakes win by a half-length over stablemate Thiskyhasnolimit March 12 at Oaklawn Park (VIDEO).
A crowd of 24,111, the largest of the meet so far, was on hand for a program that included the Razorback and the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies won by Joyful Victory.
Ridden by Michael Baze for owner Maggi Moss, It Happened Again pressed the pace in the 1 1/16-mile dirt test, taking the lead into the stretch and opening a one-length advantage. The 5-year-old Proud Citizen gelding prevailed in a game effort over the slowly gaining Thiskyhasnolimit.
“The best thing about it is that he was a horse my girlfriend and I claimed for Maggi and Steve for $20,000 at Woodbine," said Asmussen's assistant, Devron Leingang. "It was a mutual thing between us all. We had been watching him up there and decided to take a chance on him. To see him turn into a stakes winner like this is really, really great.”
Veterinarian Dede McGehee bred the winner in Kentucky. It Happened Again, on a three-race winning streak at the Oaklawn meet, is out of Quiet Lucky, by Quiet American.
The runner-up, ridden by Jamie Theriot, stalked the pace off the rail and responded to urging in the stretch until running out of time. Thiskyhasnolimit finished 1 1 /4 lengths clear of the show horse, Win Willy, with Cliff Berry aboard. Winslow Homer, the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven, was never a factor after encountering trouble early and finished sixth.
The final time was 1:453.58 over a fast track.
"The way we were able to sit just off that pace worked out perfectly," Baze said of his winning trip. "He's such a nice horse. When I've asked for it, he's given it to me."
Kate's Main Man, winner of the Essex Handicap in his last start Feb. 13, carved even fractions of :23.98, :48 flat and 1:12.35 before giving way in the stretch.
It Happened Again, who won for the seventh time in 23 lifetime starts, was coming off a 7 1/4-length win at Oaklawn over an optional claiming allowance field going one mile Feb. 25. He also beat an optional claiming field by four lengths a month prior to that. He has three wins in four starts at Oaklawn.
“I’m just hysterical right now," Moss said. "God, that was great. I need to start showing up for these things. I wish we could keep him stabled at Oaklawn all year. He loves the place.”
The Razorback is the main local stakes prep for the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) April 9 but Moss ruled that out for It Happened Again.
“No, I won’t do that to the horse," she said. "He’s getting a break. He’s had three straight races. He’s getting lots of carrots and apples and a break.”
It Happened Again, who ran second in the Barbaro Stakes (gr. II) and third in the Canadian Derby (Can-III) in 2009, increased his career earnings to $333,078 with the winning share of $75,000.
He paid $9.40, $5.20 and $3.60 as the fourth choice in the field while carrying 117 pounds. Thiskyhasnolimit, shipping to Oaklawn from Southern California for Asmussen, returned $4.40 and $3.20 and rounded out a $51.40 exacta. Win Willy, the 121-pound high weight, came with his usual late rally but it wasn't enough. He paid $2.40 to show.
Double Threat, Kate's Main Man, Winslow Homer and Golden Yank completed the order.