By Warren Eves
Sometimes a performance jumps off the page at you.
That would be the case of a maiden $40,000 six-furlong dash January 26 at Oaklawn Park.
Plum Gorgeous wired a field of eight impressively for red-hot trainer Federico Villafranco.
Who knows what the future holds for the daughter of Hansen owned by Dan Caldwell? “She’s an Oklahoma-bred so that made her more appealing to me,” says Caldwell. “She’s a beautiful gray filly who hopefully has a bright future not only racing but as a broodmare.”
The Caldwell-Villafranco stable would be welcomed by any racing secretary in the country. They’re always aggressive at the claim box and more importantly, they fill races.
While we’re on the subject of the Villafranco barn, it might be a good idea to pay attention to another Caldwell runner named Snickerboxer. They claimed him for $10,000 at Churchill Downs. On Jan., 28 at Oaklawn? He aired for his third straight win.
We looked at the race over and over. Snickerboxer, who had won on Jan., 14, was rattling between horses at the break but he was still second after 50 yards. Snickerboxer stalked the leader. Once he reached the top of the lane he took command and drew off while not asked. So…….the number could be misleading if you didn’t study the video tape re-run. We also liked the huge late gain that was made by What About You despite some slow early fractions in the same race.
While we’re on the subject of having no clue, I think it’s fitting to talk about the second place run of Gordy Florida in the sixth race at Oaklawn on Jan., 28. Simply stated, I don’t know how to take his huge late gain shorting up to six furlongs. He’s the same colt who battled on the lead in last year’s Smarty Jones before finishing second at 21-to-1. They ran him back in the Southwest and he was in the first flight early before winding up 10th.
In his return to racing Jan., 28th Gordy Florida got away straight only to bobble badly. He was away poorly. The leggy son of Cactus Ridge was still last as the field came into the stretch. That’s where Glenn Corbett went to work. Gordy Florida made up a huge amount of ground in the final eighth and was getting to eventual winner Big Squeeze. And….he galloped right on past the winner into and around the turn. How one accounts for the huge come from behind run, I simply do not know.
Notes scribbled across my official program–First there were no jockey-trainer standings to be found on Oaklawn Park’s website. Now we continue to see this horrible shot from the head-on camera of horses leaving the 6 furlong chute…………………I’m still puzzled as to why Kelly Belly Kid was the 8-to-5 favorite in race two on Jan., 26 at Oaklawn. She had been claimed out of a maiden $7,500 race at Remington where she was a well beaten second. Anyway, we did like the debut effort of Laura Ray. She was bumped into the rear of Lost Shakerof Salt(who finished second) and fell well out of it early. Once in the lane Laura Ray was wheeled outside and she exhibited good late energy to be third. She also galloped out nicely ahead of the eventual winner……………..When Plum Gorgeous returned to graduate with aplomb for maiden $40,000 on Jan., 26 the stock of the filly who beat her back on Jan., 13 had to rise. Precisely Ponti, trained by Steve Hobby, won the $25,000 maiden claimer that day and her stock goes up in our opinion………….On review, Alsvid was winning the eighth race feature at Oaklawn easier than it appeared. Even though he got away straight from post one, he was last in the opening strides. Alsvid raced up 4th in the early stages and managed to get inside two foes before entering the turn. Second off the top, Channing Hill eased him outside the leader who he ran past with an eighth of a mile to go. Hill actually guzzled him the final yards as he lived up to odds-on favoritism………….Look for David Whithead to fit J.E.’s Handmedown with blinkers for his second out vs. maiden $25,000 claimers. He was three-wide into the turn and wide on the turn to loom a factor off the top. If he had not drifted inward mid stretch, he could have won……………Liked the late energy of recent claim Handiwork on Jan., 27, in Oaklawn’s fifth race on a day when early speed was an asset. After a clean break he fell out. Cornering well on the first turn Handiwork was 9th in two midway down the backstretch. Chris Landeros angled the 4-year-old gelding away from the rail off the top and he showed interest too late to save third. We noted good energy after the finish wire which could indicate a positive next outing as he makes his second start for trainer Brad Cox………………..Boy did I like the win of Shotgun Kowboy for C.R. Trout in race seven on Jan., 27. After breaking out to jostle a foe, the five-year-old pulled Alex Birzer up between foes into the first turn. He got the lead undeer a pull but lost it briefly early on the backside. Shotgun Kowboy regained the lead before the half. He cruised around the second turn and when asked for run once into the stretch, he responded, showing grit in the final stages. Brerry ran second and got what we call “the perfect trip” and still could not get by nearing the wire. That note earned Shotgun Kowboy an *asterisk in my stable list…………….When doing my video tape review of the 9th at Oaklawn Park on Jan., 27, I was left with the impression that trainer Greg Compton had made a timely $25,000 claim of Tonbo. With Channing Hill aboard Tonbo broke then was slammed end roughed up between foes after the start to be off badly. Last into the turn inside one, Tonbo rallied into the straight, drifted to the inner railing and still wound up third……………..Got a note from owner Dan Caldwell. I was seeking someone in management who would try to explain why Oaklawn Park does not post the jockey and trainer standings on their website. Caldwell told us he believes GM Eric Jackson is retiring. Caldwell is to have dinner with the new man this week so maybe we’ll get some answers then………..Claiming horses is risky, but one has to conclude trainer J.R. Caldwell made a good one when he plucked the four-year-old filly Includere from race one on Jan., 29. She had a world of trouble and overcame it all…………..We have to wonder if the first time gelding Rippin Ride improves off his win on Jan., 29th for Randy Morse. The leggy four-wrapper led from the start, opened up, and won by the fading margin of a half length when dropped in for a $15,000 claiming price. We always pay attention to the gangly runners, holding the opinion that they usually will prevail over their smaller rivals……………..Since Shut the Gate was claimed for $5,000 the newly turned 6-year-old mare has performed lights out. Her wire to wire win at Churchill Downs for $7,500 was a quick dividend for owner Bobby Joe Hammer. When she made her next start at Oaklawn on Jan., 15, my trip notes tell me she got away straight and true in 6th, was third to the 1/2 on the fence, but couldn’t get past Rhodium. Shut the Gate turned the tables on Rhodium on Jan., 29. She was away a tad slow before getting bumped from the left flank. She was still second down the backstretch and lapped on the leader around the turn. Jockey Eduardo Perez was able to clear the field off the top, she widened and with a 12.46 final fraction won off by her lonesome. I don’t think we’ll see trainer Chris Hartman entering her any time soon for a $5,000 claiming tag.