Asmussen steps into two Bachelor favorites
Steve Asmussen reached a training milestone last week with his 800th win at Oaklawn. The Hall of Fame may come close to another brand in the final stakes race of the season not limited to state-breds.
Asmussen sends the two cheapest horses on the morning line in the $150,000 Bachelor for 3-year-olds. Cairama, the 8-5 program favorite, returns to stakes competition after a seven-length sprint entry allocation win on April 10, following a 10th-place finish in the $1 million Grade 2 Rebel on February 26. Cogburn, 2-1 second pick, has been favored in all three career starts, including his career debut last August at Saratoga. The first four-length winner at Churchill Downs on September 16, he earned an entry-level score on March 25 at Oaklawn.
“His last two races were extremely fast and he has been training well since then,” Asmussen said. “It’s great to have what we feel should be an exceptional 3-year-old sprinter.”
Asmussen’s record 97 wins in the Oaklawn Stakes includes a record seven in The Bachelor, including three of the last four races. Mitole won the 2018 Bachelor and came back to win the 2019 Grade 3 Fleet Sprint Handicap, beating two-time defending champion Whitmore, and was named the Eclipse Award Champion Men’s Sprinter.
Asmussen’s last victory in the Oaklawn Stakes, although his first of the season, came last Saturday with defending sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior in the Count Fleet. He retires for his 12th Oaklawn Championship, leading Robertino Diodoro 55-42 with four days of racing remaining. Asmussen will be centered at Churchill Downs next week where he will likely dispatch favorites Epicenter in the Kentucky Derby and champion Echo Zulu in the Kentucky Oaks.
A week after winning the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap with Willis Horton’s Last 4-Year-Old Samurai, trainer Dallas Stewart sends the Louisiana Unified Report champion into The Bachelor. He went 3 for 3 as a 2-year-old with $100,000 in state wins at Delta Downs and Fair Grounds.
Unified Report debuted in Oaklawn after beating Open Society on March 12 at Fair Grounds, but placed 10th in Keeneland’s 2nd year at $400,000 Lafayette at seven furlongs on April 8.
“The track got a little slippery,” said Stewart, referring to the Lafayette’s wet and fast surface. He didn’t seem to handle it very well, but I think he’s a quality horse.”
Ain’t Life Grand, which debuts in 2022, won a seasonal prize in Iowa after earning two entries for Kelly Von Hemel. Whelen Springs, the Rainbow winner on April 9 against Arkansas-bred males, is riding class for owner-breeder John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs and his trainer, John Ortiz. Mowins, from Indiana, makes his season debut for Mike Lauer.
Asmussen also won The Bachelor in 1996 with Valid Expectations, 2008 with Lantana Mob, 2015 with Holy Boss, 2016 with Nitrous, and 2021 with Jaxon Traveler. His first win in the Oaklawn Stakes came with valid expectations in the Mountain Valley of $50,000 for 3-year-old sprinters on February 10, 1996. He has at least one win in the Oaklawn Stakes every Oaklawn meeting for 27 consecutive years.
“These are the opportunities that are given to us and we’ve had some of the fastest horses that have ever raced,” said Asmussen, North America’s all-time winningest trainer. “When they go to stud, there’s nothing better to have one to fill that spot.”
The second to last Saturday of the season is also Fan Appreciation Day in Oaklawn. In addition to the 10 races, the track will offer free parking, a free program and the distribution of vouchers for free hot dogs, free sodas, free popcorn and free ice cream, while supplies last. Prizes will be awarded after certain races.
The first post is at 1 p.m. with The Bachelor, race 9, at 5:10 p.m.