Expect a strong California presence at Oaklawn Park next year long before the meet-ending Racing Festival of the South, when top stars usually congregate in Hot Springs.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and trainers Doug O'Neill and Peter Miller are among the West Coast regulars expected during the 57-day season beginning Friday, Jan. 12.
Stevens plans to ride the opening-day card at Santa Anita Dec. 26 before coming to Oaklawn, where he will be represented by Jay Fedor.
"I've got three major stakes races to ride in (at Santa Anita), so I plan to ride them and be on my way," Stevens said on the online Paulick Report. "I want to be there by December 31st or January 1st, depending on weather."
The 54-year-old Stevens has 5,124 career victories, according to Equibase, racing's official data-gathering organization. Two of his three Kentucky Derby victories (filly Winning Charm in 1988, Thunder Gulch in 1995) came for Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas, who winters in Hot Springs. Stevens won the 1985 Arkansas Derby aboard the Lukas-trained Tank's Prospect and the 1990 race with Silver Ending for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally.
Stevens won the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard Silver Charm, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Touch Gold, ridden by Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, denied Silver Charm the Triple Crown by three quarters of a length in the Belmont Stakes.
A two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby (I'll Have Another in 2012, Nyquist in 2016), O'Neill has sent horses to Oaklawn for major stakes races but neither he nor Miller has campaigned regularly at the track.
"We're planning on coming," Miller said Wednesday and as reported by Daily Racing Form. "We're just trying to figure out all the details, but they've given us 20 stalls and we're looking forward to having a presence out there."
Miller comes off two Breeders' Cup victories last month at Del Mar, Roy H. taking the Sprint and Stormy Liberal the Turf Sprint. In what he called a "November to remember," Miller led the Del Mar fall meet with 19 victories -- one more than the meet's leading rider, Flavien Prat.
Miller said Southern California will remain his base but that purses and an abundance of dirt racing steered him to Oaklawn.
"Hopefully we can find spots for some of the dirt horses we have trouble getting in out here," Miller said.
Oaklawn reports that Norman McKnight and Danny Pish are among the trainers sending strings to Oaklawn for the first time. New faces in the riding colony besides Stevens include Alan Garcia, David Cohen and Richard Eramia.
Garcia, 32, is among the top 10 riders at Woodbine in Canada, which concludes its season Dec. 10. He will be represented at his first Oaklawn meeting by agent Donnie Richardson.
"It's been a while since I've been there, but I've always had good luck at Oaklawn," Richardson told the track's media-relations department. "And, Alan and I have worked together before and had good luck. We're looking forward to be there."Sports on 12/02/2017
Print Headline: Stevens, O'Neill, Miller coming to Oaklawn