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Thanking those responsible for Hoonani Road's success on the racetrack could take longer than was required Saturday of the 4-year-old gelding to remain undefeated at Oaklawn Park.

That would be 70.11 seconds, Hoonani Road's winning time in the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders' before an estimated crowd of 19,000.

Where would Jerry Caroom, the gelding's Hot Springs owner, start extending kudos?

He could begin with Jack Van Berg for his advice in recommending the chestnut before the Hall of Fame trainer's death in December 2017. Wayne Catalano would be next in line, under whose care Hoonani Road has dominated the Arkansas-bred ranks with five wins in as many Oaklawn appearances. The Rainbow Stakes winner at 3, the April foal added a second $100,000 stakes victory Saturday in a race named for the 1968 Arkansas Derby winner and that Dash Goff, son of late Nodouble owner Gene Goff, presented the trophy.

Caroom also could thank jockey Channing Hill and, on Saturday, track leader Ricardo Santana Jr., a more than capable pinch hitter with Hill in New Orleans to ride father-in-law Catalano's Fair Grounds Oaks runner-up, Liora. Hoonani Road represented one of Santana's five winners on the 10-race card, three coming for meet-leading trainer Steve Asmussen.

"Channing rode the horse great last time," Santana said. "Today, there was a lot of speed. I spoke with Channing and he told me to put him in position."

A crisis was averted when the 2-5 favorite failed to switch leads turning for home. "I tried and he didn't want to," Santana said, "so Channing said he is going to keep going and he did."

Caroom, who grew up watching the races at Oaklawn, has earned $277,035 with Hoonani Road, who carries a 6-1 record from 10 starts into his undetermined next race. As luck would have it, he did not earn $16,000 more when Hoonani Road trounced state-bred maiden claimers in his Oaklawn debut 13 months ago.

Produced by the Father Steve mare Nana, Hoonani Road is by Jonesboro, a millionaire on the racetrack for Mike Langford, who named the horse after his Arkansas hometown. Langford, like Caroom, visits the track every day and goes through a lot of horses.

"I saw him in the crowd before the race that day and nodded at him. I thought he was going to claim the horse," Caroom said.

That business deal did not go down, and expect an August snowstorm in Hot Springs before Hoonani Road runs in another claiming race.

Caroom played it coy about the gelding's next start after the favorite jogged home by 2 1/4 lengths in the aforementioned 1:10.11 for six furlongs.

The $200,000 Arkansas Breeders' Championship May 4 is possible, he said, although the mile-and-sixteenth distance might prove challenging to a horse who has not raced beyond a mile.

Someone brought up the Grade 3 $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap April 13. Think a matchup against Whitmore, unbeaten sprinting at Oaklawn and going for three Count Fleets in a row, would get people talking before the Arkansas Derby later on the card?

"Whitmore's a fantastic horse," Caroom said. "That would be interesting."

Some other Arkansas-bred horses, or at least their connections, hope Caroom looks long and hard at open company with Hoonani Road.

Meet winner Bebop Shoes finished second at 28-1 under Stewart Elliott, two lengths ahead of Bandit Point and an exultant Kelsi Harr. Although a 10-pound apprentice, Harr was required to carry the maximum 123 under the stake's allowance conditions.

Caroom may remember the race longer but for the 26-year-old Harr, it was a milestone.

"This horse," she said, referring to a 4-year-old Indy Squall gelding owned and trained by fiance Robert Cline, "gave me my first career victory (last June at Canterbury Park in Minnesota), my (second) Oaklawn victory and my first stakes placing."

* Two races later, Jon Court, subbing for the injured Shaun Bridgmohan, rode Gray Attempt to his second stakes victory of the meeting and third of his career in the $125,000 Gazebo.

Trained by Jinks Fires, the Graydar punched his ticket to the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby April 13. Owned by Dwight Pruett, of Texarkana, Gray Attempt won the one-mile Smarty Jones Jan. 25 at Oaklawn then finished last of 11 going a sixteenth farther in the Grade 3 $500,000 Southwest. In the Southwest, Gray Attempt never recovered from an incident on the first turn involving rival horse Jersey Agenda.

A rider change for the Gazebo was necessary after Bridgmohan broke his right collarbone in a spill March 2 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Court picked up the mount after winning the first division of the Grade 2 $750,000 Rebel Stakes aboard Long Range Toddy the previous Saturday.

Gray Attempt led from gate to wire, as in the Smarty Jones, 3 1/4 lengths in front at the wire after six furlongs in 1:09.72. He paid $5.20 to win.

"I thought he was the horse to beat today," Court said. "I just hate that Shaun got hurt."

Hidden Ruler nosed out Six Shooter for second in the six-horse field.

Sports on 03/24/2019

Print Headline: Hoonani Road, Gray Attempt sprint clear

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