To no surprise, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen drew attention with four nominees to the first Oaklawn stake for 2-year-olds since 1973.
Stakes winner Concept and recent winner Classic Moment, both trained by the 11-time Oaklawn champion, are among the 36 possible for the $150,000 Advent Dec. 3 at six furlongs. Concept, by hot first-year sire Gun Runner, won the $75,000 Kip DeVille Sept. 28 at Remington Park and Classic Concept, by 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, beat maiden Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. Ron Winchell, who raced 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, owns a share in both horses.
Asmussen, North America's career-leading trainer in races won, scored his fourth Arkansas Derby victory in April with Super Stock, co-owned by his father, Keith.
The Advent, scheduled opening day, was one of four stakes added to accommodate the expanded 66-day schedule. The $150,000 Mistletoe Dec. 4 (fillies) and the $150,000 Poinsettia Dec. 11 are mile-and-sixteenth races for 3-year-olds. The $200,000 Tinsel, pitting older horses at nine furlongs, is Dec. 18.
Oaklawn's 3-year-old schedule begins with the $250,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 1, the track's first of four Kentucky Derby points races. The Grade 3 $750,000 Southwest, won this year by juvenile champion and future Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, is Jan. 29 and the Grade 2 $1 million Rebel is Feb. 26. Oaklawn tweaked the schedule and bumped the purse of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, now set April 2 (five weeks before Kentucky Derby 148) and carrying a $1.25-million purse.
Others possible for the Advent are Holy Justice, a two-time stakes winner against Indiana-breds for trainer Genaro Garcia, and Delta Downs stakes winner Unified Report for Dallas Stewart. The filly Bella Dona has won five of six on the Arizona-New Mexico circuit.
Chris Hartman has one to watch in Kavod, a Churchill Downs winner Saturday against $50,000 claimers and tagged by the 2015 Oaklawn training champion. His 2-year-old record includes four stakes appearances in New York.
Long-time master claimer David Vance nominated Charter Oak, a last-out winner at Churchill Downs he took off Brad Cox for $50,000.
Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas, forever young at 86, nominated Ignitis, a Keeneland maiden winner by Kentucky Derby winner and champion Nyquist and half-brother to 2021 Oaklawn stakes winner Windmill.