Trainer Tim Martin hopes Oaklawn, his home track, proves a therapeutic background for four-time stakes winner Tyler's Tribe.
His Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf appearance Nov. 4 at Keeneland turned disastrous when the 2-year-old gelding was eased in the stretch and then vanned off after bleeding. Martin, an Oaklawn veteran who co-owns Tyler's Tribe, said on a scale of 1 to 5, the bleeding incident rated a "5."
"It was bad," he said, after the race decrying the rule that forbade Tyler's Tribe from using Lasix, a condition of Kentucky Derby points races. That restriction is one reason Tyler's Tribe makes his Oaklawn debut Friday in the $150,000 Advent Stakes, in which Lasix is allowed, rather than the $250,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 1, the track's first of four races offering Derby qualifying points.
Tyler's Tribe is the early 3-5 choice from post five going six furlongs. With regular jockey Kylee Jordan aboard, the son of Sharp Azteca, along with Frosted Departure, 15-1, Francisco Arrieta, post seven, are high-weighted at 124 pounds.
To prove himself a Derby contender, Tyler's Tribe must stretch his speed or develop other tactics, a typical requirement of a young horse. The gelding ran only in dirt sprints at Prairie Meadows, winning five races by a combined 59 3/4 lengths, all on the lead, before the Keeneland turf race. The Iowa races, coming as a reward to native son Thomas P. Lepic, yielded Beyer Speed Figures of 94, 90, 89 and 86 (courtesy of Daily Racing Form), giving the Advent favorite a numbers edge Friday.
Martin said after the race that Tyler's Tribe gave no hint in training before the Breeders' Cup that he would go wrong under fire. He has since worked twice without incident at Oaklawn, where the trainer and brothers Bill and Joe have raced for years. The gelding checked out well, Martin said, after three furlongs in 37.60 over a good-rated track Saturday, earlier going a half-time in 50.20 over a muddy surface Nov. 25.
"Two times I scoped him," Martin told Oaklawn's Robert Yates on Wednesday. "I worked him twice and scoped him twice and he was good. If he had anything, I wouldn't run him. But he's clean and looked good."
His career-high Beyer came in the six-furlong Prairie Meadows Freshman, a 15 1/2-length romp Aug. 27 and one of his two stakes appearances against open company.
"I like him," said Martin. "I like him wherever he's at (post position). He gets out really good, so I like him in the race. There's a lot of speed, but we're speed. He's fast on dirt. He acts like he handles the track really good."
Iowa-bred Tyler's Tribe, having earned $306,294 on the track, brought $34,000 at a yearling sale. Martin scored Oaklawn stakes victories in 2017 with state-bred Racer in the $100,000 Nodouble and $100,000 Arkansas Breeders. The trainer's 144 local training wins date to 1984.
The Advent, eighth of nine races on the card, is set for 3:46 p.m., the season opener tabbed for 12:30 p.m.
Kavod, in his first start off a $50,000 claim by trainer Chris Hartman, won the inaugural Advent on opening day last year, the first stakes race for 2-year-olds at Oaklawn since 1973. He later had three fourths over the track and ran fifth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Sired by Lea, Kavod won an allowance race in September and placed fourth in a November stakes, both at Churchill Downs, where he was claimed before the Advent.
Still in Hartman's barn, Kavod is entered in Saturday's $150,000 inaugural Ring the Bell Stakes at Oaklawn, the early 2-1 favorite from post six with Arrieta aboard. Also Saturday is the second running of the $150,000 Mistletoe for fillies and mares. Oaklawn also races Sunday on an eight-day December schedule.