With no Grade 3 winner to catch, Hot and Sultry had a rather peaceful, not to mention productive, second start of the Oaklawn meeting Saturday.
The 6-5 favorite rewarded Conway owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong with a half-length victory in the $150,000 American Beauty. Norm Casse scored his first victory with the Speightster filly, recently turned 4, after she won twice last year for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
The son of Hall of Famer Mark Casse, the latter known to Oaklawn fans primarily for winning the 2017 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby with juvenile champion Classic Empire, has three Oaklawn stakes victories in two seasons. The Purple Martin last March 26 and the Poinsettia Dec. 17 came with 4-year-old Pretty Birdie, a homebred racing in the silks of her late owner-breeder, Marylou Whitney.
With a $94,575 payday, Hot and Sultry bumped her earnings from five starts to $256,395 for the Lieblongs, he the chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission and a noted horse owner. Alex Lieblong signed the ticket for $475,000 at the September 2020 Keeneland yearling sale that brought Hot and Sultry to his barn.
The American Beauty came two days before the first anniversary of the filly's Oaklawn maiden victory last January. She was then off until July 1, winning a Churchill Downs allowance, and freshened again until Dec. 30 and a matchup with reigning Fantasy Stakes champion Yuugiri. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset's Shackelford filly wired a six-horse field in 1:10.16 for six furlongs, Hot and Sultry 2 1/4 lengths back in second and almost 5 lengths clear of the show horse.
David Cabrera, keeping the mount, had to wait for room on the turn Saturday when Sarah Harper, last-out second in the Poinsettia, briefly restricted the rail-sitting favorite with an outside pass. With free movement at the head of the lane, Hot and Sultry split horses and was kept to task against the Greg Compton-trained I'm the Boss of Me, who held second by three lengths over Ron Moquett's Sarah Harper.
Connie K, the field's only stakes winner (2022 Downthedustyroad Breeders' at Oaklawn against older Arkansas-breds), jumped out quickly for jockey Jon Court and led through a half in 45 seconds. Trained by Randy Morse, who with Randy Patterson bred and raced the filly, Connie K finished behind Fair Grounds shipper Perfect Happiness and ahead of 18-1 longshot Lisette.
Connie K may be in line for a March 4 title defense in the Downthedustyroad, named for a filly that raced locally for trainer Rick Jackson and, after sold by Hot Springs owner-breeder Tommy Walls, won the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
Hot and Sultry carried 122 pounds and paid $4.40, $2.80 and $2.20. Look for her in upcoming Oaklawn stakes for older female sprinters including the $150,000 Carousel March 4 and the inaugural $250,000 Matron March 31, both at six furlongs.
The Lieblongs won the 2021 Purple Martin with the Asmussen-trained filly Abrogate. They have Grade 1 victories at Saratoga with Telling (twice in the Sword Dancer Invitational) and The Big Beast.