Count Fleet Sprint Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade III Race @OP

Trainer Tom Amoss and his sprinter No Parole are going to try and win the Count Fleet @OP on Saturday. See what his chances are like, and the power that is assembling for one of the highlights of Arkansas Derby Day!
Trainer Tom Amoss and his sprinter No Parole are going to try and win the Count Fleet @OP on Saturday. See what his chances are like, and the power that is assembling for one of the highlights of Arkansas Derby Day!

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6F (Dirt), Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), Purse $500k, 3+

The dirt sprint division in North America is not what it once was—probably for several reasons. At one point it seemed to teem with talent, as fields burgeoned and speed won. One supposition for a decline is that purse structures are supporting longer route events much more often. Thus, trainers are gearing their runners to handle those situations, as they stretch out works. Bloodlines for these types are evolving and slowly changing. Still, there are contests that remain fixtures on the yearly schedule, and this race is a veritable mainstay. Over the years the trophy presentation at Oaklawn has gone to the likes of trainers Steve Asmussen, Robertino Diodoro, and of course, Ron Moquett. The last name mentioned is a celebrated runner in his midst by the name of Whitmore, who happens to have won this particular event 3x. He is back for more. Should be an exciting time seeing if he can do it again!

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 No Parole (Jky: R. Vasquez/Trn: T. Amoss):

Trainer Tom Amoss has had in his care some significant runners over the years, who vied for favoritism in all sorts of spots. Another that should be towards the top of the pile in this spot is a colt out of Violence with much promise. Last year, he had a “signature” win at Belmont in the Woody Stephens (G1) going 7F on the dirt. From there, he did not take to the Saratoga MT, finishing 3rd last and 15-lengths from the winner (Echo Town). I think Amoss has brought him along nicely in 2021 with the hope of spotting this race specifically. What is concerning about that is the fact that he first went to Delta Downs in 100k and faced some very weak company. Then he came back to Amoss’ based at the Fair Grounds, and entered another “Non-G” turf sprint event, finishing 4th. Now, against the likes of Whitmore #2 and C Z Rocket #6, I question just how fit he is to jump into this company. Non-plussed . . .

Grade: B-

 

#2 Whitmore (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: R. Moquett):

The “Senior” member of this division is no doubt a fan-favorite at 8-yrs-old. His winning ways were proved time and time again at his home at Oaklawn. But that score at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Sprint last year was sweet as can be. Where there is a will, there is a way! Ron Moquett is a stellar individual, and he runs a state-of-the-art stable that is focused on one thing—the horse. After 15 tries on the OP course, his most celebrated runner has amassed an impressive record of 9W-5P-1S. Last out in the Hot Springs200k though, he faltered, and allowed C Z Rocket to blast to the lead. Losing by only a neck, he will get his chance to defend his title in this spot. Ricardo Santana will not let anyone by him again. The real question though is, do you think he is slipping a bit? Perhaps . . .   

Grade: B+

 

#3 Mojo Man (Jky: F. Arrieta/Trn: J. DiVito):

The DiVito Barn sends this up-and-coming class crasher into this party, with hopes of a major score. He has seen some hgher-end OC/ALLW type races, but nothing like this one will be. There is no doubt that he knows the Oaklawn Main Track like the back of his hoof, since he has already run here over the years some 11-odd times. That experience yielded only 2 victories, one of which was back in late February. If he can build on that effort with Fran Arrieta aboard once again, then he might have a shot to hit the board. Otherwise, he is going to be on the outside looking in.

Grade: C

 

#4 Strike Power (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):

It would not be an OP Stakes without a member of Steve Asmussen’s outfit. He comes to play each and every time he enters a race. This Courtlandt Farm homebred has some nice speed lines out of Speightstown, and he might end up being more than a square price in this spot. Most will shy away from supporting this one because 2-back he was unable to make any headway down the stretch in the King Cotton 150k @OP. He rebounded nicely in one of those OC100k affairs that at a number of tracks would serve as a “G3.” That effort was incredibly telling, and now that Joel Rosario is replacing Santana, it looks like Asmussen has a possible winner at a nice price. I like the action, and this could be the opportunity to graduate to some higher company.

Grade: A-

 

#5 Empire of Gold (Jky: D. Cabrera/Trn: T. Eoff):

Wagering on a dirt sprinter who is coming from off the bench is not an inviting prospect. The last time we saw this colt was back at the Breeders’ Cup in early November. Finishing 4th behind Whitmore #2 and C Z Rocket #6 was not a poor effort, considering these 2 appear to be the class of the field. Terry Eoff (also a part-owner of this one) trains across the Southwest Circuit, and he has had examples of “Graded” scores, but not that often. Is it reasonable to expect that this son of Goldencents is ready to fire? Not really . . . but there is no doubt we should look forward to seeing him back after this one is in the books. Big chance, but not this Saturday.

Grade: C+

 

#6 C Z Rocket (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: P. Miller):

The rising star of the division, who is no spring chicken at age 7, finally bested Whitmore #2 last time in the aforementioned Hot Springs 200k back in mid-March. Ever since he left Al Stall and joined Peter Miller’s band, this gelding has done little wrong. It wasn’t that long ago (last May), that he was running in the “Claiming” ranks. Miller got aggressive and started entering him in higher and higher levels of competition. It was an impressive go that included some scores at KEE/DMR/SA. That 2nd Place finish in the BC Sprint was monumental considering his former class. There is no doubt that he has a legitimate shot to win the race, and I am sure jockey Florent Geroux is going to be on the lookout for his foe once again, as the wire approaches.  

Grade: B+

 

#7 Mr. Jagermeister (Jky: R. Bowen/Trn: V. Lund):

Conditioner Valorie Lund would like to see this runner of hers improve after 2 rather lackluster performances in the King Cotton 150k and the Hot Springs 200k. This horse who is a 6-yr-old out of Atta Boy Roy has ability; it is just that he ends up running against some pretty tough foes at Oaklawn. His level of fitness right now looks pretty high, and I would imagine he is going to need some help in order to notch this victory. It just may be too much of an ask, especially considering the circumstances. Nothing easy when it comes to Hot Springs racing.

Grade: C

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Join us Saturday for all of our Arkansas Derby Day selections! Should be a great set of races from Oaklawn Park!

Oaklawn Park Race 11 18:05 ET

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