Gun Runner kicked off his 2017 Horse of the Year campaign with a tour de force wire job in the $500,000 Razorback Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park last February. Only six lined up that day, and the 2018 edition will feature nearly double that number as the 1 1/16-mile race goes on the Presidents’ Day Monday card.
The ultra-talented Gun Runner was retired following his easy win in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) on January 27 at Gulfstream Park, leaving the way clear for another to step forward on Monday.
Sonneteer is ready and willing to do just that after rallying to take Oaklawn’s Fifth Season Stakes while making his four-year-old debut on January 12. That was the first win for the Keith Desormeaux trainee since he broke his maiden over Del Mar’s turf last July. It was the 13th career start for Sonneteer and came after a runner-up effort in the Rebel Stakes (G2), fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and 16th-place run in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Sonneteer followed his initial win with a third in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in September, his last try against stakes rivals. Kent Desormeaux has been aboard the Midnight Lute colt for the majority of his 18-race career and takes back the mount in the Razorback.
The Fifth Season Stakes produced a major upset, as Sonneteer was sent off at 29-1. The runner-up and third-place finishers were listed at 25-1 and 26-1, respectively, and line back up here for another try.
Futile filled the second spot in the Fifth Season after leading nearly all the way home. The bay five-year-old returned 15 days later to fill that same position in an allowance/optional claimer over a sloppy, sealed surface at Oaklawn as the even-money favorite. It was the third straight runner-up performance from the Broken Vow gelding since being claimed and transferred to trainer Chris Hartman. Luis Contreras will take the reins in the Razorback for the first time.
In total, five runners from the Fifth Season have returned in the Razorback. Third-place finisher Far Right goes in this spot for trainer Wayne Catalano. The six-year-old son of Notional is seeking his first win here under jockey Gary Stevens since taking an allowance/optional claimer one race before finishing eighth in the 2016 Razorback.
Untrapped made his seasonal bow a fourth-placing in the Fifth Season after compiling a nine-race campaign in 2017 under the tutelage of Steve Asmussen. The Trappe Shot four-year-old scored in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) last season while placing in six other stakes, including Oaklawn’s Rebel and the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds. Regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. will be aboard Monday.
Shotgun Kowboy boasts five stakes victories, and all have come at Remington Park. The C.R. Trout-bred/owned/trained gelding ran seventh in the Fifth Season but returned to wire a track-and-distance allowance by five lengths on February 3. The Kodiak Kowboy six-year-old had Luis Quinonez in the saddle that day and the duo team back up here.
Hawaakom is the only participant from last year’s Razorback to return in this season’s running. The Wesley Ward-trained eight-year-old finished second behind Gun Runner, one race after capturing the Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds to begin his 2017 campaign. The chestnut gelding was unable to place in five subsequent starts, including a fourth, once again behind winner Gun Runner, in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1). Hawaakom returned most recently in the Louisiana Stakes on January 13, but failed to defend his title while rallying for third. Corey Lanerie has piloting duties for the first time.
J Boys Echo was a contender on last year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby, sandwiching a win in the Gotham Stakes (G3) between a third in the Withers Stakes (G3) and fourth-placing in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). Following double-digit losses in both the Derby and Belmont Stakes (G1), trainer Dale Romans gave the Mineshaft colt some time off before bringing him back in late November to finish second against allowance/optional claiming rivals. J Boys Echo then closed out his sophomore campaign with a nose second in a similar contest on December 26 and returns to competition here under Robby Albarado.
Rated R Superstar defeated Fifth Season runner-up Futile most recently, rallying from last in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn to prevail by three parts of a length over a sloppy, sealed track. That was the Kenny McPeek runner’s first score since earning his only stakes win, the 2016 Carry Back Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, and the five-year-old gelding will attempt to make it two in a row on Monday with Channing Hill in the irons.
Leofric finished third while making his stakes debut in the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds on December 16 and enters the Razorback off a neck victory in a January 14 allowance going a mile at Oaklawn. The Brad Cox-trained five-year-old is lightly raced, with only eight races under his girth, and gets the services of Luis Saez in this spot.
Rocking the Boat faces stakes rivals for the first time in this spot for conditioner Kellyn Gorder. The Lieutenant was well-beaten in his two prior tries against stakes rivals and makes his first appearance outside of California in this spot for trainer Mike McCarthy.