February 28, 2024

Best Actor seeks to give Cox fourth straight Oklahoma Derby

Best Actor wins the 2022 Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx (Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo)

Trainer Brad Cox has won the Oklahoma Derby (G3) for the past three years, and Best Actor will try to make it four in Sunday’s $400,000 renewal. The 1 1/8-mile test highlights an eight-stakes bonanza at Remington Park.

Oklahoma Derby (G3) – Race 11 (9:14 p.m. ET)

Best Actor brings a 3-for-4 mark into the Oklahoma Derby, with his lone loss a troubled second in the Indiana Derby (G3). The Gary and Mary West runner came right back to dominate the Aug. 23 Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx, and aims to enhance his late-blooming profile here. Florent Geroux, who rode Cox’s first Oklahoma hero Owendale (2019), is back aboard in post 4.

Rattle N Roll has a longer career trajectory for Ken McPeek. Among the leading juveniles of 2021 with a dynamic victory in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), he disappointed on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail this spring. But Rattle N Roll regained the winning thread in the July 2 American Derby and looked better than ever in his Aug. 20 St. Louis Derby romp. In between, he was the victim of a brutal start in the Indiana Derby, making his seventh a total toss. The Lucky Seven Stable colorbearer will break from post 5 with regular pilot Brian Hernandez Jr.

Another Indiana Derby alum, third-placer King Ottoman, is in the line-up. The Steve Asmussen trainee broke his maiden in the May 30 Texas Derby and most recently wound up fifth after a rough break in the West Virginia Derby (G3). The blueblood son of Curlin and Shook Up, the 2015 Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up, has more to offer. Stewart Elliott, his jockey at Lone Star, regains the mount.

Steal Sunshine enters in the form of his life, riding a three-race winning streak. The Bobby Dibona pupil, who had been sixth in the Florida Derby (G1), has gone last-to-first in the Carry Back S. at his Gulfstream Park base and in the Ellis Park Derby. The stretch-out is a question, but he was runner-up to Skippylongstocking in a 1 1/8-mile allowance back in March.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro’s duo of Red Knobs and Great Escape traded decisions in the Canadian provinces. Although Great Escape beat Red Knobs in the 1 1/4-mile Canadian Derby (G3) at Century Mile last out, the cutback in trip could be decisive for their intramural rivalry. Two starts back, Red Knobs prevailed over Great Escape in the 1 1/8-mile Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia.

Rounding out the cast are locally-based hopes Flash of Genius, formerly on the Southern California circuit, and Big Chopper, a Louisiana-bred stakes scorer at Evangeline earlier in the summer.

Remington Park Oaks (G3) – Race 9 (8:08 p.m. ET)

Cox has the one to beat in the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks (G3) in Juju’s Map. Last year’s Alcibiades (G1) heroine and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) runner-up has yet to add a stakes trophy this term. Third at odds-on in the Mother Goose (G2) and Monmouth Oaks (G3), Juju’s Map hopes that a bit of class relief helps. The blinkers-off angle also works for Cox 25% of the time.

Multiple Louisiana-bred stakes star Free Like A Girl was second in the Charles Town Oaks (G3) in her latest, and Hits Pricey Legacy exits an Oklahoma-bred stakes score in her belated reappearance. Cleopatras Charge has not won since her nearly 80-1 upset of the Sunland Park Oaks.

Well-bred Bionica makes her stakes debut after breaking her maiden at Lone Star and drawing off in a Remington allowance just shy of this 1 1/16-mile trip. Trained by Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds, the Tapit filly is out of a half-sister to Grade 1-winning sprinter Yaupon. My Friend Amy stretches out from a sprint allowance score over Rollin Chrome, and Hannah’s Heaven rolled at Evangeline last out.

Undercard stakes

Two of the undercard stakes are for juveniles. The $75,000 Kip Deville S. (6:03 p.m. ET) kicks off the stakes action. Roman Giant, seventh in the Sanford (G3) and third in the Ellis Park Juvenile before just missing at Kentucky Downs, adds blinkers and Lasix for Asmussen. Bret Calhoun is represented by unbeaten Texas Futurity winner Vietnam Victory. The companion $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial S. for fillies, a half-furlong longer at 6 1/2, pits Cox’s smashing Saratoga firster U Glow Girl against the Asmussen pair of Mor Lively and Jokes on Blue.

Older sprinters get their turn in the $150,000 David M. Vance S., featuring Karl Broberg’s duo of Mexican Wonder Boy and Flash of Mischief, Asmussen’s Iowa Sprint victor Macron, and streaking It Makes Sense, who just defeated Empire of Gold in a local allowance. In the $50,000 Flashy Lady S., Asmussen’s stakes veteran Optionality will try to bounce back from an allowance flop behind Lastchanceforlove, who was third in this stakes a year ago, and also on a retrieval mission is Kaely’s Sister for Cox.

Turf performers are also in action Sunday evening. Juddmonte homebred Dark Palm ventures into stateside stakes company for the first time in the $75,000 Ricks Memorial S., where she’ll meet the respective second and third from last year’s edition, Valentines Day and Island Hideaway. Closing out the program is the $100,000 Remington Green S., with Devamani looking to flaunt his back class first off the claim for Diodoro. Logical Myth likewise bids to recapture the glory after being claimed by Shawn Davis. Cox’s Price Talk arrives in the wake of an off-the-turf stakes rout at Mountaineer, while venerable nine-year-old Rated R Superstar makes a rare turf appearance.