By Jennifer Hoyt —-
Exclamation Point; Photos provided by Oaklawn
Nicholson Hoping Oaklawn Experience Remains Perfect
Brandi Nicholson said she’s only visited Oaklawn twice, but both trips resulted in the perfect ending.
Nicholson bred Classic Empire with husband Steve and watched the Eclipse Award winner capture last year’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1). Brandi Nicholson returned to Hot Springs last Saturday to see Exclamation Point, Classic Empire’s 3-year-old half-brother, win his career debut. The Nicholsons bred and own Exclamation Point, a flashy chestnut son of Concord Point.
Brandi Nicholson said Wednesday night that she plans to once again travel from her Silver Fern Farm in central Kentucky to Oaklawn, this time to watch lightly raced Red Ruby make her 2018 debut in Saturday’s $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
“Maybe it’s my lucky spot,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson owns and bred Red Ruby, a gray daughter of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, with Sandra Sexton.
Red Ruby (1 for 2 in her career) is out of Caroni, making her a half-sister to Beautician, runner-up in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and 2016 Ohio Derby winner Mo Tom, a multiple stakes winner of $665,356.
Nicholson said she normally breeds to sell – Classic Empire was a $475,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate – but Red Ruby represents the first horse she and Sexton have raced together. They have been partners for approximately eight years.
“We haven’t been able to buy a daughter back of Caroni because they’ve gone too high,” Nicholson said. “This was No. 1, an opportunity for us to choose a filly out of the mare. That was in the plans since the moment she was born, and we knew it was a filly.”
Caroni, a 21-year-old daughter of Rubiano, is in the twilight of her broodmare career, Nicholson said.
“We’re excited to have Red Ruby as a broodmare prospect – coming up the line – knowing that Caroni is getting older and not knowing how many more years we have left with her,” Nicholson said. “That’s always kind of been the idea with Red Ruby – keep her from the very beginning.”
The bonus for Nicholson and Sexton is Red Ruby is an exciting racing prospect. She finished second in her Oct. 29 career debut at Keeneland for trainer Kellyn Gorder before breaking her maiden at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.
Red Ruby is 9-2 on the morning line for the 1-mile Martha Washington. She is scheduled to be ridden by Robby Albarado, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1996 and 1997.
“We saw her last Saturday when we were there for Exclamation Point’s race,” Nicholson said. “We, of course, went to the barn to visit with Red Ruby for a little bit and she looked great, looked fantastic. Hopefully, she’ll feel good on Saturday.”
Exclamation Point is under the care of Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s leading trainer this year.
Jon Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, recorded his 650th victory in Hot Springs in Thursday’s ninth race, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Court guided Ninth Hour to a 4 ½-length victory for his father-in-law, trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs. Court, 57, is off to a strong start at the meet, with eight victories to tie for fourth in the standings.
“I don’t feel 57,” Court said. “If I knew 50’s were so good, I would have made an effort to get here sooner. I’m having so much fun.”
Court began riding professionally in 1980 and was Oaklawn’s leading apprentice in 1981, his first season in Hot Springs. His mounts at Oaklawn have earned $16,977,344 in purses.
Overall, Court has 4,096 victories and $103,104,863 in purse earnings, figures that rank 67th and 50th, respectively, in North American history, according to Equibase.
Court reached 4,000 victories in 2016 and eclipsed $100 million in career purse earnings last year.
“Those crossroads do lie before me,” Court said, when asked about retirement. “Until that chapter comes in my life, I’m just not going to put too much thought into it. Regardless of my conduct and my reputation, I put it in the Lord’s hands.”
The track was rated fast for workouts Friday morning. … Whitmore, who is scheduled to make his 2018 debut in the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 10, worked a half-mile in company in :48.60 just after the track opened for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Whitmore was the top sprinter at the 2017 Oaklawn meet, winning all three starts, including the Hot Springs and the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3). … Multiple Oaklawn stakes runner-up Petrov moved closer to his 4-year-old debut by working a half-mile in :47.20 Friday morning for Moquett. Also working a half-mile Friday morning were 2017 Smarty Jones winner Uncontested (:48.80), multiple Oaklawn winner Our Majesty (:50.20) and multiple stakes winner Lovely Bernadette (:48). … Nominations to the $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 17 and $500,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds (G3) and $500,000 Razorback Handicap for older horses (G3) Feb. 19 close Friday. … Jockey Julio Felix swept Thursday’s early daily double, taking the first race aboard favored Ever Special ($5.80) for trainer Ingrid Mason and the second race aboard Bee Boppin Baby ($18.20) for trainer Tom Swearingen. … Unbeaten One Liner, who hasn’t started since a powerful victory in last year’s Southwest, is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in Friday’s third race at Gulfstream Park … Staton Flurry of Hot Springs owns Trivista, a 2-year-old full brother to One Liner. Flurry also owns 2017 Rainbow Stakes winner Five O One and multiple stakes winner Mr. Misunderstood.