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HOT SPRINGS -- Arkansas-bred horses take top billing for the first of four racing days this season with the $125,000, 6-furlong Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Oaklawn today.

Post time for the Downthedustyroad's 11 entrants is scheduled for 5:09 p.m.

Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's 4-year-old Bye Bye J, winner of Oaklawn's 6-furlong Rainbow Miss Stakes last season, is the probable favorite. Bye Bye J, a daughter of Uncaptured trained by Steve Asmussen with Ricardo Santana, Jr. listed to ride, has a career record of 8 4-1-1 and career earnings of $223,105. She has won two of her three starts at Oaklawn. She has not raced in nine months, but long layoffs are common to state-bred specialists.

Asmussen is a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Ron Moquett trained Bye Bye J last season. He trains Downthedustyroad entrants Georgia's Reward and Proud Victoria, both owned by JRita Young Thoroughbreds, but Moquett said Bye Bye J is a deserving favorite.

"The favorite's coming off a layoff, but she's a super talented filly," Moquett said. "She's got a good trainer and a good jockey, and she's going to take a lot of money."

Moquett sounded at ease with the Lieblongs' decision to move Bye Bye J to another barn.

"That's how it is," Moquett said. "We like doing business with Mr. Lieblong, so whatever happens happens, but I can tell you, she's a super nice filly, and it's not like she went down in trainers. She went to a Hall of Famer."

Horses trained by Robertino Diodoro have had a regular presence in Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort stakes races this season. MandM Racing claimed 8-year-old Blushing Bella for $8,000 for Diodoro's barn on Feb. 2, with starts against Arkansas-bred horses in mind. The daughter of Portobello Road has a career record of 44 10-5-9 and won 6 of 10 starts in 2019.

"She's [a] hard-knocking Arkansas mare," Diodoro said. "We really didn't have a horse in that category. We're a little lacking in mares in our stable, so we thought we'd take a chance and claim her. She came back off the race good, and we didn't think this stakes came up overly tough, so we're going to give it a try, and if it doesn't work, she'll go right back to running what we claimed her for."

Lightly raced Georgia's Reward, a 5-year-old mare by Warrior's Reward, finished third as the 4-5 favorite in the Downthedustyroad last season. Her last win came six starts ago in the 2018 Rainbow Miss. She finished fourth in a field of 12 in her 2020 debut, an optional-claiming 6-furlong race at Oaklawn against open fillies and mares on Jan. 25. It was her first race in nine months.

"She ran very well off the layoff," Moquett said. "She came back very good, and now she's ready to try this race."

Proud Victoria is unbeaten in two starts.

"She's a nice filly," Moquett said. "She's a 3-year-old that's going to try older horses that have already won stakes. You have to get creative, so we thought we'd look at this race."

Moquett said he thought the Downthedustyroad would challenge handicappers.

"It's going to be a fun gamblers race," he said. "You have the favorite and then you got some hard-knocking horses whose numbers match up with the rest. It's whoever gets the best trip, and we think we belong in there with ours."

Rick Lee’s selections

9 Downthedustyroad Breeders’.

Purse $125,000, 6 furlongs, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, Arkansas-bred

BYE BYE J*** won two of her three races last season at Oaklawn, including the Rainbow Miss. She holds a clear talent edge, but she has not raced since May. GEORGIA’S REWARD finished third in this stake in 2019, and she had a useful tuneup finishing fourth in a stronger “open” field of optional-claimers Jan. 25. SEKANI defeated state-bred maiden-allowance rivals by 10 lengths just five days ago, and she may prove best of the rest if she doesn’t bounce from the effort.

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS

9 Bye Bye J Santana Asmussen 5-2

3 Georgia’s Reward Vazquez Moquett 4-1

6 Sekani Cannon VanMeter 9-2

5 Proud Victoria Talamo Moquett 6-1

2 Blushing Bella Cohen Diodoro 8-1

1 Matapan Thompson Gonzalez 20-1

11 Tiger Bait Lara Broberg 10-1

7 Dixie Flyer Bridgmohan Gonzalez 15-1

8 Superstar Bea Evans Robertson 10-1

4 Dutch Treat Garcia VanMeter 15-1

10 All About Clara Harr Dixon 20-1

Sports on 02/22/2020

Print Headline: Former trainer doesn't see layoff disrupting Bye Bye J

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