HOT SPRINGS -- A top-heavy eight-horse field in the $90,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old horses today at Oaklawn is an extreme long shot to take many minds off the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gazebo purse itself is an example of ongoing changes at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, led last week by the closure of racing-ground doors to fans and the facility's casino. As a byproduct of casino profit lost, limited on-track betting, and non-existent restaurant and concession sales, the track has reduced race purses as of today.
The Gazebo purse has been reduced from $125,000. Purses for maiden special-weight races have been cut from $87,000 to $60,000. Whereas an allowance-optional $62,500 claiming race paid a purse of $94,000 Friday, today the same will pay $64,000.
"We have to do that," Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. "It's not sustainable at the high-purse level when everything is shut down. It's not sustainable, so we have to have cuts. Quite honestly, I hate the phrase, it's an awful phrase, 'feel your pain', but we're all feeling the pain together. We're working with the horsemen, and they've been great. They understand it. We're working with them together. We're family, and we're going to get through this together."
"If anyone is going to complain that we're running, and the purses are cut, they need to have their head examined," trainer Robertino Diodoro said.
Gazebo morning-line second-choice Long Weekend trainer Tom Amoss is self-quarantined in southern Louisiana because of contact he had last Saturday with New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, who was diagnosed with coronavirus Thursday. Trainer Jeremiah Englehart hosted Payton and is self-quarantined in Hot Springs.
Nevertheless, the races go on, at least for now, and Amoss has high hopes for Long Weekend, by Majestic Perfection, who won an optional-claiming 6-furlong race in 1:09.58 at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston on Feb. 19 in his last start.
"That race at Sam Houston was basically our prep for the Gazebo," Amoss said.
Amoss took on Long Weekend before his first race, a 5-furlong maiden special-weight, won in 58.48 at Churchill Downs on June 23. He said he immediately knew he had a sprinter in his barn.
"He's a very good sprinter," Amoss said.
In Lost Weekend's second of three career starts, six months before his win at Sam Houston, he finished sixth of seven in the Grade II 61/2-furlong Saratoga Special at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Aug. 10.
"We probably got in a little hurry with him to try such a big race as the one we did at Saratoga," Amoss said. "It set us back. In an effort to do right by the horse, we gave him some time off, and he's rewarded us."
Oaklawn's Gazebo is next up for Lost Weekend.
"I think he has every chance to be a top sprinter, and not just regionally, but on a national scale," Amoss said. "I'm hoping we can take our next step forward ... in the Gazebo."
Muddy Waters Stables' and Ingrid Mason's Lykan enters off a 6-furlong optional-claiming win, at 20-1, in 1:10.07 at Oaklawn on Feb. 23.
Lykan, trained by Mason, has a career record of 2-0-4. Both wins were ridden by Tyler Baze
Baze said he felt as if the Congrat's colt has just started to figure out what it takes to run fast.
"He's just been like a big baby, but he's working lights out and I think he's ready to go," Baze said. "Since he's been here at Oaklawn, after that last race, he's really feeling his oats. I know we'll probably be 10-1 or something, but I think the light bulb has kind of went on for him."
Baze said he knows the Gazebo is weighted with talent, perhaps led by 5-2 morning-line favorite Little Menace, a son of Into Mischief, owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III, and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
He also mentioned Hugh Robertson's Beau Oxy and Jack Dickerson's and Zack Ames' Marvin, both trained by Mac Robertson.
Baze said Lykan seems ready for the challenge.
"There are several good ones in there, but I like our chances," he said.
Rick Lee's Gazebo Stakes picks
9 The Gazebo. Purse $90,000, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds
LONG WEEKEND*** defeated allowance rivals at Houston by nearly 7-widening lengths, and he has a series of strong works at Fair Grounds. The one to catch. BEAU OXY proved best of two winning an allowance race at Fair Grounds, while eased up late, and he drew a favorable post. LITTLE MENACE followed a decisive maiden win at Churchill with a determined allowance win over this track, and the steadily improving colt has enough speed to be in a good spot turning into the stretch.
PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS
4 Long Weekend Talamo Amoss 3-1
8 Beau Oxy Vazquez Robertson 7-2
5 Little Menace Cohen Asmussen 5-2
3 Lykan Baze Mason 8-1
6 Marvin Canchari Robertson 4-1
7 Fly to the Bank WDe La Cruz Helzer 10-1
1 No Shirt No Shoes Birzer Anderson 15-1
2 Nucky FDe La Cruz Miller 15-1
Sports on 03/21/2020
Print Headline: Long Weekend looking to step it up in Gazebo