HOT SPRINGS -- Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has returned with the new year to its run of familiar stakes races.
The track's first December of racing since 1945 was highlighted by four new stakes races, but old reliables returned for the second month of the five-month 2021-22 season with the 1-mile Smarty Jones Stakes on New Year's Day. They continue today with the 40th running of the 1-mile $150,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares 4 years old and up.
Post time for the Pippin, the eighth of nine races on Oaklawn's card, is scheduled for 4:46 p.m.
Kueber Racing's Coach, a 4-year-old daughter of Commissioner trained by Brad Cox, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite. Coach, third in Oaklawn's Grade III 1 1/16th-mile Fantasy Stakes last season, raced to a win in a 1 1/16th-mile optional-claiming start on a muddy track at Oaklawn on Dec. 17.
Coach raced eight times between her first start as a 2-year old on Aug. 8, 2020, and her ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on April 30. Her recent win at Oaklawn was her first start since the Oaks.
"She was just a horse that we had run a lot, her 2-year-old season and then throughout her 3-year-old season, trying to get her into the Oaks," Cox said. "We got her to the Oaks. She just needed a break and she got it."
Ricardo Santana Jr., is set to ride Coach.
Katierich Farms' Josie and Miss Bigly, owned by Agave Racing Stable, Living The Dream Stables, and Rockin Robin Racing Stable, are the 5-2 second choices.
Miss Bigly, a 6-year-old daughter of Gemologist trained by Phil D'Amato, finished third of seven under jockey Martin Garcia in the Grade III 1-mile Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 20 in her last start.
D'Amoto said a win by Miss Bigly at Oaklawn last season primed his decision to enter her in the Pippin.
"She really blossomed for me at Oaklawn last year," said D'Amoto, who splits his stable between Oaklawn and Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. "She was coming off a starter allowance at Santa Anita, and she caught an off-track [at Oaklawn] last year, and it boosted her confidence and catapulted her up the ladder into stakes company. She's kind of stood there, and been a nice, pleasant surprise for us."
Garcia is listed to ride Miss Bigly in the Pippin.
"Martin is very good," D'Amato said. "I've known him since he was an apprentice rider in California. He's got a great opinion about a horse, a great work ethic, and he's a top rider."
Josie is trained by Steve Asmussen, a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Asmussen has been Oaklawn's champion trainer 11 times and has trained horses to a North American record 9,588 wins.
Robertino Diodoro trains 8-1 morning-line fifth-choice W W Fitzy, a 6-year-old mare he claimed for Flying P Stable out of a $62,500 optional-claiming start on Dec. 17. W W Fitzy adds blinkers for the Pippin.
"When she was doing her best running last year, she was always on the lead," Diodoro said. "In the last few races, she looks like she's lost some of her speed, so we put blinkers on her to see if we can get the speed back in her and get her in the lead if not close to the lead."
Diodoro said he did not have the Pippin in mind when he claimed W W Fitzy.
"We started thinking about it when we got her," he said. "She was training well, and here we are."