HOT SPRINGS -- Because of an equine overbite, Bayakoa often charged to the wire with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth.
Her racing career coincided with that of basketball star Michael Jordan, who sometimes displayed the same gesture when in a shooting zone.
Bayakoa, trained by Hall of Famer Ron McAnally, also was known as the "Argentine Firecracker" tracing to her native country. She won 13 Grade I stakes, including back-to-back scores in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and earned more than $2.8 million, mostly for owners Janis and Frank Whitham. An October foal, she lived to 13 when laminitis, the disease that killed Secretariat, claimed the mare.
Then-Oaklawn president Charles J. Cella had some horses trained by McAnally -- future Cella acquisition Northern Spur won the BC Distaff and was named champion older male turf champion in 1995 -- and honored the track's 1989 Apple Blossom Handicap heroine with a race in her honor.
The Bayakoa, now Grade III and carrying a $250,000 purse, marks the first graded race of the 2023-24 season at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. The 1 1/16-mile race for older fillies and mares highlights a 10-race card today before the track presents 12 races Saturday, including four stakes originally scheduled Jan. 27 but delayed because of winter weather.
The nine entrants include Butterbean and Misty Veil, stakes winners at the meeting, and 2023 Oaklawn sprint-stake winner Hot and Sultry. Brad Cox, the winning trainer in last year's Bayakoa with A Mo Reay, sends out Comparative, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred, for her local debut after she posted back-to-back wins at Aqueduct in New York. Manny Franco flies in to ride Comparative for the Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder of 2023.
The Alys Look, trained by Brendan Walsh, placed third in the Kentucky Oaks last year behind future filly champion Pretty Mischievous. Rafael Bejarano rides the Connect filly for Ike and Dawn Thrash, 2010 Arkansas Derby winners with Line of David. Ice Orchid has run third and second by narrow margins at Oaklawn this winter for John Ed Anthony's Shortleaf Stable. With Ricardo Santana Jr. staying on Hot and Sultry for trainer Norm Casse and Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, Chris Landeros lands the mount on Ice Orchid for John Alexander Ortiz.
Shotgun Hottie, the 2-1 program favorite, breaks from outside with leading rider Cristian Torres up. The Gun Runner 5-year-old won at Oaklawn last March 12 for trainer Cherie DeVaux with the same jockey. She has been off since winning the Grade III Molly Pitcher in July, her second straight stakes score at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, and trained for the return race at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
Skratch Kat, racing without Lasix, makes his first local start for Rigney Racing and trainer Phil Bauer, legging 124 pounds and Joel Rosario from post eight.