With wintry weather threatening Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the first time this season, trainer Ingrid Mason moved up a scheduled Oaklawn Park workout for Dream Farm LLC's Apprehender to Saturday.
The chestnut son of Posse packed quite a bit into his activity, according to Mason, with a two-minute lick in company leading to a blow-out three furlongs. The Oaklawn clockers credited the impressive one-for-one gelding with a half-mile in :51.
"If the weather comes like they're calling for, I needed to get this work in today," Mason explained. "He doesn't need much. That's why it's kind of a work and a two-minute lick at the same time."
Apprehender exits an eye-opening debut performance on January 26, where he won by 7 1/2 lengths to garner a stellar 103 BRIS Speed rating. He will attempt to stretch from 5 1/2 furlongs to a mile in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes on Presidents Day.
Regular jockey Inosencio Diego was aboard for the Saturday work and gave a thumbs up back at the barn on the coldest morning of the year so far.
The work took place after the renovation break at around 9:10 (CST) -- a very busy point in the morning -- and it turned into an anxious moment when a horse broke loose and dropped its rider. The horse was a similar color and had a similar blaze as Apprehender with a white saddle pad that looked like the saddle towels Mason uses, but she pointed out it would be near impossible for one of the best horses she's had in her career to get loose like that.
"I have a pony with my horse every time he goes out there," she said. "There's no way I would ever let him get that fired up and act like that."
Black Gold Racing's No Spin was also on track Saturday for the Southwest and is hoping to erase the memory of a disappointing performance in the Smarty Jones Stakes by bouncing back in the January 20 contest.
The three-year-old son of Johannesburg finished 10th in the last go-round on the road to the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, but was suffering from the equine version of a head cold according to trainer Tim Ice. He returned from Saturday's 1:01 4/5 breeze, co-second best of 29 workers going five furlongs, with no lingering signs of that sickness.
"He gets a lot out of his works, so we could do this today eight days out and it puts us on target," Ice said from his barn on a chilly, windy morning that matched his surname.
No Spin won the Royal Glint Stakes at Hawthorne in Chicago in late October, but that win came on the grass. He has since finished fourth in the Springboard Mile in Oklahoma in mid-December prior to his underwhelming, under-the-weather performance on January 16.
Ice is best known for training Summer Bird to win the 2009 Belmont Stakes and eventually a championship as that year's top three-year-old. No Spin is co-owned by Dr. Leonard Blach, who was a partner on that year's Kentucky Derby victor Mine That Bird. The connections have been working together the past two seasons trying to recreate that magical year.
"When we were both racing against each other, he told me he wouldn't mind giving me a shot with a horse at some point," Ice said. "Our first try we had a horse we thought highly of bow a tendon. Fortunately, he didn't give up on me and he sent me this colt last May. We talk about that year now and I kind of joke with him that I did have the Belmont, but I would like to have won that Derby."
Ice indicated No Spin would probably get a 'two-minute lick' around midweek, weather permitting, prior to entering what is expected to be an overflow field for the Southwest.
Trainer John Servis, best known to Oaklawn fans as the conditioner of 2004 champion three-year-old Smarty Jones, is set to return to Hot Springs in hopes of following a similar path with Adirondack King, who arrived Saturday in advance of his start in the Southwest. The popular Smarty Jones swept the Southwest, Rebel Stakes and Grade 2 Arkansas Derby en route to collecting a $5 million bonus for also winning the Kentucky Derby. He then won the Preakness Stakes before being denied the Triple Crown by Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes.
Adirondack King, a son of 2006 Arkansas Derby winner Lawyer Ron, was vanned to Oaklawn from his base at Palm Beach Downs in South Florida and is stabled in trainer Tim Ritchey's barn. His schedule is to walk Sunday, go to the track for the first time Monday and do a light breeze on Wednesday.
"I'm tickled to be returning," said Servis, who is expected in town Sunday. "We discussed it with the owners (MarchFore Thoroughbreds) and we felt the best route was the Arkansas route."
Adirondack King enters the one-mile Southwest off a third-place effort in the January 14 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs under jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. He will be reunited with jockey Stewart Elliott, Smarty Jones' jockey, for the Southwest. Elliott rode him to three consecutive victories to conclude his two-year-old season.
"Wasn't disappointed by his last race," Servis remarked. "Of course, I would have liked to have won, but he had some obstacles to overcome in that race. He's doing great and appears headed in the right direction."