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Texas Bling looking for more surprises at Oaklawn

When trainer Danele Durham looked at the Remington Park tote board the night of December 9 before the Springboard Mile she thought surely it was broken. How else could the odds for her horse, Texas Bling, be flashing 99-1?

Fortunately, the homebred of the Hall's Family Trust didn't know his odds, rewarding his connections with a 1 3/4-length victory and his backers with a $259.60 win payoff.

One day after the win, he was on his way to Oaklawn to begin preparations for this three-year-old campaign. His first major objective comes in the $150,000 Smarty Jones on January 21.

Texas Bling warmed up for the one-mile race by working a half-mile in 52 1/5 Saturday, his first since the Springboard, and has another work planned for Sunday.

"I was really happy with the work," said Durham, who is among the many new faces competing at Oaklawn this year. "It was effortless. He never turned a hair and came out of it bouncing. He's already back at the track. He's doing so well."

The Smarty Jones is the first of the four-race series culminating in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 13. All the three-year-olds competing in the Oaklawn series are eligible to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby in May.

Durham says that she had wanted to come to Oaklawn for several years, but this was the first time she felt she had the horses to compete here. Plans were in the works before Texas Bling stamped himself as a possible Arkansas Derby trail contender. Previously, she was based in Texas year-round.

Durham has been with the Too Much Bling colt from the very beginning, breaking him as a baby at Retama Park in her native San Antonio. She took her time with the "gangly" youngster last year before "putting the hammer down" as his races started getting longer.

"He's a horse that has always been looking for more ground," Durham said. "He's a big, gangly colt. He's really done well here. He's handled the pressure very well. That's the key with these colts. There are 100 that are equally fast, but it's the ones that handle the pressure and stay sound that get to move on."

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