August 11, 2020

Mr. Big News pays $95.60 in Oaklawn Stakes upset

Mr. Big News beat Farmington Road to the punch in the Oaklawn Stakes (Coady Photography)

Allied Racing Stable’s Mr. Big News was ignored at 46-1 in Saturday’s $200,000 Oaklawn S., but the improving sophomore proved the market all wrong when springing the $95.60 upset. A useful fifth in the second division of the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, the Bret Calhoun pupil benefited from a much more robust pace set-up at a sloppy Oaklawn Park, and stamped himself a major player in the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1).

Backers of 5-2 favorite Thousand Words knew that he was in trouble right at the start, as the Bob Baffert shipper stumbled badly out of the gate. Although he recovered to race about midpack, he was never in contention and retreated to 11th.

Meanwhile, Mr. Big News was biding his time near the back of the pack with jockey Gabriel Saez. Up front, mudlark Gold Street had sped from post 13 to dictate fast fractions of :22.07 and :45.47. The chasing Sir Rick and Flap Jack drew closer at the 6-furlong mark in 1:10.92, but by that point, the early leaders were all beginning to tire.

The first to pounce was Taishan, who rolled up rounding the far turn and set sail for home. In his wake, though, Mr. Big News was motoring, and further back, the lackadaisical Farmington Road was finally getting into gear.

Both soon overtook Taisan, but Mr. Big News’ jump on Farmington Road was decisive. Kicking clear at the key point in midstretch, the well-bred son of Giant’s Causeway stayed on too well for the belated Farmington Road to catch. Mr. Big News had a half-length to spare at the wire while negotiating 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.89. Taishan held third, another 3 1/4 lengths adrift.

The top three finishers all earned berths to the Arkansas Derby. Farmington Road might turn the tables if he can galvanize himself into a decent early position. This was the second straight race that he put himself behind the proverbial eight-ball, following a similar fourth in the first division of the Risen Star. Taishan would need to improve to bridge the gap with the top two.

The Oaklawn S. doesn’t offer points toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1), since it was originally set for the same first Saturday in May before COVID-19 forced the schedule changes. But it does serve as a “Win and You’re In” for the Preakness (G1), so Mr. Big News has won a trip to Pimlico – whenever the Baltimore classic is scheduled.

Oaklawn fourth Basin lost position as the early speed backed up, then kept on without building upon his comeback third in the Rebel (G2). Next came the winner’s stablemate Digital, who’s likely to cut back in trip; Coach Bahe; Gold Street; Background; Something Natural; Thousand Words; Flap Jack; and Sir Rick.

Mr. Big News now sports a mark of 6-2-1-0, $167,053. The bay has moved forward from each outing, steadily progressing to break his maiden in his fourth try on Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds. His fifth in the second Risen Star division was solid, considering how the race shape did not favor him. His connections entered him in the Louisiana Derby (G2), but he was stuck on the also-eligible list. Ironically, so was Farmington Road.

Bred by Don Alberto Corp. in Kentucky, Mr. Big News sold for $95,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling. His pedigree indicates he’ll thrive over classic distances. His dam, the Galileo mare Appeased, is a three-quarter sister to Grade 1 turfiste Sligo Bay from the immediate family of Japanese Grade 2 scorer Danon Ballade. Appeased is herself out of a full sister to Glorious Song, Devil’s Bag, and Saint Ballado.