May 25, 2024

Whitmore, C Z Rocket rivalry resumes in Count Fleet Sprint; By My Standards returns in Oaklawn Mile

C Z Rocket
C Z Rocket (left) turns the tables on Whitmore in the Hot Springs (Coady Photography)

Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) — Race 11 (7:05 p.m. ET)

The budding rivalry between champion sprinter Whitmore and C Z Rocket will have a rubber match of sorts on Saturday in the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) at Oaklawn Park, a six-furlong dash that precedes the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Whitmore earned the biggest prize of their earlier showdowns with a 3 1/4-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland last fall, which also clinched Eclipse Award honors for the veteran son of Pleasantly Perfect. However, C Z Rocket proved slightly more ready in their return bout last month in the Hot Springs S., denying Whitmore a fifth consecutive victory in that race by a neck with a late rush from the tail of the field.

Although weighted equally in the Hot Springs, Whitmore will carry one pound more than C Z Rocket in the Count Fleet. The form of the Hot Springs was subsequently flattered when third-place finisher Flagstaff captured the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland last week.

After a failed turf experiment at Fair Grounds three weeks ago, 2020 Woody Stephens (G1) winner No Parole returns to dirt for trainer Tom Amoss. In his only prior meeting with Whitmore, No Parole finished two lengths behind the older rival in the Phoenix (G2), though both were unplaced. Phoenix runner-up Empire of Gold, meanwhile, makes his first start on Saturday since running a solid fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Also among the field of seven is Strike Power, who comes off a swift March 11 allowance win over the track and distance for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Oaklawn Mile — Race 9 (5:49 p.m. ET)

By My Standards, whose 2020 season ended on a whimper after three earlier graded successes, will make his 2021 debut in the $400,000 Oaklawn Mile. The Bret Calhoun-trained son of Goldencents captured the New Orleans Classic (G2), Oaklawn H. (G2), and Alysheba (G2) in 2020, but proved much less effective when up the track in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Clark (G1) in his final two starts of the campaign.

The Oaklawn Mile features a showdown between past Louisiana Derby (G2) winners By My Standards and Wells Bayou, the latter of whom finished third in the Jan. 16 Louisiana (G3) in his only outing since an Arkansas Derby (G2) division last May. Other contenders include Louisiana runner-up Blackberry Wine, a two-time winner over the Oaklawn strip, and last year’s Pat Day Mile (G2) victor Rushie.

Carousel S. — Race 6 (3:55 p.m. ET)

Multiple graded stakes winner Frank’s Rockette figures to be a heavy favorite in the $250,000 Carousel S., a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. The Bill Mott trainee opened her 2021 account with a 1 1/4-length victory in the Jan. 30 American Beauty as an odds-on choice.

Her most serious challenge is likely to come from the lightly-raced Edgeway, who’s won or placed in all five starts to date. Only a neck behind Frank’s Rockette when third in the Purple Martin S. here last April, Edgeway subsequently won two allowances and finished second in the Dogwood S. last June in her only other stakes appearance.