When they go to post at Santa Anita on May 23 for the Daytona Stakes, one conditioner will be serving up a candy bar of sorts. Now, why in the world will a trainer of Thoroughbreds indulge in this type of delight? Take a look at the entries for this 5 1/2 furlong dash over the California grass and you will see Doug O’Neill has his three musketeers lined up.
Because of the recent shut downs and what not most barns are anxious to run and with good reason. The world continues to turn and the importance of fitness and good health for these athletes is critical. This is where our three musketeers comes in to play…did we just say three musketeers and good health in the same breath?…
A true champion of the sport in many ways, the two-time Kentucky Derby winning O’Neill is sending three very live runners to post for a race that has come up extremely tough. Let’s get a quick rundown on the chocolaty nougat that makes up his entry.
We have to begin with Wildman Jack who will break from post 6 and is currently the morning line favorite (2-1) . This son of Goldencents (whom O’Neill trained to Breeders’ cup glory) has been in the money in six of seven career starts including a record setting win last out in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint in Dubai on March 7. Having hall of fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons should also be a major plus for the Wildman.
“He came back from Dubai in great order,” says O’Neill. “(Owner) Glenn Sorgenstein is friends with Mike and has been wanting to put him on a really good one and this may be it. We love his post position.”
Stubbins is another prime time entrant for team O’Neill as he has a knack for running well late. This will be his first start of 2020, but his titanic trip through traffic last fall at Keeneland in his Woodford Stakes win was legendary. Seeming to find himself in the turf sprint races, this son of Morning Line was a trip troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in his last start. He breaks from post 2 and is 3-1 on the morning line.
“Stubbins would have been closer in the Breeders’ Cup if he had a better trip,” says his California-based conditioner. “He’s training great and we hope for a fun and successful rest of the year with him.”
The French-bred Murad Khan completes the musketeer line-up for team O’Neill. A real veteran of the game, this seven-year old has one win, one second, and a third place finish in three starts this year all on the Santa Anita grass. Breaking from post 3 and at 10-1 on the morning line, the old man and his late running style could be the spoiler here for the favorites.
“He’s a hard knocker and (jockey Abel) Cedillo has won on him before,” says O’Neill. “His determined running style gives him a real chance to be there at the wire.”
Joining these runners in the gates will also be graded stakes winners Cistron and Texas Wedge. Turf veterans Sparky Ville and Blameitonthelaw complete an imposing lineup.
“This race has come up super tough but we are excited about all three,”proclaims O’Neill.
Should one of O’Neill’s three musketeers emerge victorious in the Daytona it would be safe to say that would be pretty sweet…kind of like a candy bar.