Mitole Steps Up in Oaklawn Park's Gazebo Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 21st, 2018

Six-furlong stakes races in February aren’t typically where handicappers look to find Kentucky Derby contenders, but Saturday’s $125,000 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park could be an exception.

Although the field is small with just six entrants, one of them—Mitole—is nominated to the Triple Crown and appears to have a very bright future. Trained by , the son of Eskendereya finished third and second in his first two starts going six furlongs at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn, but broke through in a huge way third time out, crushing nine rivals to win a six-furlong event at Oaklawn by ten lengths in the fast time of 1:09.75. Remarkably, that was a tenth of a second faster than older males ran in the King Cotton Stakes one race prior, and not surprisingly Mitole received huge speed figures for this dominating performance.

A repeat of that effort would make Mitole difficult to beat, and in the seemingly unlikely event that he runs below par, his Asmussen-trained stablemate Direct Dial could be the one to take advantage. The stakes-winning gray colt has cracked the exacta in four of his five starts and ran second the restricted Groovy Stakes at Sam Houston last time out, stamping himself as a quality runner in his own right. The stakes-placed gelding Inge and the experienced Drc All Inclusive--with eight starts under his belt--are other contenders.

Also on the Saturday card at Oaklawn is the Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares. On paper, the race looks more competitive than the Gazebo Stakes, though Ministry is surely the horse to beat. Trained by Jaime Gonzalez, the four-year-old daughter of Ordained won the Rainbow Miss Stakes over this track and distance last year and recently returned from a lengthy layoff to win a six-furlong Oaklawn allowance race for Arkansas-breds. With three wins from five starts over this track, Ministry’s experience should give her an edge, though Miss Shelby­­—2-for-3 at Oaklawn and a winner going longer on turf—could be a threat on the front end.

Adding further depth to the field is Easter Indy, who won this race last year with a sharp rally from just off the pace. Although she could only finish fifth last time out behind Ministry, she’s another with a strong overall record at Oaklawn and is a candidate to rebound while making her second start of the season.

Post time for the first race of the day is 2:05 p.m. Eastern. The Downthedustyroad is scheduled for 5:09 p.m., while the Gazebo will go as the day’s featured race at 5:38 p.m.