The Brock Talk

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Master Rick Takes Northern Spur Stakes

The results of the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn Park answer the age old question as to why they run horse races.

Before the race, it was difficult to see how Drill could be beat. He was a Southern California-based multiple stakes winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and the Grade 2 San Vincente. He came from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who had won his fifth and sixth consecutive stakes at the Arkansas track later in the day when Alternation won the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and Bodemeister took the Arkansas Derby (G1). Drill was by far the richest competitor in the Northern Spur with $339,710 and the only one with even a six figures bankroll. His pilot was Rafael Bejarano, the second leading rider at the current Santa Anita meeting. Obviously the wagering public thought the same as they made Drill the odds-on favorite at 3-5.

But none of that mattered to Florida-bred Master Rick.

During the early stages of the race, jockey Corey Nakatani had Master Rick placed behind the moderate pace of leader Double Rah Rah, who ran the first quarter of a mile in :24 seconds and the half in an even slower :48.40. Around the far turn, Master Rick came from between horses to get to the front while Drill raced four-wide to get to even terms with the leader and the two began their battle. They bobbed heads until just inside the eighth pole when Master Rick pulled away, winning by 1 ¼ legnths. Master Rick completed the one mile Northern Spur in 1:36.73.

Master Rick gave his supporters $12.60 for their $2 win tickets and gave trainer Steve Asmussen and Nakatani their fifth win together on the day.

Asmussen began the final two days of the Oaklawn meeting one race behind Allen Milligan, who had led the standings for most of the meeting. But Asmussen won three races on Friday to Milligan’s one, then pulled ahead for the title with the big final day concluding the “Fifth Season” with 36 wins to Milligan’s 31.

“It’s a great day for Steve [Asmussen] and I’m really happy to be part of his team,” Nakatani said after winning on Master Rick. “And I’m very [happy] for owner [Richard L. Davis.]” Despite all the success the jockey and Asmussen had earlier, like those who bet Drill and 9-5 second choice Explain, even Nakatani was taken aback by Master Rick’s performance in the Northern Spur. “It shaped up a little better than I thought it would,” he continued. “I was biding my time and about the half-mile pole, I let him out a little bit and when Drill came to me, I opened up a little bit on him. Hoping it would work and it did.”

It was only the second win for Master Rick who had just broke his maiden at Oaklawn Mar. 17 after four tries in previous races. Bred by English Ranch Farms, Master Rick earned $60,000 for the win and increased his earnings to $94,930.

Master Rick is a graduate of the last year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training where he sold for $47,000. That same sale begins a week from today and runs four days through Apr. 28 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company located on SW 60th Avenue.

“It was a good opportunity for [Master Rick] today,” Asmussen said. “But we’re going to find more big races for him.”

Drill, who was bred in Kentucky by Stonewall Farm which is now located in Ocala, hung on for second and finished eight lengths ahead of third-place finisher Explain. Drill, a son of the late stallion Lawyer Ron, only returned $2.20 for a $2 place ticket but the $2 exacta with Master Rick on top paid a nice $26.00.

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