|Oak Tree Special Triumphs in Texas
(Friday, November 28, 2003) - Oak
Tree Special, the nation’s third-ranked American Quarter Horse,
collected his eighth consecutive win Saturday night at Lone Star
Park with a thrilling nose triumph over Southern Cartel in the Grade
1, $362,925 Texas Classic Derby. It was the 3-year-old colt’s
fourth Derby victory this year.
In front of 5,550 fans at the Grand Prairie, Texas racetrack, Oak
Tree Special, breaking from post No. 2, dueled with Southern Cartel
from post No. 3 throughout the 400-yard affair. It appeared that
the runner-up had a slight edge in mid-stretch, but Texas-bred Oak
Tree Special was game from the inside and narrowly prevailed. Snow
Me finished third.
“My horse broke great today,” said winning rider J.R.
Ramirez, who snapped a 0-for-35 drought with three wins on the night
and established a track record for most wins during a single Fall
Meeting of Champions season (37). “He stood perfect in the
gate and when he left there, [Southern Cartel] was a head in front
of me. I thought I was running him down pretty quick. At the end,
he gave me a run for the money.”
Oak Tree Special, owned by Raul Rubalcava of Wylie, Texas, and
trained by Bobby Martinez, crossed the finish line in :21.56. The
son of Special Task paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 choice in the field
of nine 2-year-olds.
He earned a hefty $161,502 for the win and improved his record
to 14 wins and $558,234 in 20 starts. Earlier this year, Oak Tree
Special prevailed in the Retama Park, Remington Park and Dash For
Cash Derbies. He joined champion Dashing Perfection (1997) as the
only horses to post a rare Dash For Cash-Texas Classic sweep at
Lone Star Park – the North Texas racetrack’s premier
Behind the top three were Special Red Warrior, Dazzling Reflection,
Prime Talent, Storybook Lover, Streakin La Tac and Granite Lake.
Red Dog Leader was scratched.
Ramirez, who bested the mark of 36 season wins shared by Roy Baldillez
(1999) and Gilbert Ortiz (2001), can pad his record Saturday. He
has a scheduled mount in all but one of the 12 races.
“I couldn’t have finished better than this today,”
Ramirez said. “I want to thank everybody who helped me out.”
Earlier on the program, Oil & Hay Partners’ Special Task
Force, trained by Jack Brooks, posted an upset in the Grade 1, $100,000
Refrigerator Handicap and earned automatic berths in the Champion
of Champions and The Championship at Sunland Park.
The 4-year-old Special Task gelding covered 440 yards in :21.59
under Juan Vazquez, who tacked 122 pounds. The same jockey-trainer
combination won the 2001 Refrigerator with Image Of Cleat.
Special Task Force, bred in Texas by the late Joe B. Turner Jr.,
defeated Iowa Gold by a neck and paid $65.40 to win as the 31-1
longest-priced horse in the field of 10 older horses. The victory
and $55,000 winner’s share of the purse improved his record
Special Task Force, winner of last year’s Grade 3 Bayer Legend
Oklahoma Challenge at Blue Ribbon Downs, broke fastest of all from
the inside rail and never looked back en route to his second career
“He left [the starting gate] like a champ and just kept coming
down the racetrack,” Brooks said.
Iron Clad Cleat was another neck back in third and was followed
by Silent Overdrive, Fit To Fly, Valors Gold, 3-5 favorite First
To Flash, Flying Avalanche, Spark A Fortune and Dashin Prince Henry.
“It really was a surprise,” Brooks said. “First
To Flash is a super horse and to beat those kind with a horse like
this, that’s a really nice horse.”
Brooks is unsure as to where he’ll run Special Task Force
next, either the $500,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos
on Dec. 13 or $400,000 The Championship at Sunland Park on Dec.
27 – both prestigious Grade 1 events.
“I already have some horses going to [Sunland Park] so I
know I’ll be there for sure,” Brooks said. “I’ll
make up my mind between now and then."