Trainer Steve Asmussen, as sprawling and massive as his operation might be, with a powerful string firmly entrenched every Remington Park season, has not historically been a Will Rogers Downs guy. From 2008-18, Asmussen-trained starters went 1-5-2 from a mere 13 starts at Will Rogers, and he ran nary a horse there during 2019.
But this spring is like no time in modern racing history. With tracks everywhere shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic, trainers have changed their habits, Asmussen and Will Rogers included. Already during the young meet his stable has two wins from four starters, and on Monday he has live shots in three Will Rogers races, including Estilo Femenino in the featured $50,000 Wilma Mankiller Stakes.
The Mankiller, carded at six furlongs and restricted to older fillies and mares, drew 10 entrants, a solid bunch, and is the ninth of 10 races on a program that begins at 1:15 p.m. Central.
In race 7, a first-level one-mile allowance, Asmussen sends out Aura, who should be tough to handle in her fourth start. Aura won an off-turf maiden mile at Sam Houston two starts ago and came back with a third-place finish at the same distance. She finished only a neck out of second and three lengths behind victorious Okie Queen, who returned March 30 and dominated a higher-level Will Rogers allowance group.
In the fifth race, a one-mile maiden race, Asmusseen sends in Hoyam, who tries two turns for the first time in her fourth start. The 4-year-old filly by Fort Larned out of Dreamalildream, by Eltish, showed tactical speed breaking from the rail last out but was in too deep facing 10 Oaklawn maidens and checked in eighth. Her even-paced sprint races hint at a horse who could prosper over a route of ground, and both her top-earning sibling, Pop’s Irish Rose, and her dam preferred middle distances to sprints. Fort Larned, of course, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic over 1 1/4 miles.
As for Estilo Femenino, she also made her most recent start at Oaklawn, and after a wide trip chugged solidly home to finish third in a high-level allowance race won comfortably by a stablemate, the Grade 1 winner Mia Mischief. Estilo Femenino has previous races at an even higher performance level than that and ought to be a handful at a short price Monday.
Her main competition probably comes from Wholehearted, another horse who comes out of a third in an allowance race at Oaklawn. Wholehearted, trained by Robertino Diodoro, was claimed for $25,000 last fall and has hit a new peak, with a win and a second in addition to her last-race third in three starts at the Oaklawn meet.
The field includes several accomplished Oklahoma-breds, among them Spring Steen, who won half her eight starts during 2019, including an open dirt-sprint stakes at Canterbury. She’s 3-2-1-0 at Will Rogers but has been away since Dec. 4 and might run better in her next start than she does Monday.