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Rainbow Miss winner works toward 2018 debut

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Owner Linda Robbins said the first major objective for 2017 Rainbow Miss winner Ministry in the upcoming live racing season at Oaklawn Park is the $100,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes on Feb. 24.

Ministry claimed the $100,000 Rainbow Miss for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies last April. In Ministry's only other start following the Rainbow Miss, she finished third against open company in a first-level allowance/optional claiming sprint May 5 at Churchill Downs.

"By choice," Robbins said of Ministry's extended break from racing. "She had a little two-month diva time at the farm, and she's been training at Evangeline Training Center."

Ministry has seven published workouts at the Louisiana facility since Oct. 7, the last a half-mile move in :49.63 on Nov. 25. Robbins said the filly could resurface in an allowance race as a prep for the six-furlong Downthedustyroad, which is restricted to state-bred fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up.

"She's just ready and waiting," Robbins said. "I have actually looked at a couple of races to get one race in her. There was a straight 3-year-old race at Churchill, and it never went."

Ministry's first four career starts were all at Oaklawn during the 2017 meeting. She broke her maiden in March before winning the Rainbow Miss in her next start.

The filly represented the first Oaklawn winner for Starfish Stable LLC, a small local breeding and racing operation headed by Robbins, a practicing equine veterinarian, and the first stakes winner for the filly's sire, Ordained. Robbins also owns Ordained, a 9-year-old son of Pulpit who stands at her nearby farm.

Ministry was the first Oaklawn stakes starter for Starfish since the stable's inception in 2010. Overall, Ministry, who is trained by Jaime Gonzalez, has a 2-1-2 record from five starts and earnings of $130,720.

"She's great," Robbins said. "She's been practicing."

* Suspect a Storm was among 22 horses credited with timed works from clockers, who reported Monday. Suspect a Storm, a 5-year-old Arkansas-bred gelding trained by Tim Martin, became the first officially recorded worker of the 2018 season, covering three furlongs in 38 seconds after the track opened at 7 a.m.

Oaklawn had more than 400 horses on the grounds Monday. The barn area opened Nov. 13, and track opened for training Nov. 20. Oaklawn shifts to normal training hours 7--10:30 a.m. today with a break to renovate the surface at 8:30 a.m.

Live racing is scheduled to begin Jan. 12. Other horses breezing over a fast track Monday included stakes-placed Ready to Confess and Big Exchange, a blowout winner of his last start.

Ready to Confess (5 furlongs in 1:01.80) was runner-up in the $125,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares last January at Oaklawn for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel and owner/breeder Josephine Abercrombie, Pin Oak Stable. She was also an allowance/optional claiming winner Jan. 15, 2016, at Oaklawn -- the same day Abercrombie turned 90.

Big Exchange breezed a half-mile in :52 3-5, his first work since a front-running 24 ¾-length victory in a $16,000 claiming race Nov. 18 at Churchill Downs. The margin of victory equaled the largest at Churchill Downs since 1976, according to the track's media relations department.

Big Exchange, favored at 4-5 in the 1 1/16-mile race, was claimed out of his victory by trainer Kim Puhl on behalf of major client Gene Burkholder. The 3-year-old Exchange Rate gelding made his first eight career starts for Brad Cox -- Oaklawn's third-leading trainer in 2017 -- and owner Steve Landers, a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Following a fall break, multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Terra Promessa worked a half-mile in 52 seconds Monday morning at Fair Grounds. The filly has won four Oaklawn stakes races for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, including the Grade 3 $400,000 Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies in 2016. Oaklawn's first stakes race for older fillies and mares is the $125,000 Pippin Jan. 13, a race Terra Promessa won this year.

Ricardo Santana Jr., Oaklawn's leading jockey the last five years, won the $100,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes for 2-year-olds Saturday at Parx aboard Prince Lucky. Smarty Jones won the 2003 Pennsylvania Nursery before capturing Oaklawn's Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby in 2004 en route to champion 3-year-old male honors.

Sports on 12/06/2017

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