May 3rd, 2024

Kentucky Oaks Contenders Lemon Muffin and Everland Representing Claiborne Families

Story by B. Jason Brooks

 

With Claiborne Farm female families represented by 37 graded stakes wins in 2023, including 8 grade 1s, it is no surprise that two of the 14 entries in the 150th running of the grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Friday are from the legendary farm’s female families.

Lemon Muffin wins the 2024 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Credit: Coady Photo/Renee Torbit via The Bloodhorse

First, Lemon Muffin, by Collected, is making her eighth career start after breaking her maiden two starts back in the grade 3 Honeybee Stakes on February 24th at Oaklawn Park.  (See “Kentucky Oaks Contender Lemon Muffin Is the Newest Graded Winner for the Claiborne Family of Iskra” on the Claiborne blog).  After being urged in the far turn, she exploded to the lead in the stretch for an impressive three-and-a-half-length victory.

She stayed at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lucas, finishing seventh last time out in the grade 2 Fantasy Stakes on March 30 after lacking the same speed and response that she had demonstrated in the Honeybee.

Both of her stakes races were over the dirt at a mile and sixteenth, so she will be stretching out an additional half furlong for the Oaks.  She’s looked good in training, breezing a bullet on Saturday, April 27th at Churchill in which she covered five furlongs in 58.2 seconds, the fastest of 58 workouts.

Young 25-year-old jockey Keith Asmussen, son of trainer Steve Asmussen, retains the mount, with Lemon Muffin breaking from post № 6.  Bred by Theodore and Betsy Kuster and Collected Syndicate, she is owned by Aaron and Harrison Sones and Julie Gilbert.

Wajima as a 2-year-old

Lemon Muffin’s second through fifth dams are Claiborne mares, from the Veroushka branch of imported French-bred Claiborne foundation mare Iskra, by her native sire Le Haar.  Iskra’s Claiborne-bred son Wajima, by Bold Ruler, was a four-time grade 1 winner – including a ten-length victory in the Travers – and champion three-year-old.  Through her daughter Veroushka, Iskra is also the ancestress of graded stakes winners Lucense, by Majestic Light, Gild, by Mr. Prospector, Discover, by Cox’s Ridge, High Ridge Road, by Quality Road, Senor Rojo, by Out of Place, and, most recently, 2022 grade 3 Iroquois Stakes winner Curly Jack, by Good Magic.

A Kentucky Oaks win by Lemon Muffin would give 88-year-old Mr. Lucas his sixth training win of the “Lillies for the Fillies,” his most recent occurring in 2022 with Secret Oath.  He shares the record for most Oaks wins with the legendary Woody Stephens.

The second Kentucky Oaks entry from a Claiborne family is Everland, by Arrogate, who broke her maiden in a gutsy effort at Turfway Park on December 30th covering a mile on the all-weather track.  Bred and initially owned by Augustin Stables, she was claimed out of her maiden win by her current owner partnership, which includes Foster Family Racing, William Wargel, R.K. Eckrich Racing, and Maxis Stable.

Everland galloping at Churchill Downs. Credit: Chad B. Harmon via The Bloodhorse

Since then, she has made three starts, all over the Turfway synthetic track, with her biggest success coming last time out in winning of the Bourbonette Oaks on March 23rd.  She was placed in good position entering the far turn under jockey Abel Cedillo, patiently waited for an opening, and then moved through it to win by a length and a quarter.

Everland is making her first start on dirt in the Oaks and will break from post № 9 with Mr. Cedillo retaining the mount for trainer and co-owner Eric Foster.  Mr. Foster is known for being a hands-on trainer, preferring to be the one who drives his horses to the track, putting on their tack, and escort them to their morning training.  Now in the spotlight, he is looking to capitalize on his recent success of winning the training title at Turfway.

Bred by George Strawbridge, Jr., Everland’s is from the Jacola branch of La France, the latter a Claiborne foundation mare sired by the farm’s imported French-bred stallion Sir Gallahad III.  From an elite family, La France is a half-sister of Arthur B. Hancock, Sr.-bred Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Johnstown, by Jamestown.  La France’s half-sister Flambino, by Wrack, was the dam of Triple Crown winner Omaha, by Gallant Fox.

Johnstown after winning the 1939 Kentucky Derby

La France’s Hancock-bred daughter Jacola, by imported British-bred stallion Jacopo, was a multiple stakes winner and champion juvenile filly.  Jacola’s colt Phalanx, by Pilate, was a Belmont Stakes winner and champion three-year-old, and some of her other notable descendants include Black-Eyed Susan winner and champion sprinter What a Summer, by What Luck, and Belmont Stakes winner Danzig Connection, by Danzig.

Lemon Muffin or Everland will hopefully add to the success of their accomplished Claiborne families by finding their way to the winners’ circle under the twin spires on Friday.

 

 

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