HOT SPRINGS -- For a little more than a minute, the time it took to complete the Gazebo Stakes, talk of the coronavirus pandemic took a back seat to horse racing at Oaklawn.
Long Weekend, ridden by Joe Talamo and trained by Tom Amoss, led gate to wire to win the $90,000, 6-furlong Gazebo for three-year-old horses by 4 3/4 lengths over second-place Little Menace in 1:09.77 at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort on Saturday.
"I thought it was great," Amoss, who watched the race while in self-quarantine in Louisiana, said of Long Weekend's victory.
Oaklawn closed its racing facility to fans March 13 to help slow the spread of the virus. The track remains off-limits to anyone other than horsemen, officials, essential Oaklawn employees, medical and security personnel, and media representatives. Racehorse owners and their guests were added to the list this week of those excluded from the grounds.
Ingrid Mason-trained Lykan finished third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Little Menace from the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, and 2 3/4 lengths in front of Beau Oxy, who finished fourth, 11 lengths behind the winner.
Long Weekend, by Majesticperfection, was first out of the gate and led Fly to the Bank, who would finish last in the field of six, through the first quarter-mile in 22.24. Little Menace, a son of Into Mischief ridden by David Cohen, was in third, 3 lengths back.
Long Weekend passed the half-mile in 45.75 and led by 3 lengths over Little Menace as they turned for home at the head of the stretch. Lykan, ridden by Tyler Baze, was 3 lengths behind Little Menace in third place as he began his stretch run.
"Long Weekend is an athletic horse," Amoss said. "He broke super sharp, and they chased him, and they came to him, and he had plenty in reserve. He's just a really good horse."
Amoss had bemoaned Long Weekend's run of bad luck after his two starts as a 2-year-old. First, Long Weekend was kicked by a pony in a post parade at Keeneland's fall meet in Lexington, Ky., and was scratched. Next, he was set to race at Fair Grounds in New Orleans in his first entry as a 3-year-old, but Amoss said ruckus from an eating contest at the track caused Long Weekend to toss his rider and fall to the track. He again was scratched.
"In a very strange set of circumstances, Fair Grounds had a red-beans-and-rice eating contest on the apron of the track," Amoss said. "They had all the big eaters. Joey Chestnut and, I mean, these were national guys. It was sponsored by a red-beans company, and there was a lot of activity and hoopla, and it spooked Long Weekend, and he got loose in the post parade."
Long Weekend's prep race for the Gazebo came at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, where he won a 6-furlong optional-claiming race in 1:09.58 on Feb. 19.
"[The Gazebo] was good on a couple of accounts," Amoss said. "Number one, it reaffirmed his last race; and number two, it came against better company. I was really, really pleased by his race."
Amoss said he remains self-quarantined in Louisiana as his part in the nationwide attempt to slow the effects of coronavirus. He spent time at Oaklawn last weekend with New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, who tested positive for coronavirus Thursday. Amoss said he and Payton celebrated together after Serengeti Empress, trained by Amoss, won the Grade II Azeri Stakes on March 13.
Payton was at Oaklawn as a guest of Bill Parcells, the owner of Three Technique who finished fourth in the Rebel Stakes that day.
"I was in very close contact with Sean Payton last Saturday," Amoss said. "I had lunch right next to him, was around him. We high-fived after the race. We hugged after the race. I mean, I know how it is out there, so I felt like I needed to [quarantine myself]."
Amoss said he thought Oaklawn's 6-furlong Bachelor Stakes, scheduled for April 25, is a likely option for Long Weekend's next start.
"A race like the Bachelor, being right there, is something we have our eye on," Amoss said.
Sports on 03/22/2020