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Horse racing notes: Omaha native Terry Thompson gets big Oaklawn Park win

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Omaha native Terry Thompson picked up a huge victory Monday aboard long shot Super Steed, who captured the $500,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Thompson rode the 62-1 shot to a three-quarter length win in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds. The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby champion Super Saver paid an eye-popping $126.60 to win.

The graduate of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln guided the colt around the outside of the field entering the stretch and held on for the victory at the track in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Larry Jones trained the winner of the Southwest, one of the prep races for the Kentucky Derby.

Thompson said in an interview with Blood-Horse magazine that everything fell into place.

“He ran just a beautiful race,’’ the jockey said. “Larry (Jones) said wherever we were, make sure he gets the lead heading into the stretch.’’

Thompson, who rode his first race at Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack for Nebraska native and Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, has almost 2,800 career wins.

Fonner to open

Despite the snowy conditions in recent weeks, Fonner Park is set to begin its live race meet Friday.

“We’re planning on opening this weekend,’’ Fonner Chief Operating Officer Chris Kotulak said. “The only way we wouldn’t is if Mother Nature jeopardizes the safety of our horses and riders.’’

Cold and snowy conditions are not unusual at the Grand Island racetrack, the first stop on the Nebraska racing circuit.

“It’s extremely rare that we cancel on opening day,’’ Kotulak said. “We’re ready to start racing.’’

The track had been open for workouts but was closed this past weekend because of the weather. It reopened earlier this week.

“We’ve been going great guns out here for three weeks,’’ Kotulak said. “The track has been in good shape.’’

Fonner will begin its 31-day meet with a 2 p.m. post Friday. First post on Saturday and Sunday will be 1:30 p.m.

Game Winner update

Game Winner, owned by former Omahans Gary and Mary West, is working toward his first start of 2019.

The 3-year-old colt became an immediate Kentucky Derby contender after winning the $2 million Breeders Cup Juvenile in November. The Bob Baffert trainee is currently working out at Santa Anita racetrack in suburban Los Angeles.

“Bob said he’s been looking really good,’’ said Ben Glass, the Wests’ racing manager. “We’re going out to see him right now.’’

Glass, who was flying to California on Tuesday, said Game Winner’s first start this year might come in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 9.

Game Winner won all four starts as a 2-year-old while earning almost $1.5 million.

Von Hemel’s streak

Local racing fans who remember the name Don Von Hemel might be surprised to learn that the trainer is still competing at age 83.

He is saddling horses at Oaklawn Park, something he has done for more than 40 years. He has sent at least one horse to the winner’s circle every year at the Arkansas track since 1975.

The streak began when Bold Trap won an allowance race in 1975 under jockey Dan Whited. Bold Trap went on to greater glory at Ak-Sar-Ben, where he was named the 1975 Horse of the Year.

Bold Trap was Von Hemel’s only winner at Oaklawn in 1975, but he went on to win 425 races at that track. He was the leading trainer there in 1981.

A member of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, Von Hemel won 10 training titles at Ak-Sar-Ben.

Von Hemel’s sons Kelly and Donnie also are successful trainers.

Buffett connection

A 3-year-old gelding running at Santa Anita probably would receive some interest from Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett.

The name of the horse is “Oracle of Omaha’’ — a well-known nickname for Buffett.

The gelding, owned by Rockingham Ranch and trained by Peter Miller, has one career victory in six starts. He finished fourth in his most recent start Sunday.

In an interview with the website Horse Racing Nation, Rockingham manager Brian Trump talked about naming the horse.

Trump said he and Rockingham owner Gary Hartunian were on a flight and there was a documentary about Warren Buffett. “As soon as we got back,” Trump said, “we named one of our horses Oracle of Omaha.’’

Rockingham has named several other horses after celebrities, including Kim Kardashian (Kim K).

Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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