April 1, 2023
Willis Horton Racing's Legacy Continues in The Last Samurai

It was a bittersweet day on February 18. Oaklawn Park After Willis Horton Racing’s connections discover themselves within the winners’ circle the final Samurai Razorback Handicap (G3) victory with out the identify of the operation.

Willis Horton, excellent horse rider and longtime proprietor and breeder of many high horses, together with a number of ranked wager winner Will Get Payment and champion Take Accountability Brandi died on the age of 82 final October after battling pneumonia. When Horton died, his son Kevin vowed to proceed his father’s legacy, and in some ways he saved that promise.

“My mother and I went to the race collectively,” stated Kevin Horton. “We had a good time. Dad will all the time be with me and it is all in his honor. We must always have a great crowd collectively…we wanted that.”

Razorback was the primary tiered wager win for the operation since Horton’s loss of life, and it was additionally jockey Cristian Torres’ first win on the degree. Kevin says the feelings are palpable as Malibu Moon’s 5-year-old son climbs up behind the pack to steal the lead. The West Will Energy .

“It was an enormous day for us. We trusted the Final Samurai loads, we trusted loads, and we nonetheless do,” Horton stated. “He received a extremely good experience from Cristian Torres and the sport plan we have simply been engaged on received to a T. There have been numerous good horses in that race. … We have been tickled to loss of life.”


Photograph: Coady Images

The Final Samurai captures the Razorback Handicap

The D. Wayne Lukas trainee has not received a race because the 2022 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) final April. His debut earlier than Razorback positioned fourth within the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1). Gulfstream Park.

“We went to Pegasus with the horse and it did an amazing job there,” Horton stated. “We have been hoping we might have an opportunity to win, however fourth place was excellent. We weren’t dissatisfied in any respect.”

Horton attributes Final Samurai’s success each to his love of the Scorching Springs oval and to picking the race that most accurately fits his operating model. He says he had an thought of ​​the place it might carry out effectively in 2020 when he purchased it for $175,000 from the Gene Recio consignment from the Ocala Breeders’ Gross sales Firm Two-12 months-Olds in Training March Sale.

“Attending to know the horse and looking for its strengths and weaknesses…we knew it was a distance horse,” Horton stated. “He is all the time been a grinder. He isn’t the quickest horse however he can maintain using. The take care of him is to not management him or pull him again as a result of it takes too lengthy to realize that momentum.”

The Last Samurai wins the 2023 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park
Photograph: Coady Images

Connections of The Final Samurai within the winners circle

The subsequent step for the horse will probably be a begin on the 18 March Essex Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn.

“I hope he is round for some time and we will have some enjoyable with him… We look ahead to that and the horse actually likes Oaklawn,” Horton stated.

Alongside the Final Samurai, Horton has a number of different horses in coaching, together with a number of 2-year-old horses and a number of other 3-year-old horses that they purchased throughout their final journey to the 2022 Keeneland September Annual Sale.

“They’re in Scorching Springs with Allen Milligan (2-year-olds) breaking down there and doing very effectively. We now have numerous hope for them. … We have simply turned 3 – the seniors, we have not had a lot luck with them. Any race to attain factors on the Derby highway I do not see it; I do not suppose you may see us there.”

A visit to the Kentucky Derby (G1) could appear ignored for now, however Horton is optimistic they nonetheless have an opportunity at Run for the Lilies.

“We now have a mare (Take Cost Briana) that we’re making an attempt to make issues proper for her, she’s actually good,” Horton stated. “I hope Oaks can monitor it down. It is only a regrouping kind of deal. I do know he is a great horse…he is a local and we’re excited for him.”

Take Accountability Briana broke his virgin final summer season Saratoga Raceway and tenth within the Alcibiades Stakes (G1), fourth within the Myrtlewood Stakes and third within the 12 months’s Finish Stakes for 2022. She completed fourth from the underside within the Martha Washington Stakes.

Take Responsibility Briana - MSW - SAR - 090422
Photograph: “Coglianese Photographs”

Take Cost Briana breaks her virginity at Saratoga Raceway in 2022

From the skin, issues appear to be going as traditional, however for Horton, a race that may by no means be the identical will final ceaselessly.

“The whole lot goes fairly effectively, it is only a huge hole. Once we’re with somebody day by day, (my father) and I’ve labored collectively for years and I can all the time rely on him,” Horton stated. “Once I work the place we dwell, I all the time look again as a result of I see it coming.

“I really feel his presence. The whole lot we do in horse racing is one thing he has advised me and I all the time come again to that… I hope we will keep for some time.”

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