Classic Empire’s Half Brother Exclamation Point In Two-Turn Debut At Oaklawn

After perfect punctuation at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 3, the next test for Exclamation Point comes in Saturday’s fifth race at the Hot Springs, Ark., track in a first-level allowance/optional claimer that will mark the two-turn debut for the half-brother to 2016 champion juvenile and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire.

Exclamation Point, a 3-year-old son of Concord Point, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 77 for his front-running 2 1/2-length career-debut victory sprinting last month for owner/breeders Steve and Brandi Nicholson and trainer Brad Cox.

“We’ll see how the race plays out,” said Cox, Oaklawn’s leading trainer this year. “I would like to see him sit off horses. I kind of thought that may happen the first time, but it didn’t. We’re just looking for a good effort.”

Cox said he initially thought he would pass Saturday’s one-mile race, but changed his mind after Exclamation Point, in company, recorded a half-mile bullet workout Monday morning (:47.40). Exclamation Point worked with 4-year-old stablemate Bold Prophet, who is entered in Saturday’s ninth race, a first-level allowance for older horses, after breaking his maiden Jan. 26 in his last start.

“I was kind of thinking about waiting, but he breezed so well this past week that there wasn’t any sense in waiting,” Cox said. “If the race was there … it was, it went. I just felt like we needed to be a part of it, just continue the process of developing him.”

Exclamation Point, the 9-5 program favorite, is scheduled to break from post 2 under Fernando De La Cruz and carry 114 pounds.

Also entered are unbeaten Colour Guard – a son of Oaklawn stakes winners Archarcharch and Endless Parade – Articulator (2 for 2 at the meeting) and Inge, moving to two turns after finishing fourth in last Saturday’s $125,000 Gazebo Stakes.

Probable post time for Saturday’s fifth race is 3:08 p.m. (CT).

A Triple Crown nominee, Exclamation Point will be making his first start since Staton Flurry of Hot Springs purchased 50 percent of the chestnut colt late last month. The Nicholsons also bred Classic Empire.

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