Between May 25, 2020, and May 31, 2021 — a nine-race stretch — C Z Rocket finished no worse than second. That included seven victories in those nine races.

C Z Rocket Returns
C Z Rocket’s last victory was this score in the Count Fleet. The multiple graded-stakes winner returns to Oaklawn Park for a Saturday allowance. (Image: Coady Photography)

It also incuded two victories at Oaklawn Park, where the 7-year-old, multiple Grade 2 winner wraps up his 2021 campaign on Saturday as the 5/2 morning-line favorite in an allowance sprint. Co-owner Tom Kagele said he’s using the six-furlong race as a prep for the ungraded King Cotton Stakes on Jan. 29.

He’s also using the race as a debut for new trainer Rene Amescua, who took the gelded son of City Zip when former conditioner Peter Miller took a sabbatical from training. It was Miller who claimed C Z Rocket for $40,000 at Oaklawn last April after he finished fifth in a claiming race.

Under Miller, C Z Rocket won five consecutive races, a streak snapped by a second in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint to 18/1 Whitmore. C Z Rocket later avenged that loss, beating Whitmore in April’s Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn.

A Lasix-dependent horse

Since a victory in April’s Grade 2 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn, C Z Rocket is winless in five races, including in his last outing, miserable seventh in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar.

In his defense, C Z Rocket did hit the board four times (0-2-2), but the sprinter is a perfect example of a horse whose performance suffers without Lasix. The last time he had the anti-bleeding medication — which is banned from most jurisdictions and stakes races — was in May’s Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park.

“He needs it. I don’t think there’s any secret he was falling off in races that he hasn’t had Lasix,” Kagele told Oaklawn Park. “But he still ran pretty well. We tried him in the Breeders’ Cup and (he) didn’t run that great there. Coming out of that race, his blood was a little off, so he had a little bit of an excuse there. He bounced out of it really well, so this race was like perfect timing. So we decided to run here instead of waiting for the Jan. 29 race.”

Since winning a Keeneland allowance in a track-record 1:15 for 6 1/2 furlongs in July 2020, C Z Rocket has run only listed and graded stakes. He is 4-3-2 in those 10 races. For his career, he is 11-4-4 in 30 career starts, banking $1,511,641.

C Z Rocket likes Oaklawn Park

For his part, Kagele is comfortable running C Z Rocket back at Oaklawn. And he’s comfortable with Amescua quarterbacking C Z Rocket’s training. A longtime conditioner at Golden Gate Fields, Amescua lost a healthy part of his barn due to the pandemic. Kagele knew him from his Northern California days and recommended him to Miller.

“I’m comfortable with it and Pete was too. Pete owns part of C Z also,” Kagele said.

Lasix. A new trainer. Familiar digs. No Whitmore to contend with. Now, it’s up to C Z Rocket to find his mojo again.