Virtually everyone had etched in stone that O Donovan Rossa would be the hook champion at Remington Park this meet, but Markus Aurelius was having none of it. He pulled the upset in the Grade 1, $51,120 Remington Park Distance Championship on Saturday night.

O Donovan Rossa had major backing from the betting public at 1-5, making it almost a foregone conclusion that he would win this race. After all he had won 8-of-12 tries at 870 yards, the same distance he would run Saturday. The 6-year-old gelding had just won the Grade 2 ,$50,000 Pauls Valley Stakes by 2-3/4 lengths at 870 yards, so it was understandable that he was receiving this kind of support.

Markus Aurelius, named for the former Roman emperor (Marcus Aurelius), said, “Hold my crown.”

When all was said and done, jockey Stormy Smith won the distance championship here for the second time in his career, this time on the 9-1 longshot Markus Aurelius. O Donovan Rossa finished a tiring third behind runner-up Rock Ya Later (8-1), who ran 1-3/4 lengths back of Markus Aurelius. O Donovan Rossa was a half-length back of Rock Ya Later.

Smith had won this race in 2020 aboard Let There Be Sound. On Saturday night, he got the winner to the line first for conditioner Clint Crawford. Markus Aurelius paid $21 to win to his backers, $8.60 to place and $2.80 to show. He earned $29,892 for owners Bobby and Catherine Simmons of Midland, Texas.

Markus Aurelius improved his career marks to 14 starts, four wins, two seconds and one third for a bankroll of $72,992. The 4-year-old gelded son of Secret Circle (TB), out of the Yawls Rabbit mare Neons Miracle, was bred in Texas by Bobby Simmons. He stopped the timer in the hook race at :44.920 for an eye-popping 102 speed-index over a fast track.

It was the first win in this series for the owners. Surprisingly, it was only the second time in his career that Markus Aurelius had won at 870 yards, but the second time in a row. The gelding had won a hook race immediately before coming into this Grade 1 stakes race but had done it with allowance horses that had never won three races in their life. It also was only the second time Markus Aurelius had won at Remington Park.

The rest of the order of finish past the top three was Daycruiser (18-1) fourth, Big Lew Love (6-1) fifth, Volcoms Favorite (10-1) sixth and RU Freal (39-1) seventh.

Remington Park has provided more than $349 Million to the State of Oklahoma general education fund since the opening of the casino in 2005. Located at the junction of Interstates 35 & 44, in the heart of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, Remington Park presents simulcast racing daily and non-stop casino gaming. The 2024 Thoroughbred Season will begin on August 16. Must be 18 or older to wager on horse racing or enter the casino gaming floor. Visit for more information.