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BRASS HAT COULD RETURN TO THE DIRT – After nine consecutive starts against graded-stakes company on the grass, a change in venue could be in store for Fred Bradley’s homebred veteran Brass Hat.
“I’d like to find an easier spot for him and I haven’t ruled out going back to the dirt,” trainer Buff Bradley, the owner-breeder’s son, said in the wake of Brass Hat’s third-place finish in last Saturday’s Louisville Handicap (GIII) behind Free Fighter.
“He tries hard every time he runs, but with his style in the mile and a half races he runs, he is at the mercy of the pace. I may have to run him shorter, so they will come back to him. A mile and an eighth is a possibility.”
After winning the Louisville Handicap last year, Brass Hat hit the road and recorded third-place finishes in the United Nations (GI) at Monmouth Park and the Sword Dancer (GI) at Saratoga.
“Saratoga was too tough,” Bradley said. “I don’t know where I am going to run, but I know it won’t be on Polytrack.”
Brass Hat, whose actual birthday was last Saturday when he turned 9, returned to Fred Bradley’s farm in Frankfort on Monday for a week of R & R.
“He came out of the race good,” Buff Bradley said. “He will get a week off and maybe even a couple of extra days depending on what my dad and I plan for him.”
Brass Hat’s most recent start on dirt came in the 2008 Stephen Foster (GI) when he ran fifth behind two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. His most recent dirt victory came in the 2007 Massachusetts Handicap, one of seven stakes wins for Brass Hat on dirt.
STALL TURNS SLOW WINTER INTO BANNER SPRING – The number practically screams off the page: 91.
That’s the in-the-money percentage through the first 18 days of the Spring Meet for trainer Al Stall Jr. Stall has saddled five winners with three seconds and two thirds, a 180-degree turnaround from the season he had at Fair Grounds.
“January, February and March were the three worst months I have had in years,” said Stall, who ended the nearly five-month meet with only 15 winners from 128 starters. “For whatever reason, my horses didn’t run and they sure didn’t use their conditions up.”
Stall, who has 16 horses stabled at Churchill Downs along with a 25-horse string at Louisiana Downs and 20 at Keeneland, accepts the pendulum swing as part of the game.
"There is no rhyme or reason to it,” Stall said. “But for a claiming trainer, he can have no turnover in the barn and they get some new stock in and things can turn around quick.”
Tne horse that is not part of Stall’s current statistics at Churchill Downs is stable star Blame, who made a winning 2010 debut in the W.D. Schaefer Handicap (GIII) at Pimlico on May 15.
Blame is back at Keeneland, where Stall has all horses owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm housed.
“I will probably breeze him Saturday or Sunday,” Stall said of Blame, whose next race is scheduled to be the $600,000 Stephen Foster (GI) here on June 12. “I may just leave him over there until the Foster or come over the day before and not risk getting hung up the day of the race in the construction on I-64.”
Blame, a 4-year-old homebred son of Arch, has compiled a record of 9-6-1-2 for earnings of $676,747. He will bring a three-race win streak into the Stephen Foster after closing 2009 with victories in the Fayette (GII) at Keeneland and the Clark Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs.
“WORK MATE” GETS HIS DAY IN THE SUN – During the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Awesome Act was accompanied through his morning exercise daily by a chestnut who wore a yellow saddle towel adorned with the words “Work Mate”.
In Thursday’s third race, “Work Mate” will hit the track as a solo act under his proper name: Peace Town.
Owned by Vinery Stables, the co-owner of Awesome Act, Peace Town is a 4-year-old Maryland-bred Peace Rules colt trained by Steve Asmussen. Racing primarily on the Mid-Atlantic circuit in the care of trainer Michael Trombetta, Peace Town has compiled a record of 13-5-2-0 for earnings of $152,267.
Thursday’s race, a $50,000 claiming event at five furlongs on the turf, will be Peace Town’s first race for Asmussen.
BARN TALK – Jockey Calvin Borel was off all of his mounts Thursday. “He’ll ride tomorrow,” agent Jerry Hissam said of Borel, who has been sidelined by an eye infection since May 16. Borel, who leads all riders with 22 victories this spring here, is named on eight mounts on Friday’s 11-race card. …
Trainer Tom Proctor, who won the Regret (GIII) last year with Keertana, will try for a repeat in this year’s renewal to be run June 12 with Keertana’s half-sister, Snow Top Mountain. Both fillies are homebreds for owner Barbara Hunter. Snow Top Mountain was an allowance winner here on May 13. Proctor also plans to run Patinack Farm and Tim Turney’s Queen of the Creek, a Keeneland allowance winner who broke her maiden here last fall, in the Regret. Proctor, who has won seven stakes at Churchill Downs, also won the Regret in 2005 with Rich In Spirit. …
Trainer Dale Romans, seeking to become the second trainer at Churchill Downs to record 500 victories beneath the Twin Spires, has six runners entered Thursday and four Friday. Tied for fourth in the trainer standings with six victories this meet, Romans has 494 career wins at Churchill Downs, trailing only Bill Mott (630).
WORK TAB – Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado worked a half-mile on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in :48.80 with Mary Doser up. Sixth in the Preakness in his most recent start, Paddy O’Prado ran third in the Kentucky Derby and could return to the turf in the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII) on June 12. Paddy O’Prado has a record of 4-1-1-2 on the grass with the victory coming in the Palm Beach (GIII) at Gulfstream Park in March. … IEAH Stables and Resolute Group Stables’ Court Vision, second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) in his most recent start, worked six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:15.60.
HEADTAP TO PERFORM DURING FRIDAY HAPPY HOURS – This week’s “Dress to Impress” Friday Happy Hours from 4-7 p.m. in Churchill Downs’ paddock area will showcase live music by Headtap, $2 Anheuser Busch draft beer, $3 Bacardi mojitos and $2 hot dogs.
Also, one male and one female deemed “most stylish” will a $100 wagering voucher and $250 gift certificate to a local Louisville area boutique, respectively. Weekly winners will be invited back for the finals on Friday, June 25 for a chance to win a shopping spree in Chicago, which includes hotel and a $1,500 Visa gift card.
TRAINER STEVE MARGOLIS WILL BE SPECIAL ‘GET IN THE GAME WITH JILL BYRNE’ GUEST ON SATURDAY – Trainer Steve Margolis, who will saddle Cash Refund in the Aristides and Visavis in the Dogwood on Saturday, will be Saturday’s “Get in the Game with Jill Byrne” special guest. Byrne and Margolis will discuss several topics including Saturday’s stakes events, plus Stay Put’s upcoming start in the June 5 Belmont Stakes. The weekly 30-minute seminars offer fans an insider look at the world of horse racing every Saturday in the paddock area starting at 11:45 a.m. Also, it will be televised on television monitors throughout Churchill Downs.
HORSEMEN’S GOLF SCRAMBLE RETURNS ON JUNE 8 – The second annual Horsemen’s Golf Scramble will be held Tuesday, June 8 at the Glenmary Country Club in Fern Creek, Ky. to help raise funds for the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs. The cost of the golf outing is $100 per player with four players to a team. Players will be treated to an 11 a.m. lunch. The 18-hole tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. There will be contests for the longest drive, closest to the pin, and a hole-in-one in which someone could win a 2010 Toyota Corolla from Oxmoor Toyota. Registration is due Friday and entry forms can be found at the Backside Learning Center or by visiting www.derbymusuem.org/backsidelc.
KENTUCKY OAKS WINNER RACHEL ALEXANDRA WORKS FOR NEW BARN – Possible Preakness candidate Rachel Alexandra, a record-smashing 20 ¼-length winner of the Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) tuned up for a possible bid for Saturday’s $1 million Preakness Stakes (GI) with an easy four-furlong work on Sunday at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, working for the first time for new trainer Steve Asmussen, covered the half-mile distance over a “fast” track in :48.40. Exercise rider Dominic Terry was in the saddle as Rachel Alexandra turned out fractional times of :12.40 and :24.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02. The move ranked 13th among 81 works at the distance.
“I thought it went beautiful,” Asmussen said. “I’m surprised the racetrack dried out so well considering they cancelled (races) two days ago.
“She’s a beautiful filly. I think she’s doing extremely well. Every sight of her has been impressive and I’m just very happy to get this light move in this morning under very good conditions.”
Rachel Alexandra was transferred from the care of trainer Hal Wiggins to Asmussen when the filly was purchased for an undisclosed price early last week by Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Farm and Harold McCormick. Jackson had indicated that the filly would be made a supplemental entry to the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, if she continued to do well in her new barn. But Asmussen said on Sunday that a decision on Rachel Alexandra’s Preakenss bid had yet to be made.
“That’s Mr. Jackson’s discretion – whatever timetable he wants to be on,” said Asmussen. “We’re just very fortunate to have her in our care and we’ll just communicate what we think we’re seeing.”
Asmussen won the Preakness in 2007 with eventual “Horse of the Year” and 3-year-old champion Curlin, who rallied to edge Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Street Sense in that race. He declined to speculate where Rachel Alexandra fits among the males being toward Saturday’s race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course.
“I think it’s like all races – you only worry about what you can take care of,” he said. “The filly has proven what a tremendous mare she is. Mr. Wiggins has done a remarkable job with an amazing filly and we’re just very fortunate to be around her.”
Rachel Alexandra’s win in the Kentucky Oaks was her fifth consecutive victory – all in stakes competition – and lifted her career earnings to $958,354. Her career record stands at 7-2-0 in 10 races.
UNBEATEN HULL ZIPS FIVE FURLONGS IN PREAKNESS DRILL – Unbeaten Derby Trial (GIII) winner Hull tuned up for a possible run in the Preakness with a sharp five furlong work over a “fast” track on Sunday at Churchill Downs.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s 3-year-old son of 1994 “Horse of the Year” Holy Bull covered the distance in :59.40. Jockey Miguel Mena was aboard for the “bullet” move that was the best of 35 at the distance.
The Dale Romans-trained colt covered the distance in fractions of :23.20 and :35.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.80.
“He worked really good – I had him in :59-flat,” Romans said. “It looked like he was doing it easy.”
Romans said there’s no final decision at this point on whether Hull will run in Saturday’s second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico. He said the status of Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, who could be made a supplemental entry to the race, would be part of the discussion.
“It makes it a tougher decision to go,” Romans said. “We’re going to sit down and talk about it on Tuesday and see if we want to go up there and run against her. Right now, I think we’re still gonna go, but we’ll see what happens. She changes the dynamics of the whole race.”
Hull figures to be prominent from the start if he runs in the Preakness, but Romans said Rachel Alexandra would figure to be close by at all points of the race.
“She’s true speed that keeps on going,” he said. “She’s real quality. I don’t know it’s going to be for a filly to come back in two weeks – I think it’s harder for the fillies than it is for the colts. But I’m sure if Steve (Asmussen) takes her over there, then she’s ready to go.”
Romans had high hopes for Hull going into his stakes debut in the Derby Trial on April 25, which is run at Churchill Downs’ one-turn mile distance. He was impressed by the colt’s effort in that four-length win and that’s why the 1 3/16-mile Preakness is being considered so strongly.
“We knew he was good, but when you’re stepping up into stakes company for the first time there’s still some unknowns,” said Romans. “But he proved he can run with anybody, because that was a solid field of horses.”
TERRAIN WORKS IN COMPANY FOR PREAKNESS – Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain tuned up for a probable run in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes by working five furlongs in company with Map of the World in 1:02.60, 19th fastest of 35 at the distance.
With jockey Jamie Theriot up, Terrain broke off about two lengths behind Map of the World with Julien Leparoux up. Terrain drew even at the eighth pole and finished on even terms.
“I had worked a few horses earlier in the morning and the track was fast. I didn’t want any lights out work,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “He is ready to run. He got dialed in today. I told Jamie just to sit behind him and when he chirped to him, he was right on him and they finished heads up. Jamie was happy with him.”
Stall has not named a rider for Terrain for the Preakness.
The work was the third for Terrain since his fourth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) on April 11. He had worked in :47.60 in company for a half-mile on April 24 at Keeneland and then turned in a :50.40 half while working solo on May 3, also at Keeneland.
GENERAL QUARTERS TO BREEZE ON MONDAY MORNING – With exercise rider Justin Court up, General Quarters galloped a mile and a half before the renovation break.
Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy plans to work the 10th-place Kentucky Derby finisher an easy half-mile Monday morning before the break with Court up.
“I just want to give him a little bit of a maintenance move,” McCarthy said. “I will breeze him a slow half, just something to take the edge off.”
General Quarters, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I), is scheduled to leave early Tuesday morning by van to Pimlico for the Preakness.
BAFFERT GETS HIS DERBY … A WEEK LATE – “I got my Derby,” a smiling Bob Baffert said Sunday morning upon his return to Churchill Downs after a successful foray to Texas where Peachtree Stable’s Mythical Power won Saturday’s Lone Star Derby (Grade III) by 7 ½ lengths.
The Derby that eluded Baffert the week before was, of course, Kentucky Derby 135 in which his Pioneerof the Nile finished second to Mine That Bird.
With exercise rider George Alvarez up, Pioneerof the Nile galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break.
“It was great to gallop on a fast track,” Baffert said.
Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to work Monday morning, most likely after the renovation break. Joe Steiner, who handled Pioneerof the Nile’s two pre-Derby works here, is flying in to Louisville on Sunday night and is slated to be aboard in the morning.
BOOKEND DERBY FINISHERS GALLOP EARLY SUNDAY -- Galloped Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and 19th-place finisher Flying Private both galloped before the renovation break Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.
Mine That Bird, owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, galloped a little more than two miles with exercise rider Charlie Figueroa up.
“He’s doing super, as good as ever,” said Figueroa, who has been the regular morning exercise partner for Mine That Bird since arriving in Kentucky on April 21. “I know he hasn’t backed off. There is no regression at all.”
Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. was pleased to see the first “fast” track in the morning since Wednesday.
“I can’t believe how fast they can get it good here,” Woolley said of a track that went from “muddy” during the latter part of training hours Saturday to “fast” fewer than four hours later.
Mine That Bird is scheduled to train here the next two mornings and leave for Pimlico around mid-morning on Tuesday.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that Flying Private, owned by Robert Baker and William Mack, would not train here Tuesday because of an early departure time by van for Pimlico.
BARN TALK – Stone Legacy, runner-up to Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks, worked a half-mile in :49.20 after the renovation break. The move was the 27th fastest of 81. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee leaves Tuesday for Pimlico where she is scheduled to run in Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan (Grade II).
Trainer Tom Amoss notched Churchill Downs career victory No. 299 in Saturday’s ninth race with a triumph by Double Espresso. Eight trainers have reached the 300-win plateau, led by Bill Mott’s 615. Amoss has three chances on Sunday’s card to join the club: Best Buddy in the second, I Know It’s True in the fourth and Mining for Silver in the eighth.
MINE THAT BIRD ‘LOPES’ ONCE AROUND – Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Kentucky Derby 135 winner Mine That Bird back-tracked to the paddock tunnel and then ‘loped’ once around a “fast” Churchill Downs main track Tuesday morning before the renovation break.
Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. liked what he saw and said Mine That Bird would ‘lope’ around twice on Wednesday.
“The only reason we are staying here is because he is very comfortable here and training well,” Woolley said. “We will leave Monday or Tuesday, probably Tuesday. He may jog the morning we leave. I’d like to leave about 9 and get into Pimlico around 7 that evening.”
The magnitude of pulling off the second-largest mutual shocker ($103.20) still has not sunk in on Woolley.
“The whole thing is still a whirlwind,” Woolley said. “It is hard to get a grip on it that it really happened. Eventually you’ll get used to the fact that it really did happen.
“Sunday I was in the paddock getting ready to do an interview and looked up at the sign ‘Kentucky Derby 2009, Mine That Bird’ and I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe it.”
Winning jockey Calvin Borel, who saw his bid for a Triple Crown end two years ago at Pimlico on Street Sense when he was nipped by Curlin, came by the barn to look in on the Derby winner.
Woolley was asked what Borel told him after he worked Mine That Bird five furlongs the Monday before the Derby after being on the gelding for the first time.
“I was looking for 1:01 that morning and he went in 1:02 but he got off a little slow,” Woolley said. “Calvin never moved on him and he said ‘He will finish’ and that gave Calvin the confidence to take back and come driving.”
PAPA CLEM RETURNS TO THE TRACK – Bo Hirsch’s Papa Clem returned to the track at Churchill Downs at 6:15 Tuesday morning for the first time since running fourth in Kentucky Derby 135.
With exercise rider Mundo Gonzalez aboard, Papa Clem jogged the wrong way around accompanied by a pony. Gonzalez said Papa Clem would gallop in the morning about the same time.
Trainer Gary Stute is scheduled to return to Louisville this weekend and the colt is scheduled to fly to Baltimore on May 13.
PIONEEROF THE NILE HEADS BACK TO TRACK WEDNESDAY – Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to return to the track Wednesday morning for the first time since his runner-up finish in Kentucky Derby 135.
Trainer Bob Baffert is scheduled to return to Louisville on Saturday night. Two of the nine runners he has at Churchill Downs, Mike Pegram’s Mayor Marv and Peachtree Stable’s Mythical Power, will be heading to Texas on Wednesday for Saturday’s $400,000 guaranteed Lone Star Derby (Grade III) at a mile and a sixteenth.
GENERAL QUARTERS REMAINS PREAKNESS POSSIBILITY – Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy walked General Quarters on Tuesday morning and plans to return the 10th-place Kentucky Derby 135 finisher to the track Wednesday morning.
“The Preakness is a possibility, but I want to see how he gallops and go from there,” McCarthy said. “He is doing so well. I’d like to get him over there (Pimlico) and get a few turns around the track.”
McCarthy is not sure when he would bring General Quarters to Pimlico if he decides to try the Preakness. A charter flight leaves from Louisville on May 13, but, McCarthy said, “He ships so well, I may van him up.”
HULL, MENA TO TEAM UP IN PREAKNEES FOR ROMANS – Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s undefeated Hull galloped Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Dale Romans said the undefeated winner of the Grade III Derby Trial on April 25 would work Saturday morning and fly to Baltimore on May 13. Miguel Mena, who was aboard for the Derby Trial win, has the Preakness call.
TERRAIN HEADING FOR TEXAS … OR BALTIMORE – “We’ve got a decision to make,” trainer Al Stall Jr., said Tuesday morning. “The plane for Texas leaves at 7 o’clock in the morning.”
The decision will be whether Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain goes to Lone Star Park for Saturday’s Lone Star Derby or remains in Stall 7 at Barn 47 at Churchill Downs and trains for the Preakness.
“We are not 100 percent for the Preakness,” Stall said. “He is at Keeneland and is coming over here this afternoon. If he does not go to Texas, he will work here this weekend and fly to Baltimore next Wednesday.”
Terrain ran fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) at Keeneland on April 11 in his most recent start.
“We gave him a little time off after the Blue Grass and he has had two works since,” Stall said of Terrain, who worked a half-mile in :50.40 at Keeneland on Sunday. “He has done real well since the Blue Grass.”
Terrain has run twice this year, opening with a third-place finish in the Louisiana derby (Grade II) on March 14. Fourth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I), Terrain closed 2008 with a fifth-place finish in the Grade III Delta Jackpot behind possible Preakness rival Big Drama.
BARN TALK – IEAH Stables, Lewis Lakin and Pegasus Holding Group Stable’s Pure Clan, winner of last year’s Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs and the American Oaks Invitational (Grade I) at Hollywood Park, worked five furlongs on a “fast” main track in 1:00.40, second best of 25 at the distance, under regular morning partner Steve Schmelzel.
“When we got her back off the farm, she had a stone bruise and that put us about 30 days behind with her,” trainer Bob Holthus said of Pure Clan, a three-time stakes winner at Churchill Downs and third-place finisher in the 2008 Kentucky Oaks (Grade I). “I had been working her on Saturday, but I didn’t want to go on Derby Day.”
Pure Clan’s return is expected to come in the Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) at a mile and a sixteenth on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“She worked well this morning, but her next work or two will probably be on the grass,” Holthus said.
The only faster work was turned in by three-time graded stakes winner Capt. Candyman Can, owned by Joseph Rauch and David Zell in 1:00.20 for trainer Ian Wilkes.
Robby Albarado joined the 800-win club at Churchill Downs last week, becoming only the sixth rider in track history to reach that milestone. He hit the mark in Thursday’s eighth race when he guided La Mousse (ARG) to victory.
Calvin Borel, currently third in the rider standings with nine victories, is six wins shy of becoming the fourth rider in Churchill Downs history to reach 900 victories. Victory No. 9, which came aboard Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby, gave him 4,729 for his career.
Jamie Theriot and Julien Leparoux lead the rider standings with 10 victories each.
Trainer Ken McPeek enters Wednesday’s card with 996 career victories, 231 of them at Churchill Downs. McPeek has two horses entered on Wednesday’s card: Biden Our Time in the second and Mimi’s Kids in the sixth.
Nominations close Wednesday for the eighth running of the $100,000 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on the main track on May 16. Zayat Stables’ Eaton’s Gift gave trainer Dale Romans his second consecutive Matt Winn victory in the 2008 running.
Closing Saturday are nominations for the 72nd running of the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (Grade III) for 3-year-olds and up going a mile and a half over the Matt Winn Turf Course and for the sixth running of the $100,000 Winning Colors for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going six furlongs on the main track. The Louisville Handicap will be run May 23 and the Winning Colors on Memorial Day, May 25.
Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Lattice won last year’s Louisville Handicap for trainer Al Stall Jr. Graeme Six, trained by Tom Amoss for the ownership of Tom O’Grady, Johns Martin and Team West Side Stables, won the 2008 Winning Colors.
Tracy Farmer’s Commentator, a two-time winner of the Whitney (GI) at Saratoga, worked four furlongs in :47.60 for trainer Nick Zito. The 8-year-old Distorted Humor gelding is coming off an upset loss in his 2009 debut in the $500,000 Charles Town Classic at West Virginia’s Charles Town Races & Slots.
Chrysalis Stable LLC’s Silverfoot, the 9-year-old three-time winner of the Louisville Handicap (GIII), continued to work toward his 2009 debut with a five-furlong breeze around the dogs on “good” turf in 1:03.40.
Mr. Nightlinger, winner of the 2008 Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII), breezed four furlongs on the grass in :49.40.