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When the highly-regarded 2-year-old Almost Famous faltered in upper stretch and finished a non-threatening fourth in the $61,800 Street Sense on opening day of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet, trainer Pat Byrne quickly admitted that he was completely mystified.
But following an equipment change and a sizzling work, Byrne will wheel Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s son of Unbridled’s Song back in Satuday’s seventh race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for 2-year-olds. It will be the colt’s first run at a two-turn distance and a race that Byrne hopes will put the colt back on track for a run in the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) on the Nov. 30 “Stars of Tomorrow II” program that wraps up the 25-day racing session.
Almost Famous, a $500,000 purchase by the Sandfords at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sale in March, had dazzled in his September racing debut. He turned back John C. Oxley’s Coastline in that race, a rival who came back to beat him soundly when he won their Street Sense rematch.
The colt was physically perfect after his dull run, so Byrne pondered the situation for a day and determined that Almost Famous needed to get right back to work.
“He just didn’t focus – he just kind of goofed around there,” Byrne said. “I gave him a day off, took him back to the track and galloped him with blinkers on and I think the blinks are the way to go.”
Almost Famous will wear blinkers in competition for the first time when he faces nine promising rivals.
“’He’s a genuine horse, but he’s just a green baby,” Byrne said. “When he ran the other day he was just never at the races.”
Corey Lanerie will ride Almost Famous on Saturday and will be his third jockey in as many races. Calvin Borel was aboard for his debut, but injuries suffered by the three-time Kentucky Derby winner in an October accident at Keeneland sent him to the sidelines and Joe Rocco Jr. subbed in the saddle for the Street Sense. Rocco was already committed to another mount in Saturday’s race when Byrne decided to enter Almost Famous, so Lanerie got the mount for an important outing for the colt.
“Borel’s got the mount, because he’s really high on him, and hopefully we’ll get to the Jockey Club with him,” Byrne said. “He’s a big strong colt and if he wins, we’ll run him back in the Jockey Club.”
The improved focus Byrne sought from Almost Famous was evident in his first work with blinkers, a three-furlong drill from the starting gate in :35.40 on Nov. 2.
Almost Famous has been on the early lead in each of his previous races, and his draw of the rail post in Saturday’s two-turn debut will likely mean that he’ll be rolling on the front end again.
“He’s a good colt and I was just beside myself when he didn’t run well (in the Street Sense),” Byrne said. “I kind of spoiled him a little bit.”
OAKLAWN ‘CAP WINNER CYBER SECRET BACK IN ACTION SATURDAY ON THE GRASS – It’s been a while since Charles Cella’s Cyber Secret peered through a starting gate, but he is set to return from a six-month break against a strong optional claiming allowance race at a mile on the grass.
Cyber Secret made considerable noise at Oaklawn Park early in the year when he reeled off four consecutive wins at the Arkansas track for trainer Lynn Whiting that included the Oaklawn Handicap (GII), where he upset reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned, and the Razorback Handicap (GIII). He finished second, beaten six lengths by Take Charge Indy, in Churchill Downs’ Alysheba (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day, but was disqualified and placed eighth in the field of nine by the track’s stewards.
The Alysheba run is the most recent race for Cyber Secret, who has made 12 of his 15 career starts on the dirt. But he ran a strong second on turf last fall in a 1 1/16-mile outing on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course. The strength of that performance led Whiting start his star’s comeback on the turf.
“I didn’t think he was really handling this racetrack, and I thought the same thing last fall,” Whiting said. “That’s why I tried him on the turf last fall and he got his best lifetime number, at that point in time, on the grass here in November. Then he went on to Arkansas, and he found another gear there.”
Cyber Secret launched his career with a win at Belmont Park for trainer Chad Brown, and then shipped to Churchill Downs for a seventh-place run in the 2011 Kentucky Jockey Club. He was purchased privately by Cella during the winter and turned over to Whiting, who won the 1992 Kentucky Derby with W.C. Partee’s Lil E. Tee. Cyber Secret was briefly pointed to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races, but finished 2012 with only one win in eight races.
Whiting would like to win Saturday’s turf outing, but hopes that the race will propel the 4-year-old colt to a strong start on his 2014 campaign when Cyber Secret returns to action in Hot Springs in January. Five of his six career wins have come over the dirt course at Oaklawn.
The son of Broken Vow tuned up for Saturday’s run with a half-mile breeze over the turf course on Tuesday. He completed the distance around the dogs in :49.20.
“I wanted to start him back on the grass here to just get a race under him and take him to the next step,” Whiting said. “I think he’s very capable of handling it (the turf). I’ve worked on the grass here twice and he black-lettered both times. He was a sharp horse this morning. He was very good today.
“The only concern I’ve got is that he’s going to be a little too sharp,” Whiting said. “He’s been away from the races for a while and there’s some early speed in the race and I just don’t want him to be chasing it.”
Cyber Secret will bring a career record of 6-1-0 in 15 races with earnings of $555,963 into Saturday’s comeback race. jturday’s race will not be an easy spot for a return as it has also attracted Michael Bruder’s Guys Reward, winner of Churchill Downs’ Firecracker Handicap (GII) and Opening Verse in 2012; G. Watts Humphreys’ Seruni, runner-up to Guys Reward in both of those 2012 races and third to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in this year’s Firecracker; and Vinery Stable’s Regally Ready, winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI) and Churchill Downs Turf Sprint (GIII), both over the Matt Winn Turf Course; and Major Marvel, the front-running winner of the Unbridled at Louisiana Downs last time out.
“We’re just trying to position ourself,” Whiting said. “We’ll be playing a home game at Oaklawn, and I think he’s set up for a big year next year.”
BARN TALK – Jockey Rosie Napravnik took off her mounts for the second consecutive day on Thursday because of lingering body soreness from a pair of mishaps. One incident occurred at Churchill Downs, where she was thrown by her mount at the start of a race nearly two weeks ago, and the second was a traffic mishap in Louisville late last week. Agent Steve Bass said Napravnik’s car was rear-ended by another vehicle, but she escaped without serious injury and traveled on to Southern California to ride in last Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), where she finished eighth aboard Pocahontas (GII) winner Tapiture. But Bass said lingering soreness from those mishaps prompted her to stay home for at least another day. “She needed a couple of days,” Bass said. “She’ll be back up (Friday) or she’ll be back up on Saturday.” Napravnik was thrown from her mount Be Nice or Leave at the start of the seventh race at Churchill Downs on Oct. 27, the opening day of the Fall Meet. On the previous day, Napravnik had wrapped-up the Fall Meet riding title at Keeneland, her first riding title at the Lexington track. … A. Stevens Miles’ Neck ‘n Neck, winner for the 2012 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) and Indiana Derby (GII), breezed three furlongs in :36.20 over a muddy track at Churchill Downs. Trainer Ian Wilkes hopes to run the 4-year-old son of Flower Alley in the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Friday, Nov. 30, but looks to find a prep race for the colt over the next few days. Neck ‘n Neck is entered for “main track only” in Saturday’s second race, a one-mile optional claiming allowance race on grass, but the forecast on Friday and Saturday calls for sunshine and it appears unlikely that Saturday’s race would be moved to the main track. There were no races that would fit Neck ‘n Neck on Sunday’s racing program. … Thursday’s 10 races at Churchill Downs were won by 10 different jockeys. Corey Lanerie scored on one of those Wednesday victories and entered Thursday’s racing program with a 12-7 lead over Miguel Mena in the battle for leading jockey of the Fall Meet. … Steve Asmussen saddled Gillian S. Campbell’s Airofdistinction to win the 8th race, but still trailed Bret Calhoun by a margin of 7-4 in the race for leading trainer. Through Wednesday’s Calhoun’s starters had a record of 7-3-0 in 16 races.
The roster of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds nominated to compete in the classic races of the American Triple Crown has grown by one with the addition of Charles J Cella’s Cyber Secret, who was omitted from the initial roster of 397 early nominations because of a clerical error.
This year’s 398th nominee is a Kentucky-bred son of Broken Vow trained by Lynn Whiting, who scored his only victory in a Triple Crown race with W.C. Partee’s Lil E. Tee in the 1992 Kentucky Derby (Grade I). Cyber Secret collected his second win in four career starts in a 5 ¼-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 4. He started his career with trainer Chad Brown, but was transferred to Whiting when the colt was purchased privately by Cella after a seventh-place run behind WinStar Farm’s unbeaten Triple Crown nominee Gemologist in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) on Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
Officials at Churchill Downs said information on Cyber Secret was not added to the list of early nominees after a Triple Crown representative took the nomination at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. prior to the close of the early nominations for the three-race series. Stewards at the Louisville track approved the addition of the colt’s name to the list of early nominees, which was released to the public on Saturday, Feb. 4.
This year’s early nomination period, during which each nomination was accompanied by a $600 fee, closed on Saturday, Jan. 21. A late period for nominations – which requires each nomination to be accompanied by a $6,000 fee – will conclude on Saturday, March 24.
The 2012 Triple Crown series begins on Saturday, May 5 with the $2 million-guaranteed 138th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The second jewel of the Triple Crown is the 137th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes (GI), which will be run on Saturday, May 19, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. The American classic series concludes with the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes (GI) on Saturday, June 9 at New York’s Belmont Park.
All three Triple Crown races will be televised by NBC Sports and are scheduled to be broadcast on radio by the Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN).
The new early nomination total for the 2012 Triple Crown races is a 9.3 percent increase over the 364 early nominees for the three-race classic series a year ago. The roster of 2012 early Triple Crown nominees is the largest since 2009, when 412 3-year-olds were made eligible during the early period.
Brisnet is providing free online past performances of all the 2012 Triple Crown nominees in PDF format at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/TC12noms.pdf.
Sunday Juvenile Stakes Winners Target 'Stars of Tomorrow II' ... Whiting, Borel Runners Impress in Opening Day Wins
SUNDAY’S STAKES WINNERS TARGET CLOSING-DAY STARS OF TOMORROW II CARD – Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image and Cathy and Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Thiskyhasnolimit, winners of the Pocahontas (GIII) and Iroquois (GIII) respectively on Sunday, figure to make return trips in stakes company on Churchill Downs’ closing-day “Stars of Tomorrow II” card.
That Nov. 28 racing card, like Sunday’s meet opener, will be made up exclusively of races for 2-year-olds. “Everything is good here and I am looking forward to running her closing day in the Golden Rod (GII at 1 1/16 miles),” trainer Dale Romans said of Sassy Image, who scored by two lengths over Decelerator.
Sassy Image will be attempting to become the sixth filly to sweep the Poncahontas and Golden Rod, a feat most recently accomplished by Pure Clan in 2007. Others to do it are French Park (2005), At The Half (1993), Flippers (1983) and Weekend Surprise (1982). The latter two won divisions of the Pocahontas.
Romans, who leaves Wednesday for Santa Anita to saddle Frank Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, has another Jones runner aimed for closing day in Romans Reward, who broke his maiden in Sunday’s sixth race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The Grand Canyon, an overnight stake at the same distance on the Matt Winn Turf Course is the next objective for Romans Reward.
Steve Asmussen, trainer of Thiskyhasnolimit, said after Sunday’s victory that the Sky Mesa colt would be pointed to the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Four juveniles have swept the Iroquois and the Kentucky Jockey Club with the Asmussen-trained Tiz Wonderful being the most recent in 2006. Others to do it are The Cliff’s Edge (2003), Exploit (1998) and Ide (1995).
WHITING COULD HAVE RUNNER TO WATCH IN DRYFLY – One of the grittier efforts on Sunday’s “Stars of Tomorrow I” card was turned in by Charles Cella’s Dryfly, an allowance winner going seven furlongs under Calvin Borel.
Dryfly assumed early command but was collared at the head of the stretch by the undefeated Great Attack, who put a head in front at the eighth pole. Dryfly dug back in and had enough to hold off Flatter Than Me, runner-up in this summer’s Bashford Manor (GIII) by 1 ½ lengths and complete the distance in 1:23.55.
“He broke a little flat-footed and I was surprised to see him on the lead. I thought he would be laying third,” said trainer Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby (GI). “That horse that came to him of Merrill Scherer’s (Flatter Than Me) can run a little bit and I thought he had the momentum, but I think my horse will keep on running.”
Dryfly, a son of Jump Start, raced as a first-time gelding on Sunday. Whiting said Dryfly was gelded after his second race because of an undescended testicle.
A winner of two of three starts, Dryfly is done for the year according to Whiting.
“He needs a little break and I am going to keep him in light training, jogging and maybe galloping every third day,” Whiting said. “I am looking at the Smarty Jones on Jan. 18 at Oaklawn Park for him. They have a good series for 3-year-olds there with the Smarty Jones, the Southwest, the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby.
“If you want to make a run at the marbles, you’ve got to have the horse.”
TOUCH FOR A SHOCK JOLTS RIVALS IN ELECTRIFYING DEBUT – “He’s a good colt and he can run a little bit,” trainer Cecil Borel was saying about Touch for a Shock, one of two first-time starters to win on Sunday’s “Stars of Tomorrow I” card exclusively for 2-year-olds.
Ridden by his brother Calvin, Touch for a Shock exploded out of the 11 hole and quickly made his way to the rail. Turning for home, Calvin Borel was looking over his shoulder for competition and then began gearing down at the sixteenth pole as Touch for a Shock won by five lengths in 1:10.93 for six furlongs.
Three other six-furlong sprints were held Sunday for maidens and the fastest time among those races was 1:11.71.
He won a little easier than I thought he should,” Cecil Borel said of the homebred son of Touch Gold who is owned by Clifford Grum. “There were a lot of others in there who thought their horses were pretty good and I was starting to get scared.
“What I would really like to know is what I beat. A lot of times people will tell you a horse can run, but they can’t.”
Borel plans to bring Touch for a Shock back on closing day, Nov. 28 for a shot at allowance competition and then give the colt a break before heading most likely to Oaklawn Park for the winter.
COMMONWEALTH TURF ATTRACTS 21 NOMINATIONS – Darley Stable’s Florentino (JPN), winner of the Jefferson Cup (Grade II) here in June, heads a list of 21 nominations for the sixth running of the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII) to be run on Nov. 15.
The 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, won last year by Nistle’s Crunch, will be run over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Three other graded stakes winners on the turf this year are among the nominees topped by William Stiritz’s Proceed Bee. Winner of the Hawthorne Derby (GIII) in his most recent start, Proceed Bee won the Grand Canyon Handicap here at the Commonwealth Turf distance on the closing day of the 2008 Fall Meet.
Other colts coming out of graded stakes victories on the turf are Sullimar Stables’ Get Stormy, who took the Bryan Station (GIII) on Oct. 18 at Keeneland, and Lewis Schaffel’s Sal the Barber, winner of the Calder Derby (GIII) at Calder on Oct. 17.
BARN TALK – Trainer Scooter Dickey said that Oxbow Racing’s Flat Out is about a week away from rejoining his barn. Winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes in January at Oaklawn Park, Flat Out was knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail in late April by a stress fracture in a shoulder.
Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat will be among a group of 22 horses trainer Buff Bradley will send to Gulfstream Park this winter. Winner of the Louisville Handicap (GIII) here this spring and an earner of more than $2 million, the 8-year-old Brass Hat has not run since finishing second in the Stars and Stripes Handicap (GIII) at Arlington Park on Sept. 5. “He is on the farm now,” Buff Bradley said. “He got an injury to the outside of his cannon bone from being knocked around in the race at Arlington.”
WORK TAB – On Monday, three-time Churchill Downs graded-stakes winner Acoma worked a half-mile in :50.40 over a “fast” track for trainer David Carroll in advance of a possible run in the Nov. 21 Cardinal Handicap (GIII). … Also working a half-mile were two possible runners for Saturday’s Chilukki (GII): Copper State (:49.60) for trainer Steve Asmussen and Be Fair (:50.60) for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. On Tuesday, Lukas’ other possible Chilukki starter, Color Me Up worked three furlongs in :36.40 over a “fast” track. Another Chilukki nominee, Keep the Peace worked the same distance in a bullet :34.80 for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Working on “firm” turf around the dogs was Regret (GIII) winner Keertana, who covered a half-mile in :49.60 for trainer Tom Proctor. Keertana in nominated to the Grade II Mrs. Revere to be run Saturday, Nov. 14.
BARN NOTES (6.5.09) - Bird in Belmont? Some Local Opinions/Tizaqueena Faces Another Test in Mint Julep/Margolis' 'Seconditis'
WILL MINE THAT BIRD FLY HIGH IN THE BELMONT? OPINIONS VARY – The question of the day Friday morning on the Churchill Downs backstretch centered on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (Grade I) and Mine That Bird’s quest for two-thirds of the Triple Crown.
A sampling of trainers seemed to indicate that “Bird” would be the word, but there were some reservations from others. The sampling of the responses as to who wins the Belmont:
Carl Nafzger, trainer of Kentucky Derby winners Unbridled and Street Sense: “The winner? The one that gets there first! It is a difficult race to handicap. People thought Alydar would catch Affirmed (with the added distance). I am pulling for the Bird, but speed in the Belmont is dangerous and Kiaran McLaughlin’s horse (Charitable Man) has it. Class, Mine That Bird’s got it. It is going to be interesting to watch.”
David Carroll, trainer of 2008 Belmont runner-up Denis of Cork: “Charitable Man. I think he is going to lay off the pace. He is bred to get the trip and he is a fresh horse.”
Hal Wiggins, trainer of Rachel Alexandra when she won the Kentucky Oaks (GI): “Mine That Bird.”
Ken McPeek, trainer of 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava: “Dunkirk.”
Tom Amoss, a new member of the 300-win club at Churchill Downs: “Mine That Bird. He’s the best 3-year-old boy in the country.”
Lynn Whiting, an even newer member of the 300-win club at Churchill Downs and conditioner of 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee: “It will be an interesting race. The little horse (Mine That Bird) makes you respect him. The mile and a half is a different kind of race and not many want it.”
Forrest Kaelin, eighth-leading trainer all time at Churchill Downs with 312 victories: “Mine That Bird. I don’t see anything in there that can close like him.”
Scooter Dickey, who was on the Kentucky Derby trail this spring with Flat Out: “The Bird! He’ll gallop.”
Steve Penrod, veteran Churchill Downs conditioner: “Mine That Bird’s a solid horse, but for an upset special look for something of (Nick) Zito’s. One of his horses (Brave Victory or Miner’s Escape) has a shot.”
Greg Foley, who got Churchill Downs career victory No. 292 on Thursday: “I kind of like the little ol’ Bird. I hope he wins it.”
Buff Bradley, trainer of millionaire and recent Louisville Handicap winner Brass Hat: “I think Charitable Man has a pretty good shot. His only bad race has been on Polytrack at Keeneland. But if you listen to Calvin (Borel), you think it is his horse (Mine That Bird).”
PERFECT ON TURF, TIZAQUEENA FACES HUGE TEST IN MINT JULEP – Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena stepped up admirably in her first foray into graded stakes company when she won the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Grade II) on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 2.
On Saturday, she will be asked to step up again when she faces such accomplished rivals as Pure Clan and Acoma in the 33rd running of the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (Grade III) at a mile and a sixteenth on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Tizaqueena arrived at Churchill Downs on Thursday from Arlington Park, where she has had four works since her Derby Day triumph.
“The Mint Julep was one of the races we looked at,” trainer Mike Stidham said of Tizaqueena. “We also looked at the Just a Game (Grade I at Belmont Park on Saturday), but that was a little tougher than what we wanted. But the Mint Julep is tough, too.”
Tizaqueena, a 4-year-old daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Tiznow out of the Mr. Prospector mare Issaqueena, broke her maiden at first asking on the main track at Fair Grounds last December. After two more dirt starts, Tizaqueena moved to the turf, where she is undefeated in three starts.
“The condition she was eligible for was on the turf,” Stidham said of the move to the grass. “She has turf breeding on the female side of her family.”
In the Distaff Turf Mile, Tizaqueena pressed the pace and then withstood a challenge from the more experienced Dawn After Dawn in deep stretch to win going away.
“I am not surprised by her success,” Stidham said. “She had always shown she had ability. When they take that next step, you never know if they are going to take it, but she sure did when (Dawn After Dawn) got to her neck.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride Tizaqueena for the first time Saturday and break from post position seven. Tizaqueena will carry 119 pounds, three fewer than Pure Clan who has won four of six turf starts, and one fewer than Acoma, who is 2-for-2 on turf.
‘SECONDITIS’ GETTING A LITTLE OLD FOR MARGOLIS – The 2009 Spring Meet got off to a great start for trainer Steve Margolis with four winners from his first seven starters.
Five weeks later, Margolis still has four wins … to go with 13 second-place finishes, more than any conditioner on the grounds.
“My horses have been running very good, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Margolis, who has 36 horses stabled here. “We have had some very tough beats.”
Perhaps the toughest beat Margolis had came in a May 7 allowance race when Northern Belle was nipped by the smallest of noses by Oculuna right on the wire.
“She is entered for the main track only Friday, but I think I am going to send to her to Philadelphia Park for a $200,000 stake (the Jostle) next Saturday,” Margolis said. “(Owner) Mr. (Martin) Cherry is from up there and it will give him a chance to be with his family and see the horse run, too.”
Adding to the run of bad luck for Margolis for the disqualification of Lady Chace from second to third in the May 25 Winning Colors (Grade III) and Cash Refund had the misfortune of hooking up against Capt. Candyman Can in the May 16 Matt Winn to suffer his first defeat in three starts.
Margolis is pointing Cash Refund to the $200,000 Jersey Shore (Grade III) at six furlongs at Monmouth Park on July 5.
“I hope to start turning some of these seconds and around and finish with a real good meet,” said Margolis, who sends out Wild Bushrose in Friday’s opener.
AMOSS JOINS BYRNE FOR SATURDAY’S ‘GET IN THE GAME’ SEMINAR – Trainer and television racing analyst Tom Amoss will discuss the Belmont Stakes and more when he joins Churchill Downs’ Jill Byrne for her weekly “Get in the Game” handicapping seminar on Saturday, June 6.
Amoss, a New Orleans native who is a two-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs, also serves as a racing analyst for TVG and will offer his perspective on Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird’s bid for the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Byrne’s recent guests in the seminar have included two-time Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel and Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr., trainer of Mine That Bird.
MILESTONE WATCH – Trainer David Vance has two shots Friday at getting his 300th victory at Churchill Downs. Vance sends out My Little Connor in the second race and Closetoaten in the ninth.
BARN TALK – Leroidugazon became the second offspring to 2005 champion turf male Leroidesanimaux to reach the races when he ran third to stablemate Grand Slam Andre in Thursday’s seventh race. Cathy and Bob Zollars own Leroidugazon, who is trained by Steve Asmussen. Elegant Beauty is the first Leroidesanimaux to race, having finished fourth and fifth in two Calder starts last month. …
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is scheduled to return to Louisville at 9:30 a.m. Monday from Belmont Park. Coming on the same flight with Mine That Bird is Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) candidate Arson Squad.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that Asiatic Boy would ship to Churchill Downs on Wednesday or Thursday for the Stephen Foster, which will serve as the 6-year-old’s U.S. debut. A winner of 7 of 15 career starts, Asiatic Boy has earned more than $3 million in his career.
WORK TAB – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, prepping for next Saturday’s $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 over a fast track Friday morning. The move was the fastest of 18 at the distance. Macho Again won the Derby Trial (GIII) and was runner-up to Big Brown in the Preakness (GI), and took this year’s New Orleans Handicap (GIII) at Fair Grounds.
BARN NOTES (5.30.09) Whiting Celebrates Milestone Win/Mine That Bird Camp Focuses on Belmont/One Caroline To Miss Fleur De Lis
WIN BY ACTION SEEKER PUTS WHITING IN SELECT COMPANY – Veteran trainer Lynn Whiting was all smiles Saturday as he accepted congratulations for his 300th Churchill Downs win, a milestone achieved by JoAnn and Alex Lieblong’s Action Seeker in the eighth race.
“I thought he had a chance once he got clear,” Whiting said of Action Seeker, who rallied to collar Duke of Pearl in deep stretch to win by a head.
The victory made Whiting only the 10th trainer to post 300 career victories in 135 years of racing at Churchill Downs.
“My first year here was 1979,” said Whiting, who began training in 1969. “I spent my first couple of years in Rhode Island at Lincoln and Narragansett and then the next eight winters in Maryland.”
Whiting’s biggest Churchill Downs winner was W.C. “Cal” Partee’s Lil E. Tee, who captured the 1992 Kentucky Derby (Grade I) under Hall of Famer Pat Day. The trainer has a couple of other favorites to go with his Derby winner.
“Big Pistol had the three fastest times here in the 1980s at six furlongs, 7 ½ furlongs and a mile and an eighth,” Whiting said of his sprint star who won five races at Churchill Downs, three of them stakes events. “At the Threshold (a two-time Churchill Downs winner) ran third in the 1984 Derby. All of those were owned by Mr. Partee.”
MINE THAT BIRD CONTINUES PREPARTIONS FOR BELMONT STAKES RUN – As Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird headed to the track Saturday morning, he and jockey Calvin Borel crossed paths.
Borel walked up to Mine That Bird, tousled his mane, gave him a couple of pats on the neck and planted a big smooch on the gelding’s forehead.
Trainer Chip Woolley could only grin at the exchange between horse and rider who will be reunited on the Triple Crown trail next Saturday in the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI) at New York’s Belmont Park.”
“Calvin really likes him and the horse likes him too,” Woolley said as he watched Mine That Bird gallop twice around before the renovation break under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.
Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, but was aboard Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness in which the filly beat Mine That Bird. On Friday, the connections of Rachel Alexandra announced that the filly would pass on the third jewel of the Triple Crown, thus freeing Borel to return to Mine That Bird.
“It was a relief, but I never believed she would run,” Woolley said. “In my mind, I thought I had him (Borel) all along. I am glad to have it all ironed out.”
Woolley was called by Rachel Alexandra’s majority owner Jess Jackson about the decision not to run.
“It was good that he called me first so I was ready for the barrage (of questions),” Woolley said. “I called (owners) Mark (Allen) and Doc (Leonard Blach) and they were happy.”
Mine That Bird will gallop again Sunday morning and then is scheduled to work five furlongs after the break Monday morning with Borel up. Tuesday would be a walk day and Mine That Bird would fly to New York on Wednesday. Woolley is leaving for New York on Tuesday.
Rachel Alexandra backtracked to the frontside and then galloped about a mile and a half under exercise rider Dominic Terry. Rachel Alexandra is scheduled work for trainer Steve Asmussen early Monday morning.
KAELIN ENJOYING BEST SPRING MEET IN YEARS – Last fall, veteran trainer Forrest Kaelin could not buy a win at Churchill Downs. Six months later, Kaelin has six winners from 17 starters and is enjoying one of his best Spring Meets beneath the Twin Spires in years.
“I have no idea for the big turnaround,” Kaelin said Saturday morning. “It was just one of those falls. (D. Wayne) Lukas, Frankie (Brothers) and (Bob) Holthus couldn’t win a race either. I told folks to wait until we go to Tampa and we won 15 there.”
Kaelin, 74, began his career at the track as a rider in 1952 and has been a Churchill Downs training fixture since the 1960s. He won the first two runnings of the Stephen Foster Handicap, long before it achieved its current Grade I status, with local favorite Vodika Collins in 1982 and ’83.
“You go through things like that,” Kaelin said of the winless fall. “I had one year at Ellis when I was riding and I only had two winners and 20-something seconds. It gets to you.”
Kaelin picked up his sixth victory of the spring Friday when Nick’s Girl won the fourth race.
“She has some issues, but she’s got a big heart,” Kaelin said. “But she got claimed from me by (Wayne) Catalano.”
Kaelin, who has 14 horses here, has 312 career wins at Churchill Downs, eighth most in track history. The six wins equal Kaelin’s total from 1989 when he was 6-for-48 and he is en route to having his best season here since he saddled 16 winners in the spring 1985 meet.
“Things have just come around,” said Kaelin, who has been stabled in Barn 46 for 40 years. “Sometimes that old worm gets in a hole and eventually has to come up for air.”
ONE CAROLINE SIDELINED BY INJURY -- G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s One Caroline, who suffered her first career loss in six starts when she ran second to Miss Isella in the Louisville Distaff (Grade II) on May 1, will not get a rematch with that rival in the June 13 Fleur De Lis (Grade II).
“She suffered a slight injury yesterday and she will be out for 60 days,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “It is not major and she will be back in the fall. If you had to ask me now, I’d say we’d look for Churchill Downs in the fall.”
One Caroline worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Friday at Keeneland and the injury was detected afterward.
“It is not career threatening, just a bump in the road,” Arnold said. “I feel sorry for Churchill, because we wanted to come back and meet (trainer) Ian Wilkes’ filly (Miss Isella) again. It looks like that is going to be a nice little rivalry.”
MILESTONE WATCH – Robby Albarado has eight mounts at Churchill Downs on Saturday as he continues his pursuit of 4,000 career victories. Albarado has 3,998 wins.
David Vance will go for Churchill Downs victory No. 300 in Saturday’s ninth race with Kiss Mine. Ten trainers have won 300 races at Churchill Downs, the most recent being Lynn Whiting, who achieved the feat on Friday.
Bill Connelly, who has 998 career victories, will saddle two horses Saturday night at Indiana Downs in his bid to reach 1,000. The two horses are Hard Rock Man in the seventh and Go Lydia Go in the eighth.
BARN TALK – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has named Julien Leparoux to ride Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private in next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Lukas’ other Belmont prospect, the Marylou Whitney Stables’ Luv Gov, will be ridden by Miguel Mena. The horses will leave for Belmont Park at 2 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.
The Kentucky Derby-winning team of trainer Chip Woolley and jockey Calvin Borel will join New York-based trainer Gary Contessa in ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning, June 4.
Nominations close Saturday for the five stakes that make up the June 13 Reunion Day card, highlighted by the $600,000-added Stephen Foster (Grade I) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Other stakes that day are the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis (Grade II) for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the $150,000-added Jefferson Cup (Grade II) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course, the $100,000-added Northern Dancer (Grade III) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16th miles on the main track and the $150,000-added Regret (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
WORK TAB – Three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Pure Clan put in her final major prep for next Saturday’s Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) by working five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast track after the renovation break under exercise rider Steve Schmelzel. The move was the second fastest of 25 at the distance.
The Mint Julep will be Pure Clan’s first start since a loss to champion Forever Together in the Oct. 24 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) at Santa Anita.
“I am eager to get her going again,” trainer Bob Holthus said. “She is the best filly I have had. I want to see how she comes out of this one. She is nominated to the Modesty (Grade III on July 11) and the Beverly D. (Grade I on Aug. 11) at Arlington Park.”
Terrain, in his first work since finishing seventh in the Preakness, worked a half-mile in :47.60, the second fastest of 71 at the distance. Trainer Al Stall Jr. is pointing Terrain toward the Iowa Derby on June 26 at Prairie Meadows.
Undefeated Hull worked a half-mile in :49.60 as his final tuneup for next Saturday’s Woody Stephens (Grade II) at Belmont Park.
Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E Tee to victory in the 1992 Kentucky Derby, on Friday became the 10th trainer to win 300 races at Churchill Downs when Action Seeker rallied to win the eighth race.
Whiting, a native of Great Falls, Mont., has won 13 stakes at Churchill Downs in a training career that began in 1969. Whiting joins Tom Amoss as the second trainer this meet to reach the 300-win milestone at the track.
Ridden by Jamie Theriot, Action Seeker ($9.40) overhauled Duke of Pearl by a head to give Whiting his milestone victory.
In Friday’s featured $47,745 Pumpkin Purse for 3-year-olds and up, Custom for Carlos swept past Western Prospector at the head of the stretch and drew off for a six-length victory under Julien Leparoux.
Owned by Homewrecker Racing and Avalon Farms, and trained by Eddie Kenneally, Custom for Carlos covered the six furlongs on a fast main track in 1:09.37.
The victory for the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready was worth $30,580 and increased Custom for Carlos’ earnings to $76,090 with his second win in five starts.
The favorite in the field of six, Custom for Carlos returned $3.80, $2.60 and $2.10. Western Prospector, ridden by Calvin Borel, returned $3.60 and $2.40. Posse Cat, who finished another three-quarters of a length back in third under Jon Court, paid $2.20 to show.
Racing resumes Saturday with an 11-race card that features two stakes races: the 35th running of the $100,000-added Dogwood (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the main track and the 21st running of the $100,000-added Aristides (Grade III) for sprinters going six furlongs on the main track.
First post time is 12:45 p.m. EDT.