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Churchill Downs' September Meet Concludes 12-Day Run With Encouraging Results,Strong On-Track Performances
The second-consecutive September Meet at Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) concluded its 12-date run on Sunday, September 28 with encouraging results and a string of strong performances by the equine and human stars who competed during the brief racing session.
Performances on the track include victories and strong efforts by 2-year-olds whose connections are dreaming of next spring’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), along with veteran stars taking aim at big races in the fall and, for some, possible trips to California for the Breeders’ Cup Championships. All of the meet’s races involving contests for leading jockey, trainer and owner had dramatic finishes and were not decided until the final races on Sunday’s closing day.
The second year of a new racing product at the home of the Kentucky Derby offered Kentucky horsemen both attractive racing options for their horses on dirt and turf and a daily purse structure that was comparable to the 2013 debut of the track’s September Meet. The meet, which was only the second Churchill Downs racing meet since 1890 to be conducted entirely in the month of September, benefitted from ideal early autumn weather. The main track was rated “fast” on each of the meet’s 12 racing days, and the Matt Winn Turf Course was rated “firm” for all but one of those racing sessions.
Churchill Downs paid total purses of $3,864,487during September’s 12 racing dates for daily average purses of $322,041. A total of 940 horses competed in the meet’s 122 races, and the average field for a race during the meet consisted of 7.7 horses. The average number of horses per race in 2013, also through 122 races, was 8.07.
“We have a pair of September meets behind us and Churchill Downs remains optimistic that this new racing and entertainment product can be successful,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. “We faced many of the same challenges during this meet that impacted our Spring Meet, including our ongoing concerns about field sizes. Unfortunately, the starters per race was down this year, which is a result of the declining foal crops and increased competition for available horses from other tracks in our region and beyond.
“The positive news is that the Louisville market is becoming more aware of our September Meet and the possibilities it holds for Kentucky horsemen during a beautiful time of year. We look forward to working with the racing commission and the horsemen to address the issue of field sizes so that we can continue to provide this promising product.”
One of the strengths of Churchill Downs’ racing in the latter half of any year is the division of talented and well-bred 2-year-olds stabled at the track, and the opening weekend of the meet cast the spotlight on a pair of juveniles that scored important stakes victories on their respective roads to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), and the major races for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds in the Breeders’ Cup Championships at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1.
Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled the top two finishers in the $115,500 Iroquois (GIII) when Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player edged stablemate Bold Conquest in the 33rd running of the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds, one of four stakes events run on Saturday, Sept. 6. The victory under Ricardo Santana Jr. made the son of Lookin At Lucky an early leader in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point standings that will determine the field for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on May 2, 2015. Along with the 10 points collected for his victory in the opening race in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings, Lucky Player’s win also earned an automatic spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. For the second consecutive year, the Iroquois was the first race in the “Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In Juvenile Division.”
GSN Racing’s Cristina’s Journey provided trainer Dale Romans his third career victory in the $231,000 Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies on the Sept. 6 program, and her front-running triumph offered added-value to the daughter of Any Given Saturday similar to that earned by Lucky Player in the Iroquois. The Pocahontas was the lead-off event of the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points system that will determine the participants in next spring’s 141st running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks and also the first stop on the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Fillies Division.” The win under Miguel Mena gave Cristina’s Journey 10 points, an early lead on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” and a guaranteed spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).
Other outstanding September Meet performance were delivered on the meet’s final weekend when Cigar Street held off the late charge of favored Departing to win the second running of the $135,500 Homecoming Classic by 2 ¾-lengths and Canada-based Heart to Heart led from start to finish in the 39th running of the $110,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds at one-mile on turf.
Cigar Street, a 5-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense owned by Jake Ballis and National Basketball Association star Rashard Lewis, improved his career record to 5-1-0 in only eight races. The winner could be a candidate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), but his owners said that decision would be up to their Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The trainer is the all-time leader in victories and stakes wins at Churchill Downs, and the win by Cigar Street was Mott’s 680th beneath the track’s Twin Spires and his 89th stakes triumph.
Heart to Heart, an Ontario-bred son of English Channel owned by Terry Hamilton, led from the start under Julien Leparoux and rolled to a four-length win in the Jefferson Cup. The Jefferson Cup victory was his second consecutive stakes win and the fifth victory overall for the improving young turf star trained by Bryan Lynch.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Thank You Marylou, who finished fifth to Untapable in this year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks, had a happy return to Churchill Downs when she rolled to a 6 ½-length victory in the 39th running of the $112,000 Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. The daughter of Birdstone is trained by Mike Maker and was ridden by Miguel Mena.
Other strong stakes performances during the September Meet were turned in by Joseph Sutton’s Bradester, who led from the start under jockey Corey Lanerie to win the $107,300 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and the 6-year-old mare Don’t Tell Sophia, who returned from a six-month layoff to score an emphatic 2 ¼-length victory for trainer Phil Simms and jockey Joe Rocco Jr. in the 31st running $108,200 Locust Grove. The latter, co-owned by Simms and Jerry Namy, defeated Grade I winner On Fire Baby and Grade II winner Molly Malone in her sixth stakes victory.
Asmussen and owner Gillian Campbell collected their second consecutive win in the $111,500 Open Mind when jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. guided Aireofdistinction to victory in the sixth running of that six-furlong race for fillies and mares ages 3 & up.
The results of the leading jockey, trainer and owner races were not settled until late in Sunday’s 10-race closing day program and, in one case, the final yards of the meet’s last race.
Jockey Corey Lanerie, the defending September Meet win leader, and Ricardo Santana Jr. were tied at 13 wins heading into the meet’s 122th and final race. Though both men had a mount, they ended up sharing the title when Paden and jockey Joe Johnson won the meet’s finale. Lanerie led at the head of the stretch aboard Geometry, but finished fourth. Santana and Catchifyoucan rallied late for third. The shared title was Lanerie’s sixth “leading rider” title at Churchill Downs, while Santana earned his first.
"It’s exciting, competitive and frustrating, because you don’t want to get beat, especially when it got to this point,” Lanerie said after the meet’s last race. “I guess if you’ve never been there it’s different but now it’s almost like people expect me to be there in the running at the end. In the grand scheme of things you like to think it doesn’t matter as long as you’re healthy and you’re winning races, but it really does. But it’s a goal and now that I’ve won so many I just want to see how many more I can win and how long I can keep going.”
“Last year that was my dream to win something like this at Churchill Downs,” Santana said. “I want to say thank God first and then thank all the trainers for giving me a chance, because it’s not easy. I would have liked to get one more in that last one, but the best horse won the race. I’m just happy to be here and happy to get the chance to ride good horses.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. finished one win back of the top pair.
The battle for leading trainer ended in a tie as Steve Asmussen and Wayne Catalano each saddled seven winners. Asmussen extended his record total of Churchill Downs training crowns to 15, but Catalano’s crown was his first. Catalano’s title was special because it was his first at the Louisville track, but also because it was another indication that he has rebounded from a significant health scare earlier in the year resulted in a hospital stay of 22 days.
“I just want to thank the folks here at Churchill Downs and also thank my wife for standing by my side in my time of poor health,” Catalano said. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t really have anything so we’re lucky to be standing here. Today we went in there with good horses and couldn’t get it done outright. So it’s a little tough, but we’ve been through a lot of those and again we’re just happy to be here.”
Dale Romans and Eddie Kenneally finished in a tie for third in the trainers race, one win back of the top pair.
And Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the Nicholasville, Ky. couple who have won more races than any owner in the 140-year history of Churchill Downs, sent seven horses into the winner’s circle during in September for their record-extending 22nd training crown at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
The Ramseys edged Gary and Mary West – who started a meet-high 20 horses – and Maggi Moss, each of whom finished with six victories.
“All I have to say is ‘Wow’,” Ken Ramsey said. “We’ve had a great time here at Churchill Downs over the years; we’ve had our picture taken in this winner’s circle almost 400 times, but we’ve still got one thing on our bucket list and that’s to get our picture made on the inside of that (infield) fence in the (Kentucky) Derby.”
With their seven winners in the September Meet, the Ramseys have 398 career wins at Churchill Downs.
A total of 73 horses were claimed during the September Meet and the claims totaled $1,216,500. The claims resulted in sales tax revenue of $72,990 to the Kentucky State Treasury.
Racing at Churchill Downs will resume following a brief break with its 25-date Fall Meet, which will run from Oct. 26-Nov. 30. Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule to conclude the second straight year – but only the second overall – during which Churchill Downs has hosted a trio of racing meets in a calendar year.
Aireofdistinction battled for the lead midway around the far turn and kicked clear in the final 100 yards to beat late-running Interest Free by 2 ½ lengths in Saturday’s sixth running of the $111,500 Open Mind, a six-furlong listed stakes race for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs.
Aireofdistinction stopped the teletimer in 1:10.54 over a fast main track to give owner Gillian Campbell, trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. their second straight Open Mind triumph. They teamed to win the event last year with Vuitton, who also was co-owned by Ralph and Shelly Stayer and Andrew Pajak.
Flower Spell, the 3-2 favorite, broke fastest from the gate in the field of six distaffers with Aireofdistinction in close pursuit through a first quarter mile in :22.56. The winner and a looming Janis’s Joy drew even with the leader on the turn and there was a three-way battle for the lead at the top of the stretch after a half-mile in :46.05.
Aireofdistinction battled between horses down the stretch, put away a fading Flower Spell and then kicked clear of Janis’s Joy, who couldn’t keep up with the winner. Interest Free rallied from last to get second by three-quarters of a length over Janis’s Joy.
"She always runs great,” Santana said of the winner. “I know this filly; she’s a nice filly and she always tries hard.”
Aireofdistinction, sent to post at odds of 5-2, returned $7, $4 and $3.40. Interest Free, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $4 and $2.80. Janis’s Joy, under Leandro Goncavles, returned $4.40.
Flower Spell, Rusticana and Afternoon Tango completed the order of finish. Defending champ Vuitton was scratched.
Aireofdistinction, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Songandaprayer out of the Storm Cat mare Clear Distinction, earned $68,439 for the win. This was her second career stakes triumph. The 4-year-old filly also prevailed in the $100,000 Spring Fever this winter at Oaklawn Park.
Overall, Aireofdistinction has won five of her 14 starts with one second and four thirds. Her career earnings now stand at $258,911.
Saturday’s race saluted the late Eugene Klein’s Hall of Fame filly Open Mind, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained winner of the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs who returned to the Louisville track the following spring to win the Kentucky Oaks. The New Jersey-bred filly was an Eclipse Award champion at ages two and three. A winner of 12 races and $1,844,372 in 19 starts, the daughter of Deputy Minister was enshrined in Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
OPEN MIND QUOTES
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey of AIREOFDISTINCTION (winner) – “She always runs great. I know this filly; she’s a nice filly and she always tries hard. Mr. (Steve) Asmussen didn’t even give me any directions. He knew she had the speed. She ran her race, and she ran it well.”
DARREN FLEMING, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen of AIREOFDISTINCTION (winner) – “She ran very well. She was sharp today and laid a little closer and finished up nice. She pretty much runs her own kind of race every time; she’s not always in the same spot.”
NEIL HOWARD, trainer of INTEREST FREE (runner-up) – “She ran very well. She’s one of those that’s in-the-middle – she needs seven-eighths to a mile, but she ran well.”
Q: You added blinkers today, but she rallied from well back. Did you expect her to show a little more speed with the equipment change? “We didn’t think it would get her too amped-up. We just wanted her to keep from dropping out the back so far. We had one piece of the combination, but we needed to go a little further. But I thought she ran great.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on INTEREST FREE (runner-up) – “She really came running. She ran big. All the way around there we thought we were on the best horse and she made her big run. They just got away from her a little bit and she ran out of ground.
Q: Neil added blinkers for Interest Free today. Did you expect her to be any closer in the early going? “It improved her a little bit, I think. It made her closing run a little harder. It (the addition of blinkers) didn’t hurt her any, and I think it helped her a little.”
Lucky Player Nips Stablemate Bold Conquest in Iroquois for Early Lead in 'Road to Derby,' Breeders' Cup Juvenile Bid
Lucky Player took the first major step toward next year’s running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and earned a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for this year’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) when he held off stablemate Bold Conquest in deep stretch to score a neck victory in the 33rd running of the $115,500 Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds, one of four stakes races run on the first Saturday of Churchill Downs’ 12-date September Meet.
Steve Asmussen trains the top two finishers in the field of nine for the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois and won the race for the third time in his career. Ricardo Santana Jr. rode the winner, an 11-1 longshot who tracked a slow early pace set by favored Mr. Z and out-kicked Bold Conquest and Joel Rosario in the final yards to collect first stakes victory. Hashtag Bourbon, bottled up along the rail in traffic for much of the race, finally found room in the stretch and rallied to finish third, 1 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
With the victory by Lucky Player, owner Jerry Durant’s son of Lookin at Lucky became the early leader in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” (“RTTKD”) points system that will determine the eligibility of horses vying to be part of the maximum field of 20 3-year-old Thoroughbreds that will compete in next spring’s Kentucky Derby. Lucky Player earned 10 RTTKD points with his Iroquois triumph, while Bold Conquest picked up four for his runner-up effort.
Along with its implications for the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Iroquois also was the first event in the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Division” and the win guaranteed Lucky Player a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1. He also will receive a travel stipend of $10,000 for his journey to the Arcadia, Calif. track.
Lucky Player covered the 1 1/16-mile distance over a fast track in 1:45.76 and returned $25, $8.40 and $5.60. Bold Conquest, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin owned by Ackerley Brothers Farm, paid $6 and $4.20. Hashtag Bourbon, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver trained by Kellyn Gorder, rallied under Brian Hernandez Jr. to finish third and returned $3.60 to show.
“Lucky Player was laying extremely well, he was in a perfect spot,” Asmussen said. “Ricardo gave him a great trip. I think he benefitted a lot from his two-turn race that he had previously [in the Prairie Juvenile Mile at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows], and then Bold Conquest – I think he was a little wide early, [and there was] not a lot of pace, but he still continued well.
“I thought they both looked well, they looked good under the wire, they maintained the margin and I think both horses will get better with experience.”
The Iroquois victory improved the career record for Lucky Player to 2-1-0 in four races, with his earlier victory coming in his May 23 debut at Churchill Downs. The winner’s purse of $68,746 increased his career earnings to $115,691.
Favored Mr. Z, trained by Hall of Famer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, jumped to the lead from post two with Lucky Player in closest pursuit and jockey Corey Lanerie guided the leader through modest fractions of :23.41 for a quarter mile, :49.51 for the half-mile and six furlongs in 1:14.82. Lucky Player and Santana challenged the leader and grabbed a narrow advantage on the far turn while Bold Conquest rallied five-wide to take on his stablemate. Hashtag Bourbon, who had broken from the inside post, was bottled up behind the leaders and hemmed-in from the outside by Cleveland Sound into upper stretch, while Danny Boy, who had settled on the inside near the back of the field, launched a five-wide bid on turn. Lucky Player and Bold Conquest battled through the stretch, and the latter stuck his head in front in mid-stretch as the two horses brushed. Hashtag Bourbon managed to get free and swing to the outside late, but could not make up enough ground on the top pair. Danny Boy rallied for fourth.
Mr. Z, the pacesetting favorite, faded to fifth, and was followed by Cleveland Sound, Holy Frazier, Dekabrist and The Gorilla Man.
Hashtag Bourbon’s third-place run was good for two “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points, while Danny Boy collected a single point for his fourth-place run.
STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of Lucky Player and Bold Conquest (winner and runner-up): “Lucky Player was laying extremely well, he was in a perfect spot. Ricardo [Santana] gave him a great trip. I think he benefitted a lot from his two-turn race that he had previously [Prairie Juvenile Mile], and then Bold Conquest, I think he was a little wide early, not a lot of pace but he still continued well.”
“I thought they both looked well, they looked good under the wire, they maintained the margin and I think both horses will get better with experience.”
“I think with Lucky Player, with four races already, and a different type, (and) Bold Conquest being a bigger and heavier horse with the two turns, he would most likely come back sooner. We’ll see how they come out of this attitude wise and see how they go back to the track.”
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey of Lucky Player (winner): “He had a clean trip; he’s a really nice horse. He relaxed really nicely. When we were turning for home and I asked him, he really showed his class in this race. I was pretty confident going into this race. When I rode him at Prairie Meadows and he came down the stretch and saw all the lights, I think he almost got caught in it a little bit. I had more confidence in him running during the day. He’s a nice horse. I told Mr. Asmussen after I broke his maiden here that I definitely wanted to ride him again.”
JOEL ROSARIO, jockey of Bold Conquest (runner-up): “We had a good trip; the race broke fast and my horse broke a little slow. He finished well and did everything right after that. I just think the other horse was a little better today. If Steve asked me to get on him again I’d be more than happy to ride him next time.”
With a commanding lead entering the final day of the 2014 Churchill Downs Spring Meet, jockey Corey Lanerie has clinched his fifth Churchill Downs riding title with 55 wins entering Sunday’s closing day card.
The recent recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award captured his first title in the spring of 2012 when he tallied 71 victories, came back and won the title again in the fall of 2012 with 29 wins, took the inaugural September meeting in 2013 with 19 wins and followed that with another title last November where he rode 36 winners.
“Once you’ve accomplished a leading riding title you always want to repeat,” Lanerie said. “It’s definitely a goal I set for myself coming into this spring.
“I try not to look into the standings during the meet because I don’t want it to affect my focus. So I just try to win as many as I can each week to try to earn a good paycheck.”
Lanerie is scheduled to ride nine mounts on Sunday’s card, totaling an unprecedented 253 mounts for the meet, at least 70 more than any other jockey this spring under the Twin Spires.
“My agent plays a big role in my success and has a lot of connections here at Churchill,” Lanerie said. “Other than that, it’s just putting in work; I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years and have been able to build up some great relationships.”
The highlight of Lanerie’s meet was the win he took the $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) on Molly Morgan for trainer Dale Romans.
“I’d say the Fleur de Lis was probably the most memorable for me this meet, just because it was a graded stakes and we weren’t really expected to win that one.”
Molly Morgan won the Fleur de Lis by four lengths at odds of 10-1, defeating Grade I-winner On Fire Baby and graded stakes winners Fiftyshadesofhay and Flashy American.
Lanerie also was the only jockey to eclipse $2 million in earnings, with $2,006,696 entering the final day of racing at Churchill.
“I’m lucky to have so many opportunities to ride and obviously the more opportunities you have, the more you win,” Lanerie said. “People like me, thank God, and fortunately they ask for me.”
In addition to the 55 wins from his 253 mounts, Lanerie also has scored 47 second-place finishes and has ridden 44 third-place finishers, putting his in-the-money percentage at 60% and win percentage a 22% entering Sunday.
SILVER MAX, GUYS REWARD EXIT IN GOOD ORDER FOR ROMANS
After finishing first with Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max and third with Michael J. Bruder’s Guys Reward in Saturday’s $224,800 Firecracker (Grade II), trainer Dale Romans said that both horses exited the race in good order.
“They both came out great,” Romans said. “It was a good comeback race for Silver Max and we were very pleased with both of their efforts.”
Romans has won the Firecracker a record four times, taking the race with Guy’s Reward in 2012, Thorn Song in 2008 and Kitten’s Joy in 2005.
Romans was unsure where his two stakes horses would make their next two starts but mentioned both the Aug. 2 Fourstardave Handicap (GII) at Saratoga and July 27 Oceanport (GIII) at Monmouth as possibilities.
“We’ll wait and see how things play out in that division,” Romans said. “We’ll take a look at the Oceanport and the Fourstardave though.”
Should either horse take a shot at the Fourstardave, they will likely have to face two-time horse of the year Wise Dan, who missed the Firecracker due to surgery but is expected to return in the Fourstardave according to his trainer Charlie LoPresti.
Silver Max won the 2013 Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland last October, handing Wise Dan his only loss of the year. The race actually was held on the Polytrack and run at the distance of 1 1/16 miles due to extreme weather conditions.
Wise Dan responded by taking the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) last November, while Silver Max finished fourth. Out of four total meetings between them, Wise Dan holds the 3-1 record advantage.
RECORD-EXTENDING 14TH TRAINING TITLE CLINCHED BY ASMUSSEN
Entering the final day of spring racing under the Twin Spires, trainer Steve Asmussen has clinched his 14th training title at Churchill Downs, the most titles ever won at the historic Louisville racetrack.
Entering Sunday’s card, Asmussen had 19 wins, nine seconds and 12 third-place efforts from 81 starters with earnings of $1,279,014.
Highlighted by a victory in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) with Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Untapable, Asmussen captured a total of five stakes wins for the meet.
“It feels very good,” Asmussen said. “It’s a special meet with Untapable winning the Oaks. My assistants Darren Fleming and Galen Prewitt have done a wonderful job for us and hopefully the hits keep coming.”
His other stakes winners this meet were Cinco Charlie, who won Saturday’s $108,100 Bashford Manor (GIII); Tapiture, who won the $109,400 Matt Winn; Speedinthruthecity, winner of the $65,194 Roxelana; and Regally Ready, victor of the $64,907 Opening Verse.
Asmussen took his first training title in the fall of 2001, saddling 13 winners. He has won the fall training title six times, the spring title seven times and took the inaugural September meeting title in 2013.
Entering Sunday, Asmussen had saddled 516 winners at Churchill Downs, third on the all-time list behind Bill Mott (678) and Dale Romans (615).
MAGGI MOSS SECURES LEADING OWNER HONORS FOR A THIRD TIME
With seven victories entering the final day of Churchill Downs spring meeting, owner Maggi Moss has secured her third leading owner title with seven wins, highlighted by a victory by Delaunay in the $112,900 Aristides (GIII).
Moss also captured leading owner honors in the spring of 2010 and the spring of 2007. With a record of seven wins, six runner-up finishes and seven thirds, she has accumulated $230,926 in earnings for the meet.
Entering Sunday, six owners were tied for second in wins with four, but none had more than one starter on the Sunday card.
Moss said in a tweet on Saturday that her private goal was to become the leading owner of the Churchill Downs spring meet, that she was really happy and then thanked her trainer Tom Amoss for his efforts.
LIVE RACING RETURNS TO CHURCHILL DOWNS SEPTEMBER 5
Churchill Downs will host its second September meeting beginning on Friday, Sept. 5. The 12-day meet will feature live racing Friday-Sunday, with the final day on Sunday, Sept. 28.
Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie set a pressured pace and shook off a challenge by Silverhill in deep stretch to edge clear for a 1 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s 113th running of the $108,100 Bashford Manor (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Cinco Charlie ran six furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.36 to give the meet’s leading trainer Steve Asmussen his fifth win in the stakes event that is annually the year’s first open graded stakes race for 2-year-olds in North America. The victory came 24 minutes after Asmussen’s stable star Untapable, the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner, won the $294,000 Mother Goose (GI) at Belmont Park by 9 ¼ lengths.
“That was a nice 20 minutes, huh?,” quipped Asmussen’s assistant Darren Fleming.
Cinco Charlie broke fastest of all from post four and led the field of six juveniles through fractions of :21.89, :45.69 and :57.63 with Texas invader Silverhill in close pursuit from his outside. Cinco Charlie proved best in the final yards and banked $67,022 to boost his earnings to $93,422 from two wins in two starts.
“He’s pretty precocious, a nice 2-year-old and he makes my job easy,” Bridgmohan said. “It was pretty straightforward. He broke smartly and was comfortable the whole way. When I asked him to pick it up he accelerated and did everything profession.”
Cinco Charlie, the 6-5 favorite, paid $4.60, $3 and $2.20. Silverhill, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $6 and $3.20. Skyway was another four lengths back in third and paid $2.80.
Lucky Player and Governmentshutdown completed the order of finish. Draw Nigh, a distant trailer, was pulled up midway around the turn but walked off.
Prior to the Bashford Manor, Cinco Charlie created a favorable impression May 9 when he debuted in the first 2-year-old race of the meet as the 3-2 favorite against seven rivals and won by 2 ¾ lengths. The Indian Charlie colt, a $190,000 purchase at the OBS March sale, clocked 4 ½ furlongs in :51.65, which remains the fastest of six 4 ½-furlong races this meeting at Churchill Downs.
“It was pretty much unbelievable to go all the way today coming off of one race seven weeks ago,” Bill Heiligbordt said. “It’s pretty impressive to win back like that and get a horse to go from 4 ½ furlongs to six furlongs over a period of time, so he’s got to be a nice horse.”
The stakes triumph was the first for the Heiligbrodts following a brief hiatus from the ownership ranks that included the dispersal of their vast racing operation in the summer of 2011. Previously, the Texans were among the nation’s top owners for more than two decades and had more than 150 horses in training. At the time of the dispersal they had owned all or part of 118 stakes-winners, including 45 graded stakes-winners.
“I found a good horse,” Bill Heiligbrodt said. “That’s why I’m back. I have just a couple of horses in training (five) but I’m looking for some more good horses. I’m just being careful and trying to buy a little better horse and not have as many.”
Cinco Charlie gave the Heiligbrodts their third win in the Bashford Manor. They campaigned 2004 winner Lunarpal and co-owned 1994 Bashford Manor winner Hyroglyphic with Jack Hammer.
Cinco Charlie, named after 73-year-old Bill Heiligbrodt’s boat, is a bay Kentucky-bred out of the Marquetry mare Ten Halos.
“I had Bwana Charlie who was probably one of the best racehorses I had and this horse is a three-quarter brother (note: his dam Ten Halos is a sister to Bwana Charlie). And he’s a very pretty horse.”
The Bashford Manor – one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races – was the first of three consecutive stakes races run on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
In the subsequent $58,128 Kelly’s Landing, Thomas Shank and Stan Young’s 7-year-old gelding Good Lord wired eight rivals and ran seven furlongs in 1:22.45 to beat favored Pass the Dice by 2 ¾ lengths. Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the winner for 79-year-old trainer Forrest Kaelin.
BASHFORD MANOR QUOTES
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “He’s pretty precocious, a nice 2-year-old and he makes my job easy. It was pretty straightforward. He broke smartly and was comfortable the whole way. When I asked him to pick it up he accelerated and did everything profession.”
BILL HEILIGBRODT, co-owner of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “I found a good horse. That’s why I’m back. I had Bwana Charlie who was probably one of the best racehorses I had and this horse is a three-quarter brother (note: his dam Ten Halos is a sister to Bwana Charlie). And he’s a very pretty horse.
“I have just a couple of horses in training (five) but I’m looking for some more good horses. I’m just being careful and trying to buy a little better horse and not have as many.
“It was pretty much unbelievable to go all the way today coming off of one race seven weeks ago. It’s pretty impressive to win back like that and get a horse to go from 4 ½ furlongs to six furlongs over a period of time, so he’s got to be a nice horse.
Q: Where did the name come from? “Cinco is the name of my boat.”
CORINNE HEILIGBRODT, co-owner of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “This was very fun and exciting. There’s a lot of nostalgia here.”
DARREN FLEMING, assistant trainer of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “I’m glad he won. That was a nice 20 minutes, huh?” (Note: The Asmussen stable’s Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable won the Grade I, $294,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park by 9 ¼ lengths 24 minutes prior to Cinco Charlie’s Bashford Manor victory)
BRET CALHOUN, trainer of SILVERHILL (runner-up): “He ran great. I was very happy with him. I’m disappointed to lose, but I was very happy with his performance. The colt that beat him is a very nice colt, I think, and I thought we ran our race. When he loomed up to him on the turn I thought we had him, but the winner just had plenty left for us.”
Q: What next with him? “I really haven’t thought past today. We’ve got the colt races up at Saratoga and we could go in that direction, or take the lower road. I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. This was kind of a last-second decision to come up here. We were pointing toward a futurity down there (in Texas) and we decided to send him here – he didn’t get here until Wednesday morning. It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment deal. We thought he was a nice horse and he belonged up here, but it wasn’t the original plan. So I don’t know where he’ll go from here, but obviously there’s a lot of 2-year-old racing coming up in the next few months. I was very, very happy. I was disappointed that he didn’t win, but I was very happy with the race.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey on SILVERHILL (runner-up): “My horse ran great. He came out of the gate nice and was in a perfect position. I might have rode with too much confidence – I thought I had him any time I wanted him. But hat’s off to Asmussen’s team. They had the horse read to run.”
Q: At one point did you realize it was a battle and you didn’t have him where you wanted him? “About the eighth pole – I was all-out and I wasn’t getting the best of him. I was still hopin’, though.”
NORMAN CASSE, assistant trainer/son of MARK CASSE, trainer of SKYWAY (third): “I’m really proud of him. I thought he ran a good race. He’ll be a much more effective horse when we go longer and he can be comfortable early on in the race.”
Q: Any problems for him with that rail post? “He doesn’t like being on the inside. We weren’t thrilled with the post position, but we played the hand we were dealt.”
STEWART ELLIOTT, jockey on SKYWAY (third): “I thought he run a good race. He got in a little bit tight in the beginning and got off to a little bit of an awkward start. But he got in good position and when he moved on the outside I thought we had a good chance, but the other two horses just kept running.”
KELLY’S LANDING QUOTES
FORREST KAELIN, trainer of GOOD LORD (winner):
Q: He’s a tough old boy – he’s been through a lot of wars … “Well, he had a foot problem for a good while. We got him all straightened up. He’s a nice horse. He runs hard all the time. He loves this track – he broke his maiden here. Now he’s run 21-and-change two times and he ran 22-and-change today and I really liked him. He’s been working like crazy, so he didn’t surprise me. I told the owners, ‘If he gets to the front, it’s all over.’”
Q: You’re 79 now and you and you old friend Art Sherman (77-year-old trainer of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome who rode with Kaelin in their early days as jockeys) have put a nice bookend on this Spring Meet… “(D. Wayne) Lukas (who won earlier in the day) is 78 and I’m 79. It’s a good time for all of the ‘old timers.’ I’ve been here for 60 some years. He ran a great race – he really ran good. I guess we’ll have to go back to Ellis for the Bernhardt (Don Bermhardt Memorial). He’s won that one two in-a-row, so we’re going for the three.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on GOOD LORD (winner): “He’s good right now. I guess he’s as good as he’s ever been. I’ve only ridden him his last two starts, but he’s on his game.”
Q: What were the instructions? “Just let him break and if he put himself where we thought he would be, that’s what we thought he would do. It worked out good.”
Saturday could to be a huge day for the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, who is seeking a graded stakes double with Vinery Stables LLC’s Regally Ready in the $200,000-added Firecracker (GII) and a pair of 2-year-olds entered in the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) in William and Corrine Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie and Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player.
As the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, Regally Ready will break from the outside in post position eight for the Firecracker with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan on board.
“He’s regained some of his old form,” Asmussen said. “He’s run really well over the Churchill turf course; but with such a good speed turf horse in there in Silver Max, this race is a whole new question for us.”
The 7-year-old gelding by More than Ready won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) at Churchill Downs, which was his last stakes victory prior to taking the Opening Verse also at Churchill on May 31, in his last start. Regally Ready will shorten up from the distance of 1 1/16 miles in the Opening Verse to a mile in Saturday’s Firecracker.
“I think the mile distance is a good fit for him right now,” Asmussen said. “I think the Opening Verse that he won last time at a mile and a sixteenth was probably a sixteenth further than his best.”
Although Asmussen has never saddled a winner in the Firecracker, he is seeking a fourth Bashford Manor victory, winning with Lunarpal in 2004, Kodiak Kowboy in 2007 and Kantharos in 2010.
In one of the most impressive 2-year-old performances of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, Cinco Charlie defeated seven other juveniles in his maiden debut by an easy 2 ¾-length margin, which is likely why he has been made the early 9-5 favorite on the morning line.
Lucky Player, who also captured his debut at Churchill, was given odds of 6-1 on the morning line. He took his maiden by 1 ¾ lengths, defeating a smaller field of five.
“I think the 2-year-old race is extremely wide open,” Asmussen said. “I have two very nice 2-year-olds with hopefully two very big futures. I don’t like having to run them against each other, but it’s better than not having any runners at all.”
The Bashford Manor will go as Race 6 on Churchill Downs’ Saturday card with a post time of approximately 3:16 p.m. EDT, while the Firecracker is the eighth race with a 4:18 p.m. EDT scheduled post.
Asmussen, seeking his record 14th local training title, is leading all Churchill Downs trainers with 18 wins on the meet, three more than Mike Maker and Brad Cox, who are tied in second with 15 wins. Asmussen has 14 starters entered in the final three days of the meet, while Maker has 11 and Cox has four.
ROBB GOING FOR BASHFORD MANOR REPEAT WITH GOVERNMENTSHUTDOWN
After taking the 2013 Bashford Manor (GIII) with Debt Ceiling, trainer Jerry Robb and owner Tim E. O’Donohue Racing LLC find themselves in a similar situation with Governmentshutdown, who is entered in the 2014 edition this Saturday.
Coming off a win in the $75,000 Rollicking at Pimlico in his last effort, the gelded son of Exchange Rate has been made the 2-1 second choice on the morning line and will break from post position two in the six-furlong test for 2-year-olds.
“He got cut up a little bit in that last race and I had to give him a week or so to heal it up,” Robb said. “So he missed just a little bit of training but he’s had two really good workouts since then.”
Governmentshutdown is the only entry of the six-horse field that has raced three times and also is the only one to have won two races.
“We will see how this race shapes up,” Robb said. “I feel better having two wins under my belt as opposed to just one, but you never know what will happen with these 2-year-olds.”
Debt Ceiling also won the Rollicking as his last start prior to taking the 2013 Bashford Manor and was owned by O’Donohue.
“This horse definitely acts like he wants to go a little longer distance than Debt Ceiling did,” Robb said. “But Debt Ceiling probably had a bit quicker turn of foot.”
$1 BEER, HOT DOGS, SODAS & WATER FOR SUNDAY’S CLOSING DAY PROGRAM
Churchill Downs Racetrack has a special “thank you” for its fans on Sunday’s closing day 10-race program. “Fan Appreciation Day” will feature $1 food and drink specials including 16-ounce domestic beers at all locations where draft beer is served, 22-ounce Pepsi fountain drinks, bottled waters and hot dogs. Also, members of the military – both active duty and retired – will be admitted free on Sunday when they present a military I.D.
CLOSING WEEKEND AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, June 27 – Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka: Rockin’ in the USA
- 10 races from 6-10:57 p.m. (Gates: 4:00 p.m.)
- Feature (Race 8 at 9:50 p.m.): $56,000 alw opt clm, f&m, 1 1/16 M (T)
- Wagering menu includes three 50-cent Pick 4s (Races 1-4, 3-6 and 7-10), two 50-cent Pick 5s (Races 2-6 and 6-10), 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 5-10) and $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 10)
- Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka
- Theme: Rockin’ in the USA. A pre-Fourth of July holiday celebration with denim, Americana and lots of red, white and blue.
- Entertainment on the Plaza stage by Juice Box Heroes
- Possible “Elvis” sighting?
- Bet or No Bet Presented by Thorntons. Four lucky on-track patrons will face a tough decision on Races 6-9: to place a $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race or take a $100 Thorntons’ gift card.
- Entertainment emcee on the Big Board: Diaz from “Diaz and Jess” on New Country Q103.1
- 21-and-over “Terrace Lounge” ticket for $25 available in Grandstand Terrace and includes DJ entertainment with access to purchase premium food and beverage offerings.
- 21-and-over “Terrace Lounge VIP Cabanas” available for $99 and includes four-hour open bar and tapas buffet
- Box Office hours: 12 to 9 p.m.
Saturday, June 28 – Stakes Tripleheader
- 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Feature (Race 8 at 4:18 p.m.): $200,000-added Firecracker (GII), 3 & up, 1 M (T)
- Co-feature (Race 6 at 3:16 p.m.): $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), 2 yo, 6 F
- Co-feature (Race 7 at 3:47 p.m.): $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, 3&up, 7 F
- Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 29 – Fan Appreciation Day / Closing Day
- 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Feature: $56,000 alw opt clm, f&m, 7 F
- Mandatory Single 6 Jackpot and Super Hi-5 payout
- $1 domestic draft beer (16 oz.)
- $1 Pepsi product fountain drinks (22 oz.)
- $1 bottled water
- $1 hot dogs
- Free general admission for all active and retired members of the United States armed forces
- Salute Spring Meet Champion Jockey, Trainer and Owner between races
- Charity: $15,000 check presentation to Sullivan University for their contributions to Taste of Derby (after Race 6)
- Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie, a tantalizing prospect that trail-blazed his way to a swift 2 ¾-length victory in his career debut, headlines a field of six juveniles entered Saturday at Churchill Downs for the 113th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (Grade III), the year’s first open graded stakes race for 2-year-olds.
The six-furlong Bashford Manor – one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races – is the first of three consecutive stakes races that will be run on Saturday’s 10-race program. It goes as Race 6 at approximately 3:16 p.m. (all times Eastern) and will be followed by the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing and the $200,000 Firecracker (GII). The first race is 12:45 p.m.
Cinco Charlie, conditioned by the meet’s leading trainer Steve Asmussen, created a favorable impression May 9 when he debuted in the first 2-year-old race of the Spring Meet as the 3-2 favorite against seven rivals. The Indian Charlie colt broke fastest of all in the 4 ½-furlong sprint and set a pressured pace on the outside of the filly To Be Determined through fractions of :22.41 and :45.54. Entering the stretch, he was met to his outside by a rallying Far Right, but shook off that rival and edged clear with a furlong to go and increased his lead under steady urging from jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. His final time of :51.65 is the fastest of six 4 ½-furlong races this meeting at Churchill Downs.
The Heiligbrodts, who were among the nation’s top owners for more than two decades, return to the stakes scene Saturday following a brief hiatus from the ownership ranks that included the dispersal of their vast racing operation in the summer of 2011. At the time of the dispersal they had owned all or part of 118 stakes-winners, including 45 graded stakes-winners.
Cinco Charlie, a $190,000 purchase at the OBS March sale, is one of a handful of 2014 starters for the Heiligbrodts, who have returned to racing as B and C Racing.
Bill Heiligbrodt, 73, co-owned 1994 Bashford Manor winner Hyroglyphic with Jack Hammer and campaigned 2004 race winner Lunarpal with his wife.
Asmussen, who has won with five of 13 2-year-old starters at the meet, seeks to land his fourth Bashford Manor, which would put him one back of record-holder D. Wayne Lukas. In addition to Lunarpal, Asmussen saddled Kodiak Kowboy (2007) and Kantharos (2010) to victories in the race.
Cinco Charlie, a bay Kentucky-bred out of the Marquetry mare Ten Halos, will break from post four under Bridgmohan.
The Bashford Manor field from the rail out (with jockeys): Skyway (Stewart Elliott), Governmentshutdown (Jose Betancourt), Draw Nigh (Joe Rocco Jr.), Cinco Charlie (Bridgmohan), Silverhill (Corey Lanerie) and Lucky Player (Julien Leparoux).
John Oxley’s Skyway breaks from the rail, which is the same post that he successfully debuted from on April 5 over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland. The New York-bred son of Sky Mesa stalked pacesetter Time Out of Mind before taking command at the top of the stretch and drawing off to win by 6 ¾ lengths despite lugging in under left handed urging. Trainer Mark Casse and his assistant/son Norman have won with four of 12 juveniles at the Spring Meet to rank second behind Asmussen.
Trainer Bret Calhoun, who captured last Saturday’s $108,300 Debutante with 2-year-old filly Promise Me Silver, hopes to scoop another stakes pot with a Lone Star Park invader bred in Texas by promising freshman sire Silver City. Douglas Scharbauer’s homebred gelding Silverhill walked out of the starting gate in his May 24 debut and spotted the leaders two lengths before grabbing the lead at the head of the stretch with a five-wide move. He drew clear inside the final furlong and outran his ballyhooed stablemate and eventual third-place finisher Supermason, which gave Calhoun the confidence to try the Bashford Manor.
Owner Tim O’Donohue and Mid-Atlantic-based trainer Jerry Robb hope to raid the Bashford Manor for a second straight year with a winner of Pimlico’s $75,000 Rollicking Stakes. They successfully brought Debt Ceiling to Churchill Downs last year and easily won the race by 2 ¾ lengths at odds of 5-1. This year’s entrant Governmentshutdown, a gray Exchange Rate gelding, enters Saturday’s race off a 3 ¾-length win in the mud over three rivals in this year’s Rollicking. He steadied slightly heading into the turn before shifting outside to grab the lead for good with about 200 yards to run.
Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player is another Asmussen trainee that won at first asking. The Florida-bred Lookin at Lucky colt rallied to beat four others on May 23 at odds of 3-5 after his rider lost his whip at the three-sixteenths pole. Julien Leparoux takes over the reins from Ricardo Santana Jr., and Lucky Player will receive the diuretic Lasix for the first time.
The field is rounded out by Jim Rankin’s Ohio-bred Draw Nigh, who stalked the leaders before making an outside run to grab the lead 200 yards from the finish in his second start on June 8 over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs.
First run in 1902, the Bashford Manor is named for the former Louisville Thoroughbred breeding and racing farm that dominated the American racing scene in the early 1900s. George J. Long, a wealthy foundry owner, purchased Bashford Manor Farm in 1887 and developed his Thoroughbred operation that provided him two Derby wins as an owner, 1892 (Azra) and 1906 (Sir Huon), and three as a breeder, 1892 (Azra), 1899 (Manuel) and 1906 (Sir Huon). In addition, Bashford Manor also won the Kentucky Oaks in 1894 (Selika) and 1915 (Kathleen). The original Wilder family owned Bashford Manor. The Wilders were direct descendants of Lord Baltimore, whose English home was also called Bashford Manor. Long died in 1930 and the farm was eventually sold in 1973 to make way for the development of a mall complex, fittingly named Bashford Manor, that formally closed in 2003.
The other two featured events on Saturday’s card are the 24th running of the $200,000-added Firecracker (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course and the fifth running of the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, an overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs. The Kelly’s Landing will go as Race 7 at 3:47 p.m. and the Firecracker is scheduled as Race 8 at 4:18 p.m.
Louisville-born trainer Dale Romans will play a strong hand on Saturday when he sends out the accomplished duo of millionaire Silver Max and 2012 winner Guys Reward in a bid to win the 24th running of the $200,000-added Firecracker (Grade II) for 3-year-olds and up on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course.
A win by either of Romans’ charges over their six rivals on Saturday would be the trainer’s fourth Firecracker victory in the race’s last 10 renewals. He collected his first Firecracker win in 2005 with reigning American turf champion Kitten’s Joy, and followed that victory with successful runs by Thorn Song in 2008 and the win by Guys Reward two years later.
The Firecracker is one of three stakes races on a 10-race program on the final Saturday program of Churchill Downs’ 2014 Spring Meet. It is scheduled as the eighth race with an approximate post time of 4:18 p.m. (all times EDT). Other stakes events on Saturday include the 113th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds and the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, an overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs. Those races are scheduled as the day’s sixth and seventh events, respectively. Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:45 p.m.
Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max is the likely favorite in the Firecracker although he has not raced since a fourth-place finish to two-time Horse of the Year and two-time Firecracker winner Wise Dan in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Santa Anita. The Breeders’ Cup loss snapped a three-race win streak for the son of Badge of Silver that included an upset over Wise Dan on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack course in the Shadwell Turf Mile (GI), a race that was moved from the grass course because of excessive rain. Silver Max handed Wise Dan his only defeat of 2013 in that win, which was preceded by victories by the Romans-trained star in the Bernard Baruch (GII) at Saratoga and the Oceanport (GIII) at Monmouth Park.
Regular rider Robby Albarado will be in the saddle aboard the 5-year-old Silver Max, whose record of 11-5-1 in 23 races includes nine stakes victories. The Shadwell Turf Mile was his only Grade I triumph, but he has two wins in three stakes starts over the Churchill Downs grass course. He sailed to front-running victories in the American Turf (GII) at three and won last year’s Opening Verse. His only loss beneath the Twin Spires came in a fourth-place run behind Wise Dan in the 2013 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI).
One of two millionaires and Grade I stakes winners in the Firecracker field, Silver Max brings a bankroll of $1,778,403 into Saturday’s race in which each starter will carry 121 pounds. He will break from post four.
Guys Reward’s 2012 Firecracker victory remains the career high point for the 7-year-old son of Grand Reward, who has earned $665,903 for owner Michael Bruder while compiling a record of 8-5-10 in 44 races. Jesus Castanon will ride from post one.
Five of Guys Reward’s 10 wins have come over the grass at Churchill Downs, a record that includes a victory in the 2012 Opening Verse. His local record also includes a runner-up finish in the 2010 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) and third-place runs in the 2011 Louisville Handicap (GIII) and 2010 American Turf (GII). Guys Reward also has three allowance wins over the course.
A major Firecracker rival for the Romans-trained duo could be Richard Sherman’s Nikki’s Sandcastle, a 7-year-old Castledale (IRE) gelding who won the Grade III Hanshin over Polytrack at Arlington Park in his most recent start. Trained by David Kassen, Nikki’s Sandcastle also won last fall’s Hagyard Fayette (GIII) over Keeneland’s Polyrack course and earned stakes wins on turf in Arlington Park’s Sea O Erin and Gulfstream Park’s El Prado. Leandro Goncalves has the mount on Kassen’s star, who breaks from gate five.
Vinery Stables LLC’s Regally Ready, the winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) at Churchill Downs, stretched out to defeat Firecracker rival Villandry in the 1 1/16-mile Opening Verse at Churchill Downs on May 31. The 7-year-old More Than Ready gelding has a career record of 13-2-6 in 33 races and has earned $1,423,518. The victory by the Steve Asmussen-trained Regally Ready was his fifth in seven races over the Churchill turf course, where he also earned wins in the 2011 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII) and a pair of allowance races. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Regally Ready from the outside post in the field of eight.
Free World, campaigned by the Spring Meet’s leading owner Maggi Moss, is the hottest member of the Firecracker field as the 4-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic has won five consecutive races and six of his last 10. The speedy Tom Amoss trainee scored a front-running win in his most recent outing on May 18 in a one-mile allowance race on Polytrack at Arlington Park. That was his first start in nearly a year and followed a win in the $200,000 Centaur at Indiana Grand last June. Leading jockey Corey Lanerie will ride Free World, who will break from post two.
Wade Wacker’s Joha is the second Grade I winner in the Firecracker field and will be ridden by Joe Rocco Jr. from post seven. The 4-year-old son of Johar won the Keeneland’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at two, but has managed only one victory in 13 races since. Joha comes into the Firecracker off of one of his better recent efforts for trainer Joshua Flores: a fast-closing fourth-place run behind Nikki’s Sandcastle in Arlington’s Hanshin.
While trainer Charlie LoPresti does not have his champion Wise Dan available for the Firecracker, he could earn his third victory in its last four runnigs with Gaineway Stable’s Villandry, who finished a late-running second to Regally Ready in the Opening Verse. Prior to that he won a stakes-quality allowance race over the Matt Winn Turf Course on May 9 and finished a troubled fourth over the same course last fall to longshot Potomac City in the River City Handicap (GIII). The 5-year-old Mr. Greeley gelding also won an allowance race over Churchill Downs grass in the fall of 2012. Julien Leparoux will ride Villandry for the fourth consecutive race and LoPresti’s horse will break from post six.
Completing the field is Bruce Lunsford’s homebred Valentino Beauty, the winner of an April 16 turf allowance at Keeneland in which he defeated Grand Arch, who won last week’s King Edward (GII) on the grass at Woodbine. Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride the 5-year-old Vindication gelding, the fifth-place finisher in Arlington’s Hanshin for trainer Tommy Drury. Valentino Beauty will start from gate three in search of his first stakes victory in the Firecracker.
The field for the Firecracker, from the rail out (with jockeys): Guys Reward, Castanon), Free World (Lanerie), Valentino Beauty (Hernandez Jr.), Nikki’s Sandcastle (Goncalves), Silver Max (Albarado), Villandry (Leparoux), Joha (Rocco Jr.) and Regally Ready (Bridgmohan).
Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Untapable, an emphatic 4 ½-length winner of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) in her most recent start, worked four furlongs on Monday at Churchill Downs in a final prep for her scheduled return to competition in Saturday’s Grade I Mother Goose at New York’s Belmont Park.
The Steve Asmussen-trained homebred covered the distance in :49.60 over a fast track on a warm and humid morning at the Louisville track. Internal fractions of her work were timed in :13.20 and :25.40 and the 3-year-old daughter of Tapit galloped-out five furlongs in 1:03.
The training move tied as the 22nd fastest of 50 at the distance.
“We’re just trying to stay in a nice rhythm with her – keep her happy and comfortable,” Asmussen said. “I thought she went over the racetrack well. It was a pretty warm morning – a little humid – but all is good.”
Asmussen said Untapable would fly to New York on Tuesday for Saturday’s Mother Goose, a 1 1/16 mile race that carries a purse of $300,000-added. John Velazquez will ride Untapable as regular jockey Rosie Napravnik continues her recovery from injuries suffered in a training mishap at Churchill Downs on June 15.
“She’s special,” Asmussen said on Untapable. “You realize how fortunate we are to be around her. She’s just a tremendous talent and it’s exciting and fun to have her.”
Untapable’s victory in the Longines Kentucky Oaks lifted her career record to 5-0-1 in seven races with earnings of $1,124,725.
Other notable Monday works included:
- A five-furlong move in 1:00 by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) winner Ria Antonia, 10th in her most recent start against males in the Preakness (GI);
- A five-furlong breeze in 1:02 by Golden Soul, runner-up in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI);
- A work by Opening Verse winner Regally Ready, a candidate for the Firecracker Handicap (GII) who breezed a half-mile in :50.20.
John C. Oxley’s Unbridled Reward, an eye-catching runaway winner in her career debut, headlines a field of six promising 2-year-old fillies entered in Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000-added Debutante at Churchill Downs.
The six-furlong Debutante is carded as the eighth race at approximately 4:18 p.m. (all times Eastern) on a 10-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m.
Unbridled Reward, trained by Mark Casse, was in a different class when she debuted as the 3-5 favorite against four rivals in a 4 ½-furlong maiden special weight on May 30. While racing in a driving rainstorm, she grabbed the lead after 100 yards and drew away from the field under a hand ride by jockey Alan Garcia to stop the teletimer in :52.40. She beat Heart’s Song that day by 7 ¾ lengths and that rival returned to win a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight by 1 ¼ lengths on Sunday.
Unbridled Reward was one of three winners on May 30 from Spendthrift Farm’s freshman sire Warrior’s Reward’s first three starters (the others were Liatris at Belmont Park and Strawberry Baby at Lone Star Park). A $330,000 purchase by Oxley at the OBS March sale, Unbridled Reward is the highest-priced 2-year-old sold at public auction for her sire, who stands at stud for $12,500.
Unbridled Reward, a Kentucky-bred, will break from post four under Garcia on Saturday.
The Debutante field from the rail out (with jockeys): Rousanne (Shaun Bridgmohan), Irish Nuggets (Julio Felix), Promise Me Silver (Robby Albarado), Unbridled Reward (Garcia), Ol Sanish (Leandro Goncalves) and Rachel’s Ready (Corey Lanerie).
Like Unbridled Reward, Robert G. Luttrell’s Texas homebred Promise Me Silver won in similar fashion in her debut against state-breds at Lone Star Park. Breaking from the rail, Promise Me Silver pressed pacesetter Pretty Adieu from the inside then dropped back to get a clear run from the outside. Her rider Cliff Berry sat motionless down the stretch as the daughter of Silver City powered home for a 6 ¾-length romp. Trainer Bret Calhoun, who won last year’s Debutante with Fiftyshadesofgold, has given Saturday’s riding assignment to Robby Albarado, who will break from post three.
David Ingordo’s Rousanne holds the distinction of being the Spring Meet’s shortest-priced winner ($2.40) when she prevailed late against three rivals. The Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Desert Party went straight to the lead in her May 22 debut and dueled on the inside of Greeley’s Striker. Down the lane, she was all out to put away that rival and third-place finisher Sunrise Countess but edged away nearing the wire in 1:00.13 for five furlongs. Shaun Bridgmohan will take over the riding duties from Rosie Napravnik, who is sidelined by a shoulder injury. They break from the rail, and will attempt to give Asmussen his fifth win in the race.
Rachel’s Ready and Ol Sanish wheel back 13 days after running 1-2 in a five-furlong maiden special weight on June 8. Carl F. Pollard’s Rachel’s Ready rated under jockey Corey Lanerie and improved position on the turn before taking the lead at the head of the stretch and kicking clear in the final stages to beat Ol Sanish by 1 ¾ lengths in :59.16. Krenz Stables’ Ol Sanish is the only maiden in the field.
Little Bear Racing Stables, Ingrid Mason and Melissa Wilkey’s Indiana-bred Irish Nuggets won at first asking over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Arlington Park on May 11. The 4 ½-furlong race was against open company but Irish Nugget was one of three fillies to sweep the top three positions.
The Debutante is one of two stakes races on Saturday. The $65,000-added Roxelana, an overnight stakes at six furlongs, drew a field of 10 fillies and mares: Quiet Success (Albarado), 2012 Debutante winner Blueeyesintherein (Lanerie), Turn by Turn (Stewart Elliott), Speedinthruthecity (Julien Leparoux), Warm Breeze (Goncalves), Miffed (Joe Rocco Jr.), Devious d’Oro (Bridgmohan), Elusive Fate (Brian Hernandez Jr.), Anahauc (Jesus Castanon) and Thicker Than Water (Garcia). The Roxelana goes as Race 9 at 4:49 p.m.