Steve Asmussen

Lanerie, Asmussen, Moss Clinch Spring Meet Titles

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.


After finishing first with Mark Bacon and Dana WellsSilver 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.


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).


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.


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.

Click here for a PDF version of Churchill Downs' June 29 edition of Race Day Notes containing additional statistical and meet information.

Cinco Charlie Brings Heiligbrodts Back to Bashford Manor

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.


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.”


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.”


Asmussen Barn Looking for Graded Stakes Double Saturday

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.


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.”


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.


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.

Click here for a PDF copy of Churchill Downs' June 27 Race Night Notes that include additional statistical and meet data.

Asmussen's Dazzling Cinco Charlie Heads Saturday's Grade III Bashford Manor

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.

Silver Max, 2012 Winner Guys Reward Give Romans 1-2 Punch in Saturday's $200,000 Firecracker

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).

Longines Kentucky Oaks Winner Untapable Works, Ships Tuesday for Mother Goose

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.

Unbridled Reward Heads Saturday's $100,000 Debutante

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.


'Downs After Dark' Stephen Foster Stars Reported in Good Shape on Sunday

Following an exhilarating night of first-class racing Saturday under the Twin Spires, the equine stars of Stephen Foster Handicap Night at Churchill Downs were reported by their connections to be in good order.

In one of the most impressive performances of the year, Randy Patterson’s Moonshine Mullin scored a 1 ¾-length victory in the $552,500 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) and trainer Randy Morse said he came out of the race well.

"He came out great, really great,” Morse said. “We’re just going to let this win sink in and we’ll see what happens next.”

Morse did mention he would probably take a string of horses back to Saratoga upon the completion of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, but did not say if Moonshine Mullin was pointed to a specific race.

The two Grade I events for handicap horses this summer at Saratoga are the Aug. 2 Whitney Invitational Handicap and Aug. 30 Woodward, both run at 1 1/8 miles.

Moonshine Mullin was followed in order by Will Take Charge, Departing, Mylute, Golden Ticket, Revolutionary, Long River, Prayer for Relief and Jaguar Paw.

“He came out of the race fine,” Will Take Charge conditioner D. Wayne Lukas said. “We’ll take a very serious look at the Whitney. This horse has an affinity for the Saratoga track.”

“Departing is fine,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “We were pleased with his effort and we will talk to the owners to see what’s in store next.”

Molly Morgan, Tapiture and Aurelia’s Belle also captured graded stakes wins on the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” racing program that attracted a crowd of 21,671.

Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan took the $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), starting the race in last of six through the first half-mile, while Ondine got out to an early lead. Molly Morgan passed Flashy American to get to fifth after six furlongs and gained ground by slipping through along the rail around the stretch to take the lead, and drew clear by four lengths at the wire with jockey Corey Lanerie at the reigns.

“We were very pleased with her effort and her trip last night,” Molly Morgan’s trainer Dale Romans said. “This opens the door to some interesting options for her in the future; I can’t say for sure what those might be yet, but she came out great.”

After finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Tapiture bounced back to take the $109,400 Matt Winn (GIII) by two lengths for trainer Steve Asmussen.

“He was pretty impressive last night,” Asmussen said. “But he came out of the race fine and everything is good here. The Aug. 2 West Virginia Derby (GII) is a possibility for where we might take him next.”

With a rough trip in the final stages of the $111,900 Regret (GIII), James F. Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle was placed first by a disqualification of A Little Bit Sassy for trainer Wayne Catalano. A Little Bit Sassy was disqualified from first and placed fourth for veering out and impeding Kiss Moon and Aurelia’s Belle.

“She’s a very nice horse,” Catalano’s assistant Miguel Hernandez said. “She walked this morning and is sound; everything’s good.”

Following last night’s race, Catalano was unsure what the next start for Aurelia’s Belle would be but that he would most likely keep her on the turf.


Of the 23 2-year-old fillies nominated for Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000-added Debutante at Churchill Downs, perhaps one of the most intriguing is Take Charge Brandi, an unraced daughter of Giant’s Causeway whose dam is a half-sister to 3-year-old Champion Will Take Charge and multiple graded stakes winner Take Charge Indy; and granddam is multiple Grade I winner Take Charge Lady.

Take Charge Brandi is owned and trained by the same connections of Will Take Charge, Willis D. Horton and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who have some high expectations for the filly.

“She’s doing great,” Lukas said. “We’re not quite sure if she’s ready for that step forward, but we’re very high on her.”

Horton purchased Take Charge Brandi for $450,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, less than two weeks after Will Take Charge collected his first Grade I victory in the Travers.

"It’s pretty special to have one out of the same family and she’s been training really well,” Lukas said. “But like they always say, don’t tell me, show me.”

Take Charge Brandi breezed a half mile in :48 Sunday morning. Before that, she breezed three furlongs from the gate in :35.60, which was the fastest of 20 workers at the distance on June 7.

Likely Debutante starters include Little Bear Racing, Ingrid Mason and Melissa Wilkey’s Irish Nuggets for co-owner/trainer Mason; Robert G. Luttrell’s Promise Me Silver for trainer Bret Calhoun; David Ingordo’s Rousanne trained by Steve Asmussen; John C. Oxley’s Unbridled Reward for trainer Mark Casse; and Blue Checker Thoroughbreds LLC’s Zip It Kim trained by John Hancock.

The six-furlong Debutante is the first stakes test for 2-year-old fillies offered by Churchill Downs. Last year’s winner was Fiftyshadesofgold, who came back as a 3-year-old to win the 2014 Eight Belles (GIII) on Kentucky Oaks Day.


This Friday, June 21, Churchill Downs again will transform the new Grandstand Terrace into the “Terrace Lounge,” a 21-and-over lounge-style environment that features a live DJ, club/lounge style lighting and décor, premium food and cocktails and use of the grandstand terrace’s patio and stadium style seating.

Tickets to Downs After Dark in the lounge are $25 and can be reserved in advance with a limited total capacity. The Terrace Lounge will be available at all three Downs After Dark events this Spring, with the hopes of continuing it again in the future if successful.

For $99 per ticket, Churchill Downs is also offering Terrace Lounge VIP Cabana seating, which includes an open bar from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m., a premium buffet designed by Chef David Danielson and concierge wait service. These tickets reserve special plush seating for groups of any number within one of the four covered cabanas at the end of the Grandstand Terrace.

Click here for a PDF copy of Churchill Downs' Race Day Notes for Sunday, June 15 - packed with statistics and other special information.

Tapiture Rebounds from Derby Disappointment to Roll in Grade III Matt Win

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ multiple graded stakes-winner Tapiture rebounded from a 15th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands to win Saturday night’s 17th running of the $109,400 Matt Winn (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by two lengths over Ulanbator.

The Matt Winn, which honors the famed Churchill Downs president and general manager (1902-49) that served as the driving force of the Downs and his beloved Kentucky Derby, was one of five graded stakes races run under the lights as part of the Louisville, Ky. racetrack’s special “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing program.

Tapiture, ridden by Rosie Napravnik and trained by Steve Asmussen, clocked 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.99.

The Admiral led the field of seven 3-year-olds through early fractions of :23.66 and :47.23 with Rise Up in close pursuit and Almost Famous and Tapiture settled just behind the leaders.

Approaching the final turn, Almost Famous made an inside move to grab the lead from The Admiral, who was fading, and crossed the six-furlong marker in 1:11.75. Tapiture rallied three-wide on the turn and caught Almost Famous at the head of the stretch and drew clear down the stretch under steady right-handed urging from Napravnik. Ulanbator, who raced near the back of the pack early on, rallied to catch Almost Famous late for the place.

Tapiture returned $4, $2.80 and $2.40 as the even-money favorite. Ulanbator, ridden by Julien Leparoux, paid $5.80 and $4.20. Almost Famous was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third under Calvin Borel and paid $3.

Rankhasprivleges, Rise Up, Conquest Titan and The Admiral completed the order of finish.

The victory was worth $66,472 and improved Tapiture’s earnings to $557,310 with a record of 9-3-2-2.

This was the third graded stakes win for Tapiture, a Tapit colt out of the Olympio mare Free Spin bred in Kentucky by his owner Ron Winchell. Previously, Tapiture won the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at age 2 and the Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn Park in this 3-year-old debut. He followed that effort with a second in the Rebel (GII) and a fourth in the Arkansas Derby (GI).

Napravnik won the Matt Winn for a second consecutive year. She won last year’s renewal aboard the Bob Baffert-trained Code West.

For Asmussen, it was his third Matt Winn triumph. He won it in 2001 with Compendium and in 2008 with Winchell’s Pyro.


ROSIE NAPRAVNIK, jockey of TAPITURE (winner) – “Great trip. We sat in a really comfortable position. There was plenty of speed in there for us to sit behind and he’s a very nice horse. I actually breezed him at Fair Grounds before he turned three and I’ve wanted to ride him ever since so it was great to finally get on him.”

STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of TAPITURE (second) – “I thought that the horse acted really good today. After the last couple of trips that he’s had, I think that was perfect for him to hopefully get his confidence back. There are still some lucrative 3-year-old races left out there so hopefully he can get in the mix. From a timing standpoint, he obviously responded to the six-week break off of the Kentucky Derby. So the West Virginia Derby in seven weeks might be ideal.”

IAN WILKES, trainer of ULANBATOR (runner-up) – “He ran very good.  He’s improving.  He stepped-up in class and I was very pleased to see him run as good and strong as he did. Congratulations to Steve (Asmussen) – he had the best horse today. But I’m getting closer.”

JULIAN LEPAROUX, jockey on ULANBATOR (runner-up) – “He ran good. That was a big race for him. He keeps coming and coming and getting better every race.”

CALVIN BOREL, jockey on ALMOST FAMOUS (third) – “I had a good trip. He took me there (to the lead) easy and I really wish he had finished second. I knew the winner was the horse to beat, but I wish he had run second. But I thought he run a good race.”

Departing Works Half-Mile for Stephen Foster; Tapiture Returns In Matt Winn

Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing, whose strong 3-year-old campaign included a run in the Preakness Stakes (Grade I) and wins in three derbies, completed his serious preparation Monday for his bid for Saturday night’s 33rd running of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) at Churchill Downs.

The 4-year-old War Front gelding breezed four furlongs in :49.40 for trainer Al Stall Jr. under jockey Robby Albarado, who will be in the saddle for the Foster. He covered the distance in fractions of :12.40 and :24.80 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.20 and six furlongs in 1:15.60.

“I told Robby not to let him do anything – if you look pretty on him he’s going to go in :47, so you need to restrain him,” Stall said.  “Robby said it’s a good thing we did, because he went :49, and as soon as we hit the wire he re-broke. We got him to the seven-eighths pole in about 1:13 flat, completely on his own and under wraps. So he’s there and we’re looking forward to running on Saturday.”

The only 2014 outing for Departing was a 1 ¾-length triumph in a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs on April 30. It was his first outing since a disappointing fourth-place run behind Broadway Empire as the odds-on favorite in the $400,000-added Oklahoma Derby (GIII) at Remington Park on Sept. 29.

"I was very happy with that first race,” Stall said. “I thought he ran well and had a little adversity, which should help him for this race. We’re ready and we’re excited.”

Prior to his Remington Park run that ended his 3-year-old season, Departing had won three of four races and all were derbies run in different states. The string started with a victory in the Illinois Derby (GIII) at Hawthorne, followed by a sixth-place run behind the victorious Oxbow in the Preakness that preceded easy romps in the West Virginia Derby (GII) at Mountaineer Park and Louisiana Downs’ Super Derby (GII).

Stall said there was no physical problem that led to Departing’s long stretch away from the track. He said his young star simply needed some time on the farm.

"It was just plain old time,” Stall said. “I want to say ‘I’ and not ‘we’ – I went to the well with him one time too many as a 3-year-old. He ran a tremendous race in the Super Derby. It was 98 degrees that afternoon, but we knew we’d be 1-5 for $400,000. I’m not saying greed took over, but we were rolling with him. He acted fine and everything was fine, but he had just done a little too much.

“He came here from Oklahoma for a few days and then went to Claiborne Farm and hung out. He showed up at the Fair Grounds and he’s done what he’s supposed to do between three and four. He’s filled-in and he’s picking it up. He’s not a big horse, but he looks like he’s gone the right way and his works have been great.”

Stall is eager to see how Departing compares to his rivals in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster, which has attracted foes that are expected to include reigning 3-year-old champion and Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) winner Will Take Charge; Pimlico Special (GIII) winner Revolutionary, who ran third to Orb in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI); Moonshine Mullin, an upset winner over Will Take Charge in the $300,000-added Alysheba (GII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day; and Golden Ticket, runner-up in the Alysheba, a dead-heat winner with Alpha in the 2012 Travers (GI) and runner-up to Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned in last year’s Stephen Foster.

“He’s doing nice and we’re fresh, and we’re trying to plan for the second half of the year,” Stall said. “It’s a rare thing in horse racing, but we’re on schedule.”

Departing enters the Stephen Foster with a career record of 10-7-0-1 and his earnings of $1,438,300 make him one of four millionaires in the race. The others are Will Take Charge ($3,669,568), Prayer for Relief ($1,682,413) and Revolutionary ($1,347,600).

Another Stephen Foster contender reported to be doing well in the days leading up to the race is Randy Patterson’s Moonshine Mullin, who surprised Golden Ticket and Will Take Charge in the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba.

The Randy Morse-trained Moonshine Mullin completed his major preparation for the Stephen Foster on Saturday with a four-furlong breeze in :50.20 at Churchill Downs.

The 6-year-old son of Albert the Great, who was claimed by Morse for $40,000 out of an allowance optional claiming race at Remington Park in November, brings a four-race winning streak into the Stephen Foster. Morse said the Alysheba win under jockey Calvin Borel was a “great thrill,” but added Moonshine Mullin’s win in a 1 1/16-mile Oaklawn Park allowance race that preceded his big day at Churchill Downs could have been more impressive.

“Looking back at it now with hindsight, the race he ran Oaklawn that day might have been good enough to win the Oaklawn Handicap (GII),” Morse said. “His race there, to me, was better than his race here (in the Alysheba). We almost didn’t run him in the Alysheba because it was a little quick to come back.”

The Stephen Foster will not be Moonshine Mullin’s first experience against Grade I competition. He ran sixth to Stay Thirsty in the 2011 Travers (GI) following a 37-1 runner-up effort behind that rival in the Jim Dandy (GII). His trainer at the time was Canada’s Reade Baker, and he has spent time since in the barns of trainers Donnie Von Hemel and Steve Asmussen.

The Alysheba victory lifted Moonshine Mullin’s record to 8-4-5 in 31 races and boosted his career bankroll to $685,513. A victory in the Stephen Foster would be Morse’s first in a Grade I race, but the trainer said the win by his former claiming horse in the Alysheba has already provided a wonderful memory.

“It was great,” Morse said. “If he never wins another race, beating that field in the Alysheba was tremendous.”

Darley Stable’s Long River is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Wednesday to complete his preparations for the Stephen Foster. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy ran fifth in the Charles Town Classic (GII) last time out and lost by a neck to Romansh in his previous start in the Excelsior (GIII) at Aqueduct.

Long River is out of Round Pond, a daughter of Awesome Again who scored the greatest win over her racing career at Churchill Downs in a 13-1 upset in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI).

Trainer Brad Cox said Michael Langford’s Carve, who ran a good third to Will Take Charge and Revolutionary in the Oaklawn Handicap, remained “possible” for the Stephen Foster after a sharp five-furlong work on Monday at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old First Samurai gelding covered the distance in 1:00.80, which ranked as fifth-fastest of 24 moves at the distance.

FIFTYSHADESOFHAY, ONDINE WORK TOWARD FLEUR DE LIS – A pair of contenders for Saturday’s 39th running of the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis Presented by Etihad Airways (GII) turned in solid final preps for the 1 1/8-mile test for older fillies and mares when Fiftyshadesofhay and Ordine breezed at Churchill Downs on Monday.

Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Ruffian (GII) winner Fiftyshadesofhay breezed four furlongs in :48.20 for Hall of Famer and three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert.

Peachtree Stable’s Ondine, third to Spellbound in the La Cañada at Santa Anita, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 in preparation for her first start for trainer Brad Cox, who added the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and three other Peachtree horses to his stable in March.

TAPITURE SET FOR FIRST START SINCE DERBY IN MATT WINN – A look at the roster of 3-year-olds under consideration to run in Saturday’s $100,000-added Matt Winn Stakes (GIII) includes an eye-catcher in Winchell ThoroughbredsTapiture, last seen in a 15th-place finish behind California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).

The 3-year-old homebred Tapit colt breezed four furlongs in :51.60 over a fast Churchill Downs track on Monday. 
Trainer Steve Asmussen said the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and Southwest (GIII) winner is set for the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn.

“He’s been able to train here since the Derby,” Asmussen said. “I think he needed the time between races. He’s trained well and I expect a big race from him.”

Despite an outside trip in the Derby, Tapiture was prominent to the far turn before he faltered in the stretch under Ricardo Santana Jr. Asmussen said the colt also lost a shoe during the run through the first turn in the Derby.

"I think he’s a horse that, right now, has tremendous talent but still has maturing to do – physically and mentally,” Asmussen said. “By no means do I think we’ve seen the best of Tapiture.”

Tapiture’s record stands at 2-2-2 in eight races heading into the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn. He has earned $490,838.                          

WORK TAB: Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Untapable breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Monday in preparation for a run in the June 28 Mother Goose (GI) at Belmont Park. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred daughter of Tapit was clocked in fractions of :24 and :36.40 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.20. “She’s ready to get back in action,” Asmussen said. “She’s showing her readiness.” … Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Vicar’s in Trouble, last of 19 in the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Mike Maker over fast footing at Trackside Training Center. It was his second breeze since his Derby run. … Carl Pollard’s Regret hope Kiss Moon, 12th in the Kentucky Oaks for trainer David Vance, breezed a half-mile on the main track in :48.40.

 Click here for a PDF copy of the Stephen Foster Handicap Notes for Monday, June 9.