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BC Classic Winner Bayern, Constitution Head Nominees for 140th Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare
Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) winner Bayern and Florida Derby winner (GI) Constitution headline a cast of 20 horses nominated to the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Nov. 28. Named for Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark, the 1 1/8-mile dirt contest will be renewed for the 140th time as the featured event on “Black Friday” of the Fall Meet’s closing weekend.
Bayern prevailed in a controversial renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Classic but is an unlikely Clark starter, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Instead, he is pointing Rebel (GII) winner Hoppertunity to the Clark.
After taking Oaklawn’s Rebel and finishing second behind eventual Kentucky Derby-winner California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby (GI), Hoppertunity was a highly-regarded contender for the Derby but was scratched from the race after a left-front foot issue was detected. Hoppertunity resumed training in September and made his return in an allowance optional claiming event on Oct. 29 at Santa Anita where he finished second beaten a half-length. Hopperunity has earned $622,720 from a 2-2-0 record through six starts.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC and WinStar Farm LLC’s Constitution, like Hoppertunity, was another talented Kentucky Derby hopeful, until a hairline fracture was discovered in his front right cannon bone, eliminating him from Derby consideration. The Todd Pletcher trainee returned to racing Oct. 12 at Belmont Park where he finished fourth in an allowance optional claiming event, beaten by 1 ½ lengths. Through four starts, Constitution carries a record of 3-0-0 with earnings of $653,600.
Other Clark nominees include the Steve Asmussen-trained Tapiture, who was a game second, 1 ¼ lengths back of the impressive Goldencents in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI); Dale Romans trained duo of Oct. 25 Fayette (GII) winner Pick of the Litter and multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Prayer for Relief, who finished 12th in the Classic; the Al Stall Jr.-trained Departing, the multiple Grade II winner and earner of more than $1.5 million who finished second to Pick of the Litter in the Fayette; the Chad Brown-trained duo of Suburban Handicap (GII) winner and Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) runner-up Zivo and Easter Gift, who was third in last year’s Clark; and Cary Street, who impressively won the Las Vegas Marathon (GII) on the Breeders’ Cup undercard for trainer Brendan Walsh.
DON’T TELL SOPHIA, MOLLY MORGAN TOP LIST OF 23 FALLS CITY NOMS
Phil Sims and Jerry Namy’s Don’t Tell Sophia and Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan highlight a cast of 23 fillies and mares nominated to the 99th running of the $200,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) to be contested on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 27.
Don’t Tell Sophia, who has banked $1,339,295 with a record of 23-11-5-3, captured an upset victory in the Oct. 5 Spinster (GI) at Keeneland and followed that with a runner-up performance in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) where she finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Untapable. The 6-year-old mare by Congaree has provided quite the return on investment for her owners, who purchased her for $1,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She finished second in last year’s Falls City behind Wine Princess.
The Dale Romans-trained Molly Morgan was an impressive 2 ¼-length winner in the $200,000 Chilukki (GII) beneath the Twin Spires on Nov. 1. Prior to that, she finished third behind Don’t Tell Sophia and Ria Antonia in the Spinster at Keeneland and ran second to Don’t Tell Sophia in the Sept. 6 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs. She carries a record of 7-4-6 through 26 starts and has earned $662,407.
Other notable Falls City nominees include Bob Baffert-trained Jojo Warrior, a multiple graded stakes winner of $371,981 who finished third in her last start at Parx in the Cotillion (GI) on Sept. 20; Tiz Windy, winner of the Oct. 4 Indiana Oaks (GII) in her last start for trainer Carl Nafzger; and Canadian-bred Strut the Course, trained by Barbara Minshall, who has won her last three starts by a combined 13 ¾ lengths at Woodbine, including her most recent score in the Maple Leaf (GIII) on Nov. 1.
COX REFLECTS ON LANDMARK YEAR
After capturing a pair of Friday night victories with Angie’s Prim Lady in Race 3 and Runs with Bulls in Race 4, Brad Cox tied trainers Mike Maker and Mark Casse for third place with six wins in the Churchill Downs trainer’s standings. Cox saddled his first graded winner when Carve took the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (GIII) on June 28 and his trainees have amassed $2,216,478 in earnings, a personal best for Cox.
“This has been my biggest year as a trainer by far,” Cox said. “We’ve had a lot more diversity in our clientele this year, which has given us a wider variety of horses. It ranges from a horse like Carve, who was my first graded stakes winner this year, on down to the $5,000 claimers. It’s a little bit of everything which gives us strength in numbers.”
While the Louisville-native Cox has been extremely pleased with the success of his horses in 2014, the conditioner did not mention a local training title to be high on his list of priorities this year.
“I really don’t have it in my plans to try and win a training title,” Cox said. “The main reason being that I only have around 40-45 horses, so when some of these trainers here are carrying between 100 and 120, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to worry about it. If it happens, obviously it would be a great achievement, but if we finished second or third I’d still be very content with it. We finished fourth in the spring here and I thought that was awesome.
“That’s not to say we won’t still be active this meet. There are a lot of horses that ran earlier this meet that I hope to make another start with, and we plan to continue being competitive. But I’m not going to enter any horses with the sole intent of winning a training title.”
Both of Cox’s winners from Friday night were claimed, with Angie’s Prim Lady moving to the barn of trainer Tom Amoss and Runs with Bulls moving into the care of trainer Albert Dodge.
“We were okay with losing them,” Cox said. “We obviously knew that there was a shot of that happening and we were ready to accept it and thought both were very fair deals. We won both races and collected the claiming prices, so we’ll move on and hope to find some more good ones.”
EVENTS THIS WEEK: Sunday marks the return of the “Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge” in the ITW area on the second floor of the Grandstand. The entry fee is $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members). Registration is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Churchill Downs Lounge. $2 Win/Place mythical wagers on Races 3-8. First prize: Fully paid spot in the Horse Player World Series in Las Vegas (includes a four-night stay in the Orleans Casino plus a $250 travel voucher). Second prize: $500 cash voucher. Third prize: $250 cash voucher. … Churchill Downs is offering free general admission to active or retired members of the United States armed services on Saturday and Sunday this week.
ON THE WORKTAB – Saturday’s Churchill Downs worktab featured a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.80 for Clark Handicap nominee Abraham for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Also breezing five furlongs was West Coast Belle, who went in 1:02.20 for trainer Wayne Catalano. The recent winner of the Rags to Riches is nominated to the Nov. 29 Golden Rod (GII) on closing weekend.
G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing LLC’s Grade I winner Personal Diary headlines a cast of 49 3-year-old fillies nominated to the $200,000-added Mrs. Revere (Grade II) at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Named for the filly that captured four stakes wins under the Twin Spires in the mid-1980s, the Mrs. Revere will be contested at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Personal Diary, trained by Vicki Oliver, was an impressive come-from-behind 2 ¾-length winner of the $300,750 Del Mar Oaks (GI) in August and returned to finish a good third behind impressive Crown Queen in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 11. Overall, the daughter of City Zip has earned $315,636 in 11 starts.
Personal Diary is one of a dozen Mrs. Revere nominees that has earned more than $200,000: Testa Rossi-FR ($470,439), Shanon Nicole ($377,083), Personal Diary ($315,636), Kiss Moon ($266,676), Kiss to Remember ($249,196), Miss Frost ($241,481), Lady Lara-IRE ($236,664), Daring Dancer ($233,080), Distorted Beauty ($224,300), Sandiva-IRE ($219,330), A Little Bit Sassy ($216,614) and Walk Close ($204,200).
Thomas Coleman and James Covello’s Testa Rossi-FR banked a majority of her earnings with a runner-up effort in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GI). The multiple Grade III winner from the Chad Brown barn hasn’t started since finishing fourth as the favorite in April’s $500,000 Ashland (GI) at Keeneland.
Connie Apostelos’ Shanon Nicole, trained by Mike Maker, has captured back-to-back stakes wins in the $205,200 Indiana Grand and $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, both on dirt.
Carl Pollard’s Kiss Moon has a pair of stakes wins on turf for trainer Dave Vance: a division of the $75,000 Hatoof at Arlington Park and a gate-to-wire score in the $103,800 TaWee at Indiana Grand.
Maggi Moss’ Kiss to Remember was beaten a neck by Kiss Moon in the TaWee after finishing second in the $500,000 Charles Town Oaks (GIII) over seven furlongs for trainer Tom Amoss.
Dogwood Stables’ Miss Frost has been training locally with Neil Howard. In August, the Curlin filly led every step of the way en route to a 4 ¾-length romp in the $100,000 Riskaverse at Saratoga while under the care of Tom Albertrani.
Ben Sangster and Swettenham Stud’s Lady Lara-IRE got up at the wire after a wide trip in her U.S. debut to land the $200,000 Pebbles at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The Alfredo Callejas-trained Distorted Beauty, Christophe Clement trainee Walk Close and the Todd Pletcher-conditioned Sandiva-IRE were second, third and fourth, respectively.
Sagamore Farm’s Daring Dancer has two graded stakes wins on the year for trainer Graham Motion: the $200,000 Lake George (GII) at Saratoga and $100,000 Appalachian (GIII) at Keeneland. Most recently, the Empire Maker filly was sixth in the $500,000 Sands Point at Belmont Park on Sept. 13.
Ramona Bass’ A Little Bit Sassy crossed the wire first in Churchill Downs’ $111,900 Regret (GIII) on Stephen Foster Handicap Night but was disqualified to fourth for interference in the stretch. She returned to finish a head back of Daring Dancer in the Lake George, but has faltered in her last two starts: a fifth in the Sands Point and a ninth in the $150,000 Valley View at Keeneland on Oct. 17.
The Ben Colebrook-trained Sparkling Review, a 2 ¾-length winner of the Valley View for Beverly Anderson and Edward Seltzer, also is nominated to the Mrs. Revere.
Other graded stakes winners nominated to the prestigious grass race are RMJ Stables’ $105,000 Boiling Springs (GIII) winner Munirah and the Joan Scott-trained Speed Seeker, winner of the $154,417 Ontario Colleen (GIII) at Woodbine.
SPEEDINTHRUTHECITY ROLLS IN FRIDAY’S DREAM SUPREME
Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Speedinthruthecity got away on the outside, stalked leaders in the early stages and then cruised to a 2 ¾-length victory in Friday’s $61,145 Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs.
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, the 4-year-old daughter of City Zip sat back as Frabster led through the opening quarter-mile in :22.48 and then Soft Whisper gained the lead after a half-mile in 46.72. The Steve Asmussen-trained Speedinthruthecity took the lead in the stretch and kicked clear under guidance from jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. to complete the six-furlong event in 1:10.78 over a fast track.
Speedinthruthecity rewarded backers with $3.20, $2.60 and $2.60. Soft Whisper held on for second and Table Three Ten was third. Rounding out the order of finish were Vuitton, Sweet Cassiopeia, Thetaloveandmine, Dream S’more and Frabster. Anahauc was scratched and is entered in Saturday’s $200,000-added Chilukki (Grade II).
“She’s a nice filly,” Santana said. “We got broke away from the pack on the outside and were pretty much right where we wanted to be the whole race. I knew going into it that my filly was the class of the race and she proved me right.”
“She ran her race,” Asmussen’s assistant Galen Prewitt said. “I have to say that Santana did an excellent job with her saving ground and she just sat perfectly. You really couldn’t ask for any more than what she gave us. It was a nice win.”
The Dream Supreme win marked the seventh for Speedinthruthecity in 18 starts. She has earned $402,751.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. will be on a plane shortly after Friday’s Churchill Downs race card, headed to Santa Anita Park where he will ride in his second Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Panama-native will ride Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) and Bourbon Lane Stables’ Bourbon Courage in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI).
Santana has ridden Lucky Player in three of his four starts, most recently to a victory in the Sept. 6 Iroquois (GIII) under the Twin Spires where he won by a neck.
“He’s such a nice horse,” Santana Jr. said. “He was a little green in those first couple of races, but now he’s a grown man. The first day I rode him and he broke his maiden, I had a lot of confidence in that horse. He’s worked well since and he always gives his best.”
Santana’s only defeat on Lucky Player came as a runner-up finish in the Aug. 9 Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile, where Santana said the 2-year-old colt may have been slightly distracted by running under the lights for the first time.
“When I rode him at Prairie Meadows, going a mile, he ran well starting off and I thought he might open up,” Santana said. “That was his first race at night, too. He looked up and saw the lights and then a horse came up on his side and passed us. When he realized the horse was passing he picked up a little bit but it was too late. But he’s matured since then and I think he’ll be ready to go.”
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Lucky Player will break from post position six in the Juvenile and has been given odds of 30-1 on the morning line.
Santana’s first mount on Bourbon Courage also was the colt’s first race at a sprint distance since October 2013. The 6 ½-furlong allowance optional claiming contest resulted in a 3 ¼-length win for Bourbon Courage and Santana at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
“I really think that horse is better off going a little shorter,” Santana said. “I worked that horse twice before going to the Breeders’ Cup. The last time he worked on Monday, he worked three furlongs in :34 like it was nothing. The time before that he worked five furlongs in :59 so he’s been working just so nicely and I have a lot of confidence in him, too.”
Breaking from the far outside in the 14-hole, Bourbon Courage also has been given odds of 30-1 for trainer Kellyn Gorder.
“My two horses are 30-1, but horses don’t know that; they don’t watch TV,” Santana said.
Santana said his favorite part of the Breeders’ Cup was the high level of competition and the excitement of the fans.
“It’s a great experience, seeing so many people there, screaming your name; it’s a big deal,” Santana said. “It’s the best horses, the best trainers and the best riders, which also makes it fun.”
While Santana is confident, he hopes to have luck on his side facing such stiff competition.
“I’m really excited to be there,” Santana said. “Santa Anita is amazing. It’s not going to be easy though, so hopefully I can get some luck on my side. But like I said, I have confidence in my horses, so we’ll see what happens.”
BLOCK WEIGHS IN ON MY OPTION AHEAD OF SATURDAY’S CHILUKKI
Trainer Chris Block will saddle Timothy Keeley’s multiple Grade III winner My Option in Saturday’s $200,000-added Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs with rider Eduardo Perez up.
The 4-year-old filly by Belong to Me is coming off a third-place effort in the Oct. 4 Mari Hulman George at Indiana Grand, which was her first dirt start since April.
While Block said that the one-mile Chilukki probably is the ideal distance for My Option, he acknowledged the filly has made her best efforts on synthetic surfaces.
“She’s probably best going a mile on synthetic,” Block said. “I think if you look at her results it’s pretty obvious but we thought we’d give her a try again on the dirt here Saturday.”
In My Option’s only previous start under the Twin Spires, she finished fourth in the 2013 Falls City Handicap (GII) beaten four lengths going 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
“I thought she ran really well at Churchill last year all things considered,” Block said. “She was kind of coming down at the end of her season there and probably wasn’t necessarily at her best. I feel like I had her peaking last year when she went into Keeneland in her start prior to that, but I thought she ran very credible in the Falls City against some good fillies and she seemed to handle the surface there well.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Chilukki, Block said he thinks the cooler temperatures probably would work in My Option’s favor, but would have preferred a post position closer to the middle than the far outside.
“I don’t think the cold will affect her at all,” Block said. “Actually, I think horses like running in the cold a little better. As far as the post position, I’d probably rather have been in the six, seven or eight but there’s a long run out of the chute and up the backstretch there. We should be able to get over into a proper position that will hopefully give her a shot when she approaches the quarter pole to make her run. But she’s been doing great and we’re excited looking ahead to Saturday.”
My Option has been made the 6-1 co-third choice for the Chilukki, the ninth of 10 races on Saturday’s Churchill Downs card, with an approximate post time of 7:25 p.m.
Fresh off of collecting his 2,000th career win on Wednesday at Churchill Downs, jockey Julien Leparoux will depart for California upon the conclusion of Thursday’s local racing action to compete in his ninth Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s the world championships,” said Leparoux, who has five Breeders’ Cup mounts over the two days. “Everyone in the world comes and it’s a fun event. I remember watching it as a kid and it’s something that is just really fun and cool to be a part of now.”
Leparoux has won five Breeders’ Cup races in his career: Nownownow (2007 Juvenile Turf), champion Forever Together (2008 Filly & Mare Turf), Furthest Land (2009 Dirt Mile), champion Informed Decision (2009 Filly & Mare Sprint) and champion She Be Wild (2009 Juvenile Fillies).
His three-peat at Santa Anita in 2009 won him the Bill Shoemaker Award as the top jockey at that year’s Breeders’ Cup.
“Obviously, 2009 was my best year,” Leparoux said. “That was a year where we went into it with a lot of good shots and everything sort of came together. We won three so that was definitely my best memory.”
Leparoux’s first Breeders’ Cup mount of 2014 will be in the first race of the Breeders’ Cup, Friday’s Juvenile Turf (GI) aboard Donegal Racing’s Danny Boy for trainer Dale Romans. Leparoux’s first mount on Danny Boy came Oct. 5 in the Bourbon (GIII) at Keeneland where he finished second, beaten a half-length.
“He ran very well at Keeneland,” Leparoux said. “That was the first time on him for me and he closed well. He was still a little green and tried to lay on horses a little bit but the great thing is that now I know him a little bit better. The tough part is the post; we drew the far outside so that’s something that can be very difficult to overcome but I expect him to run well anyway.”
In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), also on Friday, Leparoux will ride Three Chimneys Farm’s Lady Zuzu for Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. This will be Leparoux’s first mount on the 2-year-old filly who is a daughter of Dynaformer.
“She was impressive at Keeneland and D. Wayne Lukas just keeps telling me how good she is and how great she’s been doing so I’m excited about her,” Leparoux said.
On Saturday, Leparoux will get the call in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (GI) on Ashbrook Farm’s Southern Honey, whom Leparoux has ridden in seven of her eight starts. The most impressive outing for the 3-year-old filly came in the May 26 Winning Colors (GIII) at Churchill Downs, where she faced and defeated older mares for the first time. Southern Honey followed that with a ninth-place effort in the Aug. 2 Test (GI) at Saratoga, and most recently finished third and second in her last two starts, both Grade II events.
“There were no real excuses for her in the Test,” Leparoux said. “She was making some noise early in the race, and I think that’s part of the reason why she didn’t run any good that day. But she was so big in the earlier part of this year; she beat older mares here at Churchill and she’s bounced back from that Test race with two solid efforts. If she can come back and duplicate what she was doing earlier in the year I think she can be a great filly. But I guess it ultimately depends on how she’s doing on Saturday.”
In Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI), Leparoux will ride Lael Stables’ Ageless, who was listed as an “also eligible” contender when the initial entries were released. She made the field of 14 after Free as a Bird was scratched from the race.
“We’re excited that she got in,” Leparoux said. “This is a filly that has run great all year. I think the worst she’s finished this year is third. So really she’s been doing all we’ve asked of her and she’s been doing great. The trainer (Arnaud Delacour) tells me she hasn’t missed a beat and I think she’s going to like this race going six-and-a-half furlongs.”
Ageless will have to break from the far outside in post position 14, which Leparoux does not mind.
“I think the outside is probably more preferable than the inside in her race because you are going right in the first part of the race (down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course) so it’s more like being on the inside when you draw the outside,” Leparoux said.
Finally, Leparoux will be on Shadwell Stable’s Sayaad for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI). Leparoux’s only mount on Sayaad came in his last start where he finished third beaten 1 ¼ lengths in the Oct. 4 Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland. He will break from post position 11 in the Mile with morning line odds of 30-1.
“All year, even before the Shadwell Mile, he’s been running decent races,” Leparoux said. “The only one I think he won this year was going seven eighths, but he’s been running good races against very good horses. I don’t think 30-1 is that big of a deal, I mean this is one of the toughest races in the whole Breeders’ Cup so we’ll see. I’ve only ridden him once but from that start and what I’ve seen it seems like he gives everything every race so we’ll see.”
ENCHANTING LISA TO MAKE SECOND DIRT START, THIS TIME VERSUS GRADED COMPANY IN CHILUKKI
Fresh off an allowance win in her debut dirt start at Keeneland, Mort Fink’s Enchanting Lisa will give the dirt another try in Saturday’s $200,000-added Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs.
The half-sister to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan and multiple graded-stakes winner Successful Dan will be facing stiffer competition Saturday, but trainer Charlie LoPresti is optimistic about the move to dirt, after making her first seven starts on either synthetic or grass surfaces.
“When we went to Saratoga with her, she trained really well on the dirt,” LoPresti said. “Jose Lezcano wanted me to run her on the dirt after he breezed her but we ended up going to the grass race because we thought it might be a little easier. So she finished second in that turf race to a nice filly of Jonathan Sheppard’s (Chat). After that Lezcano said, ‘Next time you run this filly run her seven eighths or a mile on the dirt and they won’t be able to catch her.’ So we gave it a try at Keeneland and it ended up working because we won. Rosie Napravnik rode her at Keeneland and after the race she said, ‘I guess your jock was right because I wouldn’t ever run her on anything but dirt again.’
“Saturday is a little bit of an ambitious spot. I wish it was maybe a Grade III. She’s 10-1, which is probably about right on her, but if she hits the board it’s going to really increase her value.”
LoPresti compared her to Successful Dan more than Wise Dan because of her newly discovered dirt ability.
“She reminds me more of Successful Dan than she does Wise Dan,” LoPresti said. “It’s mainly been because of the way she’s been training on the dirt and the way she’s looked on the dirt. But we’re excited for Saturday and we’ll see what happens.”
Enchanting Lisa will break from post position nine in the 10-horse field for the Chilukki, a one-mile dirt contest for fillies and mares that goes as the ninth of 10 races on Saturday’s card with an approximate post time of 7:25 p.m. ET.
ASMUSSEN BARN SEEKING SUCCESS WITH PAIR OF STAKES SPRINTERS
Trainer Steve Asmussen will start a pair of stakes runners at Churchill Downs this weekend, beginning with Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Speedinthruthecity on Friday in the $58,000-added Dream Supreme and culminating with Mike McCarty’s Lemon Drop Dream in Saturday’s $58,000-added Bet on Sunshine.
Both sprinters are coming out of graded stakes performances at Keeneland where Speedinthruthecity finished fourth in the Oct. 4 Thoroughbred Club of America (Grade II) and Lemon Drop Dream finished fourth in the Oct. 3 Phoenix (GIII).
Asmussen assistant Galen Prewitt said Thursday morning that Speedinthruthecity might not have been at her best in the Thoroughbred Club of America, and that he was looking for a big performance from her in the Dream Supreme.
“I know she finished fourth only beaten four lengths but I still think she may have been a little off that day,” Prewitt said. “She came out of the race in good shape though and has been doing well since. I expect her to run better here at her home track on Friday. She’s taking a drop in class and I think this race will set up nicely for her.”
The 4-year-old daughter of City Zip will break from the far outside in post position nine with Ricardo Santana Jr. getting the call. She has been made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Friday’s six-furlong contest that will go as the eighth of 10 races with an approximate post time of 5:45 p.m.
Prewitt also said that he was happy to draw the inside in post one with Lemon Drop Dream, who will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
“We were happy to get the one-hole with Lemon Drop Dream,” Prewitt said. “He usually runs well when he can get to the lead early and on the rail so I think the race should set up perfectly for him on Saturday.”
Lemon Drop Dream has been made the 7-2 co-second choice for the Bet on Sunshine, which will be the seventh of 10 races with an approximate post of 6:05 p.m.
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.