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
Saturday, June 28 – Stakes Tripleheader
Sunday, June 29 – Fan Appreciation Day / Closing Day