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Byrne Targets Almost Famous to Matt Winn After Impressive Score

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/26/2014 #
  • Almost Famous romped over older foes under Calvin Borel (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • Patrick Byrne, trainer of Almost Famous (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • Rosie Napravnik won 5 races Saturday to top jockey standings (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

After an impressive 7 ¾-length victory defeating older horses at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Chuck and Maribeth Sandford LLC’s Almost Famous will be pointed to the $100,000-added Matt Winn (Grade III) on Saturday, June 14.

“The Matt Winn is definitely what we’re pointing for with him,” trainer Pat Byrne said. “I was hoping he’d run the kind of race he did (Saturday) and I was honestly very impressed by him. He came out of the race perfectly.”

Almost Famous broke from post position four in Saturday’s allowance race and was immediately encouraged to go to the lead on the rail by Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel. He went 1 1/16 miles gate-to-wire in 1:42.63.

“We’ve got three weeks until the Matt Winn and we’ll just blow ‘em out,” Byrne said. “There’s plenty of time before the race and he’ll be ready. So it’s a good spot and we’ve got a lot of time and races between now and the end of the year so if he can continue to move forward, we should have a lot of fun with him.”

Almost Famous looked to be a serious contender on the Road to the Kentucky Derby entering 2014.

As a 2-year-old, the son of Unbridled’s Song broke his maiden in his debut start, finished fourth in the Street Sense and won an allowance race – all at Churchill Downs. He then was shipped to Florida for the winter and made his 3-year-old debut in the Jan. 25 Holy Bull (GII) at Gulfstream Park. Almost Famous had the lead after six furlongs but faded late to fourth in his first graded stakes test.

Almost Famous followed his Holy Bull effort with consecutive 11th place finishes in the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream and the Spiral (GIII) at Turfway Park.

“We had a bit of a rough start to the year with him,” Byrne said. “Things didn’t quite work out the way we would’ve hoped. The horse was always doing okay, but just not great, not perfect. Once we got back from Florida, after the Spiral Stakes he actually wrenched an ankle. It was nothing to really worry about; we got an x-ray and everything was okay. We just needed to give him a little time.

“We got back here to Churchill and my plan was to run him in the Derby Trial after our Triple Crown hopes went awry. But I could tell something still wasn’t quite right with him so we waited. It was nothing major; he just wasn’t quite ready yet.

“He really likes this racetrack. Calvin worked him here a couple of times and he seemed ready to go. We were looking for a race and I felt that I finally had the way I wanted to have him. So we looked at the Matt Winn and we wanted to find a race for him before then so this seemed like the perfect spot.”

ROSIE ROCKETS TO TOP; RED-HOT JOCK WINS FIVE RACES ON SATURDAY

Rosie Napravnik shot to a five-win lead atop the Churchill Downs Spring Meet jockey standings after becoming the 63rd rider to win five races in a day at the historic Louisville track on Saturday.

The Churchill Downs record for the most wins on a single program is seven, a mark shared by Pat Day (June 20, 1984) and Julien Leparoux (Nov. 11, 2008). Jockeys have won six races in a day on 11 occasions with Corey Lanerie the most recent (May 27, 2012).

Napravnik and Lanerie entered Saturday tied with 16 wins apiece, but Rosie rattled off wins in the second (Determined Yankee for trainer Greg Foley, $5.20), third (Ariadna for Helen Pitts-Blasi, $7.60), fourth (Quiet Force for Mike Maker, $5.20), seventh (Saffron Hall for Maker, $8.20) and ninth (Tres Belle for Bob Baffert, $4.60).

“It was great,” said Napravnik, who also had second, third and fifth in her other three mounts. “It’s great when things are all going in your favor, and I’m just lucky to be riding for the people I’m riding for and how it worked out.”

Napravnik, 26, is attempting to become the first female leading rider at Churchill Downs. She entered Sunday as the top local jockey with a record of 21 wins, 9 seconds and 10 thirds from 60 mounts, despite being absent from six of the 17 racing dates.

Napravnik already owns riding titles at Fair Grounds, Laurel, Pimlico, Keeneland and Delaware Park.

Her mounts’ earnings of $1,376,212 ranks second only to Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza’s $1,498,981. Shaun Bridgmohan is third with $787,820.

It’s already been a memorable meet for the Mendham, N.J. native. She won the Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) for the second time in three years when Untapable cruised to a 4 ½-length triumph on May 2. She also won the Humana Distaff (GI) the following day on Kentucky Derby Day with Midnight Lucky.

On the year, she entered Sunday ranked fourth nationally in prize money-won with $5,686,930 only behind Javier Castellano ($8,434,952), Joel Rosario ($6,589,537) and Espinoza ($5,869,589).

Napravnik has four scheduled mounts Sunday at Churchill Downs.

SWEET CASSIOPEIA EYES BACK-TO-BACK STAKES WINS IN WINNING COLORS

Steve Snowden and Dan Considine’s Sweet Cassiopeia, winner of the May 10 Unbridled Sidney at Churchill Downs in her last start, is seeking back-to-back stakes wins in Monday’s $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Bill Connelly, Sweet Cassiopeia drew post position five in a strong field of nine and was made the third-choice on the morning line at odds of 5-1. Jockey Joe Rocco Jr. will retain the mount on the 6-year-old daughter of Five Star Day.

“She came out of the Unbridled Sidney fine and hopefully we’re ready to roll,” Connelly said. “She’s been training alright and no problems so far.”

The Unbridled Sidney was scheduled for five furlongs on turf but was moved to the sloppy dirt after rainy weather conditions.

“She’ll run on anything really,” Connelly said. “I don’t think it matters to her. Hopefully she gets a good trip and we’re definitely excited.”

The Winning Colors is the featured race on a special Memorial Day race card at Churchill Downs with an approximate post time of 5:20 p.m.

SPECIAL HOLIDAY RACING ON MEMORIAL DAY

Churchill Downs will stage a special Memorial Day racing program on Monday. The first race on the holiday program is 12:45 p.m., and the featured event is the Grade III, $100,000-added Winning Colors, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.

All active and retired members of the United States armed forces will be admitted free of charge with proof of identification.

Churchill Downs’ popular track bugler Steve Buttleman is sure to decorate the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle with an abundance of U.S. flags and will perform patriotic melodies following the “Call to the Post” for each race.

Admission gates will open Monday at 11:30 a.m.

Click here for a PDF copy of Sunday's Race Day Notes.