After taking the 2013 edition with Texas-bred Fiftyshadesofgold, trainer Bret Calhoun is seeking a repeat in Saturday’s $100,000-added Debutante at Churchill Downs with Robert Luttrell’s homebred Promise Me Silver.
The 2-year-old daughter of Silver City was victorious in her maiden debut versus Texas-breds at Lone Star Park on May 9, winning the 4 ½-furlong race by 6 ¾ lengths. She’ll face open company for the first time in the Debutante.
“She was an impressive debut winner,” Calhoun said. “The competition in that race might have been a little suspect, but the 2-year-old races in that part of the country are usually pretty strong. A lot of those guys shoot for early races so I think sometimes people underestimate what’s there.
“After she ran like we expected, we thought this was the next logical spot. We did that with Fiftyshadesofgold last year in a similar situation; she dominated in her debut and then we brought her up here and won the Debutante.
“They’re completely different individuals though. Fiftyshadesofgold has always been a big, big filly. This filly is an average-size filly, not near as large. But talent-wise at this stage in the game I think they’re fairly similar.”
Promise Me Silver has worked three times at Churchill Downs since taking her maiden, most recently breezing a half-mile in :48.40 on June 7.
“We think she’s a nice filly and she’s trained very well since being at Churchill,” Calhoun said. “She’s had some very good breezes here and done it very easily. Rosie Napravnik worked her for me several times and she loved her, so that gave me some more confidence. Unfortunately Rosie got hurt, but the good thing is we have Robby Albarado on her now, which will be great.”
Promise Me Silver has been made the 3-1 second-choice for Saturday’s six-furlong test and will break from post position three.
“We’ll see what she’s made of against these types on Saturday,” Calhoun said. “Everybody’s kind of in the same boat in that they’ve only raced one time, and so we’ll see how they separate themselves.”
The featured Debutante will go as the eighth of 10 races on Saturday at Churchill with an approximate post time of 4:18 p.m.
JOCKEY JUAN SAEZ FINISHES SECOND IN U.S. DEBUT AT CHURCHILL
The third race on Thursday’s Churchill Downs card marked the U.S. debut for 17-year-old Juan Saez aboard Malibu Springs, who finished second a half-length behind Danzig Gold for trainer Ian Wilkes in a 1 1/8-mile maiden claiming race on the turf.
Saez is the younger brother of Luis Saez, who captured his first Grade I wins in 2013 on Champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge in the Travers at Saratoga and the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs.
“I wanted to become a jockey because of my brother; that’s why I went to jockey school,” Saez said. “But I also want to be better than my brother.”
Juan Saez recently graduated at the top of his class from the Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey Training Academy near his native Panama City, Panama and has jockey agent Julio Espinoza keeping his book.
Espinoza, who as a jockey himself captured 642 wins (ninth all-time) riding at Churchill Downs from 1973-1998, took some questions and helped translate for Saez, who is still brushing up on his English.
“It was the first race he’s rode in four months and his first time on the grass, he’s going to be fine,” Espinoza said of Saez after his runner-up effort Thursday.
“It’s totally different from the dirt,” Saez said. “It feels like you’re flying in the air; I’ve never even worked a horse on grass before.”
“He’s fit; he’s been running, jogging and training,” Espinoza said. “There’s nothing quite like riding in the actual race, but he was ready for it.”
It didn’t take long for Saez to catch the eye of some of the top trainers at Churchill Downs. He will ride three mounts on Friday’s “Downs After Dark” card, one on Saturday’s card and two on Sunday’s card.
“We’re just thankful to Ian for giving us an opportunity to ride for him,” Espinoza said. “When he watched Juan work one horse, that’s all it took. He gave us an opportunity right away. He rides for D. Wayne Lukas on Friday. He worked one for Wayne and Wayne put him up right away too. He obviously looked pretty good on the horses in the morning.”
“I really like to ride and want to ride every race,” Saez added.
“When you’re that young, I remember when I used to want to ride every race,” Espinoza said. “I told my agent, ‘I don’t care if he’s 100-1, let me ride him.’ When you’re that young you just want to ride.”
Saez will continue riding mounts at Churchill for the remainder of the meet and then move to Ellis Park for the summer meeting in Henderson, Ky.
“He’ll go to Ellis Park for the summer,” Espinoza said. “We’ll try to ride some at Indiana Grand but mainly focus on Ellis Park and then go on to New York in the Fall.”
Saez’s Friday mounts are Miesque Amour for trainer Billy Gowan in the first race, Shere Khan for Lukas in the second and Yankee Diva in the fifth for trainer Robert Radcliffe.
DOWNS AFTER DARK: SUMMER LUAU GUESTS TO WEAR HAWAIIAN PRINTS
Friday night’s theme for the next Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka is “Summer Luau” where patrons are encouraged to wear casual Hawaiian-style prints.
Admission gates will open each day at 4 p.m. and the first of 10 races will begin at 6 p.m. The final live race will be 10:57 p.m.
The theme for the final Downs After Dark of the Spring Meet on Friday, June 27 is “Rockin’ in the USA,” a pre-Fourth of July holiday celebration with denim, Americana and lots of red, white and blue.
THIS WEEKEND AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, June 20 – Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka: The Summer Luau
Saturday, June 21
Sunday, June 22 – Family Adventure Day