WILKES LOOKING TO ‘RESTART’ FORT LARNED’S YEAR IN STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Friday, May 24, 2013) – Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan this year for 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) winner Fort Larned, but trainer Ian Wilkes will look for things to turn around beginning with the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs on June 15.
Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned made his 2013 debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII) and lost jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. after stumbling at the start. In his second and most recent start of the year, he finished fifth as the 1-2 favorite in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII).
“This is like a restart for the year for us,” Wilkes said. “We had a couple hiccups earlier this year and now we are looking to restart our year and point everything to the Breeders’ Cup.”
The Stephen Foster Handicap is a “Win & You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be run at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2.
In prep for the Stephen Foster, Fort Larned breezed five furlongs in :59.80 on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Friday morning. It was the third fastest work of 21 at the distance.
“The horse is doing great,” Wilkes said. “He worked very well this morning.”
Working under Calvin Borel, Fort Larned recorded fractions of :12.80, :25 and :37.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.80, seven-eighths in 1:24.40 and a mile in 1:38.60.
“Calvin did me a favor and worked him this morning, but Brian won’t be taking off. (Hernandez) will have the mount (in the Stephen Foster).”
In addition to being aboard the bay son of E Dubai for the Classic victory last year, Hernandez guided Fort Larned to wins in the Whitney Handicap (GI) and Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (GIII).
Nominations for the Stephen Foster Handicap close Saturday, June 1.
HEATHCOTE SHIPS IN FOR SATURDAY’S LOUISVILLE HANDICAP
Heathcote, 12 ¼-length winner of the Valedictory (GIII) at Woodbine in his last start, arrived at Churchill Downs from Toronto on Thursday morning for Saturday’s $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII).
The Louisville Handicap for 3-year-olds and up on the Matt Winn Turf Course will be the first start of the year for Heathcote, who last raced in December.
“He ran all year last year, so we just gave him a little time after his last race,” trainer Paul Attard said. “He just got a few weeks off and then we had him at Palm Meadows in January. So, he’s been back in training for quite a while.”
After spending the winter at Palm Meadows, Heathcote was shipped to Keeneland and worked twice over the Polytrack.
“We were thinking of running him in the Elkhorn,” Attard said. “He was doing well, but we decided to give him a little more time to make sure he was good and ready before we ran him.”
Despite being run at 1 ½ miles on turf, the Louisville Handicap actually will be a cutback in distance for Heathcote, who won the Valedictory at 1 ¾ miles.
“I think the distance is OK,” Attard said. “Ideally, he probably would like to go farther. I think the 1 ¾ miles was perfect for him, but I don’t think it’ll be a problem cutting back a quarter-mile, especially for his first start this year.”
Also, the Louisville Handicap will be the first start on turf for Heathcote, who has made all seven of his career starts on the Polytrack at Woodbine.
“We breezed him on the turf (at Woodbine) last week and he went very well,” Attard said.
Attard was at his barn at Woodbine on Friday morning, but will be at Churchill Downs to saddle Heathcote on Saturday.
The Louisville Handicap is scheduled as Race 10 on the 11-race program with a post time of 5:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).
IMPRESSIVE MAIDEN WINNER TEARDROP COULD RESURFACE IN DEBUTANTE
Teardrop, a 2-year-old half-sister to Grade I winner and $1.6 million earner Pyro, had quite an eventful first start in Thursday’s third race at Churchill Downs. After breaking slowly in the field of seven, Teardrop raced nearly eight wide throughout, but found her best stride in the stretch and kicked on to win by 3 ¾ lengths under Rosie Napravnik.
“She had never made a mistake in the morning and didn’t do anything right in the afternoon,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “That’s how it can go. Obviously, she has a tremendous amount of talent and I was very pleased with her this morning.”
Asmussen said the Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC homebred Teardrop, a gray or roan daughter of Tapit, could make her next start in the $100,000-added Debutante at Churchill Downs on June 22.
Teardrop’s victory was one of three on the afternoon for Asmussen, who is second behind Mike Maker in the trainer standings with 12 wins from 32 starters. Maker has saddled 13 winners from 37 starters.
“Hopefully we can keep getting in the right spots and having a little success,” Asmussen said.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Jockey Jesus Castanon was not seriously injured when he was unseated in Thursday’s ninth race after his mount, Kruthen, stumbled and then fell at the start. “He’s a little sore, but he’s fine,” agent Terry “Jaws” Miller said. “He will ride today (Friday).” Castanon is named on six horses on the Friday card at Churchill Downs. Jack Bohannon, assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold, reported Kruthen was uninjured as well. …
Mylute returned to the track for the first time since finishing third behind Oxbow and Itsmyluckyday in the Preakness (GI) and jogged beneath the Twin Spires under Maurice Sanchez shortly after the track opened for training at 6 a.m. on Friday. “He’s doing well and everything went well this morning,” trainer Tom Amoss said. The next start for Mylute has not been determined; however, it will not be the Belmont (GI) on June 8. …
No Distinction came out of his ¾-length victory in Sunday’s ninth race in good order, according to trainer Randy Morse. It was the second consecutive win for No Distinction, who turned heads when breaking his maiden at Oaklawn by 8 ¼ lengths in April. Morse mentioned the Woody Stephens (GII) on the Belmont Stakes undercard on June 8 as a possible next spot for the dark bay or brown son of With Distinction. …
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is just one win shy of his 100th Churchill Downs victory. The milestone could come as early as Saturday when Baffert sends out Hoorayforhollywood in Race 10. …
Nominations for the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) and Opening Verse close Saturday. The $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up is scheduled to be run at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course on June 8. The $65,000-added Opening Verse for 3-year-olds and up will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course on June 1. …
CITY’S BEST HAPPY HOUR! EVERY FRIDAY
Churchill Downs will host the City’s Best Happy Hour! in The Plaza every Friday from 4-7 p.m. throughout the 38-day Spring Meet. Drink specials include $2 Budweiser/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois and $4 14 Hands Blackberry Sangria. There also will be a variety of food trucks from the Louisville Food Truck Association and live music on the Plaza Stage by Mojoflo.
FAMILY FUN DAY ON SUNDAY
Churchill Downs will host Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger on the Plaza Balcony every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the 38-day Spring Meet. Kiddos age 12 and younger are invited to enjoy games, crafts and visits from Churchill Downs’ popular mascot Churchill Charlie. This week’s special activity includes a Memorial Day military display, including an interactive High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, Humvee or Hummer). Children also can write letters to members of the armed forces and craft paper U.S. flags. The adults can have fun, too. There’ll be a rock climbing wall for folks age 18 and up. The first of 10 races on Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club, located inside the Gate 10 entrance, also entertains children age 12 and under on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed when Downs After Dark occurs on June 15, June 22 and June 29). The “Kids Zone” is dedicated to providing fun for the youngsters at Churchill Downs, but all children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
SPECIAL HOLIDAY RACING ON MEMORIAL DAY
Churchill Downs will stage a special 11-race Memorial Day program on Monday. The first of 11 races 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 at 11:30 a.m. and the final race is expected to run at 6 p.m.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, May 24
Saturday, May 25
Sunday, May 26
Monday, May 27
Tuesday, May 28
Wednesday, May 29
Thursday, May 30