West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve worked five furlongs early Friday morning at Churchill Downs in :59.80 for trainer Dallas Stewart in preparation for a rematch with Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Working in company with stablemate Perfect Title, Commanding Curve posted fractions of :12.40, :24.60, :36.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.40.
Commanding Curve, runner-up in the Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands in his last outing, is scheduled to ship to New York on Wednesday, and will work once more at Belmont Park prior to the 1 ½-mile Belmont.
“I think he’ll be fine to handle the distance,” Stewart said. “He had a great work today, he’s fit and I think the distance will fit him just fine.
“There are going to be some nice horses in there. Of course California Chrome is a really nice horse and will obviously be the favorite. Ride On Curlin is another solid horse in there that will be tough.
“We’ll need a good trip. He needs to be close at the quarter pole. Approaching the quarter pole having only one or two horses beat probably won’t get it done. He needs to be a little closer and just have nice positioning turning for home.”
WAR DANCER HAS McPEEK EXCITED FOR LOUISVILLE HANDICAP
Magdalena Racing and Diamond M Stables’ War Dancer is shooting for his first win of 2014 when he goes to post as the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 77th running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Kenny McPeek, War Dancer enters the Lou ’Cap off a runner-up effort in last month’s Elkhorn (GII) at Keeneland.
Prior to the Elkhorn, War Dancer made two starts in 2014, finishing sixth in an optional claimer going 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Gulfstream Park and seventh on the dirt going 1 3/16 miles, also at Gulfstream in the Skip Away (GIII).
“He’s been training really great,” McPeek said. “He had a bad trip in his first race this year at Gulfstream. The dirt race was a last-ditch effort to see if he could handle the dirt at all. But his race at Keeneland (the Elkhorns) was excellent and this should be a better race for him. This field is a little easier than in the Keeneland race. We’re in a good spot here and we’re excited about it.”
War Dancer, winner of the 2013 Virginia Derby (GII), has been assigned the 118-pound starting high weight in the field of eight older horses and will break from post position two under Alan Garcia.
McPeek is bidding for his third career Louisville Handicap win after capturing the 2007 edition with Drilling For Oil and the 2002 renewal with Pisces, who was placed first through a disqualification.
The Louisville Handicap, a 1 ½-mile marathon over the Matt Winn Turf Course, will be run as the final race on Saturday’s 10-race program at approximately 5:20 p.m. EDT. First post is 12:45 p.m. EDT.
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.
DOWN THE STRETCH
The Estate of Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Fiftyshadesofgold, winner of the Eight Belles Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs in her last start, worked a half-mile Friday at Churchill in :48 with exercise rider Sara Escudero up for trainer Bret Calhoun.
Calhoun indicated that the next start for Fiftyshadesofgold would be the June 7 Acorn Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park. …
Also on Friday’s work tab for Calhoun was Bahnah, who worked five furlongs in :59.80. Bahnah was runner-up in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (GIII) in her last outing. …
Unbridled Forever, third in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) last out, worked a half-mile in :49.60 for trainer Dallas Stewart in preparation for the Acorn.
Designer Legs also worked for Stewart, recording a four-furlong work in :48. Designer Legs was last seen finishing fourth in the Eight Belles (GIII) at Churchill Downs. Stewart said Designer Legs was “50-50” for the Acorn. …
Street Girl, runner-up in the Humana Distaff (GI) last out, worked a half-mile in :48.20 for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
Also for Kenneally, Dame Marie worked a half-mile in :49.40. Her last start came as a runner-up effort in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII). …
Multiple graded stakes winner Miz Ida clocked four furlongs in :48.40 with jockey Corey Lanerie up for trainer Steve Margolis. Miz Ida ran seventh in her last race, the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII). Margolis said that the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs would be her next start. …
Taptowne, runner-up in the Texas Mile (GIII) at Lone Star Park in his last outing, recorded a five-furlong work with jockey Calvin Borel aboard in 1:00.40 for trainer Tim Glyshaw. Glyshaw said Taptowne’s next start will be the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap at Penn National on May 31. …
Churchill Downs-based jockeys Stewart Elliott (Woodbine), Leandro Goncalves (Arlington), Brian Hernandez Jr. (Arlington), Julien Leparoux (Arlington) and Joe Rocco Jr. (Belmont) will be out of town Saturday to ride in stakes engagements across North America.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, May 23 – Happy Hour
Saturday, May 24
Sunday, May 25
Monday, May 26 – Memorial Day