Of those attempting to deny California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (Grade I) is General a Rod for trainer Mike Maker, who will be ridden by Churchill Downs based jockey Rosie Napravnik.
Napravnik rode General a Rod once in his maiden debut at Keeneland in October 2013, which he won by 2 ¾ lengths.
“Just warming him up that day I was like, ‘Man this is a really classy horse,’” Napravnik said. “He ran so well that day, a little bit green, but he ran really well. Since then he went to Florida but I’ve always kept an eye on him and couldn’t wait to get a chance to ride him again. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Napravnik’s mounts finished behind General a Rod in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Napravnik rode Vicar’s In Trouble in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) who finished 19th, and Bayern in the Preakness (GI), who finished ninth.
General a Rod was 11th in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness.
“California Chrome is definitely impressive,” Napravnik said. “In my career, he’s probably the horse that has the best chance to take the Triple Crown. But if you watch General a Rod’s Preakness race he got an atrocious trip, it was just awful. So I think if he gets a clean trip he really has the ability to run huge in the Belmont.”
General a Rod has drawn post position 10 in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes with morning line odds of 20-1. Post time for the third jewel of the coveted Triple Crown is 6:52 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on NBC.
MARGOLIS FEELING GOOD ABOUT MIZ IDA’S CHANCES TO REPEAT IN ‘JULEP’
Richard and Bertram Klein’s Miz Ida has been made the 7-2 second choice in a field of eight fillies and mares for Saturday’s $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The 2013 Mint Julep winner will bid for a repeat without regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan, who will be at Belmont Park on Saturday to ride Commanding Curve in the Belmont Stakes.
Fortunately, trainer Steve Margolis was able to pick up Churchill Downs leading rider Corey Lanerie for the mount, and the conditioner is confident that Miz Ida will not miss a beat.
“Corey rode her once before, which was actually when she broke her maiden at Churchill,” Margolis said. “We were very happy to get him.”
When asked about her last race, a seventh-place finish in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII), Margolis said, “It was a tough race off a layoff and she came out of it well. She’s had three works since and we had been targeting this race all along.”
The 3-1 favorite for the Mint Julep is Hit The Board Stables’s I’m Already Sexy for trainer Wayne Catalano, who finished sixth in the Distaff Turf Mile, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Miz Ida in seventh.
Also entered in the Mint Julep is Enchanting Lisa, half-sister to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who is making her stakes debut. In her only start of 2014, the 4-year-old daughter of War Chant got out to an early lead but finished fourth in an allowance race at Keeneland going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
“There’s definitely some speed in Saturday’s race,” Margolis said. “We have a great post and a really good rider so I feel like we’re in a great spot. We’re looking forward to it.”
WILL TAKE CHARGE, REVOLUTIONARY TOP STEPHEN FOSTER NOMINATIONS; ON FIRE BABY LEADS FLEUR DE LIS ELIGIBLES
Willis D. Horton and Three Chimneys Farm LLC’s Will Take Charge, America’s reigning champion 3-year-old and winner of Churchill Downs’ Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I), and WinStar Farm LLC’s Revolutionary, winner of the recent Pimlico Special (GIII), head the roster of nominations and expected starters for next Saturday’s 33rd running of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up – a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” race in the Classic Division – is the marquee event on a program of four graded stakes race for Thoroughbreds on the June 14 “Downs After Dark” night racing program, the second of four night racing celebrations scheduled during the 38-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs.
Twenty-five horses were nominated to the Stephen Foster Handicap.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Will Take Charge will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Alysheba (GII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day. The son of Unbridled’s Song, who finished eighth in last year’s Kentucky Derby, has one win in four 2014 races and a 7-5-0 slate in 19 career races and a bankroll of $3,668,568.
Revolutionary finished third to Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and finished second to Will Take Charge in the Oaklawn Handicap prior to a stretch-running triumph in the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of War Pass has a career record of 5-2-3 in 12 races and has earned $1,347,600.
Others expected to compete in the Stephen Foster include a pair of Kenny McPeek-trained stars in Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket, runner-up to 2012 Breeder’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in last year’s Foster, and Magdalena Racing’s Bellarmine, a winner of three-of-four career races on dirt at Churchill Downs. Randy Patterson’s Moonshine Mullin, winner of this year’s Alysheba for trainer Randy Morse, is expected to return in the Foster, along with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing, winner of three 2013 Derbies – the Illinois (GIII), West Virginia (GII) and Super Derby (GII) – and Darley Stable’s Long River, runner-up in Aqueduct’s Excelsior (GIII).
Anita Cauley’s homebred On Fire Baby, an easy winner of the La Troienne (GI) on Kentucky Oaks Day, is expected to bid for a sweep of Churchill Downs’ major distance races for older fillies and mares in the 2014 Spring Meet in the 39th running of the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII).
The Gary Hartlage-trained 5-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken tops a list of 21 fillies and mares ages three and up nominated to the 1 1/8-mile race. On Fire Baby has a career record of 6-2-1 in 15 races, with half of her victories coming in stakes races at Churchill Downs. Along with the La Troienne, she won the Pocahontas (GII) and Golden Rod (GII) at two, and was a narrowly beaten runner-up to Authenticity in the 2013 La Troienne, which was then a Grade II event.
Others expected to compete in the Fleur De Lis include Preston Stables’ Flashy American, winner of the Sixty Sails (GIII) at Hawthorne and last fall’s Locust Grove at Churchill Downs; Fiftyshadesofhay, the Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Ruffian (GII) at Belmont Park, and 2014 La Troienne runner-up Molly Morgan.
Chuck and Maribeth Sanford’s Almost Famous, who romped past older foes in a recent allowance race at Churchill Downs, is being pointed toward the 17th running of the $100,000-added Matt Winn Stakes (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
The Matt Winn, named for the legendary Churchill Downs president and general manager credited with lifting the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs to their respective roles as American sports icons, attracted 24 nominations. Other possible starters include Conquest Stables LLC’s Conquest Titan, runner-up to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull (GIII) at Gulfstream Park, and the Ian Wilkes-trained Ulanbator.
Ramona S. Bass LLC’s A Little Bit Sassy, winner of the Edgewood on Kentucky Oaks Day, heads a group of 29 3-year-old fillies made eligible to compete in the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Edgewood was the first stakes win for the Michael Matz-trained daughter of More Than Ready, who improved her career record to 2-2-0 in five races.
Other nominees considered likely starters in the Regret include Carl Pollard’s Kiss Moon, a close runner-up to Sugar Shock in Oaklawn Park’s Fantasy (GIII) who finished 12th to Untapable in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) in her next start, and Sagamore Farm’s Daring Dancer, winner of the Appalachian at Keeneland for trainer Graham Motion.
Weight assignments for the Stephen Foster Handicap and Fleur De Lis Handicaps will be released Sunday.
The lists of nominations for all four races be viewed online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/stakes-schedule.
BELMONT SHOWN ON BIG BOARD, ‘CHROME’ T-SHIRT GIVEAWAY SATURDAY
On Saturday, Churchill Downs will be giving away California Chrome T-shirts to the first 1,000 guests, commemorating the Kentucky Derby winner’s run to become just the 12th horse to win racing’s Triple Crown.
In addition to showing live racing from Churchill, the Big Board also will show stakes races from Belmont Park, including the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes, which has an approximate post time of 6:52 p.m. EDT.
Churchill Downs also will be serving the official drink of the Belmont Stakes, ‘Belmont Jewels,’ in commemorative Belmont Stakes glasses. Other specialty cocktails served Saturday include the ‘Triple Crown Cocktail’ and the ‘Chrome in the Big Apple.’
Finally, Churchill also will be offering ‘Triple Crown Dogs’ for $3, which will be available trackwide.
HAPPY HOUR RETURNS FRIDAY
June 6 marks another edition of Friday Happy Hour at Churchill Downs, featuring live music and drink specials in the Plaza. Live music this Friday will be performed by J. D. Shelbourne and $2 Bud Lights and $3 Stella Artois will be available in the Plaza from 3-7 p.m. In addition to traditional grilled food items (burgers, hot dogs, brats) there will be a different specialty food item offered each week in the Plaza and guests also can register for box seats for the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Oaks. Additionally, advance wagering on the Belmont Stakes will be offered.