ALBARADO STARTS ON NEXT 700 AT CHURCHILL DOWNS AFTER MILESTONE WIN – Jockey Robby Albarado notched a pair of wins on Thursday’s race card at Churchill Downs, but the second of those felt much better than your average win under the historic Twin Spires.
Albarado’s win aboard Shive’s Success in Thursday’s 7th race marked his 700th victory at the home of the Kentucky Derby. The 34-year-old native of Lafayette, La. is just the seventh jockey to achieve that milestone in the 134-year history of the track. The others are Pat Day (2,481), Don Brumfield (925), Larry Melancon (898), Jim McKnight (883), Calvin Borel (831) and Charles Woods Jr. (757) in Churchill Downs’ 700-win club. Both Day and Brumfield are members of racing’s Hall of Fame. Melancon, Borel and Woods are current members of the track’s strong jockey colony.
“That’s a pretty good group to be in,” Albarado said on Friday. “I love those kinds of things. Those guys are fixtures at Churchill Downs, and to be part of that group is pretty sweet.”
Albarado first arrived at the Louisville track on a full-time basis for the 1996 Spring Meet. He has been among the track’s leading riders since his arrival, but has yet to win a “leading jockey” title at Churchill Downs. His victory aboard Shive’s Success pulled him within a single victory of leading rider Julien Leparoux after 19 days of the 52-day spring racing session.
“To be leading rider here would cap off a nice summer,” he said. “I’ve been leading rider at Keeneland, but to win one at Churchill would be something I’d really enjoy and cherish. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve never been leading rider, so that shows you how hard it is to be leading rider at Churchill.”
Albarado appears to be at the top of his game in every way. His year has included a victory aboard reigning “Horse of the Year” Curlin in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (Grade I) and he has picked up a strong mount for the Belmont Stakes (GI), the third jewel of the Triple Crown, in Mr. and Mrs. William Warren’s Denis of Cork, the third place finisher in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
He was the regular rider aboard Curlin in the Steve Asmussen trainee’s championship campaign in 2007 that included Albarado’s first victories in the Preakness (GI) – which was also his first Triple Crown win – and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). Those efforts made him one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award that honored America’s top jockey of 2007.
“Things are going pretty good,” said Albarado. “I’ve just got to stay healthy and stay focused.”
COUGAR CAT SHARP IN MORNINGS, BUT ARISTIDES BID UNLIKELY – Richland Hills LLC’s Cougar Cat moved closer to his return to competition as the runner-up in last year’s Aristides (GIII) turned in a sizzling work on Friday at Churchill Downs, but it’s unlikely that he’ll make another bid for the stakes race in which he ran so well just a year ago.
The 6-year-old son of Storm Cat breezed five furlongs over a “fast” track in :59.40, which tied with move by the promising 3-year-old filly Secret Gypsy as the fastest move of 16 at the distance.
The sharp move was welcomed by trainer Ronny Werner, but it did not earn his veteran a spot in the starting gate for this year’s running of the $125,000-added Aristides. That six-furlong race – which will be run on Saturday, May 31 – is expected to lure the likes of Summerplace Farm’s Kelly’s Landing, winner of the 2005 Aristides and runner-up to champion Lost in the Fog the following year; Maggi Moss’ multiple stakes winner Indian Chant, who defeated Kelly’s Landing in an Aristides allowance prep and currently holds the track record time for six furlongs; and Tom Walters’ Elite Squadron and George Bolton, Joan Corrigan and Antony Beck’s Noonmark, the 1-2 finishers in the Churchill Downs Stakes (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day.
“I think we’re going to bypass that race,” said Werner. “He’s been putting up some good works, but I just think he needs to go in a little softer spot. He does like this track and it’s the spot we always wanted, but I think we’d better look for an allowance race to start him back.”
Last year at this time Cougar Cat was prepping for an upset bid in the Aristides won by the impressive Fabulous Strike. But Werner’s veteran finished second that day at odds of 23-1. He followed that with a runner-up finish as the favorite in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows. He was beaten that day by a rising star named Benny the Bull, who this year won the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba for trainer Rick Dutrow.
Despite those impressive back-to-back performances in mid-year, Cougar Cat failed to win in his remaining four races on the season. He went on the shelf following a disappointing sixth-place finish behind Junior College in the Bet on Sunshine overnight handicap on Nov. 17 at Churchill Downs and has not raced since.
“He had quarter cracks,” said Werner. “His feet have been an issue all of his life. He was backing off. I really didn’t think they were bothering him that much, but they may have been a little bit more than I thought. He just started tailing off, so we decided to just let the feet grow out and give him some time off.”
Cougar Cat has a career record of 4-5-2 in 23 races and has earned $243,646.
LEPAROUX CLINGS TO LEAD IN RACE FOR “LEADING RIDER” – Jockey Julien Leparoux, the top rider in both spring and fall Churchill Downs racing meets in 2007, continues to cling to a narrow in the current Spring Meet race – but there is a logjam that has quickly developed behind him.
Leparoux was shut out of the winner’s circle in both the Wednesday and Thursday racing programs. His most recent victory – his 21st of the meet – came aboard Manager Boire ($15.20) in Sunday’s 9th race.
Should the 24-year-old Frenchman take a look over his shoulder on Friday he will find a group of four riders tied with 20 victories: Calvin Borel, Miguel Mena, Shaun Bridgmohan and Robby Albarado.
The race for leading trainer remained tight after leader Ken McPeek and second-place Steve Asmussen each notched a victory on Thursday’s racing program. McPeek leads Asmussen 13-12. Tom Amoss is third in that race with nine victories.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey continue to lead the way in their bid for a record seventh Spring Meet title of “leading owner.” The Nicholasville, Ky. couple have eight wins from 24 starts and lead Zayat Stables and Maggi Moss, who are tied for second with five wins each.
BARN TALK – Kelly’s Landing tuned up for a run in next Saturday’s $125,000-added Aristides with a sharp half-mile work on Friday. The Eddie Kenneally-trainee covered the four-furlong distance over a “fast” track in :47.20, which was the second-fasted work of 44 at the distance. The son of Patton set a track record for six furlongs in winning the 2005 Aristides and was runner-up to champion Lost in the Fog in its 2006 running. He won last year’s running of the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba. Kelly’s Landing finished third to Indian Chant, the current record-holder for six furlongs, in his 2008 debut in a recent Churchill Downs allowance race.
Julien Leparoux 128 21-25-22
Calvin Borel 137 20-17-24
Miguel Mena 123 20-16-20
Shaun Bridgmohan 83 20-14-10
Robby Albarado 84 20-8-10
Jesus Castanon 96 14-10-7
Jamie Theriot 80 8-9-6
Elvis Trujillo 14 6-1-2
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 62 5-10-6
Kent Desormeaux 31 5-8-6
Larry Sterling, Jr. 38 5-5-6
Corey Lanerie 76 4-13-5
John McKee 56 4-9-9
Fernando De La Cruz 52 4-3-5
Ken McPeek 29 13-3-3
Steve Asmussen 48 12-8-8
Tom Amoss 28 9-6-5
Mike Maker 23 7-4-2
Dale Romans 50 6-9-5
Greg Foley 32 6-6-2
Eddie Kenneally 27 5-6-6
Ian Wilkes 18 6-5-3
Steve Margolis 19 5-3-3
Three (3) trainers tied with four (4) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 24 8-3-4
Zayat Stables, LLC 24 5-5-3
Maggi Moss 12 5-2-3
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 17 4-3-1
Padua Stables 6 4-1-0
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 7 4-0-0
Three owners tied with three (3) wins