ALBARADO STILL ROLLING, HOPING FOR ANOTHER RIDE ON CURLIN - A strong start on the 26-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs indicates that jockey Robby Albarado is in no danger of slowing down in a 2008 racing season that is close to equaling a 2007 season that was the best of his career.
Along with his first-ever riding crown at Churchill Downs, Albarado earned the fall meet title at Keeneland to continue momentum in a year in which he has won nearly 200 races and his mounts have earned more than $12.2 million - but that Equibase earnings figure does not include the winning purse from Albarado's ride aboard reigning "Horse of the Year" Curlin in the $6 million Dubai World Cup. Even without the Dubai money, Albarado's earnings total ranks seventh among North American riders with two months remaining in the year. Last year, he finished second in total earnings with nearly $19.4 million and piloted 253 winners.
Curlin, the first North American horse to earn more than $10 milllion, finished a disappointing fourth last week over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface at Santa Anita in his bid for a second consecutive victory in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (Grade I). Majority owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen have yet to make a final decision, but the Classic might have been the final race of Curlin's career.
"They're going to do what's in the best interest of the horse," he said. "I'm sure they're going to evaluate him and we'll see what happens in that decision, but I wouldn't mind sitting on him a couple of more times."
Albarado is among those who believe that Curlin was compromised in his Classic bid by the synthetic surface. Curlin unleashed a big move on the far turn to gain the lead in the 1 ¼-mile Classic, but could not hold off the late rush of European stars Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator, who finished 1-2.
"I think you saw America's finest turf race that day," Albarado said. "Curlin made his patented move around the turn, but just couldn't sustain it against those turf horses."
While the Classic was disheartening, Albarado has lost no faith in Curlin. He has been aboard the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike in every race since he joined Asmussen's barn following a private purchase of the colt after his career debut early last year at Gulfstream Park. Along the way, Curlin gave Albarado his first Triple Crown victory in the Preakness (GI), back-to-back wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI), his first win in the Dubai World Cup and his first success in the Breeders' Cup Classic. While he finished third in the Kentucky Derby, Curlin gave Albarado a lasting memory at his home track when scored an emphatic victory in the $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).
"That was a great day - not only for myself and Curlin, but it was great for Churchill Downs," recalled Albarado. "They really applauded him that day. He had a big fan base here, and it was just great for Kentucky and Churchill Downs. Curlin's taken me many places across the country, and it's been a great ride so far."
When the Churchill Downs meet wraps up, the Louisiana native will head back to his home state to ride over the winter at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
"Hopefully we can have a good meet there," he said. "We've got great guys going there this winter - Jamie Theriot, Corey Lanerie and all those top guns. Julien's going there, too, so it'll be a tough meet."
And for the rest of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet and on through the winter in New Orleans, Albarado will be looking for a special young horse that can allow him to achieve his ultimate dream: to win the Kentucky Derby (GI) on the first Saturday in May.
"Until I get that Derby, I won't feel complete," Albarado said. "I'll be looking for the 2-year-olds the rest of this year, and hopefully we'll find us a 2-year-old here at Churchill Downs that we'll see in the Derby next year."
FIELDS TAKING SHAPE FOR MRS. REVERE, COMMONWEALTH TURF - Contenders are starting to line up for next week's mile and a sixteenth stakes races for 3-year-old turf horses: the $175,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) for fillies and the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII).
The 19th renewal of the Mrs. Revere lost one possible contender last week when Shadwell Stable retired Alwajeeha, winner of the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (GI) at Keeneland and one of 44 3-year-old fillies nominated to the Churchill Downs race. But several accomplished fillies are being pointed toward the last graded stakes race of the season in the 3-year-old filly division.
The possible favorite in the Mrs. Revere could be Helen Alexander and Helen Groves' Acoma, winner of the Dogwood (GIII) on dirt and Keeneland's Valley View (GIII) on turf. The regally-bred daughter of Empire Maker has a record of 4-1-1 in seven races for trainer David Carroll. She also finished second in the Monmouth Oaks (GIII) and fourth to Music Note in the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI).
Other likely starters in the Mrs. Revere include Ron McCauley's Las Virgenes (GI) Golden Doc A; My Baby Baby, winner of the Pleasant Temper at Kentucky Downs; Keith Kinmon's Absolutely Cindy, who defeated males in the John Battaglia Memorial on Polytrack at Turfway Park; Frank Calabrese's Dreaming of Liz, winner of the Sweetest Chant at Arlington; Scolara, fourth in the Valley View for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; recent Keeneland allowance winner Seemingly; and Overbrook Farm's Dark Sky, a winner of her last two starts over grass at Saratoga and Polytrack at Turfway Park.
Another possible starter in the Mrs. Revere is Heather Stark's multiple stakes winner Sky Mom, winner of the Arlington Oaks (GIII) on Polytrack.
The Mrs. Revere will be run on Saturday, Nov. 8.
The sixth running of the mile and a sixteenth Commonwealth Turf is expected to attract a field that includes Dr. John Chandler's Seaspeak, who finished first in Keeneland's Bryan Station (GIII) but was placed second via disqualification; Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable's Cherokee Triangle, runner-up in the Hawthorne Derby (GIII) and the Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs; Donamire Farm's Jersey Derby winner Mr Maccool; Allen Farm LLC's Nistle's Crunch, third in the Saranac (GIII); Uptown Racing LLC's Boss Lafitte, winner of the Transylvania (GIII) at Keeneland and the USA Stakes at Lone Star Park; Snoose Goose, winner of the Honor Glide at Arlington Park and third in the Hawthorne Derby; Team Block's Amazing Results, second in the Perryville (GIII) on Polytrack at Keeneland and winner of the Forward Pass at Arlington; Sam-Son Farm's Cross Every Bridge, an easy winner of his lone start on the Woodbine turf in early October; and the Steve Asmussen-trained Jimmy Simms, who is unbeaten in two recent starts on the grass at Woodbine.
The Commonwealth Turf attracted 24 nominations and will be run on Sunday, November 9.
LEPAROUX, MAKER, RAMSEYS CONTINUE TO SIZZLE IN MEET'S OPENING WEEK - Jockey Julien Leparoux, trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey continued to set a blistering pace on Friday in their respective "human races" in the 26-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
The 26-year-old Leparoux has a firm hold on the race for "leading jockey" after he notched three more victories on Friday's 10-race Halloween program. Leparoux, who won four races on Thursday, pushed his win total to 11 and has opened a big early lead over Robby Albarado, the leading jockey in Churchill Downs' 2008 Spring Meet. Albarado had six wins over the meet's first four days..
Mike Maker saddled one winner on Friday to push his victory total in the race for "leading trainer" to eight. Maker has saddled at least one winner on each of the first four days of racing in the meet, and has already enjoyed a pair of three-win days. Ken McPeek, who opened the meet with four wins on Sunday, was in second place with five victories heading into Saturday's 11-race program.
Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey are Maker's major client, so it's no surprise that they lead the race for top owner of the meet with eight wins through the meet's first four days. The Ramseys, who are bidding for their seventh "leading owner" title in the Fall Meet and their 13th overall, are six wins ahead of Maggi Moss and Scarlet Stable, who are tied for second with a pair of victories.
SATURDAY NOMINATION DEADLINE FOR CARDINAL ‘CAP - Nominations close at midnight on Saturday, Nov. 1 for the $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (GIII) for fillies & mares ages 3 & up at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The Cardinal will be run on Saturday, Nov. 15. Information is available by calling Churchill Downs Racing at (502) 636-4470 or on the Web at www.churchilldowns.com.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) - Prom Shoes breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60. ... Taletobetold breezed a half-mile in :50.20. ... Nistle's Crunch breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40. ... My Baby Baby breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40. ... Cherokee Triangle, a nominee to next week's Commonwealth Turf, breezed five furlongs over the Trackside training surface in 1:01.80.