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BARN NOTES (6.14.09) - Macho Again's Foster Leaves Stewart Smiling/Frustration Follows Einstein's Troubled Foster Run
STEWART BEAMING AFTER MACHO AGAIN’S FOSTER TRIUMPH – Trainer Dallas Stewart was all smiles Sunday morning as he accepted congratulations on the victory by West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again in Saturday’s $600,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I).
“He just wanted to win yesterday,” Stewart said of Macho Again, who provided the trainer with his second Grade I victory at Churchill Downs to go with Lemons Forever’s triumph in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (GI). “He is a well-accomplished horse. He has won on fast and wet tracks and won at Saratoga, Fair Grounds and here. This ought to close a lot of talk about him being an in and out horse.”
Macho Again won last year’s Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, a race that was followed by a runner-up finish to Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown in the Preakness (GI), the second jewel of the Triple Crown. The Stephen Foster victory was his first triumph in Grade I company and improved his career record to 6-4-0 in 18 races with earnings of $1,475,247. The son of Macho Uno has raced five times at Churchill Downs and his record under the Twin Spires is 4-1-0 with earnings of $499,989.
Stewart was worried about the slow early pace in the Stephen Foster, which was similar to the pace Macho Again caught when he finished sixth in the Alysheba (Grade III) on the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (GI) undercard.
“I thought the:48 half was a little slow for us. I thought they would go in :47,” Stewart said.
Next up for Macho Again is the Whitney Handicap (Grade I) at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 8. Macho Again won the Jim Dandy (Grade II) last summer at Saratoga going nine furlongs.
Asiatic Boy (ARG), who finished a length behind Macho Again, was scheduled to return to New York on Sunday along with stablemate Florentino (JPN), winner of Saturday’s Jefferson Cup (Grade II).
FRUSTRATION REMAINS HIGH IN EINSTEIN CAMP AFTER FOSTER FINISH – Einstein’s bid for racing history came up a length short Saturday when the 7-year-old Brazilian-bred horse ran third after encountering trouble throughout his 1 1/8-mile journey in the Stephen Foster Handicap.
“I just want the best for him and I really wanted him to get a Grade I win on the dirt,” trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi said of Einstein, who had won the Santa Anita Handicap (Grade I) on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I) at Churchill Downs in his two prior starts.
No horse had won three consecutive Grade I races on three surfaces.
The footnotes in the Foster chart told the story of Einstein’s race under Julien Leparoux: “Einstein bobbled at the start to get away a bit slow, checked off heels near the seven-eighths marker, was bottled up between horses down the backstretch and through the second turn, shifted out a bit and found a seam entering the stretch, was bumped and stuffed behind rivals with three-sixteenths to run, got through toward the inside late but was left with too much to do.”
“It was just bad racing luck and he was much the best horse,” Pitts-Blasi said. “I’d like to get Horse of the Year with him and a race like this could hurt him and it was not his fault.”
Pitts-Blasi said Einstein came out of the race fine with the Arlington Million (Grade I) next up on the radar on Aug. 8.
“I am going to give him a little break with the Million as the next goal,” Pitts-Blasi said. “The Pacific Classic (on Sept. 6 at Del Mar) I’d strongly consider because that would give us a month between the two races.”
His difficult trip in the Stephen Foster left Einstein’s career record at 11-3-3 in 26 races with earnings of $2,673,924.
MISS ISELLA DOING WELL AFTER FLEUR DE LIS TRIUMPH – Elaine Jones’ Miss Isella reaffirmed her love for the main track at Churchill Downs on Saturday by winning her third consecutive Grade II stake beneath the Twins Spires in taking the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis.
“She just loves it here. I’d like to run her here year-round,” trainer Ian Wilkes said of Miss Isella, who now has won five of seven starts with one second at Churchill Downs.
As she had done in her two previous stakes wins here, Miss Isella benefited from a rail-skimming ride from Calvin Borel. On Saturday, she barely squeezed past Distinctive Dixie, who bumped Miss Isella into the rail as she was trying to get by.
“She is just a little filly with a lot of determination and heart,” Wilkes said. “You don’t know if they have it until they get in a race.”
Wilkes said Miss Isella would head next to Saratoga with the $300,000 Go for Wand (Grade I) at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 2 and the 1 ¼-mile, $400,000 Personal Ensign (Grade I) on Aug. 30 as possible targets.
Trainer Dale Romans said that Fleur De Lis runner-up Swift Temper came out of the race fine but had no immediate plans for a next start.
Third-place finisher Temple Street is headed to Delaware Park according to trainer Brad Cox.
“I am going to Delaware after this meet and I may look at the Delaware Handicap (worth $1 million at 1 ¼ miles),” said Cox, who has guided Temple Street to graded-stakes placings in both springs and routes this spring. “I’d like to have her as a graded-stakes winner. The distance is the great unknown, but when Julien (Leparoux) got off her yesterday said she could go a mile and a half or two. She knows the running starts at the quarter pole.”
Wilkes fell a head short of taking two stakes on the Stephen Foster day card when Warrior’s Reward finished second to Successful Dan in the $100,000-added Northern Dancer (Grade III).
“He had the whole stretch to get by the other horse,” Wilkes said. “But he’s still learning. He ran good, but you’ve got to give that other horse credit, too. They both ran hard.”
Wilkes mentioned the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes (GII) at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park on July 4 as the next possible spot for Warrior’s Reward.
PREPARATIONS CONTINUE FOR FRIDAY’S ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’ NIGHT RACING DEBUT – Neighbors of Churchill Downs and people traveling in the neighborhood around the historic home of the Kentucky Derby got a preview late Saturday evening of how the track will look under the lights during this Friday’s first ever night racing session. Technicians from Musco Lighting were at the track to test the fixtures that will illuminate the track for the first time in its 135-year history on Friday, June 19: Friday, June 26; and Thursday, July 2.
Horsemen will have a chance to get a first-hand look at the lights on Monday and Tuesday as training will open an hour early at 5 a.m. (EDT). Kentucky Oaks and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra is expected to be one of the early horses on the track under the lights. She is scheduled to work for trainer Steve Asmussen between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. (EDT).
BARN TALK – Robby Albarado’s five-win day on Saturday was his second at Churchill Downs. Albarado, who won the Stephen Foster Handicap on Macho Again and the Regret on Keertana, also won five on July 9, 2005 when he had 11 mounts. Albarado rode 10 races on Saturday.
Training hours will be extended an hour Monday and Tuesday to give horsemen a chance to exercise their horses under the temporary lights. The track will open at 5 a.m. those days with the renovation break remaining at 8 o’clock. The gate will be up at its normal time from 7:15-9:15 on Monday.
Grace Stable’s 2-year-old filly Hot Dixie Chick established the second track record of the Spring Meet on Saturday when she won the sixth race in :56.48 for the five furlongs. The previous five-eighths record was :56.49, established on May 20, 2005 by Wildcat Shoes.
The other track record to fall this meet was for 1 1/16 miles on the turf when Wise River covered the distance in 1:39.83 on April 26. The previous record had been established by Quite a Bride in winning the 2007 Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) in 1:40.70.
MILESTONE WATCH – Greg Foley, seeking to move closer to becoming the 12th trainer at Churchill Downs to record 300 victories beneath the Twin Spires, has one starter on Sunday: Zosogood in the second. Foley has 297 Churchill Downs victories.