DECISION ON MINE THAT BIRD RIDER LIKELY SUNDAY – Trainer Chip Woolley said Saturday morning that a rider would “likely be named” Sunday for Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) winner Mine That Bird’s schedule run in the West Virginia Derby (GII) on Aug. 1 at Mountaineer.
“Mark (Allen of Double Eagle Ranch) and Doc (Leonard Blach of Buena Suerte Equine) are going to talk it over today and I’ll likely name a rider in the morning,” Woolley said after Mine That Bird’s morning activity of a 1 ½-mile gallop under exercise rider Rudy Gallegos.
Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby and a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) in the gelding’s most recent start on June 6, could not give a commitment to the West Virginia Derby, which left Woolley in need of a rider.
Mine That Bird is scheduled to work on Monday at Churchill Downs.
ALL IS WELL ON THE MORNING AFTER FOR TOP BASHFORD MANOR RUNNERS – Connections of the top three finishers in Friday’s Bashford Manor Stakes (GIII) reported their runners came out of the race in good order.
Frank Bernis, assistant to trainer Tom Amoss, said that everything was good with the undefeated Backtalk on Saturday morning but that no plans for the Smarty Jones colt’s next start had been made.
Merrill Scherer, trainer of runner-up Flatter Than Me, was eyeing Saratoga with the son of Flatter who he owns in partnership with Dan Lynch and Ken Sentel.
“I am 70 years old and never started a horse in the state of New York, but I may as well start now,” Scherer said.
Flatter Than Me may have company at Saratoga in Miss Diane, a 2-year-old Montbrook filly who Scherer also is a part owner of. Miss Diane broke her maiden in her debut June 19, clocking the fastest 4 ½ furlongs of the meet in :50.99.
Millsap Stables’ Brassy Boy, who finished third, is going to get a short break according to trainer Hal Wiggins.
“There is not much for him at Ellis Park,” Wiggins said. “We are looking at the Razorback Futurity for Arkansas-breds at Louisiana Downs on Oct. 3 with a race before that in September.”
Brassy Boy’s full brother, Brassie Prince, won the Razorback Futurity in 2005.
One colt who did not make the Bashford Manor was Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible, who was scratched the morning of the race.
“He just had a minor setback,” said Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “He is expected back by the end of the summer and if he checks out OK he’ll likely go to Saratoga.”
AT LAST, STARDOM BOUND ARRIVES AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – One of the major anticipations of the winter and spring was a possible Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) showdown between the rising star Rachel Alexandra and Stardom Bound, the champion juvenile filly of 2008.
Rachel Alexandra made it to the Oaks, winning it in record fashion and starting a run of three consecutive Grade I victories.
Stardom Bound finally made it to Churchill Downs on Thursday, nearly three months after her expected arrival. After a third-place finish in the Ashland (Grade I) at Keeneland at April 4 snapped a run of five consecutive Grade I victories, Stardom Bound was given a break.
“She has been on vacation and yesterday was the first day she had tack on since she went on vacation,” said Michelle Nevin, assistant to trainer Rick Dutrow.
Stardom Bound is in Barn 17, along with another Dutrow runner, Zee Zee, who is running in Sunday’s Locust Grove Handicap (GIII).
“Stardom Bound will go back to New York with Zee Zee on Monday,” Nevin said. “We are going to put her back in training and start all over again.”
GENERAL QUARTERS ON THE MEND FOR MCCARTHY – One of the feel-good stories of the Triple Crown campaign was that of former claiming horse-turned-Kentucky Derby contender General Quarters, who was then the only horse in the stable of veteran owner-trainer Tom McCarthy.
Winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) on April 11, General Quarters ran 10th in the Kentucky Derby and ninth in the Preakness (GI). The Sky Mesa colt then went on the shelf following May 27 surgery to remove a chip in his right front knee.
“He is doing well,” McCarthy said Saturday morning as he walked General Quarters around the shedrow in Barn 37. “I am going to turn him out for about three weeks and then put him back in training the first of August.”
After his two races in the Triple Crown, General Quarters has a career record of 3-3-1 in 13 races with earnings of $641,735. General Quarters was claimed by McCarthy for $20,000 out of his racing debut on May 30, 2008 at Churchill Downs.
Meanwhile, the population of horses in McCarthy’s shedrow soon will double.
“I have a 3-year-old filly over a Trackside named Miss Sunrise,” McCarthy said. “I have always had about two horses, but when General Quarters got started, I had to put more time in with him.
“I thought she was going to be better than him. She is a full sister to Mohigan Hill who won nearly $100,000 ($83,745) and was a three-time winner at Churchill Downs.”
BARN TALK – Julien Leparoux completed his Spring Meet beneath the Twin Spires with 62 victories and holds a four-win lead over Calvin Borel with two days remaining. Leparoux, who has won two spring and two fall riding titles at Churchill Downs, will be at Arlington Park on Saturday to ride Informed Decision in the Chicago Handicap (GIII) and on Sunday he will be at Hollywood Park to ride Magical Affair in the American Oaks (GI) and Street Magician in the Triple Bend Handicap (GI).
Leparoux won last year’s American Oaks aboard Churchill Downs-based Pure Clan. Borel also will miss the Saturday card as he rides Warrior’s Reward in the Dwyer Stakes (Grade II) at Belmont Park. Borel, who has two fall riding titles here to his credit, returns on closing day and is named on 10 mounts.
The leading trainer and owner titles have been wrapped up by Steve Asmussen and Ken and Sarah Ramsey, respectively.
Asmussen saddled his 27th winner of the meet on Friday when Awesome Grannie took the fourth race. Asmussen has an insurmountable advantage over second-place Mike Maker, who has 18 wins. The title is Asmussen’s third in the spring and sixth overall.
The Ramseys have won 18 races during the meet, 10 more than their closest pursuer, Maggi Moss. The spring title is a record eighth for the Ramseys, breaking a tie with Calumet Farm. The couple has won 15 leading owner titles overall.
MILESTONE WATCH -- William Connelly, who has 999 career victories, failed to reach No. 1,000 late Friday when Knownforstone finished third in the 11th race at Churchill Downs. Connelly’s last chance to reach the milestone at the current meet will be Seaside Princess in Saturday’s first race.
WORK TAB – Gary and Mary West’s Keep the Peace worked a half-mile in :47.20 on Saturday morning over a fast track in preparation for a start in next Saturday’s Princess Rooney (GI) at Calder. The move was the second fastest of 44 at the distance. West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) in his most recent start, worked a half-mile in :49.80.