CURLIN ASSIGNED 128 POUNDS FOR GRADE I STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP – Stonestreet Stable and Midnight Cry Stable’s reigning “Horse of the Year” Curlin was assigned 128 pounds for next Saturday’s mile and one-eighth Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) at Churchill Downs by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.
The 128-pound impost would be two pounds more than Curlin carried in his victory in the Dubai World Cup (GI) in his most recent start on March 29.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Curlin is scheduled to make his first start at Churchill Downs since finishing third to Street Sense in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
Sharing second highweight of 120 pounds are the Allen Paulson Living Trust’s A.P. Arrow, trained by Todd Pletcher, and Millenium Farms’ Student Council, both of whom are being pointed to the June 28 Suburban (GI) at Belmont Park.
Considered possible to challenge Curlin are Einstein (Brz) at 118 pounds, Grasshopper (117), Brass Hat (116), Delightful Kiss (114), Jonesboro (114), Barcola (113), High Blues (113), Red Rock Creek (113) and Sam P. (113).
Stronach Stable’s Ginger Punch, the 2007 Eclipse Award-winning mare for trainer Bobby Frankel, was assigned 124 pounds for the Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) to be run at a mile and an eighth. Winner of the May 2 Louisville Handicap (GII), Ginger Punch has won three of four starts at Churchill Downs.
Rancho San Miguel, George Todaro and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Hystericalady, who was beaten a neck by Ginger Punch in last fall’s Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) was assigned the second high weight of 121 pounds.
Frank Calabrese’s champion Dreaming of Anna was assigned top weight of 123 pounds for the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Dreaming of Anna locked up her Eclipse Award in 2006 with a victory in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and in her most recent start ran second in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) on May 3.
Sharing 120 pounds as the second high weights are Ben McElroy’s Roshani, winner of the Gallorette Handicap (GIII) at Pimlico in her most recent start May 17 and the Graham Motion-trained Rosinka (Ire), who has not run since finishing second last fall’s Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational.
BRASS HAT WORKS FIVE-EIGHTHS ON DIRT FOR FOSTER BID – The question for trainer Buff Bradley to ponder Saturday morning was whether to aim his father’s homebred Brass Hat for the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) next Saturday and tackle Curlin.
After watching Brass Hat work five furlongs in 1:00.40 under Calvin Borel, the fourth best of 30 at the distance over a “fast” track, Bradley was ready to render a verdict.
“I wanted him to pick it up late, and he did that,” Bradley said. “I started timing him at the three-quarter pole and had him going six furlongs in 1:14 and 2 (fifths), galloping out seven-eighths in 1:26 and 2 and out the mile in 1:40.”
Borel, who rode the seven-year-old son of Prized for the first time in the mile and a half Louisville Handicap (GIII) on the turf in his most recent start, was equally pleased with the work.
“I let him gallop out past the wire and he was strong,” Borel said. “They had better come with their running shoes on next week.”
For Borel, it will be his first shot at Curlin since finishing fourth aboard Street Sense in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Monmouth Park in October.
Weights for the Foster were to come out Saturday afternoon and Bradley was asked how much weight he would like to receive from Curlin.
“About 20,” Bradley said with a laugh. “I know what we are up against and this is the Breeders’ Cup for us. I know he is good enough to run with Curlin; whether he can get past him is something else.”
Brass Hat ran fifth in the 2006 Stephen Foster, his poorest finish in four starts on the main track at Churchill Downs.
“I know he likes the dirt here; he has the track record for a mile and a sixteenth,” Bradley said. “He is 100 percent and feels good and I look for him to run his race.”
EINSTEIN TO WORK SUNDAY; MAY TAKE A SHOT AT FOSTER – Trainer Helen Pitts plans to work three-time Grade I turf winner Einstein (Brz) an easy five-eighths on the main track Sunday morning after the renovation break.
“It is just going to be an easy maintenance work to keep him happy,” Pitts said. “If he doesn’t run in the Foster, it will still give me time for the Firecracker (GII).”
Pitts said the makeup of the field at entry time Wednesday would influence her to decision to run more than the weights.
“I want to see who is going in there besides Curlin, obviously,” Pitts said. “If I think he can run one, two or three in a Grade I on dirt, yeah, I’ll take a shot.”
Winner of the Derby Day Turf Classic (GI) in his most recent start, Einstein also won the Gulfstream Park Turf (GI) on Feb. 23, three weeks after finishing sixth on the dirt in the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park.
ALBARADO GRABS LEAD IN RIDER STANDINGS WITH THREE-BAGGER – Robby Albarado’s fourth three-win day of the Spring Meet on Friday gave the veteran rider a two-win lead over Julien Leparoux in the race for leading rider after the 30th day of the 52-day meet.
Albarado, who also had a four-win day on May 24, has 37 victories this spring. His other three-win days came on April 29, May 18 and May 31.
Albarado scored with Halo Tigress ($15.80) for trainer Dale Romans in the second race, Highest Degree ($4.80) for trainer Ken McPeek in the third and Le Dauphin ($5.60) for trainer Bill Mott in the 10th. Albarado lost a fourth victory when I.M. Boomer was disqualified for interference in the ninth.
Albarado and Leparoux, who won one race Friday, will be in New York Saturday to ride in the Belmont Stakes. Their closest pursuer in the jockey’s race, Miguel Mena, had one winner Friday to raise his total to 34. Mena has nine mounts Saturday.
BARN TALK – J. Paul Reddam’s Barcola, trained by Mark Hennig, is considered as definite for the Stephen Foster according to Churchill Downs racing officials. A five-year-old son of Old Trieste, Barcola won the Brandywine Stakes at Delaware Park on May 10 in his first start since finishing 12th in the Godolphin Mile (GII) at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai in March. Hobeau Farm’s Delightful Kiss, trained by Pete Anderson, is considered a possible for the Foster, pending the weight assignments. … Team Valor International and Vision Racing’s Visionaire, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, is headed back to Churchill Downs for the Northern Dancer Stakes (GIII) according to Churchill Downs officials. Trainer Michael Matz won the Northern Dancer last year with Centennial Farms’ Chelokee.
WORK TAB – Trainer Ken McPeek worked four horses Saturday morning with designs on next week’s Stephen Foster Super Saturday card. Sarah Lyn Stables’ C J’s Leelee, runner-up in last fall’s Golden Rod (GII) on the dirt, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60, the fifth best of 30 at the distance, in preparation for the $200,000-added Regret (GIII) at a mile and an eighth on the turf. McPeek also worked his three possibles for the $200,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII) at a mile and eighth on the turf. Lawrence Carroll’s Old Man Buck and Alien Farm’s Nistle’s Crunch covered five furlongs in 1:01.20, 12th best of 30, and Martin Stables’ Hard Strike covered the same distance in 1:01.40. … Also working toward the Regret were Charles Laloggia’s Clearly Foxy (1:03 for five furlongs) for trainer Mark Casse and the Bill Mott-nominated duo of Zayat Stables’ Zee Zee (a bullet five-eighths in 1:00) and Haras Santa Maria de Araras’s Scolara (a half-mile in :50). Casse also worked Woodford Racing’s Sprung five-eighths in 1:00.20 in preparation for the $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII). … B. Wayne Hughes’ Ketchikan, runner-up in the 2007 Louisiana Derby (GII) worked five furlongs in 1:02 for trainer Al Stall. … Racecar Rhapsody, fourth to Big Brown in the Preakness (GI), breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20.
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Friday, June 6
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Robby Albarado 147 37-19-21
Julien Leparoux 196 35-36-36
Miguel Mena 195 34-25-26
Calvin Borel 198 29-29-30
Shaun Bridgmohan 132 26-26-17
Jamie Theriot 138 22-21-10
Jesus Castanon 159 20-14-16
Elvis Trujillo 53 10-7-15
Corey Lanerie 118 9-17-11
Brian Hernandez Jr. 105 9-15-13
John McKee 92 8-13-16
Larry Sterling Jr. 63 8-7-9
Tracy Hebert 82 7-5-5
Ken McPeek 44 19-7-4
Tom Amoss 47 19-6-8
Steve Asmussen 75 16-14-12
Ian Wilkes 33 10-6-5
Mike Maker 35 10-6-3
Dale Romans 78 8-17-16
Eddie Kenneally 39 8-8-7
Cody Autrey 41 7-8-7
Steve Margolis 28 7-5-5
Wesley Ward 23 7-4-4
Four (4) trainers tied with six (6) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 32 11-4-5
Maggi Moss 18 9-2-3
Zayat Stables, LLC 31 6-6-7
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 26 6-6-3
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 11 5-1-0
Padua Stables 7 4-1-0
Seven (7) owners tied with three (3) wins