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Defending Champ Einstein Works for Clark ... Acoma's win her "biggest" ... Fields take shape for 2 YO stakes
EINSTEIN WORKS FOR CLARK; MARAGH PICKS UP MOUNT – Trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi was talking to a passer-by about her stable star Einstein (Brz) when fellow trainer Dallas Stewart rode past on his pony.
“Tell it like it is, Helen,” Stewart said with a laugh. “Tell him how you’re gonna kick Macho Again’s rear end.”
“Hey, Macho’s already got me once this year,” Pitts-Blasi said referring to Macho Again’s victory over Einstein in June’s Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I).
The rematch comes Friday when Einstein and Macho Again are expected to be the starting high weights in the 135th running of the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII).
Owned by the Stronach Stable, Einstein worked a half-mile in :48.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 early Sunday morning under Kelly Likes. It was Einstein’s first work since finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Nov. 7, the worst showing of his 29-race career.
“I have no answer,” Pitts-Blasi said of the Breeders’ Cup. “We couldn’t find anything. He went very well this morning and I was pleased."
Pitts-Blasi has worked Einstein in the past, but opted for Likes on Sunday for the work over a fast track.
“I wanted to take some weight off him and Kelly is lighter than I am and I could watch him,” Pitts-Blasi said.
Regular rider Julien Leparoux will miss the final two days of the meet to ride in the Japan Cup and Pitts-Blasi has enlisted New York-based Rajiv Maragh to ride Einstein in the Clark.
CARROLL CELEBRATES ACOMA’S “BIGGEST WIN” IN CARDINAL – Trainer David Carroll was still beaming Sunday morning after Acoma’s hard-charging head victory over You Go West Girl in Saturday’s Cardinal Handicap (GIII).
“Absolutely it was her biggest win,” Carroll said of Acoma, who rebounded from a last-place showing in the Grade I First Lady at Keeneland on Oct. 10. “I walked into the paddock and she was 12-1 and I was surprised. My wife Kim gets on her every day and said she was as good as she has ever been. She gets better in the fall.
“She got nothing out of the Keeneland race. We took her to Dr. (Larry) Bramlage to check her out to make sure we didn’t miss anything and she got a clean bill of health.”
A regally bred daughter of Empire Maker out of the Danzig mare Aurora, Acoma is 5-for-5 in her career at Churchill Downs for her owners Helen Alexander and Helen Groves. Three of those wins – including the 2008 Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) and last fall’s Mrs. Revere (GII) – have been on turf and all in stakes competition. She also won the Grade III Dogwood on dirt in 2008.
“They are great people to train for,” Carroll said. “They breed to race and this filly … even if she couldn’t run, I could look at her all day. She is so gorgeous, a great combination of talent and looks.”
Carroll said Acoma came out of the Cardinal in good shape and likely was looking at some down time.
“We will probably have the same plan as last year and send her to Payson Park for some R & R and then join us at the Fair Grounds,” Carroll said. “We got her a little early this year for the Azeri at Oaklawn and then she bounced in the Apple Blossom. I don’t foresee doing that again, but it is up to Miss Helen (Alexander).”
FIELDS TAKING SHAPE FOR KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB, GOLDEN ROD – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Golden Rod (GII) a record five times and the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) a record four times, is expected to have a shot at building on those marks when both races are renewed on Saturday.
Lukas is expected to send Westrock Stables’ Decelerator into the 66th running of the Golden Rod and Activity Report in the 83rd running of the Kentucky Jockey Club. Both races are at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and serve as centerpieces of the closing-day “Stars of Tomorrow II” card that features 12 races exclusively for 2-year-olds.
As of Sunday, Churchill Downs racing officials had five fillies considered as probable to line up against Decelerator, the winner of this summer’s Debutante (GIII) who ran second in the opening-day Pocahontas (GIII) behind Sassy Image.
In addition to Sassy Image, other Pocahontas runners expected to come back in the Golden Rod are third-place finisher All Due Respect, fourth-place finisher Vivid Colors and sixth-place finisher Vertical Vision. Also expected to run is Canadian Storm, a maiden winner at Philadelphia Park.
The Golden Rod was won last year by Rachel Alexandra, the first of nine consecutive victories for the filly.
The Kentucky Jockey Club lineup is expected to feature the 1-4 finishers from the opening-day Iroquois (GIII) in Thiskyhasnolimit and Gleam of Hope. Also considered as probable for the race is William’s Kitten, who ran eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) in his most recent start.
Other probables are Call Shot, Callide Valley, Mr. Saturdaynight and Super Saver.
Entries for both races will be taken Wednesday.
BARN TALK – Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Anak Nakal, winner of the 2007 Kentucky Jockey Club, is scheduled to arrive Monday for an expected run in the Clark Handicap. Winner of the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby last year, Anak Nakal finished third in the Meadowlands Cup (GII) behind Clark probables Etched and Kiss the Kid in his most recent start. Jill Baffert and George Jacobs’ Misremembered, winner of the Indiana Derby (GII) in his most recent start, is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday from his Southern California base. …
Apprentice Oriana Rossi posted her first victory at Churchill Downs in Saturday’s fifth race with a rail-skimming ride aboard Ship’s Cabin ($17.40). It was Rossi’s 16th career win with the other victories coming at Ellis Park and Turfway Park. She recorded her first victory on Aug. 16 at Ellis Park. …
Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled two winners here Saturday to boost his career total at Churchill Downs to 350, fifth all time at the track. Lone Cypress ($5.60) won the third race and Jackpot Joanie ($5) took the seventh to give Asmussen 14 winners for the meet and a four-victory advantage over Dale Romans in the race for leading trainer. The latter is a half-sister to Summerly, who provided Asmussen with a victory in the 2005 Kentucky Oaks. Asmussen has won six training titles here – three spring and three fall – and was the leading trainer during the 2009 Spring Meet. …
Even though A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s Warrior’s Reward ran second in the Saturday nightcap, trainer Ian Wilkes was pleased with the effort in the six-furlong sprint, a runner-up finish in which he just failed to catch Flavor after being six lengths back at the eighth pole. “I expected him to run a good race and I thought he ran tremendous,” Wilkes said of the 3-year-old who was vanned off the track at Keeneland five weeks previous after finishing fifth in the Perryville (GIII). “He made up a lot of ground the last eighth. I am going to give him a little break and yesterday I wanted to give him a good experience before the break.”