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Defending Winner Thorn Song Assigned High Weight for River City; Dream Empress Preps for Golden Rod
THORN SONG ASSIGNED HIGH WEIGHT OF 122 FOR RIVER CITY - Zayat Stables' Thorn Song, whose victory in the 2007 River City Handicap (Grade III) marked the first of three graded-stakes scores for the Dale Romans trainee, was assigned high weight of 122 pounds for the 33rd renewal of the race scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 22.
The $100,000-added River City will be run at 1 1/8 miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Thorn Song scored a half-length victory over Cosmonaut last year carrying 116 pounds. Since that victory, Thorn Song has won the Grade II Firecracker at Churchill Downs and the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. In his most recent start, Thorn Song ran ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (GI).
Should the 5-year-old Thorn Song accept the weight assignment, he will try to become the third repeat River City winner joining Same Old Wish (1996-97) and Dr. Kashnikow (2001-02).
The co-second high weights at 119 pounds are Green Lantern Stables' Karelian, trained by Rusty Arnold, and Jerry Crawford, Adam Wachtel, Nils Brous and David Robinette's Yate's Black Cat, trained by Romans.
DREAM EMPRESS CONTINUES WORK TOWARD GOLDEN ROD - Livin the Dream Racing's Dream Empress, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) in her most recent start worked five furlongs over a "sloppy" track in 1:03.40 on Saturday morning with exercise rider Peter Hutton up.
"It was just a maintenance work," trainer Ken McPeek said. "The track was fine; they had sealed it and it was OK."
Prior to her Breeders' Cup effort, Dream Empress had given McPeek his third victory in Keeneland's Darley Alcibiades Stakes (GI). His other winners were She's A Devil Due in 2000 and Take Charge Lady in 2001.
McPeek was asked how Dream Empress, a winner of two of four career starts, compared with those two at this stage of their careers.
"I think she is better than She's A Devil Due," McPeek said. "She's pointed in the right direction but she still has some work to do (in comparison to Take Charge Lady). But Dream Empress ran better in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies than Take Charge Lady did (sixth)."
McPeek also said that Koolmen Racing Stable's A to the Croft, a three-length allowance winner Friday, would be pointed to the Dec. 6 My Charmer at Turfway Park. "I'd like to get a stakes win for her," McPeek said.
SOUTH FORK LODGE PUTS MOTT BARN IN WIN COLUMN - Trainer Bill Mott got his first win of the Fall Meet on Friday when Donald Dizney's 2-year-old South Fork Lodge prevailed in his debut, a one-mile turf test.
"It was great to finally get a win," said Kenny McCarthy, Mott's assistant at Churchill Downs. The victory was the 593rd for the Mott stable at Churchill Downs, best in track history.
A homebred son of Runaway Groom out of the Unbridled mare Netjet, South Fork Lodge showed a long string of works at Churchill Downs before his debut.
"We had him here all summer and he was entered a couple of times, but he didn't get in," McCarthy said of the colt who had two works here in July before starting his series of works in early September. "We had him ready to roll and then backed off after he popped a curb in behind."
McCarthy was pleasantly surprised with the victory that came on a surface the colt never had been on.
"He was never a great work horse on the dirt, so we figured we'd try the turf," McCarthy said. "I was surprised. We knew he was fit enough and we put blinkers on him to try to get him forwardly placed with the (temporary) rail up. But he got shuffled back on the far turn and lost position and still came back.
"Not many horses can do that with the rail out (22 feet) like that. I thought he ran a brave race."
McCarthy said South Fork Lodge would likely run next in Florida.
BARN TALK - Making the rounds on the backside on a cold, drizzly Saturday morning was former jockey Garth Patterson. "First time I have been back here since the 1998 Derby," said Patterson, now 65, who won 14 stakes during his career at Churchill Downs. A native of Jolley, Iowa, Patterson rode in the Kentucky Derby three times and his biggest triumphs came in the 1975 Kentucky Oaks aboard Sun and Snow and the 1976 Clark Handicap on Yamanin. Thousandkissesdeep became the first two-time winner of the Fall Meet on Friday when she scored in the sixth race, a $16,000 claimer. Trainer Garry Simms claimed the 4-year-old daughter of Delaware Township off Wayne Catalano for $10,000 on Oct. 30 when Thousandkissesdeep took a six-furlong sprint. Simms had Thousandkissesdeep for only one race as she was claimed out of Friday's victory by trainer Luis Cotto, who won a four-way shake for the filly. ... Three races later Ken Mahler and Vickie Foley, et al.'s Rose of Aran made it two-for-two at the meet. The 2-year-old Van Nistelrooy filly, trained by Foley, had broken her maiden for a $30,000 tag on Oct. 29 and Friday's win was in starter allowance company. E.T. Baird rode both times. ... Robby Albarado, who won his first Churchill Downs riding title this spring, put a major dent in the deficit he faces chasing Julien Leparoux for Fall Meet honors. Albarado won four races Friday to hike his total to 25 after 15 days of the 26-day meet. Leparoux won Friday's nightcap to maintain an 11-victory lead with 36 scores.
WORK TAB - Joseph Rauch and David Zell's Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the Nov. 1 Iroquois (GIII) worked a half-mile on a "sloppy" track in :48.60 for trainer Ian Wilkes. ... Patrica Blass' Prom Shoes, winner of the Fifth Season this spring at Oaklawn Park, worked five furlongs in 1:03 for trainer Jinks Fires.
HORSES AND HOPE ON SUNDAY - Racing fans are encouraged to wear pink to Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 16 in conjunction with "Horses and Hope," the new initiative created by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program.
The event, centered on the women who work in the barn areas at Kentucky racetracks, is designed to provide breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral.
Governor Steve Beshear and the First Lady will be in attendance for a special program in Millionaires' Row Four with more than 900 cancer survivors on hand. The program is expected to begin immediately after the first race, which is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. ET.
Churchill Downs will be adorned in pink Sunday. The featured fifth race at approximately 2:35 p.m. ET will honor "Horses and Hope," complete with special pink saddle towels and jockey's caps. Throughout the day, the color pink will also be featured on jockey's arm bands, groom's vests, outriders, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners. There also will be a special pink cosmopolitan drink on sale with proceeds going to "Horses and Hope."
Immediately after the fifth race winner's circle presentation, there will be a group picture near the Aristides statue in the paddock garden.
A special treat will be an appearance by the Kentucky Derby Museum's miniature horse Winston, who will be decorated in pink and paraded throughout the facility to collect donations. Winston is expected to make a cameo appearance in Millionaires' Row Four around 1:20 p.m. ET.
HANDICAPPING CONTEST WEDNESDAYS, SUNDAYS - Racing fans can pit their handicapping skills against the best Louisville has to offer every Wednesday and Sunday in the popular twice-weekly "Who's the Champ?" Handicapping Contest. For a $30 entry fee ($25 for Twin Spires Club members), participants will compete for weekly cash prizes and an invitation to the Nov. 23 final where the top two finishers will win coveted berths in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship X slated for Jan. 23-24, 2009 in Las Vegas.