Reigning “Horse of the Year” Curlin could be asked to concede between 10 and 15 pounds to horses under consideration for Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Steve Asmussen for Stonestreet Stable and Midnight Cry Stable, Curlin was assigned 128 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for the mile and one-eighth dirt race.
The 128-pound impost is believed to be the largest in North America in a Grade I event since Skip Away toted 128 pounds in the May 1998 Pimlico Special. Later in 1998, Skip Away carried 131 pounds to victory in the Grade II Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.
According to Allison De Luca of the Churchill Downs Racing Office, considered as definite for the Stephen Foster are Grasshopper (117), Brass Hat (116), Barcola (113), and High Blues (113) with “possible” contenders including Einstein (118), Delightful Kiss (114), Jonesboro (114), Red Rock Creek (113) and Sam P. (113).
Curlin is scheduled to work on Monday in preparation for his possible start in the Stephen Foster. Trainer Steve Asmussen plans to breeze the 4-year-old winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI) around 6:15 a.m. (EDT).
Rancho San Miguel, George Todaro and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Hystericalady is expected to be the starting high weight in the $300,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII). Winner of the 2007 Humana Distaff (GI) and runner-up in last fall’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), Hystericalady was assigned 121 pounds for the 1 1/8-mile main track test for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up.
As of Sunday morning, the Fleur de Lis was coming up light with only Peach Flambe (116) and Kathleens Reel (114) considered as “definite” to challenge Hystericalady. Possible starters include Dawn After Dawn (116) and Tough Tiz’s Sis (120), the fourth- and seventh-place finishers in last year’s Kentucky Oaks (GI) behind eventual Belmont Stakes (GI) winner and 3-year-old filly champion Rags to Riches.
Two-time turf stakes winner Old Man Buck, owned by Lawrence Carroll, is expected to make his 2008 debut in the $200,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII) for 3-year-old colts and geldings at a mile and eighth on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Also considered as definite for the Jefferson Cup is Ashbrook Farm’s Wicked Style, winner of the Grade I Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity last fall over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.
Others considered as definite for the race are Bobby Blue Eyes, Budge Man, Halo Najib, Nistle’s Crunch and Tizdejavu. Regarded as possible are Amazing Results, Hard Strike and Sailor’s Cap. Golden Yank, dead-heat winner of last December’s Delta Jackpot (GIII), is eyeing either the Jefferson Cup or the Grade III Northern Dancer.
Three participants in the May 3 Kentucky Derby are considered to be “definite” for the $175,000-added Northern Dancer for 3-year-olds on the main track. Fifth-place finisher Recapturetheglory, eighth-place finisher Pyro and 12th-place finisher Visionaire are all scheduled to run in the Northern Dancer. Others set to run in the mile and a sixteenth race are Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up My Pal Charlie, Gotham (GIII) runner-up Texas Wildcatter, Tiz Now Tiz Then and Unbridled Vicar. Admirality, scratched out of a Saturday allowance race at Belmont Park, is a possible starter.
Pure Clan, third to Proud Spell in this year’s Kentucky Oaks, is expected to head the Grade III $200,000-added Regret for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and an eighth on the turf. Others considered “definite” are Absolutely Cindy, C J’s Leelee, Clearly Foxy, Magical Theater, Miss Mafioso and Zee Zee. Grace and Power, owned by Bobby Flay, is “possible.”
Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna, assigned high weight of 123 pounds for the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf, is expected to head a small but select field. Others considered “definite” for the race are Mama I’m Home, Ballymore Lady, Sprung and Kiss With a Twist.
Entries for the Super Saturday card are due Wednesday.
ZITO BARN STRIKES LATE AT CHURCHILL BEFORE BELMONT SCORE – The aesthetics were not the best, but assistant trainer Tim Poole had no complaints about where he watched Saturday afternoon’s Belmont Stakes (GI).
“I was at the spit box with Wisconsin Girl after she won the last race,” said Poole, who oversees trainer Nick Zito’s Kentucky string. “There has got to be karma in this game, because you know what the name of the race was? The UPSers.com Race. I wasn’t going to let go of that trophy, because I knew as long as I had it, Big Brown wasn’t going to beat us at Belmont.”
Da’ Tara, who had finished fifth in the April 26 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, won the 140th Belmont with stablemate Anak Nakal, who was seventh in the Kentucky Derby, finishing in a dead heat for third.
“I called Nick right after the race and said ‘Congratulations … and by the way, Wisconsin Girl won the last at Churchill,’ ” Poole said. “He didn’t even know because he was leading the horses over to the paddock when her race was run here.”
EINSTEIN WORKS ‘BULLET’ FOR POSSIBLE FOSTER RUN – With trainer Helen Pitts up, Patricia Cunningham and Melissa Green, Lessee’s Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) winner Einstein worked five furlongs on a fast main track in :59 immediately after the track opened after the morning renovation break.
“I’m gonna fire the rider,” Pitts said with a laugh. “He went a little quicker than I liked, but I have nobody to blame but myself. He worked awesome.”
Einstein’s five-furlong work was was fastest of 32 at the distance.
A two-time Grade I winner on turf this year, Einstein was assigned 118 pounds for the Stephen Foster and would receive 10 pounds from Curlin if both wind up in the same starting gate Saturday.
“The 10 pounds, I like that,” Pitts said. “But we will still wait and see to see who else is in there at entry time.”
BARN TALK – With Robby Albarado and Julien Leparoux both riding at Belmont Park, Miguel Mena took advantage of their absence to gain ground in the race for leading jockey of the 52-day Spring Meet. Mena rode two winners on Saturday to vault past Leparoux and into second place in the standings with 36 wins. He trailed Albarado by a single victory, with Leparoux one win back in third heading into Sunday’s racing.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Major players from the Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen barns worked Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. Possible “Super Saturday” starters working for Pletcher were Sam P. and Texas Wildcatter who covered five furlongs in 1:01.80 before the renovation break. Other Pletcher workers were New Orleans Handicap (GII) winner Circular Quay (a half-mile in :50.60), Kentucky Cup Distaff (GIII) winner Danzon (a half in :47.60) and Fairbanks (five-eighths in 1:00.80). Asmussen workers included two-time Grade I winner Student Council (five-eighths in 1:02.20), Indiana Derby (GII) and West Virginia Derby (GIII) winner Zanjero (1:03.40 for five-eighths) and Red Rock Creek, who worked five furlongs in 1:02.80.
Robby Albarado 147 37-19-21
Miguel Mena 204 36-26-27
Julien Leparoux 196 35-36-36
Calvin Borel 206 30-32-32
Shaun Bridgmohan 137 26-27-18
Jamie Theriot 145 24-22-10
Jesus Castanon 165 20-14-17
Elvis Trujillo 58 10-9-15
Corey Lanerie 123 9-17-12
Brian Hernandez Jr. 111 9-16-13
Larry Sterling Jr. 64 9-7-9
John McKee 93 8-14-16
Tracy Hebert 84 7-5-6
Tom Amoss 48 20-6-8
Ken McPeek 46 19-7-4
Steve Asmussen 75 16-14-12
Mike Maker 37 11-6-4
Ian Wilkes 33 10-6-5
Dale Romans 82 8-18-16
Eddie Kenneally 39 8-8-7
Cody Autrey 42 7-8-7
Steve Margolis 31 7-5-6
Wesley Ward 24 7-5-4
Five (5) trainers tied with six (6) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 35 12-5-6
Maggi Moss 18 9-2-3
Zayat Stables, LLC 32 6-6-7
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 26 6-6-3
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 11 5-1-0
Padua Stables 7 4-1-0
Eight (8) owners tied with three (3) wins