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Keertana's Proctor Says Louisville Rival Musketier 'Really Tough'

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/26/2011 #
  • Barbara Hunter's Keertana won the Grey Goose Bewitch last out at Keeneland (Coady Photography)

  • Musketier, two-time winner of Keeneland's Elkhorn, is favored in Saturday's Louisville Handicap. (Coady Photography)

  • Retired jockey Mark Guidry during his riding days at Churchill Downs. (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

KEERTANA HOPES TO MAKE HISTORY IN LOUISVILLE HANDICAP – Trainer Tom Proctor is confident that his mare Keertana can hold her own Saturday against males in the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (Grade III) at 1 ½ miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course.

            “There’s a pretty good mare that’s won the last few Breeders’ Cup Mile races (Goldikova),” Proctor said. “If a mare is good enough then she can beat the boys. I could have shipped her and not run against the males, but I wanted to run her where I’m based; here at Churchill Downs.”

Barbara Hunter’s Keertana, a 5-year-old mare who won Keeneland’s Bewitch (GIII) last time out and finished a fast-closing third to Shared Account in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) at Churchill Downs, will take on nine male rivals. No filly or mare has won any of the previous 73 runnings of the Louisville Handicap.

Keertana’s major opposition could come from Stella Perdomo’s Musketier, a German-bred Canadian invader trained by Roger Attfield and the Louisville Handicap’s high weight at 122 pounds. Musketier, who has won the last two renewals of Keeneland’s Elkhorn Handicap (GII) for Attfield, will be ridden by Jesus Castanon.

“The Attfield horse that’s won the last two Elkhorns is going to be really tough,” Proctor said. “There are some nice horses in this field, but he (Musketier) is definitely the horse to beat.”

Other major players include Frank Mancari’s defending winner Free Fighter, who has failed to win in eight races since his 12-1 upset in the 2010 Louisville; Michael Bruder’s Guys Reward, a recent allowance winner at Churchill Downs who finished second for trainer Dale Romans at odds of 40-1 in last year’s Commonwealth Turf (GIII) won by Yankee Fourtune; and Lothenbach Stable’s Bearpath, runner-up to Free Fighter in last year’s Louisville Handicap and second to Telling in the 2010 Sword Dancer Invitational (GI) at Saratoga.

            “It’s definitely a tough race,” Proctor said. “But she’s fit and she’s ready to ready to go.”

POTENTIAL BELMONT STARTERS TRAINING AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – A handful of horses based at Churchill Downs are under consideration for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI), the third and final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.  

Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s homebred Shackleford returned to the Churchill Downs backstretch Sunday morning, the day after his triumph in the $1 million Preakness (GI). Trainer Dale Romans will train Shackleford as if he is going to start in the Belmont. The 3-year-old son of Forestry is expected to ship to New York in the next couple of days and will have a workout over the Belmont track before a final decision is made.

Tom Walters’ Santiva, who is probable to start in the final jewel of the Triple Crown, is scheduled to work on the main track Friday morning. Bad weather could delay the work until Saturday. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Santiva finished sixth in his last race, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).

Donald Adam’s Prime Cut worked four furlongs in :50.20 over a fast Churchill Downs main track Wednesday morning. Trainer Neil Howard lists Prime Cut as “possible” for the Belmont. “We may run, but I want to see who else is going to be in there before I make a decision,” Howard said.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Nehro, runner-up to Animal Kingdom in Kentucky Derby 137, also is under consideration.

The 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes will take place Saturday, June 11 at Belmont Park. The Bill Mott-trained Drosselmeyer won the 2010 Belmont for WinStar Farm.

BARN TALK – Former jockey Mark Guidry has made a return to the Churchill Downs backstretch to exercise horses for trainer Dale Romans. Guidry, who retired from riding at the conclusion of the 2007 Churchill Downs Fall Meet, is 19th all-time in career Churchill Downs victories. Guidry’s biggest win under the Twin Spires came when he rode Lemons Forever to win the Kentucky Oaks (GI) in 2006. …  

Jockey Corey Lanerie led all riders last week with eight wins. Lanerie, who has 14 wins at the meet, is second in the jockey standings behind Shaun Bridgmohan with 15 wins. …

Nominations close Saturday for the 35th running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course on Saturday, June 11. Hot Cha Cha won the 2010 Early Times Mint Julep.

THIS WEEK - The extended holiday weekend of racing at Churchill Downs will feature two graded stakes races, a post-race concert and happy hours, a handicapping contest and three days of Junior Jockey Club events for the kiddos. …

Racing through Monday’s special Memorial Day program will begin daily at 12:45 p.m. ET, with the exception of Friday’s twilight card that begins at 2:45 p.m. ET. …

This week’s featured performer for Friday night’s Paddock Concert Series is Dawn Landes and the Hounds. Brooklyn-based Landes, who was born in Kentucky and raised in Louisville, recently released her fourth album entitled Sweet Heart Rodeo. Her voice, as pure and ringing as any folk, country or indie-rock diva, has been compared to icons Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin. The concert will begin shortly after the final race around 8 p.m. ET. General admission will be its usual $3 until 7 p.m. but will increase to $10 thereafter. Reserved ticket packages, including a $20 ticket to the Budweiser Select Balcony, which features front-row access, a prime undercover balcony overlooking the paddock and stage, extended drink specials throughout the night and a special gift from Budweiser Select, are available for purchase online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets. …

Friday Happy Hours presented by Budweiser Select will take place in the paddock area from 6-8:15 p.m., with $2 Budweiser products, frozen specialty drinks and hot dogs showcased. The music of Eight Inch Elvis will entertain paddock patrons between races

            Saturday’s 11-race card is highlighted by the Grade III, $100,000-added Louisville Handicap, a 1 ½-mile turf test for older horses. It will run as Race 10 at 5:29 p.m. …

            There’ll be three days of crafts and games for children aged 3-10 at Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. It’ll be open Saturday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m. …

On Sunday, the adults can have their own fun and games in the “Who’s the Champ?” Handicapping Contest. It continues each Sunday through June 12 in the Champions Club Lounge with $4,000 in prize money and a coveted first prize package of $1,500 and a spot to compete in the Horse Player World Series each week. The entry fee is $25 (or 25,000 Twin Spires Club points). …

Monday’s special Memorial Day program will feature the Grade III, $100,000-added Winning Colors. Entries for the six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares will be taken Friday.