LEPAROUX HOPES TO FINISH 2009 IN GRAND FASHION – It has been a banner year for jockey Julien Leparoux, who leads all North American riders in earnings with $18,041,548 through Wednesday and a sparkling showing at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in which he rode three winners and won the Bill Shoemaker Award as the top rider at the event.
Currently second in the rider standings at the Fall Meet, Leparoux will be out of town Saturday to ride American Lion for trainer Eoin Harty in the Hollywood Prevue (GIII) and miss the closing weekend to ride Just as Well in the Japan Cup (GI).
“I have ridden in Japan before, but not at the Tokyo Racecourse,” said Leparoux, who won the 2006 Eclipse Award as the top apprentice in North America. “After that, I ride one day at Calder (Dec. 5) and then one day at Hollywood Park (Dec.19).”
Leparoux has ridden 230 winners in 2009, good for a tie for ninth in North America. The 26-year-old native of Senlis, France, had a couple of victories that would be at the forefront of the 2009 highlight reel.
“I’d start with the Sunshine Millions,” Leparoux said of It’s a Bird’s 5 ¼-length victory. “And then the Santa Anita Handicap.”
Leparoux guided Einstein (Brz) to victory in the Big Cap and it is Einstein that would provide Leparoux with his biggest do-over if he could.
“There are a few I would like to ride over, but the Stephen Foster for sure,” Leparoux said of the June race here in which Einstein encountered trouble nearly every step of the 1 1/8-mile race.
A winner of five riding titles here, Leparoux plans to spend some time in France over the holidays before beginning 2010 at Gulfstream Park.
CARROLL HOPING ACOMA REBOUNDS IN CARDINAL – Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma has been perfect throughout her career at Churchill Downs with two victories on the dirt and two on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
She will try to extend that grass streak to three in Saturday’s 36th running of the $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
"I am more hopeful than confident,” trainer David Carroll said. “Before she ran at Keeneland, she had been training good and it is the same this time.”
The race at Keeneland was the Grade I First Lady in which Acoma finished last in the field of nine over soft turf.
“I am hoping it was just the soft turf that she didn’t like,” Carroll said. “I hope the course is good Saturday. That rain (on Tuesday) bothered me a little bit.”
The First Lady was Acoma’s first start in nearly three months after a last-place effort in the Delaware Handicap on the dirt, a performance Carroll forgives because the filly’s blood work came back bad after the race. But the First Lady was perplexing to the trainer.
“Sometimes fillies can go off form and it is hard to get them back on track,” Carroll said. “I’d like to see her run her race. If she gets beat because of bad luck or a bad trip, well, we’ve got her back. If she runs like she did at Keeneland where she was never in the race, we’ll have to take a good look about next year, because I’d like to keep her racing.”
Jesus Castanon will ride Acoma for the first time on Saturday in the Cardinal in which Acoma carries top weight of 121 pounds.
MAFAAZ BATTLING BACK FROM HEALTH ISSUES – In the spring of this year, one of the most talked about Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) hopefuls was Shadwell Stable’s Mafaaz (GB).
In March, the colt had won the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton Park in England, a victory that guaranteed Mafaaz a spot in the starting gate for the 135th Run for the Roses. Trainer John Gosden shipped Mafaaz to Keeneland for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) to see how he would fare against U.S. competition before going on to the Derby.
Mafaaz ran eighth behind General Quarters, was transferred to the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin and the Derby quest abandoned.
Mafaaz has not raced since.
“He is back on the farm and he seems like a happy horse,” said Neal McLaughlin, assistant to his brother. “After we got him, he was gelded and then went to Saratoga the first of June.
“He was there about a week and got real sick. He lost muscle and started losing protein through his liver. It was pretty dangerous and we have no idea what caused it.”
Mafaaz spent more than three months at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“I got a little jealous because the vet there got to spend more time with him than I have,” McLaughlin said. “I only got to see him a few days in the spring and then again at the farm.
"He’s a neat horse and I was excited about American racing for him. I don’t know if he will make it back to the races. Hopefully he will. Things seem to be going well.”
BARN TALK – Jockey Chris Emigh, who was involved in a riding mishap when his mount appeared to clip heels on Nov. 11, will be out 5-6 weeks with a broken collarbone according to his agent Terry Miller. “He rode Sunday, but he was really hurting,” Miller said. “He went back for a CT scan and that revealed the broken collarbone. We were going to go to the Fair Grounds after the meet, but now this will put him out right up to the start at Oaklawn Park.” …
Bullsbay, owned by Mitchell Ranch, Frank Lewkowitz and Joe Rice, is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Monday to run in the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII) to be run on Friday, Nov. 27. Trained by Graham Motion, Bullsbay has won three of four starts at Churchill Downs including a victory in the Alysheba (GIII) on May 1. Bullsbay finished fourth behind fellow Clark Handicap probable Macho Again in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap here on June 13.
WORK TAB – Mark Stanley’s Swift Temper worked five furlongs over a “fast” track Thursday morning in 1:02.60 in preparation for the Thanksgiving Day Falls City Handicap (GII). … Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, 10th in this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and winner of the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, worked a half-mile in :49.80.