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McGee Doubles Up in Clark ... Reigning Champ Karelian Makes Quick Turnaround in River City

| Churchill Downs Communications | 11/25/2009 #
  • Trainer Paul McGee

McGEE DOUBLES UP ON CLARK HANDICAP CHANCES – Trainer Paul McGee was all set to send Dubious Miss on a solo mission for his barn in Friday’s 135th running of the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade II).

But when entries were taken Tuesday, McGee had doubled up with the Amerman Racing Stables’ Demarcation, winner of the Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) here on Nov. 6.

It was a joint decision (with owner John Amerman),” McGee said. “There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. He ran so well in the Ack Ack it makes sense to give it a try. If you are going to try the big boys, it may as well be now.”

The Ack Ack victory was Demarcation’s first start on the dirt since Feb. 17, 2008, at the Fair Grounds. His previous victory prior to the Ack Ack had come in last fall’s River City Handicap, a race many observers thought Demarcation would run in Friday.

Jesus Castanon, who was aboard for the Ack Ack and River City victories, has the call Friday and will break from post position four.

    Dubious Miss, owned by David Holloway Racing, Inc., comes into the Clark off an easy allowance victory on Oct. 31 at Keeneland. Dubious Miss will break from post position 13 in the Clark under Calvin Borel.

“From the 13 hole, it is going to be all about the trip,” McGee said. “I feel like I have the right pilot to get us a good trip.”

Borel has ridden Dubious Miss seven times and won six of those starts. The lone loss was in the Kentucky Cup Classic (GII) at Turfway Park when Furthest Land prevailed by a neck. Furthest Land went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) in his next start.

“Calvin’s got a great record on him,” McGee said. “Why? It’s just one of those things that you can’t put your finger on.”

The Clark has long been a special race for McGee, a Louisville native who scored one of his first significant victories as a trainer in the 1988 renewal with James Shields’ Balthazar B.  He narrowly missed another Clark victory in 2005 when he saddled runner-up Suave, who lost by a head to Elisabeth Alexander’s Magna Graduate.

Demarcation would be just the second horse to sweep the Ack Ack (GIII) and the Clark, the track’s major Fall Meet races for older horses.  John Franks’ Littlebitlively won both races in 1999.

KARELIAN MAKES QUICK TURNAROUND INTO RIVER CITY – A week ago, Jack Bohannan discounted the chances of Karelian coming back to defend his title in the River City Handicap (GIII) on Friday.”

“He’s not going to run; we’ve already got Wicked Style in there,” said Bohannan, assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold.

Turns out, both Arnold runners will be in the River City.

“He came out of the Breeders’ Cup (Mile) well and he worked super on Saturday at Keeneland,” Bohannan said of Karelian, who worked a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 over the main track at the Lexington oval.

Karelian, owned by Green Lantern Stables, dead-heated with Demarcation in last year’s River City and then did not run again until the Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 10 in which he finished second, beaten a nose by Court Vision.

“He had a minor injury in behind after last year’s race,” Bohannan said of the 7-year-old gelding. “He has had a lot of problems; suspensory, sesamoids. It is amazing that Rusty has been able to hold him together. We get three or four races out of him and then something happens.”

Rajiv Maragh will ride Karelian in the River City and make up the bulk of the top weight of 122 pounds. Wicked Style, owned by Ashbrook Farm, will be ridden by Robby Albarado and carry 116 pounds.

Wicked Style returns to the turf after three races on Polytrack, the most recent a third-place finish behind Clark Handicap contender Blame in the Fayette (GII) on Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

RICH PEARL BRINGS TODD BACK TO THE DOWNS – Jerry Todd’s eyes gleam as he stands in the viewing stand on the backstretch gazing upon the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs,

"I was a groom with Gene Cleveland and we brought Ga Hai to the Kentucky Derby,” Todd said. “That was big … going to the Derby, to Churchill Downs, the Mecca.”

Ga Hai ran 14th in the 100th Derby in 1974 behind Cannonade. Now, more than 35 years later, Todd has returned to run a horse that he owns and trains, Rich Pearl, in Saturday’s Caressing overnight stakes for 2-year-old fillies going a mile on the grass.

Rich Pearl, winner of the Donnie Wilhite Memorial at a mile on the Louisiana Downs turf on Aug. 15, comes into the Caressing off a two-month layoff after being eased in the Sept. 19 Happy Ticket at Louisiana Downs.

“That race came off the grass and she was running second when the whole field came over on her,” the 65-year-old Todd said. “She got hit and quickly dropped 4-5 lengths back and the rider (Sidney LeJeune) just protected her when he saw he had no chance.”

Todd, who is based at Lone Star Park in suburban Dallas, said the filly was not injured in the race.
“There are just no races down there for her going long on the grass,” said Todd, whose filly turned in two bullet works at Lone Star before shipping here.

On Tuesday, Rich Pearl worked a half-mile in company around the “dogs” over the Matt Winn Turf Course in :49.80 with Francisco Torres up. Torres will have the riding assignment on Saturday.

BARN TALK – Clarence Scharbauer’s Indygo Mountain, who emerged from last fall’s meet as a prime candidate on many Kentucky Derby watch lists, returns to the races Friday for the first time since the Risen Star (GIII) on Feb. 7 at Fair Grounds. Trained by Bret Calhoun, Indygo Mountain came out of the Risen Star with a chipped knee and his return to the races was further delayed by a throat issue according to Calhoun assistant Dennis “Peaches” Geier. Indygo Mountain is entered in Friday’s 10th race, a seven-furlong main track allowance test with regular rider Jamie Theriot named to ride. …

Trainer Tom Bush was not here to see Get Stormy win the Commonwealth Turf (GIII)    on Nov. 15 and he won’t be here Friday to see Banrock run in the River City Handicap. “I came in with the horse on Monday and I am flying back to New York today,” Bush said Wednesday morning. “I have three horses entered Friday and the races were all extras and they all went.” Banrock has won three consecutive races at the River City distance of nine furlongs and in his career has won eight New York state-bred races. “He got beat a nose by Presious Passion at Monmouth in June and that’s pretty good form right there.” …

Julien Leparoux became the 15th rider in Churchill Downs history to reach 400 victories when he won Tuesday’s sixth race on Countus in Mon. The victory was one of four for Leparoux on the day and moved him ahead of Calvin Borel for leading rider at the meet 22-21. Leparoux is named on eight mounts and Borel five on Wednesday’s card. … Steve Asmussen maintains a three-win edge (14-11) on Dale Romans in the race for leading trainer. Both trainers have three horses entered on the Wednesday card. The 21-day meet ends Saturday.

WORK TAB – A.C. and Clare Asbury’s Gleam of Hope, fourth in the Iroquois (GIII) on Nov. 1, worked a half-mile in :48.80 over a fast track in preparation for an expected run in Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) for trainer Tony Reinstedler.