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Thorn Song, Einstein Check Out Well After Firecracker
Zayat Stables' Thorn Song and Patricia Cunningham and Melissa Green, Lessee's Einstein, the one-two finishers in Friday's $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII), were reported to be doing well Saturday morning by their connections.
"He came out of the race good," trainer Dale Romans said of Thorn Song, who gave Romans his third stakes victory of the meet, a total matched only by Steve Asmussen.
Romans will go for his fourth stakes win on Sunday when he sends out Jacks or Better Farm's Bayou's Lassie in the Locust Grove Handicap (GIII). Bayou's Lassie gave Romans one of his earlier stakes victories when she took the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) on Derby Day.
Romans stands fifth in the trainer standings with 17 wins, far below his average since 2000 of 29 during the Spring Meet. However, he has more seconds (27) and thirds (24) than any trainer at the meet.
"It hasn't been all that bad," said Romans, whose lowest spring total this decade was 18 wins in 2000. "We have won three stakes and the money's been good."
Trainer Helen Pitts said that Einstein was "ticked off that he lost. He hates to get beat."
Einstein is being pointed to the Aug. 9 Arlington Million (GI) at a mile and a quarter. The Firecracker was run at a mile and Thorn Song took the field wire to wire.
"The scratches (of Inca King and A.P. Xcellent) killed us," Pitts said. "But he ran good and got a piece of it. We've got five weeks now (until the Million) and he comes back at a distance he likes."
MILESTONES MAY AWAIT LUKAS, BOREL ON SATURDAY - Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby (GI) winner D. Wayne Lukas, bearing down on career victory 4,500, has three horses entered on Saturday's card.. Should Lukas not hit the milestone on Saturday, he will have four more chances on Sunday.
Sixth all-time in victories among North American trainers, Lukas' career total stood at 4,498 victories heading into Saturday's races at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Calvin Borel boosted his career win total to 4,496 on Friday's Independence Day card by riding two winners. Borel is named on nine mounts Saturday as he attempts to become the 34th North American rider to reach 4,500 victories.
Carl Pollard's Minewander finished eighth in Friday's eighth race, denying trainer David Vance the opportunity to become the 22nd North American trainer to reach 3,000 victories. Vance has no horses entered Saturday, but two on Sunday.
Vance's Sunday runners are Citizen John in the fourth and Northeast Harbor in the seventh. Both are owned by Pollard, with whom Vance teamed to score the biggest victory of his career: the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) with Caressing at Churchill Downs. The duo also teamed to win Churchill Downs' Humana Distaff (GI) in 2005 with My Trusty Cat.
WHIRLIE BERTIE READY TO MAKE THE NEXT STEP - Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein's Whirlie Bertie ran her win streak to three - all during the Churchill Downs Spring Meet - with a 1 ¾-length victory in Friday's eighth race. The victory has the Kleins and trainer Steve Margolis eagerly looking ahead.
"This is a nice filly," Margolis said. "We are thinking about the Monmouth Oaks (a Grade III event on Aug. 9) or maybe the Alabama (at Saratoga on Aug. 16). One is five weeks and one is six."
Whirlie Bertie got in to Friday's non-winners of three lifetime allowance test when the mile and a sixteenth race was moved to the main track.
"If she had not run yesterday, we had nominated her to the Serena's Song, a small stake at Monmouth on July 13," Margolis said.
In winning her first two starts at Churchill Downs, Whirlie Bertie had scored in wire-to-wire fashion. On Friday, she stalked the pace under Shaun Bridgmohan and then repulsed several challenges in the stretch.
"She got a little hot in the paddock, but once we put the saddle on her, she was OK," Margolis said. "The thing I liked was how she responded when challenged. In her other two races, she won as she pleased, but yesterday Shaun put her in a good spot and when Neil's horse (Highest Class trained by Neil Howard) came to her, she took off again.
"Her dam (Grade II winner De Bertie) was a dead closer and Bert thought she would be like that. But she has tactical speed ... that's the Stormin Fever ... and that's a big advantage."
A run at the Alabama would offer the Kleins a chance at some Saratoga redemption. In 2002, their Allamerican Bertie set the pace in the mile and a quarter event before being collared in deep stretch by Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner and eventual 3-year-old filly champion Farda Amiga, who won by three-quarters of a length.
ALBARADO, AMOSS OPEN BREATHING ROOM IN RACES FOR TOP RIDER, TRAINER - Jockey Robby Albarado opened a little breathing room in his quest for his first riding title at Churchill Downs with a victory aboard Forest Command in Friday's ninth race.
Albarado's nearest competitor, Miguel Mena, was blanked on Friday's card and enters Saturday's 11-race program trailing Albarado 68-63. Both riders have 10 mounts each on Saturday's card, while on Sunday, Mena has 10 mounts to Albarado's seven.
Albarado, a finalist for the 2007 Eclipse Award for America's top jockey, has perennially been one of Churchill Downs' top jockeys since his arrival at the historic track in 1996, but has never won riding crown under the Twin Spires.
Tom Amoss increased his lead over Steve Asmussen to 32-29 in the race for leading trainer with the victory by Cactus Conie in Friday's third race. However, it may not have been the knockout punch Amoss was seeking from his four Friday entrants on a day when Asmussen and Ken McPeek (with 26 wins) had only one starter each.
Asmussen has seven entrants and McPeek six on Saturday's card; Amoss has two. On Sunday's closing 11-race program, Asmussen has seven entrants; Amoss and McPeek three each.
BARN TALK - Trainer Dallas Stewart was all smiles Saturday morning after Silverfoot's victory in the Grade III Stars and Stripes on Friday at Arlington Park. The victory snapped a 10-race losing streak for the 8-year-old gelding that dated back to the 2006 Louisville Handicap, which he won for the third time. "The White Horse!," Stewart exclaimed. "He has been training like a winner all along and doing the right things. He had just been a victim of paceless races with :51 and :52 halves." On Friday Silverfoot, owned by Chrysalis Stables, got a :49.40 half-mile pace and rallied to score a two-length victory. ... Running last in the Stars and Stripes as the favorite was Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm's Lattice, trained by Al Stall Jr. "He vanned all night back to Keeneland and we'll go over and check him out," Stall said. "Julien (jockey Julien Leparoux) said he didn't have any horse." ... Bill Troilo's victory in Friday's nightcap aboard Who Done That gave the 47-year-old native of Philadelphia his 255th career win at Churchill Downs. That ties him with Craig Perret for 19th all time. Lurking right behind with 252 victories at Churchill Downs is Julien Leparoux, who is riding Pure Clan for trainer Bob Holthus in Saturday's American Oaks Invitational (GI) at Hollywood Park. Leparoux is scheduled back for closing day on Sunday when he is named on nine mounts on the 11-race card. ... Kent Desormeaux's victory aboard Thorn Song in the Firecracker Handicap was his 15th stakes victory at Churchill Downs, a total that includes three Kentucky Derby victories (Real Quiet, 1998; Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000; Big Brown, 2008). It also was the 4,496th victory of his Hall of Fame career. A total of 22 North American riders have reached the 5,000-win plateau.
WORK TAB - Zayat Stables' Eaton's Gift, winner of the Grade II Swale Stakes this winter, worked a half-mile over a "good" track in :49.20 for trainer Dale Romans. ... Racecar Rhapsody, fourth in the Preakness (GI) in his most recent start, worked five furlongs in 1:03 for trainer Ken McPeek. Other 3-year-olds working for McPeek were Miller Cradle winner Old Man Buck and Colonial Turf Cup (GIII) runner-up Nistle's Crunch, who both worked six furlongs in 1:13.20.
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Friday, July 4
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Robby Albarado 271 68-43-37
Miguel Mena 346 63-48-49
Julien Leparoux 298 54-55-49
Jamie Theriot 275 48-37-38
Calvin Borel 285 47-42-38
Shaun Bridgmohan 215 43-40-28
Jesus Castanon 260 28-28-31
Corey Lanerie 220 19-31-29
Brian Hernandez Jr. 193 17-29-20
John McKee 150 14-21-20
Tom Amoss 82 32-15-13
Steve Asmussen 133 29-24-19
Ken McPeek 79 26-13-10
Mike Maker 66 20-13-9
Dale Romans 143 17-27-24
Ian Wilkes 52 16-13-7
Eddie Kenneally 63 12-10-10
Paul J. McGee 52 12-8-6
Cody Autrey 56 10-9-11
Greg Foley 66 10-9-9
D. Wayne Lukas 60 10-2-5
Four (4) trainers tied at nine (9) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 67 19-10-13
Maggi Moss 32 13-7-5
Zayat Stables, LLC 53 9-12-11
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 38 8-7-7
Jay Em Ess Stable 23 6-4-2
Heflin & Driver Racing 29 5-5-6
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 17 5-1-0
Six (6) owners tied at four (4) wins