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After dusk-to-dawn work in bone-chilling temperatures by Churchill Downs’ track maintenance team, there was a small window for training activity over the main track early Thanksgiving morning, and California-based visitor Game On Dude made the most of it.
The 8-5 morning line favorite for Friday’s 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) galloped one mile over a fast track, which opened for one hour of training between 6-7 a.m. (all times EST) following the long night of work by Churchill Downs’ Track Superintendent David Lehr’s experienced crew.
The Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude arrived at Churchill Downs early Wednesday afternoon, but the opportunity to get a jog or gallop over the track on Thursday seemed at least a 50-50 proposition at that point. The weather forecast called for temperatures to dip into the teens, and the track crew was most concerned with keeping the track from freezing and endangering the 12-race Thanksgiving Day racing program – a task made more delicate because of the day’s early 11:30 a.m. post.
But Lehr was comfortable with the one-hour training window, which was especially valuable for horses entered to compete on Friday’s “Black Friday” card topped by the Clark Handicap and Saturday’s closing day “Stars of Tomorrow II” program devoted exclusively to 2-year-olds.
So Game On Dude got a feel for the track under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes, his first journey over the Churchill Downs oval since his runner-up finish to WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). Baffert assistant Jim Barnes was, in the spirit of the day, thankful for the opportunity to get Game On Dude out of the barn.
“We’re happy as can be,” Jim Barnes said. “It makes us feel much more comfortable getting him out. We had our work day (on Sunday) and we had our walk day. We did jog (on Tuesday), then we walked again because we shipped. We’ll probably just stay in the shed tomorrow and do something light.”
Game On Dude was eager to check out his surroundings immediately following his arrival on the grounds, and Barnes said Friday’s jog was a good way to keep him from being a little too eager.
“He was just fresh – he’s like a baby,” Barnes said. “He was just feeling way too good and we just wanted to let him stretch his legs.”
The 1 1/8-mile Clark is expected to be the final race of a spectacular season for Game On Dude, but one that is tainted, at least at this point, by a disappointing ninth-place finish as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The loss snapped a six-race win streak, with five of those wins coming in 2013 and three in Grade I competition: the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic.
The 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding has been frisky and curious since his first minute at Churchill Downs. If there is any hangover from his successful year and the Breeders’ Cup run, it has not been evident to those at Churchill Downs who have seen him since his Wednesday arrival.
“He’s doing super-good,” Barnes said. “He’s very young-at-heart and we’re expecting big things from him (Friday).”
Game On Dude has a career record of 28-15-5-1 and earned $2,470,000 of his career winnings of $5,602,158 in 2013. He will break from the rail post under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith when he faces eight rivals in Friday’s Clark.
Baffert won the 1998 Clark with Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby. Smith earned a Clark win in 1993 aboard the Peter Vestal-trained Mi Cielo.
OUR DOUBLE PLAY, BAUER BID FOR HOME RUN IN CLARK HANDICAP – He’s named for a defensive gem in baseball, but the frame of reference will change significantly should Rigney Racing’s Our Double Play pull off a major upset of favorites Game On Dude and Will Take Charge in Friday’s $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs.
A Clark win by Our Double Play would definitely put the improving colt on offense. It would be nothing less than a home run, which is fitting since the best horse in the young training career of trainer Phil Bauer is a 3-year-old son of Grand Slam.
A win would be a huge step for both Our Double Play and his young trainer, a former assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek who went out on his own last spring with the support of Richard and Tammy Rigney, the Louisville couple who entrusted the horses that they solely own in Bauer’s care.
Our Double Play has won four of nine starts at three, including a victory in the Prairie Mile at Prairie Meadows in June. But his most impressive win might have come in a Halloween allowance race at Churchill Downs in which he defeated Clark rival and 2012 Super Derby (GII) winner Bourbon Courage. Our Double Play led all the way over sloppy footing that day, took the best shot that Bourbon Courage could offer in upper stretch and pulled clear under Francisco Torres to win by 3 ¾ lengths.
After searching for another allowance race for the colt, Bauer and the Rigneys decided to take a big swing and drop Our Double Play into the entry box for the Clark.
“We’re all systems go,” Bauer said. “He’s as ready as he’s gonna be. We’ll try him.”
Our Double Play’s record heading into the Clark is 11-4-1-1-with earnings of $162,572. All four wins have come this year and he enters Friday’s big league race in the Clark with one more career win than his trainer, who earned his third career victory last week with the Rigneys’ Cookie.
One of Our Double Play’s victories was a 4 ½-length romp in a seven-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. With the exception of an eighth-place finish in the $400,000 Researcher at West Virginia’s Charles Town, he’s run well since and his ongoing improvement has earned the colt a shot at the big boys in the Clark.
“The horse seemed to wake up on Derby Day here,” Bauer said. “We always thought he had a lot of talent and I worked with him even when we had him with Kenny. I was thrilled when the Rigneys gave me an opportunity and he was coming with us.
“If you put a line through that Charles Town race, he’s just getting better and better. That last race, hopefully, is a sign of what’s to come. With the way he crossed the wire at 7 ½ furlongs in his last race, we all thought that as he matures, he’s going to be able to go longer. With horses it sometimes takes a while for them to catch-on mentally, and he seems to be doing that.”
Bauer knows that Our Double Play, a 20-1 shot in Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds for the Clark, will be one of the outsiders in the Clark. But he also knows that when his colt breaks from post eight he should have a clear path to use his early speed and get the position he wants in the early stages of the race.
Then Bauer and the Rigneys will see what happens.
“With our post position and how the race lines up, I see us second into the first turn, right off the hip of Game On Dude,” Bauer said. “If we do outbreak him, we’ll be able to cross over in front of him. I definitely see us being involved in the early pace. The last thing I want to do is get involved in a speed duel and use him up early, but coming out of a one-turn race and the history of his past performances, he’s going to show early foot. So, I’m not going to take anything away from him.”
Regardless of the ultimate Clark Handicap result for Our Double Play, the 28-year-old Bauer has no problems finding reasons to smile on his first Thanksgiving holiday on his own as a Thoroughbred trainer. He has the support of enthusiastic and supportive owners in the Rigneys, he has enjoyed on-track success with their horses in the early months of his career and now will saddle a horse he trains in an important Grade I race for older horses.
And then there are family developments. Bauer missed being in the winner’s circle when Our Double Play downed Bourbon Courage on Halloween because he was at Louisville’s Norton Hospital, where his wife, Ashley, gave birth that day to their first child. Young Philip Wyatt Bauer is just about ready to celebrate the one-month anniversary of his birth and his father said life with his son has been a wonder.
"I keep telling my wife to pinch me because of the way everything has gone,’ Bauer said. “We kind of got the picture developed with the Rigneys back in May, and if you had told me that at the end of November we’d be running in a Grade I, it would have been hard to believe it. I couldn’t be happier where we’re at.”
The only thing that might make Bauer and his connections happier would be to make international racing headlines with an upset by Our Double Play in the Clark. But despite his youth, Bauer has been around horse racing enough to take race, dreams and home runs one step at a time.
“There are no expectations going into to it,” Bauer said. “He’s earned this, so we’re going to let him try it. We won’t hang our heads if it ends in defeat. We’ll move forward, regardless.”
WISE DAN TO BE PARADED ON SATURDAY – Reining Horse of the Year Wise Dan, a leading contender to repeat that honor after a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), will be paraded in the paddock at Churchill Downs on closing day, Saturday.
Trainer Charlie LoPresti will van Wise Dan from his Keeneland barn in Lexington to Churchill Downs so local fans can show their appreciation to the 6-year-old gelding. His special appearance will occur with horses for Race 3 between 1:15-1:45 p.m.
Wise Dan, owned and bred by Mort Fink, won six of his seven starts this year, including a pair of stakes at Churchill Downs: the $546,400 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Kentucky Derby Day and the $168,450 Firecracker Handicap (GII) in late June.
His three-quarters of a length victory over Za Approval in the $1,840,000 Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 improved his overall record to 19 wins in 27 starts. His $6,293,610 career bankroll ranks 22nd on the North American all-time earnings list.
Wise Dan, a six-time winner at Churchill Downs dating back to 2010, ranks third on the most current “Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings” – behind Black Caviar-AUS and Treve-FR – which ranks 3-year-olds and up that raced between Jan. 1 and Oct. 6.
BARN TALK – Churchill Downs-based Taptowne got the Thanksgiving Weekend off to a good start when he journeyed to Penn National on Wednesday evening and won the $150,000 Swatara Stakes by 5 ½ lengths under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Trained by Tim Glyshaw for Clovertowne Farm, Taptowne concluded his most successful season with a record of 10-3-5-1 and earnings of $466,916. His career slate stands at 29-7-8-3 with earnings of $637,788 … Jockey Corey Lanerie held a commanding lead in the Fall Meet race of leading rider heading into the 12-race Thanksgiving Day program and the 26 races over the meet’s final three days. Lanerie held a 30-18 lead over Miguel Mena, who was followed by Leandro Goncalves (17), Julien Leparoux (16) and Shaun Bridgmohan (13) … After being atop the battle for leading trainer of the Fall Meet for the first month of the five-week session, Bret Calhoun has given way to Mike Maker, who had surged to a 15-13 leading heading into the Thanksgiving program. It’s far back to Chris Richard (8) in third and a three-way tie between Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen and Ian Wilkes for fourth … Ken and Sarah Ramsey are home free in their bid to become the first to earn three Churchill Downs “leading owner” titles in a single year. The Ramseys, the record-smashing titlist in the Spring Meet and leading owner of the track’s first September Meet, led Maggi Moss 16-9. Midwest Thoroughbreds is third with four wins, and is followed by William Stiritz and Marylou Whitney, who are tied at three wins … HRTV will be on-site at Churchill Downs on Friday and Saturday for coverage of the Clark Handicap and Stars of Tomorrow II programs … Friday’s HRRNLive! Show from 3-7 p.m. ET on XM 208 and www.horseracingradio.net will include live coverage of the Clark Handicap … Reserved indoor premium seating at Churchill Downs is still available for Saturday.
Jockey Calvin Borel, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and a 2013 inductee into the Thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame, will take the rest of the year off as he continues his recovery from injuries suffered in an October riding mishap at Keeneland Race Course.
Both Borel and agent Jerry Hissam have confirmed that he would remain out of the saddle through the end of the year and plans to return to competition in the 2014 meet at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., which will open Jan. 10.
The 47-yearold Louisiana native suffered a fractured fibula in a spill at the Lexington track on Oct. 24. He had originally planned to be out of action for “three or four weeks,” but has now decided that he will work toward a return to competition after the first of the year.
Borel confirmed his plans Tuesday during an appearance at the “Race for Success,” an annual fundraiser for Neighborhood House in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood. He was a featured guest at the annual event along with his wife, Lisa, and retired Hall of Fame rider Pat Day.
Lisa Borel said that her husband was doing well in his recovery from the leg injury, but also suffered “some soft tissue damage” in his right shoulder during that spill that requires added time to heal on its own.
Borel won the Kentucky Derby in 2007 (Street Sense), Mine That Bird (2009) and Super Saver (2010). He is the only jockey in 139 years of Kentucky Derby history to win the race three times in four years.
TAPTOWNE GETS BACK TO WORK, GLYSHAW EYES ON MORE 2013 START – Clovertowne Farm’s Taptowne returned to the Churchill Downs work tab on Wednesday with his first serious training move since a star-crossed journey to Southern California for a planned run in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Temperatures were in the mid-20s when the gray/road gelding breezed five furlongs for trainer Tim Glyshaw in 1:00.80. The move was the best of only three at distance on a sparsely-populated morning workout roster. Although Churchill Downs track crews worked the track throughout the night to counter the effects of sub-freezing conditions and to have the main track ready for Wednesday’s racing, little water had been placed on the surface over the past couple of days because of the cold snap.
Most horsemen passed on serious training on the frigid morning, but Glyshaw had no reservations about sending Taptowne out for his breeze.
“He’s pretty professional,” Glyshaw said. “He works the same on any kind of surface. The conditions weren’t optimal, but we wanted to do it today so we could get it out of the way.
“You have race day rules to get off the vet’s list, and we were working today to get off the California vet’s list. But he worked really, really well.”
Taptowne had been placed on that California list in the aftermath of his journey to Santa Anita for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI). Santa Anita stewards scratched Glyshaw’s horse on the day before the Nov. 1 race after a veterinarian who had advised that the horse had suffered a minor hoof bruise.
The Breeders’ Cup trip was one of the few disappointments in a year that has been easily the best of Taptowne’s four racing seasons. The consistent gelding has fashioned a 9-2-5-1 record with earnings of $381,716 in 2013. His career earnings stand at $552,599 after six wins in 28 lifetime races.
His 2013 highlight was an Aug. 3 win in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer, but he has kept good company in strong races throughout the season. Taptowne was runner-up to the victorious Cyber Secret and finished ahead of reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) in mid-April. He also recorded second-place finishes behind Pants On Fire in Churchill Downs’ Ack Ack Handicap (GIII); Prayer for Relief in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (GIII) and Bernie the Maestro in his most recent outing in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial on Oc.t 5 at Indiana Downs.
Glyshaw’s stable star is expected to have one more start in his successful 2013 campaign. He had looked at both the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs over 1 1/8 miles on Nov. 29 and the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles on following day as possible spots for Taptowne’s final start of the year.
Nominations for the Clark Handicap close today, but horses considered as strong candidates to compete in that Churchill Downs race include the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Travers (GI) winner and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Will Take Charge and Game On Dude, trainer Bob Baffert’s beaten favorite in the Classic.
“With Game On Dude and (Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up) and Lukas’ horse looking like they’ll run in the Clark, we didn’t need to go there,” Glyshaw said. “The mile-and-an-eighth (of the Clark) was going to be a little bit of a question for him, anyway, but I definitely can’t do it with those horses in it. And the mile-and-a-quarter of the Gold Cup is too far for him.”
With those races out of consideration, Glyshaw has circled the $150,000 added Swatara, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up at Penn National on Nov. 27 to be Taptowne’s near-term objective. If all goes well in that Thanksgiving Eve outing, the race will be his final outing of 2013.
“After that race he’ll have all of December off,” Glyshaw said. “We’ll probably take him to Oaklawn and run him in the series of races for older horses there. But he’ll be back to run next year.”
BIRTHDAY BOY LANERIE LEADS JOCKEY STANDINGS HEADING INTO THIRD OF FIVE WEEKS OF FALL MEET RACING – Veteran jockey Corey Lanerie had two very good reasons to smile heading into Wednesday’s racing program at Churchill Downs: he was celebrating his 39th birthday and he owned a strong lead after two weeks of competition for the title of “leading rider” of the 25-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
Lanerie scored a pair of wins on Sunday to lift his lead over Miguel Mena in the jockeys’ race to 17-11. Heading into Wednesday’s racing Lanerie’s mounts had a record of 77-17-10-11, which was good for a win rate of 22 percent and 49 percent of his mounts had finished 1-2-3.
"I’m glad the way things have gone,” Lanerie said. “My horses have gotten in and things are going well.”
The quick start on the 2013 Fall Meet continues a strong run for Lanerie, who caught fire in 2012 to sweep both the Spring and Fall Meet riding titles at the home of the Kentucky Derby. He added a third crown when he led the local jockey colony in victories during Churchill Downs’ inaugural September Meet.
Lanerie’s early lead is all the more impressive because the strong riding corps at Churchill Downs again includes Julien Leparoux, an eight-time leading rider at the track who returned to Churchill Downs last week after riding for most of the last two years in Southern California.
“I think that helped me over the last couple of years,” Lanerie said. “A lot of our business wasn’t the same, but I picked up a lot of business after he left.”
A native of Lafayette, La., Lanerie rode in Louisiana and Texas earlier in his career before making the move to the Kentucky racing circuit. For most of those years, he had returned to Louisiana to ride at the Fair Grounds meet during the winter, but he plans to head to Florida for a second consecutive year after the Churchill Downs Fall Meet wraps up on Nov. 30.
He’ll ride over the winter at Gulfstream Park, where hopes to connect with new owners and trainers. But another reason to winter in Florida is the wealth of promising 3-year-olds that gather there early in the year with hope of making the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races.
"I’m hoping to come out with a good horse – or two,” Lanerie said.
After Lanerie and Mena, Leandro Goncalves ranked third in the Fall Meet rider standings following a three-win day on Sunday. Leparoux, Joe Rocco Jr. and Ricardo Santana Jr. were tied for fourth with seven wins heading into Wednesday’s racing, and apprentice jockey Dylan Davis was just behind that trio with six victories.
CHURCHILL DOWNS GOVERNOR’S SCHOLARS CLASS OF 2013 TO VISIT TRACK ON THURSDAY – Churchill Downs will welcome 30 outstanding high school students from all areas of Metro Louisville on Thursday, Nov. 14 when members of the 2013 class of Churchill Downs Governor’s Scholars visit the historic track.
The students will be honored for their participation in the Churchill Downs program, a 13-year-old corporate partnership with the overall Kentucky Governor’s Scholars. The students, accompanied by family members and representatives of their respective schools, will be recognized during an 11 a.m. (EST) reception in the Trophy Room in the Clubhouse.
The Churchill Downs Governor’s Scholars program is unique in that all students who participate in it must have overcome personal challenges or adversity to become high achievers in both their personal lives and the classroom.
The overall Kentucky Governor’s Scholars program, launched in 1983, places outstanding students from across the state on one of three college campuses for five weeks in the summer prior to their senior years for experience, and is designed to enhance their role as the state’s next generation of civic and economic leaders. Information is available at www.kgs.org.
The CDGS Class of 2013 includes on student from each of Kentucky legislative districts in the Metro Louisville.
LANERIE WINS 300TH AT CHURCHILL DOWNS; EYES FIRST RIDING TITLE – Jockey Corey Lanerie added another highlight to his career when he captured his 300th win beneath the Twin Spires in Sunday’s ninth race aboard Taptowne.
Lanerie is just the 20th rider in Churchill Downs history to reach the 300-win plateau.
“It feels good, but I honestly didn’t know I had that many,” Lanerie said. “I’ve had a lot of good mounts and it makes it easy.”
The native of Lafayette, La., who will turn 37 Sunday, rode his first winner at Churchill Downs during the Fall Meet in 2000 and his list of victories at the Louisville track since then includes eight stakes wins.
“The stakes races I’ve won here stand out as highlights, but all of them are important to me,” Lanerie said.
The next goal for Lanerie is to capture a riding title at the home of the Kentucky Derby. He has finished second in the jockey standings in the past two Spring Meets to Calvin Borel in 2010 and Julien Leparoux in 2011.
“It’d be great (to win a riding title),” Lanerie said. “It’s a tough chore, but I’m definitely up to the task.”
Lanerie, who recorded his 3,000th career victory in February at Fair Grounds, is off to a red-hot start at the 2011 Fall Meet with eights wins from 28 mounts. He is currently second in the jockey standings behind Leparoux, who has 10 wins from 52 mounts.
READY’S ROCKET GOES FOR 11TH WIN BENEATH THE TWIN SPIRES – Fan-favorite Ready’s Rocket will return to his favorite track and in search of an historic 11th win at Churchill Downs in Thursday’s sixth race.
Ready’s Rocket, who has recorded more wins beneath the Twin Spires than any horse since 1991, which was the first year detailed information was gathered by Equibase, will enter Thursday’s race off two third-place finishes on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Turfway Park.
“He ran well, but he probably shouldn’t have lost either race,” trainer Tim Glyshaw said. “He did okay this summer (at Ellis Park and Turfway Park), but this is definitely his favorite place.”
Ready’s Rocket will break from post 11 under Calvin Borel in the starter allowance and Glyshaw hopes the race could set the 8-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready up a run in the upcoming Claiming Crown at Fair Grounds.
"If he runs well-enough tomorrow (Thursday) then I’ll probably run him in the Claiming Crown (Express) on Dec. 3,” Glyshaw said. “If he doesn’t run well then I’ll enter him in another starter allowance here (Churchill Downs) toward the end of the meet.”
Ready’s Rocket will enter the race off a near seven-week layoff due to a foot issue that was discovered shortly after his most recent start at Turfway on Sept. 23.
"He got an abscess on his right-front foot a few days after the race,” Glyshaw said. “It took him about ten days to get over it and that’s why we didn’t bring him to Keeneland. He’s doing fine now.”
Long-term plans for Ready’s Rocket have not been finalized; however, Glyshaw would like to bring him back as a 9-year-old.
“We’ll bring to Fair Grounds with us this winter and hopefully run him every six weeks or so,” Glyshaw said. “I’d love to bring him back for the Spring Meet (at Churchill Downs) next year. He still loves his job and we’ll keep him going, but he’ll tell us when enough is enough.”
Ready’s Rocket has a record of 19-8-11 from 67 career starts and earnings of $235,995.
MEET LEADERS AT A GLANCE – Through six days of the 21-day Fall Meet, jockey Julien Leparoux, trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey are the leaders in their respective categories at Churchill Downs. Below is a look at the divisional leaders entering Wednesday’s action:
1. Julien Leparoux (10-for-52, 19% win-percentage, $944,313 in earnings)
2. Corey Lanerie (8-for-28, 29%, $209,574)
3. Calvin Borel (4-for-27, 15%, $188,368)
3. Jon Court (4-for-17, 24%, $81,118)
3. Corey Nakatani (4-for-15, 27%, $1,836,830)
1. Steve Asmussen (6-for-26, 23%, $1,876,049)
2. Bill Mott (5-for-11, 45%, $3,988,151)
3. Eddie Kenneally (4-for-9, 44%, $189,463)
4. Jinks Fires (3-for-5, 60%, $65,420)
4. Mike Maker (3-for-21, 14%, $1,207,012)
4. Steve Margolis (3-for-10, 30%, $296,400)
1. Ken and Sarah Ramsey (3-for-16, 19%, $601,423)
2. Fred Allor (2-for-2, 100%, $51,120)
2. Billy, Donna and Justin Hays (2-for-4, 50%, $19,590)
2. Richard, Bertram & Elaine Klein (2-for-7, 29%, $256,200)
2. Robert Lothenbach’s Lothenbach Stables Inc. (2-for-3, 67%, $77,754)
2. Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm LLC (2-for-3, 67%, $2,728,905)
BARN TALK – Monastic, a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Keertana and stakes winner Snow Top Mountain, will make his fourth lifetime start in Wednesday’s second race for trainer Tom Proctor. The 2-year-old gelded son of Rock Hard Ten finished 10th as the 2-1 favorite in the Bourbon (Grade III) at Keeneland in his most recent start. …
Nominations for four graded stakes to be run at Churchill Downs over Thanksgiving weekend will close today (Wednesday). The races include the 96th running of the $175,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track on Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving Day), the 137th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track on Nov. 25, the 85th running of the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track on Nov. 26 and the 68th running of the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the main track on Nov. 26. …
Ten $1,000 scholarships will be distributed to full-time students from colleges and universities throughout the country when Churchill Downs joins the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association for the annual College Scholarship Day on Friday, Nov. 11. College Scholarship Day will also feature a concert by Grammy-nominated country music artist David Nail. The concert will begin after Friday’s 10th and final race and Nail is expected to perform from 5:30-7 p.m. EST. The concert is included in the track’s regular $3 admission price, but is complimentary for full-time students with a valid college ID.
WORKTAB – Gold Mark Farm LLC’s Culotte, winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies Stakes and Opelousas Stakes this year, breezed five furlongs Wednesday morning over a wet fast track beneath the Twin Spires in 1:01.80 for trainer Tom Amoss. …
At the nearby Trackside Training Center, Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s multiple stakes winner Gran Lioness breezed four furlongs on a fast track in :49.80 for trainer Bret Calhoun. The work was the fourth fastest of 15 at the distance. … Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing LLC and Sand Dollar Stable LLC’s Twinspired breezed five furlongs in 1:04.80 for trainer Mike Maker.
READY’S ROCKET ENTERS EXCLUSIVE TERRITORY WITH CHURCHILL DOWNS VICTORY – Lost in all the hoopla of Blame’s thrilling Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) victory and the tour de force of Rachel Alexandra in the Fleur de Lis (GII) on Saturday was the triumph in the day’s first race by Ready’s Rocket.
The victory in the $10,000 starter allowance test was the eighth at Churchill Downs for the 7-year-old Ready’s Rocket, making him the seventh horse to achieve that many victories beneath the Twin Spires since 1976, which is the first year detailed information was gathered by Equibase.
No horse has won nine races here and trainer Tim Glyshaw is hoping Ready’s Rocket, now owned by Tampa Metro Stable, will get the chance.
There are a couple of starter races before the end of the meet,” Glyshaw said. “He is still eligible for a non-winners of two other/than, but that is going five furlongs on the turf. He is bred for the turf, but he is 0-for-3 on it. I will check with Calvin and see if he thinks he can do it, but I don’t really want to change anything.”
Calvin” is jockey Calvin Borel, who has ridden Ready’s Rocket to seven of his eight Churchill Downs victories.
"He obviously loves the surface here (with a record of 19-8-2-2), but the biggest difference between here and other tracks is he responds to Calvin for whatever reason,” said Glyshaw, who has saddled Ready’s Rocket to 11 of his 15 career victories.
Ready’s Rocket has won his past five starts at Churchill Downs, and is the only three-time winner of the 30-day-old meet. He returned the Glyshaw barn after a brief sojourn to Penn National.
“After he ran at Keeneland last fall, the owners wanted to run at Penn National because of the bigger pots,” Glyshaw said. “The opportunity arose to claim him back when he was in for $4,000 and we did and that race made him starter eligible again.”
Back in Kentucky after three off-the-board efforts in Pennsylvania, Ready’s Rocket was jogged on a farm until the Glyshaw stable returned from New Orleans. Glyshaw was not sure what he had when the current meet started.
“I was a little worried when he worked in 1:04 and 3 at the end of April,” Glyshaw said. “But Calvin said he was the same horse. He said those boys at Penn National just didn’t know how to ride him.”
At age seven, Ready’s Rocket “has his quirks,” Glyshaw said. “He is not overly friendly or a ‘lovey-dovey’ type. But he usually comes back and doesn’t pout after he gets beat.”
The most distinguished member of the eight-win club is Bet On Sunshine, who ran here from 1995-2002 and at age nine in 2001 won the Aristides (GIII) to become the oldest graded-stakes winner in track history
Other eight-time winners at Churchill Downs and the years they raced here are Canela (2005-08), Ahenium (1991-94), Crown Lease (1991-95), Lord Rusty (1993-2000) and Maxxed (1995-98). Canela is still in training and ran second on Sunday in a $4,000 claiming race at River Downs for trainer Joe Woodard.
DEBUTANTE ATTRACTS 18 NOMINATIONS – William Dorminy’s Internet Café and Butterfly Stable’s Iones Folly, who finished a nose apart in a May 31 allowance race here, head a list of 18 nominations to the 110th running of the $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs to be run June 26.
Internet Café is trained by John Hancock, who could have a second Debutante entrant in Bach Hamilton, a three-length maiden winner here on May 30. Bach Hamilton is owned by Dorminy.
One other intriguing nominee is Eldon Farm Equine’s Just Louise, a 3 ½-length debut maiden winner here on May 28. Just Louise is a half-sister to Sara Louise, winner of the Pocahontas (GIII) here in the fall of 2008 and runner-up to Rachel Alexandra in the 2008 Golden Rod (GII).
Other fillies under consideration for the race according to Churchill Downs officials are Gatewood Bell and Wesley Ward’s Nina Fever, a maiden winner at Keeneland who ran fifth against the boys in the Kentucky Juvenile (GIII) on April 30, and Perry Harrison’s Tater Taunter, a maiden winner here at first asking on June
Decelerator won last year’s Debutante to give trainer D. Wayne Lukas a record seventh victory in the race.
Silverbulletday in 1998 is the most recent Debutante winner to return the following spring to win the Kentucky Oaks (GI). Rachel Alexandra ran was the Debutante runner-up in 2008.
Entries for the Debutante will be taken Wednesday.
BARN TALK – Nominations close Saturday for the final three stakes of the Spring Meet scheduled to be run July 3 and 4. Scheduled for July 3 are the 109th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds going six furlongs and the 29th running of the $100,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares going a mile on the turf. Backtalk won the Bashford Manor last year and Closeout took the Locust Grove. The 20th running of the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course is the closing day feature on July 4. Mr. Sidney won the 2009 Firecracker.
WORK TAB – Cash Refund, third in the Aristides (GIII) in his most recent start, worked five furlongs on the main track in :59, the fastest of 11 works at the distance. … Also working five furlongs was Kentucky Juvenile (GIII) winner Lou Brissie in 1:01, fourth fastest at the distance, in preparation for the Bashford Manor. …Works of note over a firm Matt Winn Turf Course (dogs up) were 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Tapitsfly (half-mile in :53.20), multiple stakes winner Chamberlain Bridge (half-mile in :50.40) and Driving Snow, prepping for the Firecracker, worked five furlongs in 1:05.60.