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Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Thank You Marylou commenced a winning move on the turn for home, grabbed the lead at the quarter pole and widened her advantage down the stretch to easily win Saturday’s 39th running of the $112,000 Dogwood (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by 6 ½ lengths over Henny Jenny. Fiftyshadesofgold, the Eight Belles (GIII) winner who was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies, struggled while racing down on the inside and faded to fifth.
Trained by Mike Maker and ridden for the first time by Miguel Mena, Thank You Marylou covered the seven furlongs on a fast main track in 1:23.19 and paid $11.80, $6 and $6.80 as the 9-2 third betting choice. Henny Jenny, a 24-1 outsider with Leandro Goncalves up, returned $17.40 and $17.40. Milam, the 7-2 second choice, was another half-length back in third under Corey Lanerie and paid $6.40.
Bird Maker, Fiftyshadesofgold, Mizzen Mast, Enjoy the Family and Platinum Lady completed the order of finish. Honey’s Ryan and Kiss to Remember were scratched.
Mizzen Mast was rushed to the lead from the outside stall with Platinum Lady, Fiftyshadeofgold and Enjoy the Family in close pursuit. Thank You Marylou, who added blinkers for the race, relaxed nicely in the clear behind the quartet through fractions of :22.83 and :45.79 before drawing even with Mizzen Mast at the head of the stretch. After grabbing the lead in 1:10.30 without much urging, Mena shook the reins with an eighth of a mile to run and Thank You Marylou responded with authority.
"I had a perfect trip on the outside and I called on her a little bit turning for home and she went pretty easy,” Mena said. “I had never been on her before but my guess is the blinkers made a big difference. She ran great.”
The victory was worth $67,357 for the Ramseys, who collected their record-extending 396th victory at Churchill Downs.
Thank You Marylou, who won the $75,000 Any Limit at Gulfstream Park in March and finished third in the $500,000 Ashland (GI) at Keeneland in April, won for the third time in eight career starts. Overall, she was banked $275,457.
Bred in Virginia by Mr. and Mrs. C.W. McNeeley III, Thank You Marylou is a daughter of Birdstone out of the Menifee mare Menifeeque.
MIGUEL MENA, jockey of Thank You Marylou (winner) – “They put blinkers on her for a reason I guess, because from the get-go she took me in a perfect position. I had a perfect trip on the outside and I called on her a little bit turning for home and she went pretty easy. I had never been on her before but my guess is the blinkers made a big difference. She ran great.”
MIKE MAKER trainer of Thank You Marylou (winner) – “That was perfect. She prefers an outside post position. So she put herself in a good spot and she really ran the way we’ve been thinking she could run for a while. It’s hard to say the impact of the blinkers. She had the inside post last time out and she only got beat a couple lengths, but she was pretty intimidated. So I’m not sure if the blinkers did a whole lot for her here being on the outside.”
Q: On the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint being run at the same distance – “I’m aware.”
Q: On if he could talk owner Ken Ramsey into going to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint – “I don’t think I’d have to twist his arm too hard; you never know.”
BILL CONNELLY, trainer of Henny Jenny (runner-up) – “I thought she’d run good. I didn’t know if she was good enough, but I knew she was ready to run a good race. She only ran on the dirt one time, and that was at Penn National on kind of a muddy track. She went to the lead, and that’s not her style. She’s a come-from-behind sprinter and she’s become a pretty good filly.”
LEANDRO GONCALVES, rider of Henny Jenny (runner-up) – “She ran great. Billy (Connelly) just told me there was a lot of speed in the race and to just let her break and make one run. It worked out pretty good. The winner went fast and she was just not good enough to win.”
COREY LANERIE, rider of Milam (third) – “My filly broke good and I got her outside – she didn’t like the dirt (hitting her) too much. I was a little wide, but I was only one path outside the winner. She ran a winning race. She hadn’t run in a while, so I think she moves up a little bit.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of Bird Maker (fourth) – “She ran a good fourth. If she had run second or third it would have been good, but the winner ran a big race.”
Q: She made a nice move on the turn. Did you think at any point she might get the win? “She ran good, but she just flattened a little bit down the lane. That’s my job to figure that out and improve her there.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, rider of Bird Maker (fourth) – “She was trying. She tried the whole way for me. You can’t ask for much more. The winner ran a good race and mine kept trying”
ROBBY ALBARADO, rider of favored Fiftyshadesofgold (fifth) – “She kind of got bottled up in there and she wasn’t real comfortable there, but she didn’t have any option to get her out at any point. She just kind of stayed in there and didn’t give any effort.”
Aireofdistinction battled for the lead midway around the far turn and kicked clear in the final 100 yards to beat late-running Interest Free by 2 ½ lengths in Saturday’s sixth running of the $111,500 Open Mind, a six-furlong listed stakes race for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs.
Aireofdistinction stopped the teletimer in 1:10.54 over a fast main track to give owner Gillian Campbell, trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. their second straight Open Mind triumph. They teamed to win the event last year with Vuitton, who also was co-owned by Ralph and Shelly Stayer and Andrew Pajak.
Flower Spell, the 3-2 favorite, broke fastest from the gate in the field of six distaffers with Aireofdistinction in close pursuit through a first quarter mile in :22.56. The winner and a looming Janis’s Joy drew even with the leader on the turn and there was a three-way battle for the lead at the top of the stretch after a half-mile in :46.05.
Aireofdistinction battled between horses down the stretch, put away a fading Flower Spell and then kicked clear of Janis’s Joy, who couldn’t keep up with the winner. Interest Free rallied from last to get second by three-quarters of a length over Janis’s Joy.
"She always runs great,” Santana said of the winner. “I know this filly; she’s a nice filly and she always tries hard.”
Aireofdistinction, sent to post at odds of 5-2, returned $7, $4 and $3.40. Interest Free, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $4 and $2.80. Janis’s Joy, under Leandro Goncavles, returned $4.40.
Flower Spell, Rusticana and Afternoon Tango completed the order of finish. Defending champ Vuitton was scratched.
Aireofdistinction, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Songandaprayer out of the Storm Cat mare Clear Distinction, earned $68,439 for the win. This was her second career stakes triumph. The 4-year-old filly also prevailed in the $100,000 Spring Fever this winter at Oaklawn Park.
Overall, Aireofdistinction has won five of her 14 starts with one second and four thirds. Her career earnings now stand at $258,911.
Saturday’s race saluted the late Eugene Klein’s Hall of Fame filly Open Mind, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained winner of the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs who returned to the Louisville track the following spring to win the Kentucky Oaks. The New Jersey-bred filly was an Eclipse Award champion at ages two and three. A winner of 12 races and $1,844,372 in 19 starts, the daughter of Deputy Minister was enshrined in Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
OPEN MIND QUOTES
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey of AIREOFDISTINCTION (winner) – “She always runs great. I know this filly; she’s a nice filly and she always tries hard. Mr. (Steve) Asmussen didn’t even give me any directions. He knew she had the speed. She ran her race, and she ran it well.”
DARREN FLEMING, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen of AIREOFDISTINCTION (winner) – “She ran very well. She was sharp today and laid a little closer and finished up nice. She pretty much runs her own kind of race every time; she’s not always in the same spot.”
NEIL HOWARD, trainer of INTEREST FREE (runner-up) – “She ran very well. She’s one of those that’s in-the-middle – she needs seven-eighths to a mile, but she ran well.”
Q: You added blinkers today, but she rallied from well back. Did you expect her to show a little more speed with the equipment change? “We didn’t think it would get her too amped-up. We just wanted her to keep from dropping out the back so far. We had one piece of the combination, but we needed to go a little further. But I thought she ran great.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on INTEREST FREE (runner-up) – “She really came running. She ran big. All the way around there we thought we were on the best horse and she made her big run. They just got away from her a little bit and she ran out of ground.
Q: Neil added blinkers for Interest Free today. Did you expect her to be any closer in the early going? “It improved her a little bit, I think. It made her closing run a little harder. It (the addition of blinkers) didn’t hurt her any, and I think it helped her a little.”
Cristina’s Journey remained perfect in two starts with a dominant gate-to-wire victory by 2 ¼ lengths over Pangburn in Saturday’s 46th running of the $231,000 Pocahontas (Grade II) for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Miguel Mena, Cristina’s Journey, owned by Tim Newcomer’s GSN Stable, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.37 on a fast track and gave trainer Dale Romans, a Louisville native, his 40th Churchill Downs stakes win.
Cristina’s Journey opened a clear lead from the start and dictated the pace through fractions of :24.19, :48.63, 1:13.91 and 1:39.83. She was collared by True to You at the half mile marker, but she repulsed the challenge and shook clear down the stretch for the convincing win.
Cristina’s Journey, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Any Given Saturday out of the Dixie Union mare, banked $136,059 for the win. Additionally, the Pocahontas is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series, which means Cristina’s Journey has secured a starting spot and $10,000 travel stipend to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.
Cristina’s Journey also is the early points-leader on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks after collecting 10 points. The Pocahontas was the first of 31 qualifying races to the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) to be run next May, and points were awarded to the Top 4 finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
Cristina’s Journey paid $9, $5.20 and $4 as the 7-2 second betting choice. Pangburn returned $6 and $4.80. Milehighbutterfly was another 2 ½ lengths back in third and paid $15. The strung-out field was completed by Loom, 3-2 favorite Take Charge Brandi, True to You, Phoenix Park, Frolic to the Wire, Queen’s Ready and Rachel’s Ready.
Cristina’s Journey entered the Pocahontas off a 4 ¼-length debut win over six furlongs at Ellis Park on July 27. The $37,000 yearling purchase exits a Grade II winner.
DALE ROMANS, trainer of Cristina’s Journey (first): “She’s a very good filly. She was pressed today and she drew off clear and looked good to me. I was hoping for an effort like her last one. I try to stay positive and when (partner) Tammy (Fox) worked her the other day she said she’d improved since her first race. A bunch of fillies were kind of the same. I’m sure everybody liked their filly but you don’t know until you line them up and she ran the way we were hoping.”
On owner Tim Newcomer: “Tim’s a good man. He owns a little piece of Silver Max and he’s been around the game awhile. He’s enthusiastic and loves the game so it’s been fun and he’s had some good success.”
On if she runs back before the Breeders’ Cup: “I don’t know. There’s the Alcibiades sitting there but we’ll just have to see how she’s doing and let her tell me what we need to do. I don’t think she has to though. I think she’s the type of horse who could train right into a big race like that.”
MIGUEL MENA, jockey of Cristina’s Journey (winner): “This filly has tactical speed. She won on the lead at Ellis. She broke sharp and the instructions were to just make the lead; if somebody goes crazy then maybe she’s OK to start in second. But she broke well and had a nice steady pace; she was comfortable. Then when the rest of the field started to catch up at the quarter pole, I let her pick it up a little bit. When I hit her at the eighth pole, she picked it up and we won pretty easy. She’s pretty awesome; she wins at Ellis by almost five and then she beat this bunch easy. Like I said, I hit her a couple of times at the eighth pole and I felt her just pick it up right away and she galloped out strong. I think she’s great but we’ll see how good she is when we go to the Breeders’ Cup I guess.”
KENNY MCPEEK, trainer of Pangburn (runner-up): “She’s acted all class from the beginning. She’s always done everything right and she wants to go all day long so let’s keep our fingers crossed between now and spring.”
Concern on surface change: “Yeah, she needed to learn to take some dirt in her face. She was real green on her leads today. I’m going to watch a replay and see what we can do to improve that.”
Next start?: “Maybe the Alicibides. I’ll talk to Mr. Anthony and we’ll discuss it.”
JOEL ROSARIO, jockey of Pangburn (second): “Good trip. I thought the horse would take a little time to really get going, and after she did, she found it in herself. Turning for home, I think she used herself a little too much, but she’s learning. I think she will be better in the future.”
Lucky Player Nips Stablemate Bold Conquest in Iroquois for Early Lead in 'Road to Derby,' Breeders' Cup Juvenile Bid
Lucky Player took the first major step toward next year’s running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and earned a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for this year’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) when he held off stablemate Bold Conquest in deep stretch to score a neck victory in the 33rd running of the $115,500 Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds, one of four stakes races run on the first Saturday of Churchill Downs’ 12-date September Meet.
Steve Asmussen trains the top two finishers in the field of nine for the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois and won the race for the third time in his career. Ricardo Santana Jr. rode the winner, an 11-1 longshot who tracked a slow early pace set by favored Mr. Z and out-kicked Bold Conquest and Joel Rosario in the final yards to collect first stakes victory. Hashtag Bourbon, bottled up along the rail in traffic for much of the race, finally found room in the stretch and rallied to finish third, 1 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
With the victory by Lucky Player, owner Jerry Durant’s son of Lookin at Lucky became the early leader in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” (“RTTKD”) points system that will determine the eligibility of horses vying to be part of the maximum field of 20 3-year-old Thoroughbreds that will compete in next spring’s Kentucky Derby. Lucky Player earned 10 RTTKD points with his Iroquois triumph, while Bold Conquest picked up four for his runner-up effort.
Along with its implications for the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Iroquois also was the first event in the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Division” and the win guaranteed Lucky Player a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1. He also will receive a travel stipend of $10,000 for his journey to the Arcadia, Calif. track.
Lucky Player covered the 1 1/16-mile distance over a fast track in 1:45.76 and returned $25, $8.40 and $5.60. Bold Conquest, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin owned by Ackerley Brothers Farm, paid $6 and $4.20. Hashtag Bourbon, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver trained by Kellyn Gorder, rallied under Brian Hernandez Jr. to finish third and returned $3.60 to show.
“Lucky Player was laying extremely well, he was in a perfect spot,” Asmussen said. “Ricardo gave him a great trip. I think he benefitted a lot from his two-turn race that he had previously [in the Prairie Juvenile Mile at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows], and then Bold Conquest – I think he was a little wide early, [and there was] not a lot of pace, but he still continued well.
“I thought they both looked well, they looked good under the wire, they maintained the margin and I think both horses will get better with experience.”
The Iroquois victory improved the career record for Lucky Player to 2-1-0 in four races, with his earlier victory coming in his May 23 debut at Churchill Downs. The winner’s purse of $68,746 increased his career earnings to $115,691.
Favored Mr. Z, trained by Hall of Famer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, jumped to the lead from post two with Lucky Player in closest pursuit and jockey Corey Lanerie guided the leader through modest fractions of :23.41 for a quarter mile, :49.51 for the half-mile and six furlongs in 1:14.82. Lucky Player and Santana challenged the leader and grabbed a narrow advantage on the far turn while Bold Conquest rallied five-wide to take on his stablemate. Hashtag Bourbon, who had broken from the inside post, was bottled up behind the leaders and hemmed-in from the outside by Cleveland Sound into upper stretch, while Danny Boy, who had settled on the inside near the back of the field, launched a five-wide bid on turn. Lucky Player and Bold Conquest battled through the stretch, and the latter stuck his head in front in mid-stretch as the two horses brushed. Hashtag Bourbon managed to get free and swing to the outside late, but could not make up enough ground on the top pair. Danny Boy rallied for fourth.
Mr. Z, the pacesetting favorite, faded to fifth, and was followed by Cleveland Sound, Holy Frazier, Dekabrist and The Gorilla Man.
Hashtag Bourbon’s third-place run was good for two “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points, while Danny Boy collected a single point for his fourth-place run.
STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of Lucky Player and Bold Conquest (winner and runner-up): “Lucky Player was laying extremely well, he was in a perfect spot. Ricardo [Santana] gave him a great trip. I think he benefitted a lot from his two-turn race that he had previously [Prairie Juvenile Mile], and then Bold Conquest, I think he was a little wide early, not a lot of pace but he still continued well.”
“I thought they both looked well, they looked good under the wire, they maintained the margin and I think both horses will get better with experience.”
“I think with Lucky Player, with four races already, and a different type, (and) Bold Conquest being a bigger and heavier horse with the two turns, he would most likely come back sooner. We’ll see how they come out of this attitude wise and see how they go back to the track.”
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey of Lucky Player (winner): “He had a clean trip; he’s a really nice horse. He relaxed really nicely. When we were turning for home and I asked him, he really showed his class in this race. I was pretty confident going into this race. When I rode him at Prairie Meadows and he came down the stretch and saw all the lights, I think he almost got caught in it a little bit. I had more confidence in him running during the day. He’s a nice horse. I told Mr. Asmussen after I broke his maiden here that I definitely wanted to ride him again.”
JOEL ROSARIO, jockey of Bold Conquest (runner-up): “We had a good trip; the race broke fast and my horse broke a little slow. He finished well and did everything right after that. I just think the other horse was a little better today. If Steve asked me to get on him again I’d be more than happy to ride him next time.”
Returning from a 175-day layoff, Don’t Tell Sophia rallied from last in a field of six fillies and mares to roll past Molly Morgan en route to a 2 ¼ length victory in the 31st running of the $108,200 Locust Grove on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Don’t Tell Sophia, a 6-year-old daughter of Congaree out of the Valid Expectations mare Lost Expectations, ran the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.93 to notch her sixth career stakes win.
Joe Rocco Jr. rode the winner for trainer Phil Simms, who co-owns the Kentucky-bred mare with Jerry Namy.
Longshot Baby Fresh set the pace along the inside in a pedestrian :25.31, and was headed after a half-mile by 9-5 favorite On Fire Baby in :49.76. Don’t Tell Sophia, who saved ground along the inside, trailed by about five lengths before making a sweeping five-wide move on the final turn to engage the leaders and draw clear for the win.
Don’t Tell Sophia, who banked $66,413 and improved her record to 21-10-4-3—$679,295, paid $6.20, $2.80 and $2.60 as the 2-1 second betting choice. Molly Morgan returned $3.40 and $2.60. Frivolous was another nose back in third and paid $5.20. Ria Antonia, Baby Fresh and On Fire Baby, who stopped on the second turn, completed the order of finish.
Don’t Tell Sophia, the winner of last fall’s Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs, began her 2014 campaign with back-to-back $100,000 stakes victories at Oaklawn Park in the Pippin and Bayakoa before finishing third beaten 1 ¾ lengths behind Magic Union and multiple Grade I-winner Close Hatches in Oaklawn’s Azeri (GII). She also won the Pippin and Bayakoa in 2013.
The bay mare was purchased by Sims as a yearling for the bargain price of $1,000.
The Locust Grove was one of four stakes races Saturday at Churchill Downs. The stakes race is named after the 1790 Georgian mansion in Louisville that played home to ancestors of Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark.
LOCUST GROVE HANDICAP QUOTES
PHIL SIMS, trainer of Don’t Tell Sophia (winner): “She’s been doing well and she’s been training fine. We went into this race with a lot of confidence. I’d rather they be a little bit quicker, but she wasn’t too far off the pace.
“She shows up, you can count on her. She likes this track, too, a whole lot. If you look at her, you know she’s not a thousand dollar horse. She just happened to be in the right place. She’s by Congaree who wasn’t a faster stallion, but that’s what I look for. Her mother was a graded stakes placed horse, and her mother was a nice horse. I look for those kind of horses, maybe not that fast of stallion but they can have the physique as well.”
Regarding next start: “I don’t know. There’s the Spinster that could be a possibility. We’ll just see. This filly ran a game race to Close Hatches at Oaklawn. We’ll see.”
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey of Don’t Tell Sophia (winner): “She was able to lay a little closer than she normally does; she did that on her own. The pace made it easier for her to be a little closer. So she stayed in within striking range. With the slow fractions you always worry they might run on by you; but she did well today I had a lot of horse. They really did an amazing job with her coming off of that layoff and boy was she ready today.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey of Molly Morgan (second): “It was a good trip; I found myself right behind Frivolous and On Fire Baby. I was hoping to get to the rail and maybe give her the same kind of trip I gave her in the Fleur de Lis, but it didn’t work out. I had a good trip all-in-all. Unfortunately, we were just second best today.”
ANITA CAULEY, owner of On Fire Baby (sixth as the 1.90-1 favorite) “I think it’s time for her to go home and be a broodmare. We’ve had a good run, but it’s time.”
Favored Bradester jumped to the lead at the start and stubbornly fought off a homestretch challenge from Carve before pulling away late under jockey Corey Lanerie for a 1 ¾-length victory in the $107,300 Grade III Ack Ack Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The Ack Ack victory was the second stakes win of the year for the 4-year-old son of Lion Heart, who covered the distance over a fast track in 1:34.54 and paid $4.40, $2.60 and $2.20 as the narrow betting choice in the field of five. Carve, who saw a three-race win streak snapped under Jesus Castanon, returned $3 and $2.20. Flashback rallied for third under Shaun Bridgmohan in his first start since late December and paid $2.60 to show.
The Ack Ack victory by the Eddie Kenneally-trained Bradester snapped a four-race losing streak that dated to a Feb. 22 triumph in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds. Owned by Joseph Sutton, Bradester won for the third time in seven 2014 starts and improved his career record to 5-5-1 in 13 races. The first-place prize of $66,526 boosted his career bankroll to $455,532.
“I had a perfect trip; just like we wanted him to,” said Lanerie, who collected his 19th career stakes victory at Churchill Downs. “If somebody wanted the lead I was going to let them have it. But I kept him out of trouble and was just a good passenger.”
"He’s been really, really good,” Kenneally said. “He’s matured and developed and I think he’s a better horse than he was and he’s still improving … He’s just better with age, perhaps.”
Bradester broke sharply and led through the backstretch of the one-turn mile distance before Right to Vote made a brief bid for the lead after a half-mile. The winner shook clear of that challenge, but was immediately confronted by Carve, who had launched a four-wide bid and pulled within within a half-length of in the upper stretch, but could get no closer. Flashback, last from the gate, moved up to third before losing ground on the turn. He rallied mildly in the stretch to gain third, but never threatened the top pair.
EDDIE KENNEALLY, trainer of Bradester (winner) – “He’s been really, really good. He’s matured and developed and I think he’s a better horse than he was and he’s still improving. It took him a while to get more professional in his races. Sometimes he gets a little bit intimidated when in between horses and such, but he’s a little braver now and a little bit more mature and probably a better horse as well. He’s just better with age, perhaps.”
“We’ll look at that [Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile], we’ll probably run him in the Kelso at Belmont and see how he does off of that. But that Breeders’ Cup race is a possibility.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey of Bradester (winner) – “I had a perfect trip; just like we wanted him to. I just kept him out; if somebody wanted to lead I was going to let them have it. But I kept him out of trouble and was just a good passenger. Hats off to Eddie and the whole team for getting him ready.”
BRAD COX, trainer of Carve (runner-up) – “I was proud of him. It was a good effort. This horse is a good horse; we’ll see how he comes out if it. We got options with him, he ran big today. I figured I’d get good numbers with him, they timed 1:34 and 2.”
Regarding the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile: “Yeah, absolutely. That’s definitely something we’ve been thinking about. I don’t know if we’d need a prep before that or not. He’s been battling all year and had several races, so if everything’s good here, that [Dirt Mile] is definitely an option.”
“I thought they’d go a lot quicker to be honest. I was a little shocked that they weren’t duking it out a little more than they were. [Jesus] Castanon put him in a good spot and we were caught a little wide around the turn. That’s just kind of victim of the post and short field.”
JESUS CASTANON, jockey of Carve (runner-up) – “Everything went pretty well as expected. I set right off of the leader and I just tried to make a move as soon as he decided to go. I was right behind the leader and I thought my horse was going to go by him. But I guess the other horse just had a bit more kick today.”
Trainer Dale Romans will saddle a trio of stakes horses at Churchill Downs on Saturday: multiple graded stakes winner Molly Morgan in the $100,000-added Locust Grove; debut maiden winner Cristina’s Journey in the $200,000-added Pocahontas (Grade II) and Danny Boy in the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII).
Romans and Donegal are seeking a repeat in the Iroquois after scoring a 34-1 surprise in last year’s renewal with Cleburne. Danny Boy, like Cleburne, broke his maiden going a mile on turf at Ellis Park.
“I start a lot of horses on the turf,” Romans said. “Especially for a little longer distance, I think a lot of them can run well on the grass; just some of them can’t take that to the dirt. I don’t think he’ll have a problem taking to the dirt, nor with the extra distance.
“Danny Boy is definitely on a similar path and has the same owners as Cleburne, but their personalities are a little different. Hopefully he’ll take us to victory again.”
Danny Boy will break from post position seven with Miguel Mena in the saddle. The 1 1/16-mile Iroquois is the ninth of 11 races on Saturday’s card with a scheduled post time of 4:55 p.m. ET.
GSN Racing’s Cristina’s Journey also won her debut at Ellis, going gate-to-wire in a six-furlong maiden race, winning by 4 ¼ lengths.
“She’s a ratable horse,” Romans said. “I don’t see her having any trouble going a little further either. Everybody that’s been on her says she’ll do what she wants. If she’s fast and can rate then I’d say she’ll be competitive.”
Cristina’s Journey will seek to give Romans his third victory in the 1 1/16-mile event, breaking from post four with Mena at the reigns. Romans captured the 2008-09 Pocahontas with Sara Louise and Sassy Image, respectively. Post time for the Pocahontas, the 10th race on Saturday’s card, is scheduled for 5:27 p.m. ET.
Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan, upset winner of the Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs on June 14, will look to continue her winning ways for Romans in the Locust Grove. Her last effort was a victory in the Gardenia Handicap (GIII) at Ellis.
The Fleur de Lis was the first stakes victory for Molly Morgan, who finished fourth in the 2013 Gardenia and sixth in last year’s Locust Grove. Romans is undoubtedly pleased with the mare’s progress in 2014.
“She just needed to grow up,” Romans said. “I was lucky that her owner was patient enough with me to let her come around. It’s paid off this year.”
Molly Morgan also ran in the July 12 Delaware Handicap (GI) but could only manage a fifth-place finish in the six-horse, 1 1/4-mile event.
“I didn’t like her trip at Delaware a whole lot,” Romans said. “But if you look at her numbers, she ran as good up there as she has anywhere. She may have just gotten outrun up there. I think she can run with some of those horses if she would have had a perfect trip, but you can’t have a bump in the road and expect to beat them.”
Molly Morgan will break from the far outside in post seven, and Romans said the Breeders’ Cup Distaff could be a goal down the road if she keeps progressing.
“If she does well in this race then maybe we go on to the Spinster,” Romans said. “Then the obvious progression would be the Breeders’ Cup Distaff should she continue to improve. We’re going to take it one step at a time though.”
The Locust Grove goes as Saturday’s eighth race at 4:24 p.m.
LUKAS SEEKS FIRST IROQUOIS VICTORY WITH MR. Z, OPTIMISTIC FOR TAKE CHARGE BRANDI IN POCAHONTAS
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will send out a pair of promising 2-year-olds Saturday with Willis Horton’s Take Charge Brandi in the $200,000-added Pocahontas (GII) and Zayat Stables LLC’s Mr. Z in the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII).
Although Lukas has captured 73 stakes wins at Churchill Downs in his esteemed career, he has sent 21 starters to the Iroquois in past years and never won.
Lukas has a strong chance with Mr. Z, the 5-2 morning line favorite who took his maiden debut under the Twin Spires on June 28, and followed it with back-to-back runner-up efforts in the Sanford (GIII) and Saratoga Special (GII) at Saratoga.
“He ran well at Saratoga this summer and we’ve been pleased with him,” Lukas said. “We chose this spot because it’s two turns and because it’s a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Running him in the Hopeful at Saratoga would have been too soon for him to come back.”
Mr. Z will have regular rider Corey Lanerie aboard and will break from post position two in Saturday’s Iroquois.
Take Charge Brandi has been on a similar path as Mr. Z, having won her maiden debut at Churchill and running in back-to-back stakes races up north.
She ran second in the Schuylerville (GIII) and followed that with a fifth-place effort in her last start, the Adirondack (GII) also at Saratoga.
“It’s the same type scenario with Take Charge Brandi,” Lukas said. “We’re confident that she can go the distance and again the ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Juvenile Fillies is significant.”
Take Charge Brandi also will have Lanerie aboard, and will break from post eight in the Pocahontas.
“I think both of my horses should benefit from going 1 1/16 miles. They’ve both won on this track before, so we’re in good shape and looking forward to Saturday.”
HIGHLY-TOUTED FLASHBACK SET TO RETURN IN ACK ACK FOR CATALANO
Highly regarded as a 3-year-old, Gary and Mary West’s Flashback is set to make his much anticipated 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (Grade III) at Churchill Downs. The Ack Ack also will be Flashback’s first start since being moved to trainer Wayne Catalano’s barn earlier this year.
“We got him around six months ago,” Catalano said. “He’s been training really well for us.”
Flashback, who the 2013 Robert B. Lewis (GII), missed that year’s Kentucky Derby after a bone chip was discovered in his knee following back-to-back runner-up efforts in the San Felipe (GII) and Santa Anita Derby (GI) for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
The son of Tapit returned to action that fall and was beaten a head in the Damascus at Santa Anita in November. His last start was a fourth-place finish in the Malibu (GI) on Dec. 26.
“We had a couple of races picked earlier this year and things just didn’t exactly work out right for him,” Catalano said. “Then this race was sitting there and so we decided we’d take a shot.”
Catalano said that the ultimate goal if Flashback performs well Saturday would be the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Santa Anita on Oct. 31, a race won last year by his former rival Goldencents, who upset Flashback by 1 ¼ lengths in last year’s Santa Anita Derby.
“I’ll talk it over with my owners,” Catalano said. “If he runs well, we may be looking at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but we’ll see how he does this weekend first.”
The one-mile Ack Ack Handicap is slated as the fourth of 11 races on Churchill’s Saturday card, with an approximate post time of 2:19 p.m.
GRADE I WINNER ON FIRE BABY LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK IN LOCUST GROVE
Anita Cauley’s multiple Grade I winner On Fire Baby, who finished fifth in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (Grade II) in her last outing, has been training well and appears ready to bounce back in Saturday’s $100,000-added Locust Grove at Churchill Downs, according to conditioner Gary Hartlage.
“All systems are go for Saturday,” Hartlage said.
The 5-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken went off as the 6-5 favorite in the June 14 Fleur de Lis, but failed to fire in the stretch, finishing 10 ¼ lengths back in fifth.
“She came out of her last race with some problems,” Hartlage said. “It wasn’t leg problems or anything; she just had some ulcers that were bothering her.”
On Fire Baby’s last workout was Aug. 29 at Churchill Downs where she covered seven furlongs in 1:29.20.
“We got everything cleared up and she’s been training really well lately. She’ll run her race or it’ll be her last. I look for her to run well. If she does, we’ll go on to the Spinster.”
The 1 1/16-mile Locust Grove will go as the eighth race under the Twin Spires Saturday with an approximate post time of 4:24 p.m.
FRIDAY IS COLLEGE RIVALRY NIGHT
Louisville is one of the best college sports cities in America and Churchill Downs is opening its September Meet this Friday with a salute to local college teams and to raise funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Fans are encouraged to show their school pride by wearing their team colors and participating in competitive games and contests, including Tailgating Olympics, cornhole trick shots and a dunk tank. Churchill Downs will donate $1 to the V Foundation for each fan in attendance.
Popular DJ 2nd Nature will be performing his artful blend of sights and high-energy sounds on the Plaza Stage, while local college cheer and dance teams perform at locations throughout the track.
Attendees also will be able to compete for a chance to win a VIP experience to the Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 9, which features matchups between U of L and Indiana and Illinois and Villanova.
The gates open at 4 p.m. and the first race is at 6 p.m. General admission is $10, reserved box seats are $20, the new 21+ Terrace Lounge is $25, Millionaires Row is $60 and 21+ Terrace Lounge VIP cabanas are $99.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, Sept. 5 – Downs After Dark Presented by Old Forester: College Rivalry Night
- 10 races from 6-10:24 p.m. (Gates: 4 p.m.)
- Downs After Dark Presented by Old Forester
- Theme: College Rivalry Night. Fans are encouraged to show their school pride by wearing their team colors and participating in competitive games and contests, including Tailgating Olympics, cornhole trick shots and a dunk tank.
- Churchill Downs will donate $1 to the V Foundation for each fan in attendance.
- Popular DJ 2nd Nature will be performing his artful blend of sights and high-energy sounds on the Plaza Stage, while local college cheer and dance teams perform at locations throughout the track.
- Attendees also will be able to compete for a chance to win a VIP experience to the Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 9, which features matchups between U of L and Indiana and Illinois and Villanova.
- Co-Feature (Race 4 at 7:26 p.m.): $39,000 alw opt clm, 2yo, 1 M (T)
- Co-Feature (Race 8 at 9:39 p.m.): $39,000 alw, 3yo, 7 F
- Box Office hours: 12-9 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 6
- 11 races from 12:45-5:56 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Kentucky Derby & Oaks 141 logos revealed after Race 3 (1:47 p.m.)
- Co-Feature (Race 4 at 2:19 p.m.): $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), 3 & up, 1 M, 22nd running
- Co-Feature (Race 8 at 4:24 p.m.): $100,000-added Locust Grove, f & m, 1 1/16 M, 31st Running
- Co-feature (Race 9 at 4:55 p.m.): $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII), 2yo, 1 1/16 M, 33rd Running – A Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season Race (Top 4 Points: 10-4-2-1) and Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Juvenile Division Challenge Race
- Co-feature (Race 10 at 5:27 p.m.): $200,000-added Pocahontas (GII), 2yo f, 1 1/16 M, 46th Running – A Road to the Kentucky Oaks Prep Season Race (Top 4 Points: 10-4-2-1) and Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Juvenile Fillies Division Challenge Race
- Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 7
- 10 races from 12:45-5:27 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Feature (Race 9 at 4:55 p.m.): $39,000 alw, f & m, 1 1/16 M (T)
- Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Lukas' Take Charge Brandi Bids for Early Success On 'Road to the Kentucky' in Grade II, $200,000-Added Pocahontas
Last year’s “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series had identical starting and ending points in victories at Churchill Downs by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable. The first came in the Grade II Pocahontas, which launched the series on the opening Saturday of the 2013 September Meet, and the road concluded in a triumph by the homebred daughter of Tapit in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) at the Louisville track on the first Friday in May.
On Saturday, a field of 10 2-year-old fillies headed by Willis D. Horton’s Take Charge Brandi will start their bids to emulate Untapable’s path to victory in America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies when they compete in the 46th running of the $200,000-added Pocahontas, a 1 1/16-mile race over the main track at Churchill Downs that kicks-off the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks,” the 31-race points series that will determine the maximum field of 14 fillies that will compete in the 2015 running of the Kentucky Oaks. The Pocahontas also is the first stop on the Breeders’ Cup’s “Win and You’re In” Juvenile Fillies Division, and the winner will earn both a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita and a $10,000 travel stipend for the journey to Southern California.
The Pocahontas is the last of four stakes races scheduled on the first Saturday of Churchill Downs’ 12-date September Meet. First post for the 11-race program is 12:45 p.m. (all times ET) with the Pocahontas scheduled as Race 10 with a post time of approximately 5:27 p.m.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Take Charge Brandi, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of the mare Charming (a half-sister to Lukas’ reigning Eclipse Award 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge), scored an impressive win at 4 ½ furlongs in her career debut at Churchill Downs on June 22. She followed that effort with a runner-up finish to Fashion Alert in Saratoga’s $250,000 Schuylerville (GIII) at six furlongs on July 18, but struggled in her most recent outing when she ran fifth of seven behind the victorious Cavorting in the 6 ½-furlong $200,000 Adirondack (GII) at the New York track.
Regular jockey Corey Lanerie, an easy winner of the 2014 Spring Meet riding title at Churchill Downs, has been aboard Take Charge Brandi in all three career starts and will be back in the saddle on Saturday. She will break from post eight for the 79-year-old Lukas, who will bid for a fourth Pocahontas win. Lukas shares the record of three Pocahontas victories with the retired Pete Vestal.
Lukas’ filly is one of only four Pocahontas entrants with experience in a stakes race. The others are Ninety North Racing Stable’s Phoenix Park, a daughter of Lookin At Lucky who finished sixth – on nearly even terms with Take Charge Brandi – in the Adirondack for trainer Jimmy Toner; Carl F. Pollard’s Rachel’s Ready, who won at first asking at Churchill Downs before she ran fifth behind Promise Me Silver in the Debutante and finished a distant third to A.P.’s Glory in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies at Mountaineer Park; and Milehigh Butterfly, a winner in her Churchill Downs debut for trainer Billy Connelly prior to a fifth-place run in the Prairie Gold Lassie at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows in July.
Promising unbeaten youngsters in the Pocahontas field include GSN Racing LLC’s Cristina’s Journey, winner of her six-furlong debut at Ellis Park on July 27; Shortleaf Racing’s Pangburn, a daughter of Congrats who won her lone start for trainer Kenny McPeek over the Ellis Park grass on July 12; and Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc.’s True to You, a Scat Daddy filly coming off a victorious racing debut for trainer Tom Amoss over the turf at Indiana Grand on Aug. 20.
The Pocahontas also will be the stakes debut for Steven Friedfertig’s Frolic to the Wire, a Milton Wolfson-trained daughter of Roman Ruler who is coming off a maiden win at Gulfstream Park. Frolic to the Wire was made a supplemental nominee to the Pocahontas through a payment of $6,000 at Wednesday’s time of entry.
The field for the Pocahontas, from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Loom (Joe Rocco Jr., Philip Oliver), Queen’s Ready (Didiel Osorio, Gennadi Dorochenko), Phoenix Park (Chris Landeros, Toner), Cristina’s Journey (Miguel Mena, Dale Romans), Pangburn (Joel Rosario, McPeek), Frolic to the Wire (Jesus Castanon, Wolfson), Rachel’s Ready (Shaun Bridgmohan, Dave Vance), Take Charge Brandi (Lanerie, Lukas), Milehigh Butterfly (Brian Hernandez Jr., Connelly) and True to You (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Amoss).
The Pocahontas is one of eight stakes races scheduled during the September Meet at Churchill Downs. Other fixtures carded on Saturday are the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII), which kicks off the 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series; the $100,000-added Ack Ack (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up and the $100,000-added Locust Grove for fillies and mares ages three and up.
'Road to Kentucky Derby' Starts With Saturday's Iroquois; Nine Entered in Breeders' Cup Win and You're In' Juvenile Race
The Road to the Kentucky Derby officially begins Saturday at Churchill Downs as nine juvenile prospects, led by Saratoga Special (Grade II) and Sanford (GIII) runner-up Mr. Z, go to post in the 33rd running of the $100,000-added Iroquois (Grade III) – the nation’s first two-turn graded stakes race on dirt for 2-year-olds.
The 1 1/16-mile Iroquois, which pays homage to the famous colt that was the first American-bred to win the famed English Derby in 1881, is the first of 35 races that will determine which horses qualify to the 141st running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Points awarded to the Top 4 Iroquois finishers will be 10-4-2-1 as part of the 19-race “Prep Season” that showcases foundation-building races in advance of the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” which begins in late February.
Also, the Iroquois kick-starts the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Juvenile Challenge Division, which means the winner will receive an automatic berth in the starting gate for the $2 million Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 1 with pre-entry and entry fees paid plus a $10,000 travel stipend (if nominated).
Zayat Stables’ Mr. Z, a debut winner at Churchill Downs during the Spring Meet, is the most accomplished of the entrants with two seconds against graded stakes competition at Saratoga. Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, the Malibu Moon colt was beaten a neck in the six-furlong Sanford on July 19. Three weeks later, he appeared poised for a win in the 6 ½-furlong Saratoga Special following a rough start, but was outrun down the lane by the Tony Dutrow-trained favorite I Spent It, who won convincingly by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:16.79. Mr. Z was five lengths clear of third-place finisher W V Jetsetter.
“I got out and thought I was home free but (I Spent It) just came and beat us,” said jockey Corey Lanerie, a five-time leading rider at Churchill Downs. “I think we just hit a freak. Take him out of the race and my horse looks like a superstar. I think Mr. Z is a really, really nice horse and the two turns will help him a whole lot. I think he’s got a big future. I worked him (four furlongs in :47 on Monday at Churchill Downs) and he worked great for Wayne. He looks like he couldn’t be doing any better.”
The Iroquois might be one of the few stakes races that Lukas hasn’t won at Churchill Downs. Lukas, who celebrated his 79th birthday on Tuesday, ranks second all-time in Churchill Downs stakes wins with 73 (only behind Bill Mott’s 88), but is 21-0-3-3 in the Iroquois dating back to 1987. His best finishes were seconds with Bite the Bullet (1989), Partner’s Hero (1996), Yarrow Brae (1997) and thirds with Richard of England (1991), Gold Dollar (2001) and Starbase (2006). His last Iroquois starter came in 2011 when Chalybeate Springs finished fifth.
Bourbon Lane Stable’s Hashtag Bourbon is one of two listed stakes winners in the field. The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver broke his maiden with a patient 4 ½-length romp in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile over six furlongs on Aug. 2, which was his second career start. He rallied from fifth after the first quarter mile, about four lengths back in the field of six.
“I expect him to maybe be a little closer than he was in his last race,” trainer Kellyn Gorder said of Saturday’s race. “He’s also breaking better each time he runs. His first race (a third place finish 3 ¼ lengths back of Mr. Z in a maiden special weight on June 28), he basically just stood there in the gate; he didn’t break well at all. I think he should handle the distance fine.”Other notable entries include Ackerley Brothers Farm’s Saratoga second-out maiden winner Bold Conquest, who hopes to give 14-time Churchill Downs training champ Steve Asmussen his third Iroquois win (he won the race with Thiskyhasnolimit and Astrology in 2009-10), and Ellis Park maiden winner Danny Boy, who won at first asking at one mile on turf for Donegal Racing and trainer Dale Romans. The latter is reminiscent of their Iroquois winner a year ago, 34-1 shocker Cleburne.
Asmussen also has entered Jerry Durant’s Florida-bred Lucky Player, who was beaten a neck in the $100,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile on Aug. 9. Graham Motion, who saddled Animal Kingdom to victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, invades from the east with West Point Thoroughbreds’ Cleveland Sound, who’ll be treated with the diuretic Lasix for the first time following a troubled fourth-place finish in the Saratoga Special.
The complete Iroquois field from the rail out (with jockeys, trainers and morning line odds): Hashtag Boubon (Brian Hernandez Jr., Gorder, 4-1); Mr. Z (Lanerie, Lukas, 5-2); Dekabrist (Didiel Osorio, Gennadi Dorochenko, 20-1); Holy Frazier (Chris Landeros, Kenny McPeek, 12-1); Lucky Player (Ricardo Santana Jr., Asmussen, 5-1); Cleveland Sound (Shaun Bridgmohan, Motion, 6-1); Danny Boy (Miguel Mena, Romans, 5-1); Bold Conquest (Joel Rosario, Asmussen, 4-1); and The Gorilla Man (Jesus Castanon, John Bordonaro, 30-1).
Dekabrist, the winner of Gulfstream’s $43,750 Kodiak Island in June and not an original Iroquois nominee, was supplemented to the race for $3,000. All horses, except The Gorilla Man, are Breeders’ Cup nominated.
The Iroquois is one of four stakes races on the first Saturday of Churchill Downs’ 12-date September Meet. First post for the 11-race program is 12:45 p.m. ET. The Iroquois goes as Race 9 at approximately 4:55 p.m. ET. Other stakes races on the card are the $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for top milers (Race 4 at 2:19 p.m.), the $100,000-added Locust Grove for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles (Race 8 at 4:24 p.m.) and the $200,000-added Pocahontas (GII), which starts the 31-race “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” (Race 10 at 5:27 p.m.).
Promising Juveniles Top Nomination Rosters for Pocahontas, Iroquois - Kickoffs of "Roads" to Derby, Oaks & Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" Races
The names of 60 promising 2-year-old stars are included on the rosters of horses nominated to compete in the $200,000-added Pocahontas (Grade II) for 2-year-old fillies and the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds, races that will kick-off their respective “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” and “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series that will determine the participants for the 2015 renewals of the spring classics at Churchill Downs Racetrack. The Pocahontas and Iroquois also begin the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Divisions, respectively, of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series, and their winners will earn automatic starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and Juvenile (GI), along with a $10,000 travel stipend for the races to be run at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1.
The Pocahontas and Iroquois are part of a special Churchill Downs racing program that will feature four stakes events on Saturday, Sept. 6, the second day of the track’s 12-day September Meet. Nomination rosters also have been issued for the day’s other stakes races: the 22nd running of the $100,000-added Ack Ack (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up on the main track, and the 31st running of the $100,000-added Locust Grove for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
The four events are among eight stakes races with total purses of $925,000 scheduled during upcoming September Meet, which opens on Friday, Sept. 5 and concludes on Sunday. Sept. 28. Only the second racing meet scheduled exclusively during that month in Churchill Downs’ 140-year history, September Meet racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during its four-week run, and “Downs After Dark” night racing celebrations are set for Friday, Sept. 5 (Opening Night) and Friday, Sept. 19.
The 2013 Pocahontas was won by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, who finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for trainer Steve Asmussen but rebounded with a brilliant 2014 topped by her emphatic victory as the favorite in the 140th running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Donegal Racing’s Cleburne won the Iroquois for trainer Dale Romans and traveled to Santa Anita for the Juvenile, but suffered an injury there that prevented him from participating in the event.
The Pocahontas attracted nominations of 25 juvenile fillies, a list headed by Siena Farm’s Angela Renee, the Todd Pletcher-trained runner-up in Saratoga’s Adirondack (GII); Willis Horton’s Take Charge Brandi, a winner at first asking at Churchill Downs and runner-up in Saratoga’s Schuylerville (GIII) for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas; John C. Oxley’s Unbridled Reward, a daughter of hot first-year sire Warrior’s Reward who was runner-up in Churchill Downs’ Debutante Stakes for trainer Mark Casse; Curtis C. Green’s A.P.’s Glory, winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies for Arlington Park-based trainer James Divito; and Carl Pollard’s Rachel’s Ready, who finished third for trainer David Vance in her most recent outing in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies.
Thirty-five colts and geldings were nominated to the Iroquois. That roster is headed by Bourbon Lane Stable’s Hashtag Bourbon, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver who was a runaway winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile for trainer Kellyn Gorder; Zayat Stable’s Mr. Z, a Lukas-trained son of Malibu Moon who won at first asking at Churchill Downs and followed with runner-up finishes in the Saratoga Special (GII) and Sanford (GIII) at Saratoga; R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s W V Jetsetter, third in the Saratoga Special and winner of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park; Michael Lund Petersen’s Holiday Camp, who ran last of six as the favorite in the Santa Anita Juvenile following an impressive debut victory over the Southern California track for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert; Mellon Patch Inc.’s Private Prospect, a son of Discreet Cat with wins in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile and the Prairie Gold Juvenile, both run at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows; and McLoughlin Stables LLC’s Gotta Get Paid, runner-up in the Mountaineer Juvenile for trainer Tom Amoss.
George and Lori Hall’s defending winner Pants On Fire and Grade I winners Golden Ticket and Lea head 23 experienced and accomplished stakes veterans nominated to compete in the Ack Ack Handicap.
Pants On Fire, who finished ninth to Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands for trainer Kelly Breen, returned to Churchill Downs in its first September Meet to score a 2 ¼-length victory over multiple stakes winner Taptowne in the Ack Ack. He traveled to Santa Anita to finish seventh to Goldencents in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) before he traveled to Japan to complete his season with a last-place finish in the Japan Cup Dirt. The son of Jump Start was runner-up to Balance of Power in Monmouth Park’s Philip Iselin (GIII) in his most recent outing to improve his career record to 8-4-5 in 26 races and boost his career earnings to $1,247,635.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket finished in a dead-heat with Alpha to win the 2012 Travers (GI) at Saratoga, but is still looking for his first victory in 2014 starts. His highlight of the year was a runner-up finish in Churchill Downs’ Alysheba (GII) to Moonshine Mullin, who would return to win the Stephen Foster Handicap (GII) in his next outing. The Kenny McPeek trainee finished second in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI).
Lea, winner of the 2014 Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park, is one of a pair of accomplished stars nominated to the Ack Ack by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, which also made multiple-stakes winner and Stephen Foster Handicap third-place finisher Departing eligible for the race.
Lea is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the all-time leader in victories and stakes wins at Churchill Downs, and also won the Hal’s Hope (GIII) on the Gulfstream Park dirt earlier this year. He is a stakes winner on turf at Churchill Downs with a win in the 2012 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) to his credit along with a runner-up finish to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the 2013 Firecracker (GII). The 5-year-old son of First Samurai has a career record of 6-2-2 in 12 races and earnings of $709,618.
The 4-year-old Departing followed his good run in the Stephen Foster with a disappointing eighth-place finish behind Moreno in Saratoga’s Whitney (GI). The Al Stall Jr.-trained son of War Front scored 2013 stakes wins in the Illinois Derby (GIII), West Virginia Derby (GII) and Super Derby (GII). Departing has a 7-0-2 record in 12 races and a career bankroll of $1,521,340.
Other Ack Ack nominees include Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (GIII) winner Carve; Sir Barton winner Class Leader; Falling Sky, third in the recent A.G. Vanderbilt (GI) at Saratoga and 19th to Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby; Flashback, runner-up in the 2013 Santa Anita Derby and winner of the Robert B. Lewis (GII); Kelly’s Landing winner Good Lord; Mylute, fifth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness (GI); and Regally Ready, winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) and Opening Verse, both on the Churchill Downs grass, and a career earner of $1,486,666.
Nominations to the Locust Grove, won last year Flashy American, include Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan, who finished sixth in last year’s running but has had a breakout year in 2014 highlighted by a runner-up finish to multiple Grade I winner On Fire Baby in Churchill Downs’ La Troienne (GI) followed by a win over that rival in the Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII). The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Ghostzapper also won the recent Gardenia (GIII) at Ellis Park, a sixth career victory that lifted her earnings to $450,739.
The Locust Grove could serve as round three in the growing rivalry between Molly Morgan and On Fire Baby as Anita Cauley’s multiple Grade I winner also is nominated to the race. The 5-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken has not run since her fifth-place finish in the Fleur De Lis for trainer Gary Hartlage. On Fire Baby also won the 2012 Apple Blossom (GI) at Oaklawn Park and has three stakes victories at Churchill Downs in a career record of 6-2-1 in 16 races with earnings of $1,089,108.
Also nominated is Mathis Stable LLC’s My Miss Sophia, the Pletcher-trained runner-up to Untapable in the Longines Kentucky Oaks. The Gazelle (GII) winner has not competed since a seventh-place run in the Acorn (GI) at Belmont Park on June 7.
Other nominated fillies and mares include the 3-year-old Ria Antonia, winner via disqualification of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and sixth in this spring’s Kentucky Oaks; Don’t Tell Sophia, winner of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Chilukki (GII) and runner-up in the Falls City (GII); Honey Hues, winner of Churchill Downs’ Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) on turf; Chicago Handicap (GIII) winner My Option; and the McPeek-trained Gardenia runner-up Tapit’s World.