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John C. Oxley’s Spring in the Air, a Grade I winner at 2 and a consistent player in graded stakes events in her two subsequent seasons of racing, will bid for millionaire status when she takes on nine accomplished rivals in Saturday’s 29th running of the $200,000-addded Chilukki Stakes (GII) for fillies and mares ages 3 and up at Churchill Downs.
But the task for the Mark Casse-trained filly will be challenging has her rivals include multiple graded-stakes winner Molly Morgan, the 5-2 favorite in odds maker Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds for the Chilukki, and experienced graded stakes stars My Happy Face, My Option, Street Girl and Honey Hues.
The one-mile Chilukki is the featured event on a 10-race live racing program beneath the track’s famed Twin Spires that shares the day’s spotlight with the simulcast of the second of two days of competition in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita. Also on the schedule for the first Saturday of the Fall Meet at Churchill Downs is the $58,000-added Bet On Sunshine, a six-furlong overnight stakes race for 3-year-olds and up.
A special Breeders’ Cup Saturday post time for the first live race at Churchill Downs is 2:15 p.m. (all times Eastern). The Bet On Sunshine is set as the seventh race with a post time of 6:05 p.m. and the Chilukki is the ninth event with a post time of 7:35 p.m. Admission gates will open at 12:30 p.m.
Saturday’s feature was known as the Churchill Downs Distaff prior to 2005 when it was named in honor of Stonerside Stable’s Chilukki, who established a record time of 1:33.57 for its one-turn mile distance when she won the race in 2000. Her record stood until Nov. 22, 2012, when Infrattini covered the distance in 1:33.31. Chilukki also set a Churchill Downs track record at 4 ½ furlongs during her 2-year-old season in which she earned the Eclipse Award for champion juvenile filly. The daughter of Cherokee Run won 11 of 17 races for trainer Bob Baffert and collected career earnings of $1,201,828.
The shining moment in the career of Spring in the Air, who is the Chilukki’s 7-2 second choice in Battaglia’s morning line, came in the autumn of her juvenile season when she rallied from 10th to win the Grade I Darley Alcibiades over the former synthetic Polytrack course at Keeneland. She followed that triumph with a fifth-place finish behind eventual 2-year-old filly champion Beholder in the 2012 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Santa Anita, her only start over a dirt course in 17 career races.
Spring in the Air will seek her fifth career victory and her second stakes win of the year in the Chilukki. The Ontario, Canada-bred daughter of Spring At Last won the 5 ½-furlong race over Polytrack at Woodbine in May. A third-place finish to Leigh Court in Woodbine’s Seaway (GIII) moved her close to $1 million in career earnings and she brings a record of 4-6-2 in her 17 outings and a bankroll of $913,032 into the Chilukki.
Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Spring in the Air, who drew post three and will carry 121 pounds.
The primary obstacle to Spring in the Air’s move to a loftier financial status could be Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan, who upset Grade I winner On Fire Baby in Churchill Downs’ Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII) in June after running second to that rival in the Grade I La Troienne on Kentucky Oaks Day. The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Ghostzapper also won the Gardenia (GIII) at Ellis Park and finished a good third to 2013 Chilukki winner Don’t Tell Sophia in her most recent start in Keeneland’s Juddmonte Spinster (GI).
Molly Morgan is a “horse for the course” at Churchill Downs with record of 4-3-1 in 11 races at the Louisville track. Her career record stands 6-4-6 in 25 races and she has earned $522,163. Romans’ filly will shoulder high weight of 123 pounds, conceding two pounds to each of her rivals, when she breaks from post eight under Fall Meet leading jockey Corey Lanerie.
Possible threats to the top pair in the Chilukki include Michael Dubb and Rockingham Ranch’s My Happy Face, the Peter Miller-trained runner up to Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Princess of Sylmar in the 2013 Coaching Club American Oaks (GI) and a close third Sweet Lulu in the Test (GI) at Saratoga; WinStar Farm’s Street Girl, runner-up to the recently-retired Midnight Lucky in the Humana Distaff (GI) at Churchill Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher; L T B Inc. and Miles Childers’ Honey Hues, winner of the Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) on the Churchill Downs turf for veteran trainer Bernie Flint; and Timothy J. Keeney’s My Option, winner of the Chicago Handicap (GIII) on synthetic Polytrack for Arlington Park-based trainer Chris Block.
Flint also trains Cheema Kazmi and Chowhan Racing LLC’s Anahauc, who is cross-entered in Churchill Downs’ $58,000 Dream Supreme on Friday.
Bidding for her first stakes victory in the Chilukki is Mort Fink’s homebred Enchanting Lisa, a 3 ½-length allowance winner over the Beard Course distance of about seven furlongs at Keeneland on Oct. 8. The 4-year-old daughter of War Chant is a half-sister to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan trained by Charlie LoPresti.
The field for the Chilukki from the rail out (with jockey, morning line odds): Street Girl (Calvin Borel, 6-1), Call Pat (Brian Hernandez Jr., 20-1), Spring in the Air (Bridgmohan, 7-2), My Happy Face (Alan Garcia, 8-1), Drama Drama (Channing Hill, 15-1), Anahauc (Chris Landeros, 12-1), Honey Hues (Jesus Castanon, 6-1), Molly Morgan (Lanerie, 5-2), Enchanting Lisa (Robby Albarado, 10-1) and My Option (Eddie Perez, 6-1).
The Bet On Sunshine attracted a field on nine older sprinters headed by Mike McCarty’s Lemon Drop Dream, the Steve Asmussen-trained winner of Count Fleet (GIII) at Oaklawn Park; Mike Maker and Jana Wagner’s Ghost Is Clear, a two-time winner at Churchill Downs who finished third to Mico Margarita in the Remington Park Sprint last time out; Card, an Illinois-based sprinter whose only loss in his last five races was a fifth-place finish to Ghost Is Clear in the Dark Star at Canterbury Park; and Woodbine-based Sharp Sensation, a close third on turf to No Say Never in Keeneland’s Grade III Woodford for trainer Reade Baker.
The most intriguing member of the Bet On Sunshine cast could be Windy Hill Farm’s veteran stakes winner Nate’s Mineshaft, who races for the first time in more than 13 months. The 7-year-old Mineshaft ridgling brings a record of 9-2-2 in 24 races and earnings of $706,678 into the Bet On Sunshine. His best season came in 2012 when he finished a narrowly-beaten third to Ron the Greek and eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan in Churchill Downs’ Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) and won the New Orleans Handicap (GII) and the Lone Star Handicap (GIII).
The field for the Bet On Sunshine from the rail out (with jockey, weight): Lemon Drop Dream (Alan Garcia, 124), Star Harbour (Chris Landeros, 120), Ghost Is Clear (Corey Lanerie, 120), Apprehender (Jesus Castanon, 120), Rugged (Joe Johnson, 120), Sharp Sensation (Channing Hill, 124), Nates Mineshaft (Rafael Mojica Jr., 120), Card (Shaun Bridgmohan, 120), and No Distinction (Calvin Borel, 120).
Churchill Downs Plans to Enhance Experience for Derby and Oaks Owners with $4.2 Million Winner's Circle Suites and Courtyard
Churchill Downs Racetrack plans to enhance the experience for owners that start horses in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Longines Kentucky Oaks through a $4.2 million capital improvement project that includes the construction of 20 private, open-air, all-inclusive Winner’s Circle Suites in a premium location under the Twin Spires between the sixteenth pole and finish line. The notable project also includes a remodeled Trackside Winner’s Circle and the creation of a new Courtyard that will accommodate temporary premium seating during Derby Week while providing a relaxed park-like setting for everyday racing fans.
The new and exclusive Winner’s Circle Suites will be conveniently located adjacent to the Trackside Winner’s Circle with easy access to the racetrack and paddock runway with minimized congestion. The number of complimentary tickets for all participating owners in the Derby and Oaks will be tripled to 18 tickets for their respective race day. The Winner’s Circle Suites will feature comfortable undercover seating with in-venue wagering options and full-service hospitality, including a premium open bar and gourmet food. Also, guests will have access to an indoor, semi-private hospitality area and restrooms exclusive to the venue. All areas of the project will be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities.
In prior years, owners of Oaks and Derby horses received a complimentary six-person box in Section 318, food and beverage hospitality in a separate area overlooking the paddock, and the opportunity to purchase two additional boxes in 318. Should owners require additional seating in 2015 beyond the 18 complimentary tickets provided, they may still purchase an additional box of six seats in Section 318.
There are many wonderful seating options at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks but these new Winner’s Circle Suites are where anyone who has ever owned or dreamed of owning a racehorse wants to be,” said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs Racetrack President. “We’re thrilled to make this investment and truly thank our Derby and Oaks owners by creating an exclusive area that will provide more complimentary tickets, food and beverage and other extraordinary amenities than ever before.”
The project is the latest investment by Churchill Downs to upgrade and enhance its historic racing and entertainment facility. More than $178 million has been devoted in the last decade to enrich the on-track experience, including: a sweeping Clubhouse and Grandstand renovation (2005); permanent lights (2010); the Plaza/Plaza Balcony (2012); The Mansion (2013); The Parlay (2013); the Grandstand Terrace (2014); and the world’s largest 4K ultra-high definition Big Board with an enhanced sound system (2014).
“Churchill Downs has proudly offered racing since 1875, and these substantial investments in our iconic landmark signify that we’re committed to ensuring the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and our everyday racing product remain viable and one of the region’s major economic engines for many years to come,” Flanery said.
The new Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard will be constructed in a premium location of the facility by converting what are now box seats in Section 118 and 119 Clubhouse on the south side of the paddock runway, and bleacher seats in Section 119 Grandstand and one-third of Section 120 Grandstand on the paddock runway’s north side. Total seating in the areas before renovation was 3,345, and the new space will accommodate more than 1,800.
The Courtyard, a family-friendly green space that will create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for everyday racing, will be a spacious lawn area in front of the new Winner’s Circle Suites. For Derby Week, more than 600 temporary premium seats will be configured in traditional rows and aisles with padded chairs, and those guests will have access to an exclusive hospitality space with an all-inclusive menu and restrooms. Seating in the existing Sections 218-219 will have access to the hospitality space, as well.
The versatile Courtyard also will be utilized to enrich the experience of big-event days throughout the rest of the year, including Downs After Dark night racing and Family Adventure Days.
Select guests that are affected by the Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard Project are in the process of being contacted personally by track officials, and every effort will be made to relocate those guests to a comparable area. Additionally, those guests can opt to upgrade their seating packages with new inventory, including more availability in Section 318, or premium areas that include food and beverage hospitality.
The new Courtyard seats for Derby Week will be offered to existing customers first. Any remaining inventory will be sold to the general public through an online sale in mid-November. The deadline to register for the online sale at KentuckyDerby.com/Tickets has been extended to Friday, Nov. 7.
Guests seated in most sections, including the new Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard, will have unobstructed views of the racetrack and the Big Board, which is 171-feet wide, 90-feet tall and towers 80-feet above the ground to top out at 170 feet high.
The Trackside Winner’s Circle will be remodeled and repositioned directly next to the paddock runway on the south side to create more space for winning horses, their connections and other dignitaries.
Construction on the $4.2 million project will begin in December after the conclusion of the Fall Meet, and will be complete before the start of the 2015 Spring Meet on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
Churchill Downs is currently working with the noted architectural firm Populous, headquartered in Kansas City, on the project designs. Populous designed downtown Louisville’s innovative KFC Yum! Center, and their other numerous projects include the new Yankee Stadium and the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Churchill Downs also has retained PC Sports, a division of Texas-based Raba Kistner, Inc., to assist in the project’s management. The firm, which helped manage the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and construction of the KFC Yum! Center, will serve as a consultant and third-party advisor to ensure the project finishes on or ahead of schedule and on budget.
A General Contractor for the project has not yet been selected.
Conquest Tsunami Rolls in Street Sense; West Coast Belle Romps in Rags to Riches in 'Stars of Tomorrow I'
Conquest Tsunami, a multiple stakes winner on synthetic surfaces, showed a fondness for Churchill Downs’ dirt with a 2 ¾-length, front-running victory over Nun the Less in Sunday’s second running of the $55,221 Street Sense, one of two overnight stakes on opening day of the track’s 26-day Fall Meet.
The Street Sense, named in honor of the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, was the highlight of “Stars of Tomorrow I,” a 10-race program entirely devoted to 2-year-olds that have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks. The open race for 2-year-olds shared top billing with the Rags to Riches for fillies, which was won by Gary and Mary West’s West Coast Belle.
Conquest Tsunami, owned by Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables LLC, ran one mile over a fast main track in 1:37.00 to defeat six rivals. Shaun Bridgmohan rode the winner for trainer Mark Casse – the same due that teamed to win last year’s inaugural running with Coastline.
Breaking from post six, Conquest Tsunami set the pace through measured fractions of :23.65, :47.75 and 1:12.44 and easily repelled all challengers. He opened up a three-length lead at the top of the stretch and drew clear for the win.
“I had a perfect trip,” Bridgmohan said. “It was just what we had hoped for and he delivered. I thought going into it that my horse was the class of this race and he proved it today.”
A bay Stormy Atlantic colt out of the El Corredor mare Classic Neel, Conquest Tsunami paid $5.20, $3 and $2.40 as the 8-5 favorite. Nun the Less, the 5-2 second choice who chased the pace and was all out to be the runner-up, returned $3.20 and $2.40. Far Right rallied well to finish a head back for the show and paid $2.60.
Handy Candy, Risetotheoccasion, Instant Replay and Jump for Bucks completed the order of finish.
The $31,656 winner’s share of the purse increased Conquest Tsunami’s earnings to $280,023. The Canadian-bred colt is now a five-time winner in six career starts. Three weeks ago, he finished sixth in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland to suffer his only defeat. His wins in Canada this summer over Woodbine’s Polytrack included a 7 ¾-length romp in the $137,799 Victoria at five furlongs and a 6 ¾-length score in the $145,393 Colin at six furlongs.
Norman Casse, who oversees his father’s Churchill Downs string, said the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, Nov. 29 is an option for Conquest Tsunami’s next start. The KJC is part of the “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” and the Top 4 finishers will earn 10-4-2-1 points, respectively, on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”
In the $62,768 Rags to Riches, West Coast Belle scored a mild upset with a 6 ¾-length tally over 74-1 bomber Simply Confection in 1:37.38. Taylor S set a rapid pace of :22.04, :45.19 and 1:11.52 with 8-5 favorite Hopefaithjoy trailing the field of 10 2-year-old fillies. Simply Confection collared Taylor S but could not withstand the late charge of West Coast Belle who drew away. Hopefaithjoy would finish fourth.
Channing Hill rode the winner, a gray or roan Tapit filly, for trainer Wayne Catalano. She’s unbeaten in two starts and the $37,077 first prize increased her earnings to $57,597. West Coast Belle paid $25.40 to win.
Other 2-year-old victors on the program included males Island Town (one mile in 1:36.58, $6.40), Senor Grits (six furlongs in 1:11.10, $7.60), Moonlight Bandit (one mile in 1:37.62, $13.40) and Grade I winner Emollient’s half-brother Courtier (1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:44.17, $4) and fillies Lavender Chrissie (six furlongs in 1:10.99, $6.20), Jojo’s Melody (one mile in 1:38.66, $10.80), Classy Corinthian (six furlongs in 1:12.22, $9) and Aunt Sheri (one mile on turf in 1:38.57, $7.40).
STREET SENSE QUOTES
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of CONQUEST TSUNAMI (winner): “I had a perfect trip. It was just what we had hoped for and he delivered. I thought going into it that my horse was the class of this race and he proved it today.”
NORMAN CASSE, assistant trainer to MARK CASSE, trainer of CONQUEST TSUNAMI (winner): “I thought we needed to give him a little bit of a break after his first start on dirt. He set pretty good fractions over in the Breeders’ Futurity but he just got tired late. In that race he was being chased by who we thought might be the best two-year-old in the country. I thought today was a little better gage of what he can do on the dirt and hopefully we can move forward from there.”
On Conquest Tsunami’s next race – “I’d say all options are open at this point: the Kentucky Jockey Club, the Delta Jackpot… a number of races. But we just wanted to make sure we were on the right path with him and I think he showed us that today.”
RAGS TO RICHES QUOTES
CHANNING HILL, jockey of WEST COAST BELLE (winner): “With two-year-olds going a mile around one turn it can be a little tricky; you’ve got a lot of horses that want to show a little speed. I got lucky in that I felt like I had much the best. She broke well and placed herself nicely. I had to ask her a little bit earlier than I wanted to just so I could kind of keep her spot down the backside. In the turn she took a nice deep breath for me, which was probably one of the key reasons she was able to win since she was able to keep herself back earlier. But this is a nice filly and she probably has unlimited potential at this stage. She just strided all the way out to the wire and galloped out very nicely.”
WAYNE CATALANO, trainer of WEST COAST BELLE (winner): “It was a good trip. Channing (Hill) gave her a very nice ride. I told him that he would probably have to carve her way through around the backside and around the turn and then just to kind of tip out when he was ready and it went exactly like we had planned. It’s great when a plan comes together; it doesn’t always work out like that, but today was exactly how we wrote it down.”
John C. Oxley’s Spring in the Air, coming off a third-place effort in the Aug. 24 Seaway (Grade III) at Woodbine, will return to dirt in Saturday’s $200,000-added Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs for trainer Mark Casse.
The one-mile Chilukki will mark the second dirt start for Spring in the Air, who won the Grade I Darley Alcibiades over Keeneland's former Polytrack surface in 2012 before she finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on dirt.
“She’s been here at Churchill Downs for about a month,” Casse’s assistant trainer and son Norman Casse said. “She’s had several works over this racetrack with Shaun Bridgmohan on her.
“She really seems to appreciate this racetrack and I don’t have a horse here who has been training better than she has.”
With $913,032 in earnings, a win in Saturday’s Chilukki would place Spring in the Air over the coveted million-dollar mark.
“I’m really excited to see her run here and I think the distance is going to end up being right up her alley,” Casse said.
Other possible Chilukki contenders include: Grade II winner Molly Morgan; Grade III winners My Option, My Happy Face and Honey Hues; stakes winners Toasting and Street Girl, graded stakes placed Frivolous; stakes placed Kipling’s Joy; half-sister to champion Wise Dan, Enchanting Lisa; and Call Pat.
The 29th running of the Chilukki received a $50,000-purse increase from 2013. Last year’s edition was won by Don’t Tell Sophia, recent winner of the Spinster (GI) at Keeneland who is pre-entered in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI).
SILVER MAX, ZA APPROVAL HEAD NOMS FOR NOV. 8 RIVER CITY HANDICAP
Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max and Live Oak Plantation’s Za Approval head a proven cast of 30 horses nominated to the $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Trained by Dale Romans, Silver Max is best known for handing two-time Champion Horse of the Year Wise Dan his only loss in the last two years, when he upset the Champion in the 2013 Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland, a race that was moved to the Polytrack and run at the distance of 1 1/16 miles due to extreme weather. Most recently, Silver Max finished fifth in the 2014 edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile, a race won by Wise Dan. The 5-year-old son of Badge of Silver has won 12 of 26 starts and earned $1,953,598.
Also nominated for Romans is Michael J. Bruder’s Guys Reward, a 7-year-old Grade II winner and earner of $789,619.
Za Approval, trained by Christophe Clemente, won the $98,000 Real Courage at Belmont in his last start on Sept. 7. He has won eight of 22 starts and banked $1,165,071.
Another notable nominee is Augustin Stable’s Holiday Star, who is coming off a half-length victory in the Sycamore (GIII) on Oct. 16 at Keeneland. The 4-year-old gelding trained by Graham Motion has earned $198,603 and won four of 13 starts.
Motion has five others nominated to the River City in Stud Golconda’s Alakazan Alakazan-BRZ, My Meadowview Farm’s Buck Benny, OTI Racing and Earle I. Mack LLC’s Manighar-FR, West Point Thoroughbreds LLC’s Tattenham and Live Oak Plantation’s Under Control-BRZ.
August Dawn Farm’s Saratoga Snacks is another nominee of note. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, Saratoga Snacks would be trying the turf for the first time should he enter in the River City. The 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat has won eight of 17 starts and earnings of $503,100.
AWESOME JILL RETURNS TO TURF IN WEDNESDAY ALLOWANCE
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Indian Oaks (GII) in her last start, Agave Racing Stable’s Awesome Jill will make her first turf start of 2014 in a $45,000 allowance race at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Trained by Michelle Lovell, Awesome Jill will face eight other 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“We caught a tough field in Indiana,” Lovell said. “We were hoping to get a dirt race here at Churchill for her but there wasn’t one. We’ll try her back on the turf, but this race didn’t exactly come up easy either.”
The only two victories for the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile have come under the Twin Spires: her maiden debut in Sept. 2013 and an allowance optional claiming event on May 30, both on dirt.
“I look for her to run well,” Lovell said. “She’s always pretty honest. She was pretty green in her first two starts and I think she is pretty versatile.”
Awesome Jill’s two prior turf starts were both in 2013: a sixth-place finish in an allowance event at Keeneland and a third-place effort in an optional claiming event at Fair Grounds.
“I think she’ll handle it nicely,” Lovell said. “I don’t think it’s supposed to rain Wednesday but if it did I’d say that would be an advantage for us if it came off. But we’re excited for her and we’ll see.”
Jockey Chris Landeros has the call on Awesome Jill, who will break from post position five in Wednesday’s allowance event. Approximate post time is 4:38 p.m. ET for the ninth of 10 races.
Coming off a fourth-place effort in the Futurity (Grade II) at Belmont Park, Harry T. Rosenblum’s Far Right looks to return to his winning ways in the $58,000-added Street Sense at Churchill Downs for trainer Ron Moquett.
The one-mile Street Sense is one of two stakes races on Sunday’s 10-race “Stars of Tomorrow I” program that showcases nothing but 2-year-olds to open the track’s 26-day Fall Meet.
Far Right broke in fifth and last position in the Futurity and could not make up enough ground late to catch the leaders.
“He was off the pace where they were going in fractions of :23, :46 and 1:09; you can’t give those types of horses 23-second quarters and think that you can catch them at the end,” Moquett said. “He made a mental move to try and make up some of it and he was able to make up about five lengths toward the end but it just wasn’t enough to punch on through after giving those guys that kind of easy first half.”
Moquett thought that Far Right stood a better chance against a five-horse field in the Oct. 5 Futurity versus staying in his home state and running in the Oct. 4 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland, a race that attracted a full field of 12.
“I just thought he might have had a better shot in a five-horse field as opposed to a full field in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland,” Moquett said. “We were just trying to hit them when they weren’t looking.”
Moquett expects the Notional colt to improve going the one-mile distance versus only six furlongs in the Futurity.
“I would hope that he should improve going an extra couple furlongs, especially over a track that he’s already won on and ran well over,” Moquett said.
Prior to the Futurity, Far Right scored his first win in his third start with a five-length romp in 1:17.18 over 6 ½ furlongs.
Far Right will break from post position two Sunday’s Street Sense, which goes as Race 4 at approximately 2:06 p.m. ET. The first race is 12:40 p.m. ET.
CARVE LOGS FINAL BREEZE FOR BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE
Michael Langford’s Carve completed his final work ahead of next week’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Santa Anita with a half-mile breeze in :49 Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
“His work this morning was great,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He went a half-mile in :49 and galloped out really well.”
Carve is scheduled to fly to Southern California on Saturday morning, and 34-year-old Cox said he’s eager to start his first horse in the Breeders’ Cup.
“It’s exciting,” said Cox, who has won with 23.7% of his career starters since 2004. “The horse is doing as well as he can do and we expect him to run well. Obviously we’re running to win, but I will be happy as long as he shows up. I honestly think he has what it takes to compete with these horses.
“I think we ran him back a little too quickly from the (Sept. 6) Ack Ack to the (Sept. 27) Homecoming Classic, so hopefully giving him an extra week or so should ensure that he’ll be at his best.”
Carve finished second in the $107,300 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Down but was fifth in the $135,500 Homecoming Classic three weeks later. Prior to the Ack Ack, Carve won three straight races including the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (GIII) and $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes. The other victory was an allowance on June 14 at Churchill in which Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith was at the reigns. Smith will ride Carve for the second time in the Dirt Mile.
“It’s a huge advantage to have Mike Smith as our rider,” Cox said. “He rode him to a victory here at Churchill in June and just the fact that he knows Santa Anita so well makes me feel a little better since our horse has never seen that track before.”
Smith’s leads all jockeys in career Breeders’ Cup wins with 20.
UNBRIDLED FOREVER, TOP DECILE POST FINAL PRE-BREEDERS’ CUP WORKS FOR STEWART, STALL
Friday morning at Churchill Downs marked the final preparations for Charles Fipke’s Unbridled Forever, who is pre-entered in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade I) for trainer Dallas Stewart, and Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Top Decile, pre-entered in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Coming off a runner-up effort in the $204,400 Indiana Oaks (GII), Unbridled Forever covered five furlongs in 1:02.20.
“She had a great work,” Stewart said. “She was cruising at a high speed and galloped out nicely. One of her great qualities is that she doesn’t own her track. Whether it’s Churchill, Fair Grounds, Saratoga or Belmont she’s run well. So I expect her to run really well at Santa Anita.”
Stewart acknowledged that while facing older fillies and mares for the first time would be no easy feat, he has confidence in Unbridled Forever’s abilities to compete.
“She ran well in Indiana, too,” Stewart said. “We ended up second best (to Tiz Windy) that day but she seems like she’s improved every day since. She’s more up on it every day on her gallops and hasn’t backed out of the feed tub a bit. We’re in good shape.”
Stewart said Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez would get the Distaff mount on Unbridled Forever. Velazquez’s 12 Breeders’ Cup victories are the third most of any rider and second among active jockeys.
“She’s got a great rider in Johnny Velazquez so we’ll leave the trip up to him,” Stewart said. “But I’d guess she’d be somewhere in the middle; you can’t get too far back at Santa Anita.”
Top Decile, who was second to Peace and War in the $400,000 Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 3, breezed a half-mile in :49.80 Friday.
“She went in :49 and change, galloped out (five furlongs) nicely in 1:03 and just did it the right way,” Stall said.
Stall seemed pleased with Top Decile’s last effort despite having a little trouble getting out of the gate.
“She came up big to get second in that last race, especially since she didn’t really break at all,” Stall said. “Seeing that she’ll likely face another full field in the Breeders’ Cup we can’t let that happen. I believe she’ll break better. Ideally we’d like her to lay off the speed a little bit. There’s a lot of speed in that race so hopefully she sits tight behind the leaders and can close late. We’ll see what happens but we’re excited.”
Stall said Rosie Napravnik would ride Top Decile in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Napravnik’s lone Breeders’ Cup victory came in the 2012 Juvenile aboard Shanghai Bobby.
OPENING DAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Sunday, Oct. 26 – Opening Day / Stars of Tomorrow I
- 10 races from 12:40-5:16 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Co-Feature (Race 4 at 2:06 p.m.): $58,000-added Street Sense, 2yo, 1 M
- Co-Feature (Race 9 at 4:44 p.m.): $58,000-added Rags to Riches, 2yo, f, 1 M
- Trick or Treat Parade: Children are encouraged to dress in Halloween costumes and join Churchill Charlie in a trick-or-treat journey around the track to collect candy. Registration will begin at 1 p.m. and the parade will start at 2:30 p.m.
- Box Office hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Churchill Downs Racetrack will raise the curtain on its 26-day Fall Meet on Sunday, Oct. 26 and focus its racing spotlight on Thoroughbred racing’s rising stars in the first of two popular “Stars of Tomorrow” racing cards devoted exclusively to 2-year-olds. Ten races are scheduled on the program and a pair of $58,000-added, one-mile overnight stakes races – the Street Sense for colts and geldings and the Rags to Riches for fillies – headline the action.
Conquest Stable LLC’s Conquest Tsunami and Harry T. Rosenblum’s Far Right, both coming out of competition in Grade I stakes events, head a field of seven colts entered in the Street Sense, which is scheduled as the fourth race with a post time of 2:06 p.m. (all times Eastern). Wayne Catalano, who earned his first “Leading Trainer” title at Churchill Downs when he tied for that honor in the recent September Meet, trains three of the 11 fillies entered in the Rags to Riches. Catalano’s entrants include Mary and Gary West’s West Coast Belle and Movie Mystery and It’s All About The Girls Stable’s Four Inch Heels.
The 2014 Churchill Downs Fall Meet consists of 26 days of racing through its conclusion on Sunday, Nov. 30. Post time for Sunday’s “Stars of Tomorrow I” opening day is set for 12:45 p.m. and admission gates are scheduled to open at 11:30 a.m. The historic home track will operate on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule during the last of its three 2014 racing sessions.
Racing fans and horsemen enthusiastically welcomed the “Stars of Tomorrow” concept when it was introduced in 2005. The second of the meet’s racing days comprised solely of races for horses that could emerge as contenders for next spring’s $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), America’s greatest race, and the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), the nation’s most prestigious event for 3-year-old fillies, is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 29.
Conquest Tsunami and Far Right will meet for the second time in their young careers. They finished 1-2 at Keeneland on April 25 in a 4 ½-furlong maiden race that served as the respective career debut for both colts.
Conquest Tsunami rolled to 6 ¼-length victory for trainer Mark Casse over Keeneland’s former Polytrack surface that day, then traveled to Canada’s Woodbine for three consecutive victories that included wins in the Victoria and Colin Stakes over Polytrack and an allowance win on turf. He suffered his first loss in five career outings when he ran sixth over Keeneland’s new dirt surface in the 1 1/16-mile Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. The son of Stormy Atlantic finished 14 lengths behind the victorious Carpe Diem in that 12-horse field, but assistant trainer Norman Casse said Conquest Tsunami has trained well since that setback.
“We really thought he ran a solid race in the Breeders’ Futurity,” Casse said. “We figured he was going to get a little tired; being his first start on the dirt going two-turns. But we think we’ll get a truer gauge on what he really is by running him in the Street Sense.”
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Conquest Tsunami from post six and will shoulder high weight of 122 pounds
The Ron Moquett-trained Far Right brings a record of 1-2-0 in four races into the Street Sense that includes a fourth-place run behind Blofeld in the Belmont Futurity (GII) on Oct. 5 at Belmont Park. Moquett said his colt was the victim of a moderate pace in the Futurity, but he expects better from son of Notional at Churchill Downs, where Far Right was a maiden winner on Sept. 13.
“You can’t give those types of horses 23-second quarters and think that you can catch them at the end,” Moquett said. “He made a mental move to try and make up some of it and he was able to make up about five lengths toward the end, but it just wasn’t enough to punch on through after giving those guys that kind of easy first half.”
Others that figure to attract solid backing the Street Sense include Lothenbach Stables’ Handy Candy, whose two runs in the Churchill Downs September Meet for trainer Ian Wilkes included a 33-1 upset win in his career debut and a fourth-place effort in a one-mile allowance race, and Gary and Mary West’s Instant Replay, a Lemon Drop Kid colt who won at first asking for Catalano on Sept. 23 at Philadelphia’s Parx Racing.
Also competing for Lothenbach Stables is Nun the Less, a Candy Ride colt with a record of 2-1-0 in three races that includes an allowance win over mud at Keeneland on Oct. 3. Florent Geroux will ride the colt for Chicago-based trainer Chris Block.
The field for the Street Sense, from the rail out (with jockey, weight) includes Handy Candy (Chris Landeros, 118); Far Right (Ricardo Santana Jr., 118); Instant Replay (Corey Lanerie, 118); Jumps for Bucks (Francisco Torres, 118); Nun the Less (Geroux, 120); Conquest Tsunami (Bridgmohan, 122); and Risetotheoccasion (Rosie Napravnik, 118).
The members of the Catalano-trained trio in the Rags to Riches are each coming off a victory in their lone career start. Two of the fillies – West Coast Belle and Four Inch Heels – were winners at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park, while Movie Mystery was a winner at first asking at Parx Racing. The latter was a supplemental entry to the race at a cost of $500, but Catalano said there was a chance that one of his trio could be scratched, though all could be competitive.
“West Coast Belle is a nice filly,” Catalano said. “She only went five-and-a-half furlongs in her first start but I think she’s ready to handle going a little further. But I like her a lot and she’s been training great. Four Inch Heels is a similar story. She’s been doing everything right.”
Channing Hill was named as the rider for both West Coast Belle and Movie Mystery, and Geroux will ride Four Inch Heels. If both West Coast Belle and Movie Mystery run, they will compete as a coupled entry.
While Catalano has strength in numbers, a filly from the high-powered stable of trainer Todd Pletcher could attract strong support in the Rags to Riches. StarLadies Racing’s Hopefaithjoy comes into the race off a 3 ¾-length maiden romp at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland after a solid third-place run in the mud in her racing debut at Saratoga.
The daughter of Preakness (GI) winner Lookin at Lucky, a $270,000 yearling purchase at the 2013 Keeneland September Sale, will break from the outside post as she turns back to Churchill Downs one-turn mile distance. Two-time Kentucky Oaks-winning jockey Rosie Napravnik will ride.
Another contender could be JoAnn and Alex Leiblong’s Silver Allure, who was an easy winner at Indiana Grand in July before she finished a good second to Paige in a roughly run allowance race at Churchill Downs in September.
“She did really well in that last allowance race here,” trainer Steve Hobby said. “The filly that beat her, Paige, came back and ran third in the (Grade I) Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland, so that kind of made us feel better about getting beat there. She seems to like Churchill; her works since the last race have been excellent and we’re looking forward to seeing what she can do here Sunday.”
Edmond and Sharon Hudon’s Streetheart finished in a dead-heat with Keen Pauline for the victory in a seven-furlong maiden race on Sept. 27 at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Street Sense is trained by Eddie Kenneally and could also be among the fans’ choices in Sunday’s race.
Another possible contender is Winding Bay, an unbeaten Malibu Moon filly co-owned by trainer Wesley Ward and Kent Spillman. She was a 7 ½-length winner at Indiana Grand in her only career start, but Ward’s filly is cross-entered in the $100,000 Chelsea Flower Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday.
The field for the Rags to Riches, from the rail out (with jockey and weight) includes Winding Bay (Rafael Hernandez, 118); Tiz Sexy Now (Brian Hernandez Jr., 118); West Coast Belle (Hill, 118); Movie Mystery (Hill, 118); Taylor S (Miguel Mena, 118); Simply Confection (Jon Court, 118); Silver Allure (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118); Four Inch Heels (Geroux, 118); Flexible Ethics (Corey Lanerie, 118); Streetheart (Julien Leparoux, 118); and Hopefaithjoy (Napravnik, 118).
$500,000 Grade I Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare Heads Roster of Churchill Downs' Fall Meet Stakes Races
The 140th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) is the main event on a schedule of 13 stakes races that carry total purses of $2.032 million set for the 25-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) which will be run Sunday, Oct. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 30.
The Clark Handicap, like the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), dates to the first racing meet in 1875 at the track known then as the Louisville Jockey Club, and has been run each year without interruption since its inaugural running. The 2014 Clark Handicap maintains its traditional day after Thanksgiving spot on the Churchill Downs racing calendar on Friday, Nov. 28.
The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up is coming off of a memorable renewal in which Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge caught and passed multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude near the finish in the 2013 Clark. The narrow win completed a second-half surge that earned the D. Wayne Lukas trainee the Eclipse Award as the year’s champion 3-year-old.
The Clark is the only Grade I event on the 2014 Fall Meet stakes schedule that also features five Grade II events, three Grade III races and four overnight stakes races.
Churchill Downs will continue its traditional “Stars of Tomorrow” racing programs devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-olds that will open the meet on Sunday, Oct. 26 and help conclude the racing session on Saturday, Nov. 29. A pair of stakes events will be offered on each of those days. “Stars of Tomorrow I” on Oct. 26 will feature two $58,000-added overnight stakes in the Rags to Riches for fillies and the Street Sense, both of which will be run at the one-mile distance. The closing day “Stars of Tomorrow II” Grade II co-features are the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club and its sister race for fillies, the $200,000-added Golden Rod Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile races are part of their respective “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” point series that will determine participants in the respective 2015 runnings of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks on the first weekend in May.
The Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod join the Clark Handicap in their regular spots on the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend that closes out the Fall Meet. Leading off that four-day holiday weekend of high-quality stakes competition is the $200,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII), a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares ages 3-years-old and up, that again will be the racing centerpiece of the Thanksgiving Day celebration at Churchill Downs on Thursday, Nov. 27 – a local tradition since 1969.
The two other Grade II events on the 2014 Fall Meet stakes schedule are the $200,000-added Chilukki for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at one mile on Saturday, Nov. 1, and the $200,000-added Mrs. Revere for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Saturday, Nov. 15.
The Fall Meet’s Grade III races – all of which will be run over the Matt Winn Turf Course – include the $100,000-added River City Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, Nov. 8; the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, Nov. 15; and the $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, Nov. 22.
\ompleting the schedule of $58,000-added overnight stakes races are a pair of contests that will help highlight the racing programs when Churchill Downs simulcasts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita on Friday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1. The Dream Supreme, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares ages 3-years-old and up, will be run on Halloween, and the Bet On Sunshine, for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, will be the co-feature with the Chilukki on Nov. 1.
Changes in the Fall Meet stakes schedule from 2013 include:
- $50,000 purse increases for the Grade II Falls City Handicap and Chilukki;
- $25,000 purse increases for the Grade II Mrs. Revere, Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod; and
- Decreases in purses for four overnight stakes races (Street Sense, Rags to Riches, Bet On Sunshine and Dream Supreme) from $65,000-added to $58,000-added.
Nomination information is available online at www.ChurchillDowns.com.
Churchill Downs' September Meet Concludes 12-Day Run With Encouraging Results,Strong On-Track Performances
The second-consecutive September Meet at Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) concluded its 12-date run on Sunday, September 28 with encouraging results and a string of strong performances by the equine and human stars who competed during the brief racing session.
Performances on the track include victories and strong efforts by 2-year-olds whose connections are dreaming of next spring’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), along with veteran stars taking aim at big races in the fall and, for some, possible trips to California for the Breeders’ Cup Championships. All of the meet’s races involving contests for leading jockey, trainer and owner had dramatic finishes and were not decided until the final races on Sunday’s closing day.
The second year of a new racing product at the home of the Kentucky Derby offered Kentucky horsemen both attractive racing options for their horses on dirt and turf and a daily purse structure that was comparable to the 2013 debut of the track’s September Meet. The meet, which was only the second Churchill Downs racing meet since 1890 to be conducted entirely in the month of September, benefitted from ideal early autumn weather. The main track was rated “fast” on each of the meet’s 12 racing days, and the Matt Winn Turf Course was rated “firm” for all but one of those racing sessions.
Churchill Downs paid total purses of $3,864,487during September’s 12 racing dates for daily average purses of $322,041. A total of 940 horses competed in the meet’s 122 races, and the average field for a race during the meet consisted of 7.7 horses. The average number of horses per race in 2013, also through 122 races, was 8.07.
“We have a pair of September meets behind us and Churchill Downs remains optimistic that this new racing and entertainment product can be successful,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. “We faced many of the same challenges during this meet that impacted our Spring Meet, including our ongoing concerns about field sizes. Unfortunately, the starters per race was down this year, which is a result of the declining foal crops and increased competition for available horses from other tracks in our region and beyond.
“The positive news is that the Louisville market is becoming more aware of our September Meet and the possibilities it holds for Kentucky horsemen during a beautiful time of year. We look forward to working with the racing commission and the horsemen to address the issue of field sizes so that we can continue to provide this promising product.”
One of the strengths of Churchill Downs’ racing in the latter half of any year is the division of talented and well-bred 2-year-olds stabled at the track, and the opening weekend of the meet cast the spotlight on a pair of juveniles that scored important stakes victories on their respective roads to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), and the major races for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds in the Breeders’ Cup Championships at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 1.
Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled the top two finishers in the $115,500 Iroquois (GIII) when Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player edged stablemate Bold Conquest in the 33rd running of the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds, one of four stakes events run on Saturday, Sept. 6. The victory under Ricardo Santana Jr. made the son of Lookin At Lucky an early leader in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point standings that will determine the field for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on May 2, 2015. Along with the 10 points collected for his victory in the opening race in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings, Lucky Player’s win also earned an automatic spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. For the second consecutive year, the Iroquois was the first race in the “Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In Juvenile Division.”
GSN Racing’s Cristina’s Journey provided trainer Dale Romans his third career victory in the $231,000 Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies on the Sept. 6 program, and her front-running triumph offered added-value to the daughter of Any Given Saturday similar to that earned by Lucky Player in the Iroquois. The Pocahontas was the lead-off event of the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points system that will determine the participants in next spring’s 141st running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks and also the first stop on the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Juvenile Fillies Division.” The win under Miguel Mena gave Cristina’s Journey 10 points, an early lead on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” and a guaranteed spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).
Other outstanding September Meet performance were delivered on the meet’s final weekend when Cigar Street held off the late charge of favored Departing to win the second running of the $135,500 Homecoming Classic by 2 ¾-lengths and Canada-based Heart to Heart led from start to finish in the 39th running of the $110,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds at one-mile on turf.
Cigar Street, a 5-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense owned by Jake Ballis and National Basketball Association star Rashard Lewis, improved his career record to 5-1-0 in only eight races. The winner could be a candidate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), but his owners said that decision would be up to their Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The trainer is the all-time leader in victories and stakes wins at Churchill Downs, and the win by Cigar Street was Mott’s 680th beneath the track’s Twin Spires and his 89th stakes triumph.
Heart to Heart, an Ontario-bred son of English Channel owned by Terry Hamilton, led from the start under Julien Leparoux and rolled to a four-length win in the Jefferson Cup. The Jefferson Cup victory was his second consecutive stakes win and the fifth victory overall for the improving young turf star trained by Bryan Lynch.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Thank You Marylou, who finished fifth to Untapable in this year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks, had a happy return to Churchill Downs when she rolled to a 6 ½-length victory in the 39th running of the $112,000 Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. The daughter of Birdstone is trained by Mike Maker and was ridden by Miguel Mena.
Other strong stakes performances during the September Meet were turned in by Joseph Sutton’s Bradester, who led from the start under jockey Corey Lanerie to win the $107,300 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and the 6-year-old mare Don’t Tell Sophia, who returned from a six-month layoff to score an emphatic 2 ¼-length victory for trainer Phil Simms and jockey Joe Rocco Jr. in the 31st running $108,200 Locust Grove. The latter, co-owned by Simms and Jerry Namy, defeated Grade I winner On Fire Baby and Grade II winner Molly Malone in her sixth stakes victory.
Asmussen and owner Gillian Campbell collected their second consecutive win in the $111,500 Open Mind when jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. guided Aireofdistinction to victory in the sixth running of that six-furlong race for fillies and mares ages 3 & up.
The results of the leading jockey, trainer and owner races were not settled until late in Sunday’s 10-race closing day program and, in one case, the final yards of the meet’s last race.
Jockey Corey Lanerie, the defending September Meet win leader, and Ricardo Santana Jr. were tied at 13 wins heading into the meet’s 122th and final race. Though both men had a mount, they ended up sharing the title when Paden and jockey Joe Johnson won the meet’s finale. Lanerie led at the head of the stretch aboard Geometry, but finished fourth. Santana and Catchifyoucan rallied late for third. The shared title was Lanerie’s sixth “leading rider” title at Churchill Downs, while Santana earned his first.
"It’s exciting, competitive and frustrating, because you don’t want to get beat, especially when it got to this point,” Lanerie said after the meet’s last race. “I guess if you’ve never been there it’s different but now it’s almost like people expect me to be there in the running at the end. In the grand scheme of things you like to think it doesn’t matter as long as you’re healthy and you’re winning races, but it really does. But it’s a goal and now that I’ve won so many I just want to see how many more I can win and how long I can keep going.”
“Last year that was my dream to win something like this at Churchill Downs,” Santana said. “I want to say thank God first and then thank all the trainers for giving me a chance, because it’s not easy. I would have liked to get one more in that last one, but the best horse won the race. I’m just happy to be here and happy to get the chance to ride good horses.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. finished one win back of the top pair.
The battle for leading trainer ended in a tie as Steve Asmussen and Wayne Catalano each saddled seven winners. Asmussen extended his record total of Churchill Downs training crowns to 15, but Catalano’s crown was his first. Catalano’s title was special because it was his first at the Louisville track, but also because it was another indication that he has rebounded from a significant health scare earlier in the year resulted in a hospital stay of 22 days.
“I just want to thank the folks here at Churchill Downs and also thank my wife for standing by my side in my time of poor health,” Catalano said. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t really have anything so we’re lucky to be standing here. Today we went in there with good horses and couldn’t get it done outright. So it’s a little tough, but we’ve been through a lot of those and again we’re just happy to be here.”
Dale Romans and Eddie Kenneally finished in a tie for third in the trainers race, one win back of the top pair.
And Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the Nicholasville, Ky. couple who have won more races than any owner in the 140-year history of Churchill Downs, sent seven horses into the winner’s circle during in September for their record-extending 22nd training crown at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
The Ramseys edged Gary and Mary West – who started a meet-high 20 horses – and Maggi Moss, each of whom finished with six victories.
“All I have to say is ‘Wow’,” Ken Ramsey said. “We’ve had a great time here at Churchill Downs over the years; we’ve had our picture taken in this winner’s circle almost 400 times, but we’ve still got one thing on our bucket list and that’s to get our picture made on the inside of that (infield) fence in the (Kentucky) Derby.”
With their seven winners in the September Meet, the Ramseys have 398 career wins at Churchill Downs.
A total of 73 horses were claimed during the September Meet and the claims totaled $1,216,500. The claims resulted in sales tax revenue of $72,990 to the Kentucky State Treasury.
Racing at Churchill Downs will resume following a brief break with its 25-date Fall Meet, which will run from Oct. 26-Nov. 30. Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule to conclude the second straight year – but only the second overall – during which Churchill Downs has hosted a trio of racing meets in a calendar year.
Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart went straight to the front of the pack and never looked back, widening his lead in the stretch to win the 39th running of the $110,000 Jefferson Cup (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by four lengths over Captain Dixie.
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite, Heart to Heart finished the mile-long event on firm turf in 1:34.44 under guidance from jockey Julien Leparoux. Trained by Brian Lynch, the 3-year-old son of English Channel returned backers with $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Captain Dixie paid $5.20 and $3.60 to place and third-place finisher Sportscaster paid $3.80 to show.
Stormy Pacific, Hesinfront, Battlefront and Almost Famous rounded out the order of finish. Speightsland was scratched.
Heart to Heart led by a length through the opening half-mile, posting fractions of :24.31 and :47.86 before widening to two lengths when asked after six furlongs in 1:11.46 and ahead three into the stretch.
The victory was the second consecutive stakes win for Heart to Heart, who took the $100,000 Better Talk Now at Saratoga in his last effort. The victory was worth $66,836 for Heart to Heart, who has won five of 12 starts and earned $330,161.
“We got the first quarter pretty easy; he was just galloping early on,” Leparoux said. “He was just happy in front. He relaxed and then when I asked him at the quarter pole he just gave a big kick. He’s a very nice, classy horse and he obviously won pretty easily.”
Heart to Heart was bred in Ontario by Red Hawk Ranch and is out of the Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question.
JEFFERSON CUP QUOTES
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey of Heart to Heart (winner) – “We got the first quarter pretty easy; he was just galloping early on. He was just happy in front. He relaxed and then when I asked him at the quarter pole he just gave a big kick. He’s a very nice, classy horse and he obviously won pretty easily. I rode him once at Keeneland before and knew he was nice though because we won that day, too. So I was glad to be back on him.
KELLYN GORDER, trainer of Captain Dixie (runner-up) – “I was real proud of him because I think the hole (post two) kind of hurt us a little bit. But I think the winner was much the best."
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey on Captain Dixie (runner-up) – “He’s a nice horse. He broke sharp but I was able to sit in a perfect spot behind horses. When I asked him in the stretch he finished but he couldn’t catch the winner. A nice horse beat me.”
DALE ROMANS, trainer of Sportscaster (third) and Hesinfront (fifth) – “Sportscaster ran well. He’s a nice horse and I’ll think he’ll be really good as time goes on. Hesinfront, I don’t know. I just keep waiting for him to have a breakthrough race. I thought there was a little bit of track bias today and he was out there a little wide. These young horses are still learning to run, but I’m not giving up on him talent-wise.”
JESUS CASTANON, jockey on Sportscaster (third) – “The instructions were to just go ahead and give him a good break and to put myself right up there (near the front) and it worked out well. The winner looks like a good horse, but I felt on the backside that we were going to finish up in the top four.”
Cigar Street, owned by Jake Ballis and NBA star Rashard Lewis, was eager to run early but waited until midway around the far turn before taking command and turning back a late charge by 6-5 favorite Departing to impressively win Saturday’s second running of the $135,500 Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs by 1 ¾ lengths.
Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Cigar Street ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.86 and paid $6.80, $3.40 and $3 as the 2-1 second betting choice in the field of six older horses. Departing, with Robby Albarado up, returned $3 and $2.60. Call Me George, the pacesetter and 35-1 longest shot in the field, was another half-length back in third under Leandro Goncalves and paid $4.
Pick of the Litter, Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) champ Carve and Perfect Title completed the order of finish.
“He’s a big, powerful horse,” Bridgmohan said. “We had a perfect trip. All I had to do was be a mere passenger.”
Cigar Street, a lightly-raced 5-year-old with a history of setbacks, displayed the similar form of his two-length romp over multiple stakes winners Take Charge Indy, Pants on Fire and Golden Ticket in the 2013 Skip Away (GIII) at Gulfstream Park. Off 17 months to recuperate from a variety of ailments, he returned to action last month for an allowance optional claiming race at Saratoga and finished a good second to Pick of the Litter.
Call Me George, the longest shot in the field, set a modest pace in Saturday’s Homecoming Classic through fractions of :23.96, :48.39 and 1:12.12. An eager-to-run Cigar Street tugged at Bridgmohan in the early stages and raced close to the leader down the backstretch before he asserted himself on the far turn. Departing, the millionaire and three-time graded stakes winner who tracked in fourth early on, made a three-wide move at the head of the stretch to threaten Cigar Street, but the big dark bay horse repelled that bid and cleared the field late. Call Me George fought gamely for the show and was a neck ahead of a closing Pick of the Litter.
The victory was worth $83,170 and pushed Cigar Street’s career earnings to $283,908 from five wins and one second in only eight career starts.
“I’m a three-point shooter so I’m going to say it was a three-point shot – it was three points and not two points,” said Lewis, who attended Churchill Downs for the first time. “Just the fact that he got the win was big and very important to us. Even though it was only his second race back, we think he’s continuing to get better every race out. We want to take it one step at a time, and today was really big for us.”
The connections said Mott ultimately would decide Cigar Street’s next start, but a trip to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita in five weeks on Oct. 31-Nov. 1 – either the $5 million Classic (GI) or $1 million Dirt Mile (GI) – could be under consideration.
Bred in Kentucky by Marvin Definer, Ted Folkerth and Brookdale, Cigar Street is a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of the Deputy Minister mare Arcadiana.
For Mott, it was his record-extending 680th career win at Churchill Downs and 89th local stakes triumph.
HOMECOMING CLASSIC QUOTES
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of Cigar Street (winner) – “He’s a big, powerful horse. I’m just happy they selected me to ride him. (Trainer) Bill (Mott) and the owners Jake (Ballis) and Rashard (Lewis), they’re great. We had a perfect trip. All I had to do was be a mere passenger.”
JAKE BALLIS, co-owner of Cigar Street (winner) – “He ran huge. It was everything we could have hoped for. From being injured for so long, it’s frustrating, especially when you know you have one of the better horses. He had a conjular fracture after the Skip Away and kept having minor setbacks. But we’re so happy that we’ve got him back and that he’s healthy and today was awesome. Bill Mott is one of the best horsemen in the world. He’s been patient with him and we just kind of give him the keys and let him drive because we have so much faith in him. I’d obviously love to go to the Breeders’ Cup, but we’re just going to enjoy this win and talk with Bill and we’ll see what happens.”
RASHARD LEWIS, co-owner of Cigar Street (winner) – “Just the fact that he got the win was the most important thing for us – even though it was only his second race back. He looked great and we just hope he continues to get better. We want to just take it one step at a time but today was a good day.
“It makes it a lot more fun when you win a race. I told myself I wanted to come to Churchill Downs for the (Kentucky) Derby first time to be here. But my horse was running today and I wanted to be here to support him. This is an awesome time.
“It’s more nerve-wracking than anything. Like they say, it doesn’t matter if you’re a longshot or the favorite, anything can happen. Any horse can win any given day. We were so nervous going into this race. We know he’s a good horse, but we were nervous going into this race. It’s a good thing he was able to pull this out.
“It most definitely was a slam dunk. But I’m a three-point shooter, so I’m going to say it was a three-point shot – it was three points and not two points. Just the fact that he got the win was big and very important to us. Even though it was only his second race back, we think he’s continuing to get better every race out. We want to take it one step at a time, and today was really big for us.”
AL STALL JR., trainer of Departing (runner-up as the favorite) – “We had no excuses. We had enough of the racetrack in front of us from the quarter pole home. Cigar Street had a very moderate pace and ran like a good horse, and he might be a good horse. But he tried. We’re not thrilled that he didn’t win, but we’re happy that we’re back in the game a little bit.”
Q: Where does Departing go now? “I’d say probably the Fayette at Keeneland. We might look down the road at the Clark. That makes a lot of sense.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey on Departing (runner-up as the favorite) – “He ran hard. I was flanked against the winner the whole way around there. We had an opportunity to get to him and get by him and they both ran to the wire. That’s a nice horse that won, but my horse ran good.”
Q: His run was a good bit better than his disappointing effort in the Whitney at Saratoga … “I’m just glad he came back to run a little better coming off his last race. He bounced back well.”
JESUS CASTANON, jockey on Carve (fifth) – “He didn’t fire today. I was in a good spot. We were where we wanted to be early and I figured that when we got to the half-mile pole I’d start to let him out and let him do his game, but today he just never really showed up.”