Churchill Downs

September Meet Stakes Topped by Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Pocahontas, Iroquois; Homecoming Classic Returns for Older Stars

The second September Meet in the 140-year history of Churchill Downs Racetrack will offer a eight stakes races with total purses of $925,000 during a 12-day run topped by a pair of important stakes events for 2-year-olds who have their eyes on the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and racing’s spring classics, and the return of the $125,000-added Homecoming Classic, a race for 3-year-olds and up designed as a prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I).

The first Saturday of the Sept. 5-28 meet will feature four of those stakes events in a program highlighted by the $200,000-added Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies and the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) for colts, the 1 1/16-mile opening races of both the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points system for the 2015 Derby and Oaks, and the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” program for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). The second running of the Homecoming Classic – a 1 1/8-mile race designed to be a prep for the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic and November’s $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs – will share the stage on Saturday, Sept. 27 with the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Along with an automatic berth in the starting gate for their respective Breeders’ Cup races, the Breeders’ Cup-nominated horse that wins the Pocahontas or Iroquois also will have their pre-entry and entry fees paid, receive a $10,000 travel stipend (if based outside of California) and the person who nominated either the foal or the horse will receive an award of $10,000.

Racing during the September Meet will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during each of its four weeks, with “Downs After Dark” night racing celebrations scheduled for Friday, Sept. 5 (Opening Night) and Friday, Sept. 19.

The races on the stakes schedule for this year’s meet are identical to the roster of events offered during last year’s inaugural September racing session, but total stakes purses have been reduced by $50,000 and individual purses have been changed for three races. The Pocahontas purse has been raised by $50,000 to $200,000-added. Purses for the Homecoming Classic and Iroquois were each reduced by $50,000. The value of the Homecoming Classic is now $125,000-added, while the Iroquois purse is $100,000-added.

The Pocahontas and Iroquois will be joined on that first Saturday program by the $100,000-added Ack Ack (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000-added Locust Grove, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

The $100,000-added Open Mind, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares, will be the featured event on Saturday, Sept. 13, while the $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 20.

The roster of winners of stakes events run during last year’s inaugural September Meet was impressive. It included:

  • Mrs. Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned, the winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic that used a victory in the first Homecoming Classic as a final prep race for his defense of his Breeders’ Cup triumph. Fort Larned would finish fourth to Mucho Macho Man in the Classic at Santa Anita and end his career with 10 wins and nearly $4.5 million from 25 starts.
  • Winchell ThoroughbredsUntapable, whose victory in the Pocahontas earned the 2-year-old daughter of Tapit a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). She finished eighth in that race, but is unbeaten in 2014 with four stakes victories that include the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and the Mother Goose (GI) at Belmont Park. Another accomplished product of the 2013 Pocahontas is Landaluce Educe StablesRosalind, who finished third to Untapable and went on to be the runner-up in Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (GI) on synthetic Polytrack and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies before winning this spring’s Central Bank Ashland (GI) at Keeneland and finishing fourth to Untapable in the Oaks.
  • Donegal Racing’s Cleburne, who earned a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his victory in the Iroquois. He traveled to Santa Anita for the race, but suffered an injury and did not compete. Finishing behind Cleburne that day were third-place Tapiture, subsequent winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), Rebel Stakes (GII) and Matt Winn (GIII); fourth-place Ride On Curlin, third in the Champagne (GI), Southwest (GIII) and Rebel (GIII) and runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (GI) and Preakness (GI); and Rise Up, who finished sixth and later won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (GIII).
  • George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, who won the $100,000 Ack Ack (GIII) and then competed in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI), where he finished seventh to winner Goldencents. Ack Ack runner-up Taptowne also traveled to Santa Anita for the Dirt Mile, but was scratched shortly before the race
  • Preston Stable’s Flashy American, the winner of the Locust Grove who has since won the Sixty Sails (GIII) at Hawthorne, finished fourth to champion Beholder in the Zenyatta (GI) at Santa Anita and third in the recent Delaware Handicap (GI) to Belle Gallantey and 2013 Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar. Among her rivals in that listed stakes event were runner-up Wine Princess, who would return to win the Falls City (GII); and sixth-place finisher Molly Morgan, who would later finish second to multiple Grade I winner On Fire Baby in the La Troienne (GI) before defeating that rival in a rematch in the Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII).

Churchill Downs had conducted racing during the month of September during parts of various summer and fall racing meets during its long history that began in 1875. But last year was the first in which the track had offered both a third racing meet in a calendar year and a racing session conducted exclusively during September.

Seating for the Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 “Downs After Dark” celebrations and other racing programs scheduled during the first Homecoming Meet at Churchill Downs is available for purchase online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/tickets.

 For a PDF copy of the 2014 September Meet stakes schedule, click here.

Churchill Downs Concludes Eventful, Challenging 2014 Spring Meet

Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”)concluded its 140th Spring Meet on Sunday, June 29 after 38 days of racing highlighted by spectacular renewals of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I); the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI); the unveiling of the track’s spectacular $12 million Panasonic “Big Board” and $17 million Rooftop and Grandstand Terrace; and the continued success of its “Opening Night” and “Downs After Dark” night racing programs.

Along with near-record attendance and wagering levels for the 140th renewals of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) won by favored California Chrome and the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) that featured an emphatic victory by favored Untapable, the 2014 Spring Meet stakes program featured a total of six Grade I races and stirring performances by some of the brightest equine stars in American racing. Mort Fink’s two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan edged Seek Again to win a second consecutive running of the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI); Anita Cauley’s local favorite On Fire Baby won the $300,000-added La Troienne Presented by World Series of Polo (GI); Midnight Lucky dazzled in a 4 ½-length romp in the $300,000-added Humana Distaff (GI); and Randy Patterson’s former claiming horse Moonshine Mullin completed a first-ever sweep of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) and the $300,000-added Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GII) for veteran trainer Randy Morse. Also, Valiant Boy, the 2012 Arabian Horse of the Year, returned to Churchill Downs on Stephen Foster night for a second straight triumph in the $100,000 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup (GI) for Arabian horses.

In the Spring Meet’s non-equine contests, jockeys Corey Lanerie, Julien Leparoux and Rosie Napravnik compiled numbers during the meet, as did record-setting leading trainer Steve Asmussen and top owner Maggi Moss.

But those successes shared the Spring Meet stage with concern over the declining size of daily racing fields during the April 26-June 29 racing session. The average field in the 372 races conducted during the meet was comprised of 7.29 horses, a decline from an average of 7.78 horses-per-race during the 2013 Spring Meet, which also consisted of 38 racing days. The decline in the horse population and competition for available horses, especially those in mid-to-lower level claiming races, prompted Churchill Downs to run 372 races during the Spring Meet, compared to 396 races run during the spring of 2013.

“Our Spring Meet was a success on many levels, headed by continued growth in Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week, the ongoing popularity of night racing, the excitement surrounding the introduction of our ‘Big Board’ and a range of new events and activities introduced in our new Grandstand Terrace and Pavilion venue and the Paddock Plaza, now in its second year,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said. “Our four night racing programs – including our ‘Opening Night’ celebration and a trio of ‘Downs After Dark’ events – showed that our market continues to love the unique combination of racing, food, music and dancing under the lights. And a pair of new ‘Family Adventure Days’ introduced by our team this spring resulted in an impressive and enthusiastic response from families in the region and is a concept that displayed potential for growth in future meets.

“The smaller field sizes are the results of a combination of factors that include years of substantial decline in the North American foal crop and increased regional competition for horses from racetracks in Indiana and Ohio with purses fed by casino revenues. Churchill Downs race purses have remained basically flat in recent years. We deeply appreciate the efforts of owners and trainers who have supported us during this meet. We have a talented and dedicated team in our racing office and our entire team is working on ways to improve those field size numbers in our upcoming September and Fall racing meets and further down the road.”

Daily purses averaged $532,903 over the meet’s 38 days, a slight decrease from the 2013 average of $534,942. With 24 fewer races run this year, purses paid during the just-completed meet totaled $20,250,300, compared with total purses of $20,327,798 paid a year earlier.

The 2014 Spring Meet got off to an impressive start with a strong Kentucky Derby Week culminated by stirring victories by favorites in the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, the track’s signature races that have been run annually and without interruption since 1875.

Steve Coburn and Perry Martin’s homebred California Chrome, trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman and ridden by Victor Espinoza, won the famed “Run for the Roses” to provide the California-bred colt’s owners and trainer with their first successes in America’s greatest race. With the win, Sherman became the oldest trainer to saddle a winner of the Kentucky Derby. It was the second Kentucky Derby victory for Espinoza, who had won its 2002 running aboard War Emblem.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Untapable dominated the Longines Kentucky Oaks, providing her owner/breeder, trainer Steve Asmussen and Napravnik with their second victories in America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies. Winchell and Asmussen had won the 2005 Oaks with Summerly, while the 26-year-old Napravnik – the only woman his history to ride a Kentucky Oaks winner – captured the race for the second time in three years.

Perfect weather on the first Saturday in May helped attract 164,906 Kentucky Derby Day patrons – the second largest crowd in history – and wagering was brisk on-track, via TwinSpires.com and other online wagering platforms and at satellite wagering centers across North America. On-track wagering on the Derby race totaled $11.9 million, an increase of 4 percent from the 2013 total. On-track wagering on the Derby program of $23.4 million was an 11 percent increase from 2013. Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby race card totaled $186.6 million, an increase of 1 percent over the 2013 total of $184.6 million.

One day earlier 113,071 fans – the third-largest attendance in the history of the event – gathered at Churchill Downs for the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks. Wagering from all sources ranked as the second-highest all time on both the full 12-race Kentucky Oaks Day card and on the Kentucky Oaks race. All-sources wagering on the entire card totaled $43.2 million, a decrease of 5.7 percent from the 2013 total of $45.8 million. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race dropped 1.9 percent to $14.1 million from 2013’s record $14.4 million. On-track wagering on the Oaks Day race card was the fourth-highest of all-time, coming in at $11.8 million, a 3 percent decrease from 2013’s near-record $12.2 million. On-track wagering on the Oaks race decreased 3 percent to $3 million from 2013’s record $3.1 million.

All-sources handle for Kentucky Derby Week – beginning with the “Opening Night” celebration on Saturday April 26, through Derby Day, Saturday, May 3, was $253.8 million. The total was down 2 percent from 2013’s $258.5 million. Attendance for those five days was up 5 percent to 348,530 from 331,922 in 2013.

Festivities surrounding the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks continued to generate important funds for partner charities. Checks totaling $127,000 were presented on Saturday, June 13 to three charitable agencies:

  • $57,000 was presented to Bright Pink, a Chicago-based non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women along with support for high-risk individuals. This was Bright Pink’s first year as the Kentucky Oaks’ women’s health partner, a focus that dates to 2009 when the event’s “Ladies First” theme was introduced. With the donation to Bright Pink, Churchill Downs has donated $589,000 to its Kentucky Oaks women’s health partners since 2009.
  • 30,000 was presented to Horses and Hope, the cancer outreach initiative in Kentucky’s horse industry launched by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. The donation represents $1 from each on-track sale of the “Oaks Lily,” the signature drink of the Kentucky Oaks, and will support Horses and Hope’s programs at racetracks and farms in Kentucky’s horse industry. With its 2014 donation, Churchill Downs has donated $180,000 to Horses and Hope during its six-year Kentucky Oaks partnership.
  • Louisville-based food bank Dare to Care received a donation of $40,000 from the from the fifth annual “Taste of Derby Presented by Stella Artois” celebration in the North Wing Lobby of Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center on Thursday, May 1. The celebration of racing cuisine, celebrity and style attracted more than 1,500 patrons. Since the inaugural “Taste of Derby” in 2010, Churchill Downs has donated nearly $350,000 to hunger relief organizations in its home region and around the world.

Night racing at Churchill Downs and its unique blend of music, food, entertainment and top quality racing – introduced in 2009 – continued to attract large and enthusiastic crowds as the entertainment concept entered its sixth year. Four night racing sessions – including “Opening Night,” the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka”/Stephen Foster Handicap program on Saturday, June 14, and “Downs After Dark” Friday programs on June 20 and 27 – attracted a total attendance of 78,559.  The June 14 session included the introduction of the Terrace Lounge and VIP Cabanas, an outdoor venue for patrons 21-and-over located in the Clubhouse Terrace that attracted sellout crowds in each of its first three “Downs After Dark” sessions.

Jockey Corey Lanerie rode 57 winners during the Spring Meet to collect his third consecutive riding title and fifth overall at Churchill Downs, a total that includes two Spring Meet crowns. Highlights of the meet for the 39-year-old native of Lafayette, La. included a win in the Grade II Fleur De Lis Presented by Etihad Airways and his first Kentucky Derby mount. Lanerie finished 16th in Derby 140 aboard Harry’s Holiday.

Napravnik’s Spring Meet was cut short when she suffered a shoulder injury in a June 15 training mishap and missed the meet’s final nine racing days, but her 31 victories to that point earned her a tie with Julien Leparoux for second in the race for leading rider. She had set a record for wins by a female rider during a racing meet at Churchill Downs when she piloted 45 winners during the 2013 Spring Meet, a total that surpassed a standard established in the spring of 1996 by retired jockey and current NBC Sports analyst Donna Barton Brothers. Napravnik earned five stakes victories during the meet topped by her Grade I triumphs in the Kentucky Oaks and the Humana Distaff, and also established a Churchill Downs record for wins in a single day by a female rider when she guided five horses into the winner’s circle on May 25. The previous record of four wins on a single program had also been set by Barton Brothers in the 1996 Spring Meet.

Leparoux, a nine-time Churchill Downs riding leader, enjoyed his strong Spring Meet after he returned to Kentucky following two years of riding at Southern California racetracks.

A veteran of the Churchill Downs jockey colony and a fresh new face achieved milestones during the meet. Veteran Joe Johnson, a 46-year-old native of Knottsville, Ky., earned his 1,000th career victory aboard Silver Antelope in the 10th race on June 5. At the other end of the spectrum, 16-year-old apprentice jockey Juan Saez earned his first victories at Churchill Downs and in the United States when he won the opening two races on June 20. Saez, a native of Panama and the younger brother of New York-based jockey Luis Saez, arrived late in the Spring Meet and finished with five victories.

Apprentice Erin Walker, 29, also achieved a personal milestone when she rode her first Churchill Downs winner on June 19.

The Kentucky Oaks victory by Untapable was the marquee moment of the meet for trainer Steve Asmussen, who saddled 21 winners to earn a record-extending 14th title as leading trainer at Churchill Downs. Asmussen pulled away late in the final week to emerge with his seventh Spring Meet crown following a tight battle with Dale Romans (16 wins), Mike Maker (16) and Brad Cox (15). The 48-year-old Asmussen also earned stakes victories during the meet with Tapiture in the Matt Winn (GIII), Cinco Charlie in the Bashford Manor (GIII), Regally Ready in the Opening Verse and Speedinthruthecity in the Roxelana. Romans won major Spring Meet stakes events with Silver Max in the Firecracker (GII) and Molly Morgan in the Fleur De Lis (GII).

Maggi Moss sent seven horses into the winner’s circle during the Spring Meet to earn her third Churchill Downs “leading owner” title.  A meet highlight for the Des Moines, Iowa-based Moss came when she teamed with Napravnik and trainer Tom Amoss for a victory by Delaunay in the Aristides (GIII) on May 31. The 2014 title by Moss snapped a string of three consecutive leading owner titles by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who swept the Spring Meet, September and Fall Meet crowns in 2013 and have earned a record 21 career leading owner titles at the Louisville track. Six owners collected four wins during the meet to tie for second behind Moss, who earned her earlier crowns at Churchill Downs in the Spring Meets in 2007 and 2010.

The Spring Meet stakes schedule was launched with a victory in the “Opening Night” Derby Trial (GIII) by Embellishing Bob, who was awarded the victory by stewards following the disqualification of apparent winner Bayern. Other notable stakes victories were earned by Central Banker in the Churchill Downs (GII), Coffee Clique in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII), Global View in the American Turf (GII), Fiftyshadesofgold in the Eight Belles (GIII), Honey Hues in the Early Times Mint Julep (GIII), Southern Honey in the Winning Colors (GIII), War Dancer in the Louisville Handicap (GIII), Aurelia’s Belle in the Regret (GIII), Marchman in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII), Promise Me Silver in the Debutante, Good Lord in the Kelly’s Landing, A Little Bit Sassy in the Edgewood and Sweet Cassiopeia in the Unbridled Sidney.

Churchill Downs racing resumes in its September Meet, scheduled over 12 dates (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) from Sept. 5-28. The track’s 26-date Fall Meet is set for Oct. 26-Nov. 30.

Lanerie, Asmussen, Moss Clinch Spring Meet Titles

With a commanding lead entering the final day of the 2014 Churchill Downs Spring Meet, jockey Corey Lanerie has clinched his fifth Churchill Downs riding title with 55 wins entering Sunday’s closing day card.

The recent recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award captured his first title in the spring of 2012 when he tallied 71 victories, came back and won the title again in the fall of 2012 with 29 wins, took the inaugural September meeting in 2013 with 19 wins and followed that with another title last November where he rode 36 winners.

“Once you’ve accomplished a leading riding title you always want to repeat,” Lanerie said. “It’s definitely a goal I set for myself coming into this spring.

“I try not to look into the standings during the meet because I don’t want it to affect my focus. So I just try to win as many as I can each week to try to earn a good paycheck.”

Lanerie is scheduled to ride nine mounts on Sunday’s card, totaling an unprecedented 253 mounts for the meet, at least 70 more than any other jockey this spring under the Twin Spires.

“My agent plays a big role in my success and has a lot of connections here at Churchill,” Lanerie said. “Other than that, it’s just putting in work; I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years and have been able to build up some great relationships.”

The highlight of Lanerie’s meet was the win he took the $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) on Molly Morgan for trainer Dale Romans.

“I’d say the Fleur de Lis was probably the most memorable for me this meet, just because it was a graded stakes and we weren’t really expected to win that one.”

Molly Morgan won the Fleur de Lis by four lengths at odds of 10-1, defeating Grade I-winner On Fire Baby and graded stakes winners Fiftyshadesofhay and Flashy American.

Lanerie also was the only jockey to eclipse $2 million in earnings, with $2,006,696 entering the final day of racing at Churchill.

“I’m lucky to have so many opportunities to ride and obviously the more opportunities you have, the more you win,” Lanerie said. “People like me, thank God, and fortunately they ask for me.”

In addition to the 55 wins from his 253 mounts, Lanerie also has scored 47 second-place finishes and has ridden 44 third-place finishers, putting his in-the-money percentage at 60% and win percentage a 22% entering Sunday.

SILVER MAX, GUYS REWARD EXIT IN GOOD ORDER FOR ROMANS

After finishing first with Mark Bacon and Dana WellsSilver Max and third with Michael J. Bruder’s Guys Reward in Saturday’s $224,800 Firecracker (Grade II), trainer Dale Romans said that both horses exited the race in good order.

“They both came out great,” Romans said. “It was a good comeback race for Silver Max and we were very pleased with both of their efforts.”

Romans has won the Firecracker a record four times, taking the race with Guy’s Reward in 2012, Thorn Song in 2008 and Kitten’s Joy in 2005.

Romans was unsure where his two stakes horses would make their next two starts but mentioned both the Aug. 2 Fourstardave Handicap (GII) at Saratoga and July 27 Oceanport (GIII) at Monmouth as possibilities.

“We’ll wait and see how things play out in that division,” Romans said. “We’ll take a look at the Oceanport and the Fourstardave though.”

Should either horse take a shot at the Fourstardave, they will likely have to face two-time horse of the year Wise Dan, who missed the Firecracker due to surgery but is expected to return in the Fourstardave according to his trainer Charlie LoPresti.

Silver Max won the 2013 Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland last October, handing Wise Dan his only loss of the year. The race actually was held on the Polytrack and run at the distance of 1 1/16 miles due to extreme weather conditions.

Wise Dan responded by taking the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) last November, while Silver Max finished fourth. Out of four total meetings between them, Wise Dan holds the 3-1 record advantage.

RECORD-EXTENDING 14TH TRAINING TITLE CLINCHED BY ASMUSSEN

Entering the final day of spring racing under the Twin Spires, trainer Steve Asmussen has clinched his 14th training title at Churchill Downs, the most titles ever won at the historic Louisville racetrack.

Entering Sunday’s card, Asmussen had 19 wins, nine seconds and 12 third-place efforts from 81 starters with earnings of $1,279,014.

Highlighted by a victory in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) with Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Untapable, Asmussen captured a total of five stakes wins for the meet.

“It feels very good,” Asmussen said. “It’s a special meet with Untapable winning the Oaks. My assistants Darren Fleming and Galen Prewitt have done a wonderful job for us and hopefully the hits keep coming.”

His other stakes winners this meet were Cinco Charlie, who won Saturday’s $108,100 Bashford Manor (GIII); Tapiture, who won the $109,400 Matt Winn; Speedinthruthecity, winner of the $65,194 Roxelana; and Regally Ready, victor of the $64,907 Opening Verse.

Asmussen took his first training title in the fall of 2001, saddling 13 winners. He has won the fall training title six times, the spring title seven times and took the inaugural September meeting title in 2013.

Entering Sunday, Asmussen had saddled 516 winners at Churchill Downs, third on the all-time list behind Bill Mott (678) and Dale Romans (615).

MAGGI MOSS SECURES LEADING OWNER HONORS FOR A THIRD TIME

With seven victories entering the final day of Churchill Downs spring meeting, owner Maggi Moss has secured her third leading owner title with seven wins, highlighted by a victory by Delaunay in the $112,900 Aristides (GIII).

Moss also captured leading owner honors in the spring of 2010 and the spring of 2007. With a record of seven wins, six runner-up finishes and seven thirds, she has accumulated $230,926 in earnings for the meet.

Entering Sunday, six owners were tied for second in wins with four, but none had more than one starter on the Sunday card.

Moss said in a tweet on Saturday that her private goal was to become the leading owner of the Churchill Downs spring meet, that she was really happy and then thanked her trainer Tom Amoss for his efforts.

LIVE RACING RETURNS TO CHURCHILL DOWNS SEPTEMBER 5

Churchill Downs will host its second September meeting beginning on Friday, Sept. 5. The 12-day meet will feature live racing Friday-Sunday, with the final day on Sunday, Sept. 28.

Click here for a PDF version of Churchill Downs' June 29 edition of Race Day Notes containing additional statistical and meet information.

Silver Max Returns With Sizzling Front-Running Win in Firecracker

Favored Silver Max returned from nearly seven months on the sidelines with style as he led from the start to collect the 10th stakes triumph of his career in a 1 ½-length victory under jockey Robby Albarado in Saturday’s 25th running of the $224,800 Firecracker (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the turf at Churchill Downs.

The 5-year-old son of Badge of Silver provided trainer Dale Romans with a fourth victory in the Firecracker as he held off late runs by Nikki’s Sandcastle and his Romans-trained stablemate Guys Reward, who finished a nose apart in second and third, respectively.  Villandry closed well for fourth and finished a neck behind Guys Reward in the tight three-way battle for the runner-up spot.

“It was unbelievable,” Romans said. “This is special and he’s a special horse.”

Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max, running for the first time since a fourth-place finish behind two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in November’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (Grade I) at Santa Anita, collected his first stakes win at Churchill Downs since a victory as a 3-year-old in the American Turf (GII) and paid $4.60, $4 and $2.80 as the 6-5 favorite.

“I was more nervous before this race than before any other just to see how he came back and, boy, he delivered,” Bacon said.

Nikki’s Sandcastle, who rallied from fourth under Leandro Goncalves to grab the runner-up spot, returned $5.80 and $3.40. Guys Reward, who won the 2012 Firecracker for Romans, paid $4 to show for his third-place run under Jesus Castanon.

Free World, Valentino Beauty, Regally Ready and Joha finished behind fourth-place finisher Villandry.

Silver Max opened a clear lead breaking from post five and took the field of eight older horses through fractions of :23.65, :46.83, 1:09.98 and 1:21.74 without much pressure. He drifted out a bit entering the stretch but continued on doggedly to hold off his rivals and clock the mile on firm turf in 1:34.21.

“That’s very fast under today’s conditions,” Albarado said. “He was cruising along there pretty good and had his ears forward the whole way so I knew he was content with his cruising mode. He’s got such a high cruising speed and that’s his asset.”

Silver Max was the only horse to defeat Wise Dan in 2013 and the Firecracker win was his first since that victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland, which was moved from turf to the synthetic Polytrack course at the Lexington, Ky. track. The Firecracker win lifted Silver Max’s career record to 12-5-1 in 24 races and the $135,195 winner’s share of the Firecracker purse boosted his career earnings to $1,913,598.

“Robby said he was really impressed with the way he did it and the way he galloped out so we’re looking forward to the future,” Bacon said. “It was good to get the first one under the belt.”

FIRECRACKER QUOTES

DALE ROMANS, trainer of SILVER MAX (winner) and GUYS REWARD (third): “It was unbelievable. It was his first race back and when that horse (Regally Ready) ran up to him on turn I was thinking that maybe if I didn’t have him tight enough that the horse might get by him. But he’s just class and with these class athletes you can’t mess ’em up; I just need to stay out of his way and he’ll get the job done for me.

“This win means a lot because these are good people. Mark (Bacon) and I have been good friends since high school and it’s a lot of fun to win for them. I told Mark that we were friends before we bought the horse for $20,000 and now we’re really good friends. This is special and he’s a special horse.

“And Guys Reward shows up every time. It’s funny, I bought both those horses at yearlings sales for $20,000 and they just keep paying us back. Nice horses.”

ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey of SILVER MAX (winner): “Obviously he did his patented bust-away-from-there and went to the front. He was cruising along there pretty good and had his ears forward the whole way so I knew he was content with his cruising mode. He’s got such a high cruising speed and that’s his asset. He’s going so fast that they burn themselves up trying to get to them. By the eighth pole he’s still three or four in front. He’s a nice horse.

“I made a conscious effort leaving there (to be in front) and was determined to get in front at all costs. I wasn’t going to overdo it and blister in :22 and :45, but speed is his asset and I used it today and if he held on, he held on. He was off quite a while and that’s a credit to Dale being off seven months and running a big race in 1:34.21. That’s very fast under today’s conditions.”

MARK BACON, co-owner of SILVER MAX (winner): “I was more nervous before this race than before any other just to see how he came back and, boy, he delivered. Dale and his team did absolute right thing with him. It was great to give him some time off. Robby said he was really impressed with the way he did it and the way he galloped out so we’re looking forward to the future. It was good to get the first one under the belt.”

DAVID KASSEN, trainer of NIKKI’S SANDCASTLE (runner-up): “He always runs a good one. I thought there would be more pace – he (Silver Max) made an easy lead. I thought the two (Free World) had to go with him. I set up for the winner.”

Q: Nikki’s Sandcastle always shows up and runs well … “He’s hickory – he ran good.”

LEANDRO GONCALVES, jockey on NIKKI’S SANDCASTLE (runner-up): “I thought there would be more pace. Before the race I saw a lot of speed and I thought Free World would put pressure on Silver Max. The plan was to stay behind them and try to survive at the end, but it didn’t work out that way. He still ran a great race. To me, I’ve ridden him four times and this is the best race he’s ever run for me.”

JESUS CASTANON, jockey on GUYS REWARD (third): “He had a good break and settled to run his own race. He gave me a pretty good run late.”

Q: It looked like there would be a little more pace in the race, but your stablemate Silver Max got out there all alone … “That was whole key – coming into this race it looked there was a lot of speed and it was going to set-up good (for Guys Reward), but nobody went out there with the five (Silver Max) and that changed the whole thing.”

JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey on VILLANDRY (fourth):

Q : It seem before the race that you’d have a little more pace to run at, but the winner got out there by himself … “That’s party of racing, I guess.  My horse ran good.  He put me in a good spot right away and finished up strong.  They all finished in the race.  But he ran good – that was a good race for him.”

 

Cinco Charlie Brings Heiligbrodts Back to Bashford Manor

Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie set a pressured pace and shook off a challenge by Silverhill in deep stretch to edge clear for a 1 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s 113th running of the $108,100 Bashford Manor (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.

Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Cinco Charlie ran six furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.36 to give the meet’s leading trainer Steve Asmussen his fifth win in the stakes event that is annually the year’s first open graded stakes race for 2-year-olds in North America. The victory came 24 minutes after Asmussen’s stable star Untapable, the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner, won the $294,000 Mother Goose (GI) at Belmont Park by 9 ¼ lengths.

“That was a nice 20 minutes, huh?,” quipped Asmussen’s assistant Darren Fleming.

Cinco Charlie broke fastest of all from post four and led the field of six juveniles through fractions of :21.89, :45.69 and :57.63 with Texas invader Silverhill in close pursuit from his outside. Cinco Charlie proved best in the final yards and banked $67,022 to boost his earnings to $93,422 from two wins in two starts.

“He’s pretty precocious, a nice 2-year-old and he makes my job easy,” Bridgmohan said. “It was pretty straightforward. He broke smartly and was comfortable the whole way. When I asked him to pick it up he accelerated and did everything profession.”

Cinco Charlie, the 6-5 favorite, paid $4.60, $3 and $2.20. Silverhill, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $6 and $3.20. Skyway was another four lengths back in third and paid $2.80.

Lucky Player and Governmentshutdown completed the order of finish. Draw Nigh, a distant trailer, was pulled up midway around the turn but walked off.

Prior to the Bashford Manor, Cinco Charlie created a favorable impression May 9 when he debuted in the first 2-year-old race of the meet as the 3-2 favorite against seven rivals and won by 2 ¾ lengths. The Indian Charlie colt, a $190,000 purchase at the OBS March sale, clocked 4 ½ furlongs in :51.65, which remains the fastest of six 4 ½-furlong races this meeting at Churchill Downs.

“It was pretty much unbelievable to go all the way today coming off of one race seven weeks ago,” Bill Heiligbordt said. “It’s pretty impressive to win back like that and get a horse to go from 4 ½ furlongs to six furlongs over a period of time, so he’s got to be a nice horse.”

The stakes triumph was the first for the Heiligbrodts following a brief hiatus from the ownership ranks that included the dispersal of their vast racing operation in the summer of 2011. Previously, the Texans were among the nation’s top owners for more than two decades and had more than 150 horses in training. At the time of the dispersal they had owned all or part of 118 stakes-winners, including 45 graded stakes-winners.

“I found a good horse,” Bill Heiligbrodt said. “That’s why I’m back. I have just a couple of horses in training (five) but I’m looking for some more good horses. I’m just being careful and trying to buy a little better horse and not have as many.”

Cinco Charlie gave the Heiligbrodts their third win in the Bashford Manor. They campaigned 2004 winner Lunarpal and co-owned 1994 Bashford Manor winner Hyroglyphic with Jack Hammer.

Cinco Charlie, named after 73-year-old Bill Heiligbrodt’s boat, is a bay Kentucky-bred out of the Marquetry mare Ten Halos.

“I had Bwana Charlie who was probably one of the best racehorses I had and this horse is a three-quarter brother (note: his dam Ten Halos is a sister to Bwana Charlie). And he’s a very pretty horse.”

The Bashford Manor – one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races – was the first of three consecutive stakes races run on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

In the subsequent $58,128 Kelly’s Landing, Thomas Shank and Stan Young’s 7-year-old gelding Good Lord wired eight rivals and ran seven furlongs in 1:22.45 to beat favored Pass the Dice by 2 ¾ lengths. Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the winner for 79-year-old trainer Forrest Kaelin.

BASHFORD MANOR QUOTES

SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “He’s pretty precocious, a nice 2-year-old and he makes my job easy. It was pretty straightforward. He broke smartly and was comfortable the whole way. When I asked him to pick it up he accelerated and did everything profession.”

BILL HEILIGBRODT, co-owner of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “I found a good horse. That’s why I’m back. I had Bwana Charlie who was probably one of the best racehorses I had and this horse is a three-quarter brother (note: his dam Ten Halos is a sister to Bwana Charlie). And he’s a very pretty horse.

                “I have just a couple of horses in training (five) but I’m looking for some more good horses. I’m just being careful and trying to buy a little better horse and not have as many.

                “It was pretty much unbelievable to go all the way today coming off of one race seven weeks ago. It’s pretty impressive to win back like that and get a horse to go from 4 ½ furlongs to six furlongs over a period of time, so he’s got to be a nice horse.

                Q: Where did the name come from? “Cinco is the name of my boat.”

CORINNE HEILIGBRODT, co-owner of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “This was very fun and exciting. There’s a lot of nostalgia here.”

DARREN FLEMING, assistant trainer of CINCO CHARLIE (winner): “I’m glad he won. That was a nice 20 minutes, huh?” (Note: The Asmussen stable’s Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable won the Grade I, $294,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park by 9 ¼ lengths 24 minutes prior to Cinco Charlie’s Bashford Manor victory)

BRET CALHOUN, trainer of SILVERHILL (runner-up): “He ran great. I was very happy with him. I’m disappointed to lose, but I was very happy with his performance. The colt that beat him is a very nice colt, I think, and I thought we ran our race. When he loomed up to him on the turn I thought we had him, but the winner just had plenty left for us.”

Q: What next with him? “I really haven’t thought past today. We’ve got the colt races up at Saratoga and we could go in that direction, or take the lower road. I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. This was kind of a last-second decision to come up here. We were pointing toward a futurity down there (in Texas) and we decided to send him here – he didn’t get here until Wednesday morning. It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment deal. We thought he was a nice horse and he belonged up here, but it wasn’t the original plan. So I don’t know where he’ll go from here, but obviously there’s a lot of 2-year-old racing coming up in the next few months. I was very, very happy. I was disappointed that he didn’t win, but I was very happy with the race.”

COREY LANERIE, jockey on SILVERHILL (runner-up): “My horse ran great. He came out of the gate nice and was in a perfect position. I might have rode with too much confidence – I thought I had him any time I wanted him. But hat’s off to Asmussen’s team. They had the horse read to run.”

Q: At one point did you realize it was a battle and you didn’t have him where you wanted him? “About the eighth pole – I was all-out and I wasn’t getting the best of him. I was still hopin’, though.”

NORMAN CASSE, assistant trainer/son of MARK CASSE, trainer of SKYWAY (third): “I’m really proud of him. I thought he ran a good race. He’ll be a much more effective horse when we go longer and he can be comfortable early on in the race.”

Q: Any problems for him with that rail post? “He doesn’t like being on the inside. We weren’t thrilled with the post position, but we played the hand we were dealt.”

STEWART ELLIOTT, jockey on SKYWAY (third): “I thought he run a good race. He got in a little bit tight in the beginning and got off to a little bit of an awkward start. But he got in good position and when he moved on the outside I thought we had a good chance, but the other two horses just kept running.”

KELLY’S LANDING QUOTES

FORREST KAELIN, trainer of GOOD LORD (winner):

Q: He’s a tough old boy – he’s been through a lot of wars … “Well, he had a foot problem for a good while. We got him all straightened up. He’s a nice horse. He runs hard all the time. He loves this track – he broke his maiden here. Now he’s run 21-and-change two times and he ran 22-and-change today and I really liked him. He’s been working like crazy, so he didn’t surprise me. I told the owners, ‘If he gets to the front, it’s all over.’”

Q: You’re 79 now and you and you old friend Art Sherman (77-year-old trainer of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome who rode with Kaelin in their early days as jockeys) have put a nice bookend on this Spring Meet… “(D. Wayne) Lukas (who won earlier in the day) is 78 and I’m 79. It’s a good time for all of the ‘old timers.’ I’ve been here for 60 some years. He ran a great race – he really ran good. I guess we’ll have to go back to Ellis for the Bernhardt (Don Bermhardt Memorial). He’s won that one two in-a-row, so we’re going for the three.”

BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on GOOD LORD (winner): “He’s good right now. I guess he’s as good as he’s ever been. I’ve only ridden him his last two starts, but he’s on his game.” 

Q: What were the instructions? “Just let him break and if he put himself where we thought he would be, that’s what we thought he would do. It worked out good.”

 

Asmussen Barn Looking for Graded Stakes Double Saturday

Saturday could to be a huge day for the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, who is seeking a graded stakes double with Vinery Stables LLC’s Regally Ready in the $200,000-added Firecracker (GII) and a pair of 2-year-olds entered in the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) in William and Corrine Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie and Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player.

As the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, Regally Ready will break from the outside in post position eight for the Firecracker with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan on board.

“He’s regained some of his old form,” Asmussen said. “He’s run really well over the Churchill turf course; but with such a good speed turf horse in there in Silver Max, this race is a whole new question for us.”

The 7-year-old gelding by More than Ready won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) at Churchill Downs, which was his last stakes victory prior to taking the Opening Verse also at Churchill on May 31, in his last start. Regally Ready will shorten up from the distance of 1 1/16 miles in the Opening Verse to a mile in Saturday’s Firecracker.

“I think the mile distance is a good fit for him right now,” Asmussen said. “I think the Opening Verse that he won last time at a mile and a sixteenth was probably a sixteenth further than his best.”

Although Asmussen has never saddled a winner in the Firecracker, he is seeking a fourth Bashford Manor victory, winning with Lunarpal in 2004, Kodiak Kowboy in 2007 and Kantharos in 2010.

In one of the most impressive 2-year-old performances of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, Cinco Charlie defeated seven other juveniles in his maiden debut by an easy 2 ¾-length margin, which is likely why he has been made the early 9-5 favorite on the morning line.

Lucky Player, who also captured his debut at Churchill, was given odds of 6-1 on the morning line. He took his maiden by 1 ¾ lengths, defeating a smaller field of five.

“I think the 2-year-old race is extremely wide open,” Asmussen said. “I have two very nice 2-year-olds with hopefully two very big futures. I don’t like having to run them against each other, but it’s better than not having any runners at all.”

The Bashford Manor will go as Race 6 on Churchill Downs’ Saturday card with a post time of approximately 3:16 p.m. EDT, while the Firecracker is the eighth race with a 4:18 p.m. EDT scheduled post.

Asmussen, seeking his record 14th local training title, is leading all Churchill Downs trainers with 18 wins on the meet, three more than Mike Maker and Brad Cox, who are tied in second with 15 wins. Asmussen has 14 starters entered in the final three days of the meet, while Maker has 11 and Cox has four.

ROBB GOING FOR BASHFORD MANOR REPEAT WITH GOVERNMENTSHUTDOWN

After taking the 2013 Bashford Manor (GIII) with Debt Ceiling, trainer Jerry Robb and owner Tim E. O’Donohue Racing LLC find themselves in a similar situation with Governmentshutdown, who is entered in the 2014 edition this Saturday.

Coming off a win in the $75,000 Rollicking at Pimlico in his last effort, the gelded son of Exchange Rate has been made the 2-1 second choice on the morning line and will break from post position two in the six-furlong test for 2-year-olds.

“He got cut up a little bit in that last race and I had to give him a week or so to heal it up,” Robb said. “So he missed just a little bit of training but he’s had two really good workouts since then.”

Governmentshutdown is the only entry of the six-horse field that has raced three times and also is the only one to have won two races.

“We will see how this race shapes up,” Robb said. “I feel better having two wins under my belt as opposed to just one, but you never know what will happen with these 2-year-olds.”

Debt Ceiling also won the Rollicking as his last start prior to taking the 2013 Bashford Manor and was owned by O’Donohue.

“This horse definitely acts like he wants to go a little longer distance than Debt Ceiling did,” Robb said. “But Debt Ceiling probably had a bit quicker turn of foot.”

$1 BEER, HOT DOGS, SODAS & WATER FOR SUNDAY’S CLOSING DAY PROGRAM

Churchill Downs Racetrack has a special “thank you” for its fans on Sunday’s closing day 10-race program. “Fan Appreciation Day” will feature $1 food and drink specials including 16-ounce domestic beers at all locations where draft beer is served, 22-ounce Pepsi fountain drinks, bottled waters and hot dogs. Also, members of the military – both active duty and retired – will be admitted free on Sunday when they present a military I.D.

CLOSING WEEKEND AT CHURCHILL DOWNS

Friday, June 27 – Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka: Rockin’ in the USA

  • 10 races from 6-10:57 p.m. (Gates: 4:00 p.m.)
  • Feature (Race 8 at 9:50 p.m.): $56,000 alw opt clm, f&m, 1 1/16 M (T)
  • Wagering menu includes three 50-cent Pick 4s (Races 1-4, 3-6 and 7-10), two 50-cent Pick 5s (Races 2-6 and 6-10), 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 5-10) and $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 10)
  • Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka
  • Theme: Rockin’ in the USA. A pre-Fourth of July holiday celebration with denim, Americana and lots of red, white and blue.
  • Entertainment on the Plaza stage by Juice Box Heroes
  • Possible “Elvis” sighting?
  • Bet or No Bet Presented by Thorntons. Four lucky on-track patrons will face a tough decision on Races 6-9: to place a $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race or take a $100 Thorntons’ gift card.
  • Entertainment emcee on the Big Board: Diaz from “Diaz and Jess” on New Country Q103.1
  • 21-and-over “Terrace Lounge” ticket for $25 available in Grandstand Terrace and includes DJ entertainment with access to purchase premium food and beverage offerings.
  • 21-and-over “Terrace Lounge VIP Cabanas” available for $99 and includes four-hour open bar and tapas buffet
  • Box Office hours: 12 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, June 28 – Stakes Tripleheader

  • 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature (Race 8 at 4:18 p.m.): $200,000-added Firecracker (GII), 3 & up, 1 M (T)
  • Co-feature (Race 6 at 3:16 p.m.): $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), 2 yo, 6 F
  • Co-feature (Race 7 at 3:47 p.m.): $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, 3&up, 7 F
  • Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 Sunday, June 29 – Fan Appreciation Day / Closing Day

  • 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature: $56,000 alw opt clm, f&m, 7 F
  • Mandatory Single 6 Jackpot and Super Hi-5 payout
  • $1 domestic draft beer (16 oz.)
  • $1 Pepsi product fountain drinks (22 oz.)
  • $1 bottled water
  • $1 hot dogs
  • Free general admission for all active and retired members of the United States armed forces
  • Salute Spring Meet Champion Jockey, Trainer and Owner between races
  • Charity: $15,000 check presentation to Sullivan University for their contributions to Taste of Derby (after Race 6)
  • Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Click here for a PDF copy of Churchill Downs' June 27 Race Night Notes that include additional statistical and meet data.

LoPresti Shooting for Third Firecracker Win with Villandry

Trainer Charlie LoPresti will bid for his third win in four years in Saturday’s $200,000-added Firecracker (Grade II) – not with two-time horse of the year and defending champion Wise Dan, but with Gainesway Stable’s Villandry, who is seeking his first stakes win.

Villandry, coming off a runner-up effort to Regally Ready in the Opening Verse on May 31, will break from post position six in an eight-horse field Saturday.

“Villandry has been doing really well,” LoPresti said. “I really like our post position in the six-hole rather than being stuck down on the inside. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of speed up front this time around, which is conducive to his running style.”

Villandry was sixth in the seven-horse Opening Verse after the first quarter-mile, and seventh through the half-mile up to the sixth furlong. He swung six-wide in the stretch and was able to rally late, finishing second by three-quarters of a length to Regally Ready, who also returns for the Firecracker.

“I think it’s going to set up for a horse like ours if he runs his race,” LoPresti said. “I’m a little questionable about the mile. A mile and a sixteenth would suit me better, but you don’t always get to pick and choose where you go and what you do.

“I was going to put Set the Sail in there, too, but I think it would be hurting our chances with Villandry. The only way the other horse wins is if he’s close to the pace, then yes it will set it up well for Villandry, but I don’t want to use my other horse to do that, so I’m taking him to Indiana.”

The Firecracker is the featured eighth race on Saturday’s Churchill Downs card, which also features the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) as Race 6 and the $65,000 Kelly’s Landing as Race 7.

“I haven’t seen the morning-line odds but I would guess we would probably be the third or fourth choice,” LoPresti said. “We just got beat a head to Regally Ready, another stride and we would have had him in that last one, and with Silver Max coming off that long layoff, who knows what he’s going to do. So I like our chances.”

LoPresti won the 2011 and 2013 editions of the Firecracker with Wise Dan, who was sidelined due to emergency colic surgery last month. LoPresti is hoping for the champion to make a return in the August 9 Fourstardave Handicap (GII) at Saratoga.

“It’d be really awesome if our horse could step up and win this race for us again,” LoPresti said. “We’re excited and definitely think we have a shot.”

SKYWAY SEEKS TO EMERGE AS A PROMINENT 2-YEAR-OLD FOR CASSE

Coming off an impressive 6 ¾-length victory at Keeneland in his debut, John C. Oxley’s Skyway will tackle a field of five other 2-year-olds in Saturday’s $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) at Churchill Downs in hopes to become the first 2-year-old of the year to achieve graded stakes glory.

After breaking his maiden going 4 ½ furlongs on April 5, Skyway looks to give trainer Mark Casse his first Bashford Manor win, breaking from the rail in post position one.

“They only sent up a handful of 2-year-olds to Keeneland that they really thought could run and he was one of them,” Casse’s assistant and son Norman Casse said. “He obviously ran a really big race, which was what we expected.

“The one big disadvantage of winning with a 2-year-old at Keeneland is that you have virtually nowhere to run afterwards,” Casse said. “But I feel like we’ve really done well with him getting him ready.

“He seems to really like the track and we’ve worked him with some of our more talented horses and he’s been right there with them, so he should be fit and ready to go.”

The Bashford Manor is the sixth race on Saturday’s card.

TAKE CHARGE BRANDI EXITS DEBUT IN GOOD FORM, SCHUYLERVILLE NEXT

Following her 2 ½-length debut victory, Willis D. Horton’s Take Charge Brandi was reported in good shape and will point to the $150,000 Schuylerville (GIII) on July 18, the opening day of the 2014 Saratoga meeting for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

“She came out perfect,” Lukas said. “It was a very easy race for her and we’ll point for the Schuylerville up at Saratoga next.”

Take Charge Brandi is out of a half-sister to champion Will Take Charge, also owned by Horton and trained by Lukas, who was second in the Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) in his last start under the Twin Spires.

“It’s such a great family,” Lukas said. “Other than them both being chestnuts I think they both move really well and have just a good efficiency of motion. I don’t think a distance is going to be any problem for the filly and it’s not for Will Take Charge either. I’d say they both are without distance limitations.”

Lukas also mentioned that the Whitney Invitational Handicap (GI) on Aug. 2 would be a likely next start for Will Take Charge.

The connections of Lukas and Horton also have Laurie’s Rocket, who has drawn post two for Saturday’s $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing.

“It’s a big step forward,” Lukas said. “He’s coming off a long layoff, but there was really no place else to run him. We were trying to get him in something else but we just couldn’t get the races to go. We’re probably going to need this race to set us up for Saratoga. He likes the track and likes the distance but like I think he might just need a race.”

‘ROCKIN’ IN THE USA’ THEME AT DOWNS AFTER DARK THIS FRIDAY

Churchill Downs will host its final “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois & Finlandia Vodka” of the Spring Meet on Friday night.

Themed as “Rockin’ in the USA,” guests are encouraged to dress in a mix of denim and Americana for a night deemed ‘A Tribute to Rock and Roll” with a performance in the Plaza by the popular Juice Box Heroes.

The final “Downs After Dark” also includes the popular text-to-win sweepstakes “Bet or No Bet,” sponsored by Thorntons. Four lucky on-track patrons will face a tough decision on Races 6-9: to place a $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race or take a $100 Thorntons’ gift card.

RESERVE YOUR SEATS FOR THE ‘TERRACE LOUNGE’ ON FRIDAY NIGHT

For Friday’s “Downs After Dark” Spring Meet finale, Churchill Downs will transform the new Grandstand Terrace into the “Terrace Lounge,” a 21-and-over lounge-style environment that features a live DJ, club/lounge style lighting and décor, premium food and cocktails and use of the grandstand terrace’s patio and stadium style seating.

Tickets to Downs After Dark in the lounge are $25 and can be reserved in advance with a limited total capacity. The Terrace Lounge will be available at all three Downs After Dark events this Spring, with the hopes of continuing it again in the future if successful.

For $99 per ticket, Churchill Downs is also offering Terrace Lounge VIP Cabana seating, which includes an open bar from 7-11 p.m., a premium buffet designed by Chef David Danielson and concierge wait service. These tickets reserve special plush seating for groups of any number within one of the four covered cabanas at the end of the Grandstand Terrace.

‘PEB’ ON HAND TO UPDATE COLORFUL DERBY MURALS

Acclaimed Thoroughbred racing cartoonist Pierre Bellocq, better known to generations of horse racing fans as “PEB,” will update his colorful, masterpiece murals on the second floor of the Clubhouse ITW area that depict every jockey and trainer that have won the Kentucky Derby.

PEB is scheduled to sketch and paint the images of California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman and update the image of two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza starting on Friday at 11 a.m.

$1 BEER, HOT DOGS, SODAS & WATER FOR SUNDAY’S CLOSING DAY PROGRAM

Churchill Downs Racetrack has a special “thank you” for its fans on Sunday’s closing day 10-race program. “Fan Appreciation Day” will feature $1 food and drink specials including 16-ounce domestic beers at all locations where draft beer is served, 22-ounce Pepsi fountain drinks, bottled waters and hot dogs. Also, members of the military – both active duty and retired – will be admitted free on Sunday when they present a military I.D.

CLOSING WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS

Thursday, June 26 – Senior Day

  • 9 races from 12:45-4:48 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature (Race 7 at 3:47 p.m.): $55,000 alw opt clm, f & m, 1 1/16 M
  • Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Friday, June 27 – Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka: Rockin’ in the USA

  • 10 races from 6-10:57 p.m. (Gates: 4:00 p.m.)
  • Feature (Race 8 at 9:50 p.m.): $56,000 alw opt clm, f&m, 1 1/16 M (T)
  • Wagering menu includes three 50-cent Pick 4s (Races 1-4, 3-6 and 7-10), two 50-cent Pick 5s (Races 2-6 and 6-10), 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 5-10) and $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 10)
  • Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka
  • Theme: Rockin’ in the USA. A pre-Fourth of July holiday celebration with denim, Americana and lots of red, white and blue.
  • Entertainment on the Plaza stage by Juice Box Heroes
  • Possible “Elvis” sighting?
  • Bet or No Bet Presented by Thorntons. Four lucky on-track patrons will face a tough decision on Races 6-9: to place a $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race or take a $100 Thorntons’ gift card.
  • Entertainment emcee on the Big Board: Diaz from “Diaz and Jess” on New Country Q103.1
  • 21-and-over “Terrace Lounge” ticket for $25 available in Grandstand Terrace and includes DJ entertainment with access to purchase premium food and beverage offerings.
  • 21-and-over “Terrace Lounge VIP Cabanas” available for $99 and includes four-hour open bar and tapas buffet
  • Box Office hours: 12 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, June 28 – Stakes Tripleheader

  • 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature (Race 8 at 4:18 p.m.): $200,000-added Firecracker (GII), 3 & up, 1 M (T)
  • Co-feature (Race 6 at 3:16 p.m.): $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), 2 yo, 6 F
  • Co-feature (Race 7 at 3:47 p.m.): $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, 3&up, 7 F
  • Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunday, June 29 – Fan Appreciation Day / Closing Day

  • 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature: $56,000 alw opt clm, f&m, 7 F
  • $1 domestic draft beer (16 oz.)
  • $1 Pepsi product fountain drinks (22 oz.)
  • $1 bottled water
  • $1 hot dogs
  • Free general admission for all active and retired members of the United States armed forces
  • Salute Spring Meet Champion Jockey, Trainer and Owner between races
  • Charity: $15,000 check presentation to Sullivan University for their contributions to Taste of Derby (after Race 6)
  • Box Office hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Asmussen's Dazzling Cinco Charlie Heads Saturday's Grade III Bashford Manor

Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie, a tantalizing prospect that trail-blazed his way to a swift 2 ¾-length victory in his career debut, headlines a field of six juveniles entered Saturday at Churchill Downs for the 113th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (Grade III), the year’s first open graded stakes race for 2-year-olds.

The six-furlong Bashford Manor – one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races – is the first of three consecutive stakes races that will be run on Saturday’s 10-race program. It goes as Race 6 at approximately 3:16 p.m. (all times Eastern) and will be followed by the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing and the $200,000 Firecracker (GII). The first race is 12:45 p.m.

Cinco Charlie, conditioned by the meet’s leading trainer Steve Asmussen, created a favorable impression May 9 when he debuted in the first 2-year-old race of the Spring Meet as the 3-2 favorite against seven rivals. The Indian Charlie colt broke fastest of all in the 4 ½-furlong sprint and set a pressured pace on the outside of the filly To Be Determined through fractions of :22.41 and :45.54. Entering the stretch, he was met to his outside by a rallying Far Right, but shook off that rival and edged clear with a furlong to go and increased his lead under steady urging from jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. His final time of :51.65 is the fastest of six 4 ½-furlong races this meeting at Churchill Downs.

The Heiligbrodts, who were among the nation’s top owners for more than two decades, return to the stakes scene Saturday following a brief hiatus from the ownership ranks that included the dispersal of their vast racing operation in the summer of 2011. At the time of the dispersal they had owned all or part of 118 stakes-winners, including 45 graded stakes-winners.

Cinco Charlie, a $190,000 purchase at the OBS March sale, is one of a handful of 2014 starters for the Heiligbrodts, who have returned to racing as B and C Racing.

Bill Heiligbrodt, 73, co-owned 1994 Bashford Manor winner Hyroglyphic with Jack Hammer and campaigned 2004 race winner Lunarpal with his wife.

Asmussen, who has won with five of 13 2-year-old starters at the meet, seeks to land his fourth Bashford Manor, which would put him one back of record-holder D. Wayne Lukas. In addition to Lunarpal, Asmussen saddled Kodiak Kowboy (2007) and Kantharos (2010) to victories in the race.

Cinco Charlie, a bay Kentucky-bred out of the Marquetry mare Ten Halos, will break from post four under Bridgmohan.

The Bashford Manor field from the rail out (with jockeys): Skyway (Stewart Elliott), Governmentshutdown (Jose Betancourt), Draw Nigh (Joe Rocco Jr.), Cinco Charlie (Bridgmohan), Silverhill (Corey Lanerie) and Lucky Player (Julien Leparoux).

John Oxley’s Skyway breaks from the rail, which is the same post that he successfully debuted from on April 5 over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland. The New York-bred son of Sky Mesa stalked pacesetter Time Out of Mind before taking command at the top of the stretch and drawing off to win by 6 ¾ lengths despite lugging in under left handed urging. Trainer Mark Casse and his assistant/son Norman have won with four of 12 juveniles at the Spring Meet to rank second behind Asmussen.

Trainer Bret Calhoun, who captured last Saturday’s $108,300 Debutante with 2-year-old filly Promise Me Silver, hopes to scoop another stakes pot with a Lone Star Park invader bred in Texas by promising freshman sire Silver City. Douglas Scharbauer’s homebred gelding Silverhill walked out of the starting gate in his May 24 debut and spotted the leaders two lengths before grabbing the lead at the head of the stretch with a five-wide move. He drew clear inside the final furlong and outran his ballyhooed stablemate and eventual third-place finisher Supermason, which gave Calhoun the confidence to try the Bashford Manor.   

Owner Tim O’Donohue and Mid-Atlantic-based trainer Jerry Robb hope to raid the Bashford Manor for a second straight year with a winner of Pimlico’s $75,000 Rollicking Stakes. They successfully brought Debt Ceiling to Churchill Downs last year and easily won the race by 2 ¾ lengths at odds of 5-1. This year’s entrant Governmentshutdown, a gray Exchange Rate gelding, enters Saturday’s race off a 3 ¾-length win in the mud over three rivals in this year’s Rollicking. He steadied slightly heading into the turn before shifting outside to grab the lead for good with about 200 yards to run. 

Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player is another Asmussen trainee that won at first asking. The Florida-bred Lookin at Lucky colt rallied to beat four others on May 23 at odds of 3-5 after his rider lost his whip at the three-sixteenths pole. Julien Leparoux takes over the reins from Ricardo Santana Jr., and Lucky Player will receive the diuretic Lasix for the first time.

The field is rounded out by Jim Rankin’s Ohio-bred Draw Nigh, who stalked the leaders before making an outside run to grab the lead 200 yards from the finish in his second start on June 8 over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs.

First run in 1902, the Bashford Manor is named for the former Louisville Thoroughbred breeding and racing farm that dominated the American racing scene in the early 1900s. George J. Long, a wealthy foundry owner, purchased Bashford Manor Farm in 1887 and developed his Thoroughbred operation that provided him two Derby wins as an owner, 1892 (Azra) and 1906 (Sir Huon), and three as a breeder, 1892 (Azra), 1899 (Manuel) and 1906 (Sir Huon). In addition, Bashford Manor also won the Kentucky Oaks in 1894 (Selika) and 1915 (Kathleen). The original Wilder family owned Bashford Manor. The Wilders were direct descendants of Lord Baltimore, whose English home was also called Bashford Manor. Long died in 1930 and the farm was eventually sold in 1973 to make way for the development of a mall complex, fittingly named Bashford Manor, that formally closed in 2003.

The other two featured events on Saturday’s card are the 24th running of the $200,000-added Firecracker (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course and the fifth running of the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, an overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs. The Kelly’s Landing will go as Race 7 at 3:47 p.m. and the Firecracker is scheduled as Race 8 at 4:18 p.m.

Silver Max, 2012 Winner Guys Reward Give Romans 1-2 Punch in Saturday's $200,000 Firecracker

Louisville-born trainer Dale Romans will play a strong hand on Saturday when he sends out the accomplished duo of millionaire Silver Max and 2012 winner Guys Reward in a bid to win the 24th running of the $200,000-added Firecracker (Grade II) for 3-year-olds and up on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course.

A win by either of Romans’ charges over their six rivals on Saturday would be the trainer’s fourth Firecracker victory in the race’s last 10 renewals. He collected his first Firecracker win in 2005 with reigning American turf champion Kitten’s Joy, and followed that victory with successful runs by Thorn Song in 2008 and the win by Guys Reward two years later.

The Firecracker is one of three stakes races on a 10-race program on the final Saturday program of Churchill Downs’ 2014 Spring Meet. It is scheduled as the eighth race with an approximate post time of 4:18 p.m. (all times EDT). Other stakes events on Saturday include the 113th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds and the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, an overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs. Those races are scheduled as the day’s sixth and seventh events, respectively. Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:45 p.m.

Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max is the likely favorite in the Firecracker although he has not raced since a fourth-place finish to two-time Horse of the Year and two-time Firecracker winner Wise Dan in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Santa Anita. The Breeders’ Cup loss snapped a three-race win streak for the son of Badge of Silver that included an upset over Wise Dan on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack course in the Shadwell Turf Mile (GI), a race that was moved from the grass course because of excessive rain. Silver Max handed Wise Dan his only defeat of 2013 in that win, which was preceded by victories by the Romans-trained star in the Bernard Baruch (GII) at Saratoga and the Oceanport (GIII) at Monmouth Park.

Regular rider Robby Albarado will be in the saddle aboard the 5-year-old Silver Max, whose record of 11-5-1 in 23 races includes nine stakes victories. The Shadwell Turf Mile was his only Grade I triumph, but he has two wins in three stakes starts over the Churchill Downs grass course. He sailed to front-running victories in the American Turf (GII) at three and won last year’s Opening Verse. His only loss beneath the Twin Spires came in a fourth-place run behind Wise Dan in the 2013 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI).

One of two millionaires and Grade I stakes winners in the Firecracker field, Silver Max brings a bankroll of $1,778,403 into Saturday’s race in which each starter will carry 121 pounds. He will break from post four.

Guys Reward’s 2012 Firecracker victory remains the career high point for the 7-year-old son of Grand Reward, who has earned $665,903 for owner Michael Bruder while compiling a record of 8-5-10 in 44 races. Jesus Castanon will ride from post one.

Five of Guys Reward’s 10 wins have come over the grass at Churchill Downs, a record that includes a victory in the 2012 Opening Verse. His local record also includes a runner-up finish in the 2010 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) and third-place runs in the 2011 Louisville Handicap (GIII) and 2010 American Turf (GII). Guys Reward also has three allowance wins over the course.

A major Firecracker rival for the Romans-trained duo could be Richard Sherman’s Nikki’s Sandcastle, a 7-year-old Castledale (IRE) gelding who won the Grade III Hanshin over Polytrack at Arlington Park in his most recent start. Trained by David Kassen, Nikki’s Sandcastle also won last fall’s Hagyard Fayette (GIII) over Keeneland’s Polyrack course and earned stakes wins on turf in Arlington Park’s Sea O Erin and Gulfstream Park’s El Prado. Leandro Goncalves has the mount on Kassen’s star, who breaks from gate five.

Vinery Stables LLC’s Regally Ready, the winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) at Churchill Downs, stretched out to defeat Firecracker rival Villandry in the 1 1/16-mile Opening Verse at Churchill Downs on May 31. The 7-year-old More Than Ready gelding has a career record of 13-2-6 in 33 races and has earned $1,423,518. The victory by the Steve Asmussen-trained Regally Ready was his fifth in seven races over the Churchill turf course, where he also earned wins in the 2011 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII) and a pair of allowance races. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Regally Ready from the outside post in the field of eight.

Free World, campaigned by the Spring Meet’s leading owner Maggi Moss, is the hottest member of the Firecracker field as the 4-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic has won five consecutive races and six of his last 10. The speedy Tom Amoss trainee scored a front-running win in his most recent outing on May 18 in a one-mile allowance race on Polytrack at Arlington Park. That was his first start in nearly a year and followed a win in the $200,000 Centaur at Indiana Grand last June. Leading jockey Corey Lanerie will ride Free World, who will break from post two.

Wade Wacker’s Joha is the second Grade I winner in the Firecracker field and will be ridden by Joe Rocco Jr. from post seven. The 4-year-old son of Johar won the Keeneland’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at two, but has managed only one victory in 13 races since. Joha comes into the Firecracker off of one of his better recent efforts for trainer Joshua Flores: a fast-closing fourth-place run behind Nikki’s Sandcastle in Arlington’s Hanshin.

While trainer Charlie LoPresti does not have his champion Wise Dan available for the Firecracker, he could earn his third victory in its last four runnigs with Gaineway Stable’s Villandry, who finished a late-running second to Regally Ready in the Opening Verse. Prior to that he won a stakes-quality allowance race over the Matt Winn Turf Course on May 9 and finished a troubled fourth over the same course last fall to longshot Potomac City in the River City Handicap (GIII). The 5-year-old Mr. Greeley gelding also won an allowance race over Churchill Downs grass in the fall of 2012. Julien Leparoux will ride Villandry for the fourth consecutive race and LoPresti’s horse will break from post six.

Completing the field is Bruce Lunsford’s homebred Valentino Beauty, the winner of an April 16 turf allowance at Keeneland in which he defeated Grand Arch, who won last week’s King Edward (GII) on the grass at Woodbine. Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride the 5-year-old Vindication gelding, the fifth-place finisher in Arlington’s Hanshin for trainer Tommy Drury. Valentino Beauty will start from gate three in search of his first stakes victory in the Firecracker.

The field for the Firecracker, from the rail out (with jockeys): Guys Reward, Castanon), Free World (Lanerie), Valentino Beauty (Hernandez Jr.), Nikki’s Sandcastle (Goncalves), Silver Max (Albarado), Villandry (Leparoux), Joha (Rocco Jr.) and Regally Ready (Bridgmohan).

Spring Meet's Final Week Features "Downs After Dark" Racing, Stakes Races, "Fan Appreciation Day"

While some of us might still be working to recover from the memorable celebrations of the 140th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), the calendar has rolled on Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 38-day Spring Meet and the track moves into its last four racing days on Thursday, June 26.

The remaining exciting sessions of the Spring Meet include Friday’s “Downs After Dark Presented by Finlandia Vodka and Stella Artois” party with its “Rockin’ in the USA” theme and a special “thank you” to fans on Sunday’s “Fan Appreciation Day” that offers $1 food and drink specials on the meet’s closing day.

The final Spring Meet racing week opens with a nine-race program on Thursday, June 26 with post time for the first race set for 12:45 p.m. (all times EDT). That same post time is set for the Saturday and Sunday programs, with Friday’s “Downs After Dark,” which has a 6 p.m. first post with admission gates set to open at 4 p.m., being the only exception during the meet’s final four days.

The “Rockin’ in the USA” theme of Friday’s last “Downs After Dark” celebration suggests a denim and Americana wardrobe with lots of red, white and blue sure to be seen. There will be 10 races and music throughout the track that includes a performance on the Plaza Stage by Juice Box Heroes. There’s also word that Elvis could be somewhere in the building during the final spring night beneath the Churchill Downs lights.

Again joining the regular “Downs After Dark” dining options on Millionaires Row and the Sky Terrace will be seating for an evening in the new Terrace Lounge, which has been a popular spot for each of the two previous night racing parties. That 21-and-over venue located in the new Grandstand Terrace includes DJ entertainment along with access to purchase premium food and drink and a spectacular view of the night’s races from its unique position near the top of the homestretch and on the 15,224-square-foot Big Board.

“Downs After Dark” admission is $10, with box seats available for $20 and reserved access to the Terrace Lounge is $25.

Also available in the Terrace Lounge are a limited number of seats remaining in its VIP Cabanas. Seating in one of the Terrace Lounge Cabanas is $99 per person and includes a four-hour open bar and tapas buffet with special creations by Churchill Downs Executive Chef David Danielson that on Friday will include a new “S’Mores Pizza” dessert. For information and reservations in the Terrace Lounge VIP Cabanas, call (502) 638-3896.

Tickets to Friday’s “Downs After Dark” can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns/tickets or at the on-track box office at Gate 1 off Central Avenue. The on-track box office will be open Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Friday hours for “Downs After Dark” racing from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Saturday’s program features a fantastic day of racing highlighted by a pair of major stakes events in the $200,000-added Firecracker, a Grade II turf event for older horses that was won last year by two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, and the 113th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor, a Grade III, six-furlong race for 2-year-olds and an early test for horses that could emerge as contenders for next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). Also on the Saturday racing schedule is the $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, a seven-furlong overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up.

The Fan Appreciation Day program on the meet’s closing day, Sunday, June 29, features 10 races and special food and beverage prices as Churchill Downs says “thank you” to its fans for their support during the 38-day Spring Meet that opened April 26. Members of the military – both active duty and retired – will be admitted free on Sunday when they present a military I.D.

The $1 food and drink “Fan Appreciation Day” specials include 16-ounce domestic beers at all locations where draft beer is served, 22-ounce Pepsi fountain drinks, bottled waters and hot dogs.

Racing will resume at Churchill Downs on Friday, Sept. 5, when the track opens its 12-day September Meet for the second consecutive year. That meet will offer Friday-Sunday racing through Sept. 28. The Churchill Downs’ 26-day Fall Meet will open Sunday, Oct. 26 and continue through Sunday, Nov. 30.