Churchill Downs

Graded Stakes Winners Head Churchill's Closing-Day Locust Grove 'Cap

Three graded stakes winners – Brownie Points, Bayou’s Lassie and Meribel – headline a field of 10 entered Thursday for the 27th running of the $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (Grade III), a one-mile event on the Matt Winn Turf Course for fillies and mares and the centerpiece of Sunday’s closing day card of the 52-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs.

The Locust Grove, which will be run at a mile on turf for the first time, will go as the ninth race on Sunday’s 11-race card that begins with a 1:15 p.m. (EDT) first post.

Pin Oak Stable’s Brownie Points will carry high weight of 120 for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Winner of the Ouija Board Handicap (GIII) at Lone Star Park in her most recent start, will be ridden by Luis Quinonez and break from post position two. The versatile daughter of Forest Wildcat earlier finished second to Zenyatta in the $500,000 Apple Blossom (GI) on the main track at Oaklawn Park. The homebred Brownie Points has won eight of 22 races – with five wins on turf – and has earned $906,309.

Jacks or Better Farm’s Bayou’s Lassie, upset winner of the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) on Kentucky Derby Day, is the next high weight at 119 pounds. Trained by Dale Romans, Bayou’s Lassie has won six of 11 turf starts will be ridden by Robby Albarado from post position five. Runnymede Farm’s Meribel, now in the barn of trainer Helen Pitts, will carry 118 pounds and be ridden by Calvin Borel as she breaks from post position six. Meribel accounted for the Grade III Valley View Stakes in 2006 over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface and since has placed in graded stakes races on turf.

Mauralakana won the 2007 Locust Grove under Julien Leparoux, who will bid for back-to-back scores in the race when he rides Godolphin Racing’s Say You Will. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the A.P. Indy filly is graded-stakes placed on synthetic surfaces and has won two of three grass starts. She will break from the outside post.

The field for the Locust Grove, from the hedge out, is as follows: James Barry’s Genuine Devotion (Alan Garcia, 115 pounds); Brownie Points (Luis Quinonez, 120); Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and John Sikura’s New Edition (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115); Richard Shultz’s Lemonlime (Willie Martinez, 117); Bayou’s Lassie (Robby Albarado, 119); Meribel (Calvin Borel, 116); Craig Bernick’s You Go West Girl (Miguel Mena, 114); Briland Farm’s Grace Happens (Brian Hernandez Jr., 112); Peter Bradley III’s Tears I Cry (Jamie Theriot, 117); and, Say You Will (Julien Leparoux, 115).

Pitts Looking For Holiday Weekend Stakes Sweep

Trainer Helen Pitts was already looking to have an explosive Fourth of July holiday weekend with her stable star Einstein headed for Friday’s Firecracker Handicap (GII). An added bonus could come in Sunday’s one-mile Locust Grove Handicap (GIII) with Meribel. 

Owned by Catesby Clay’s Runnymede Farm, Meribel came to the Pitts barn about six weeks ago. Her two races this year include a close third-place finish to Dreaming of Anna in Endeavor (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs and a fourth in Keeneland’s Doubledogdare (GIII).

“They tried to breed her,” Pitts said of Meribel, who last ran in the April 18 Doubledogdare (GIII) at Keeneland. “She is a lovely filly and great to be around.”

Pitts described the acclimation process for a new arrival in her barn.

“I like to give them a couple of weeks to adapt to their new surroundings,” Pitts said. “Then when you work them, you get an idea of what you have.”

Meribel had her first work for Pitts on June 22, an easy half-mile on the dirt in :51. On Tuesday, Meribel worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on the turf that had Pitts thinking about the Locust Grove.

“Her last work was great,” Pitts said Thursday morning. “Right now, I am planning on running. It is a just a mile off a layoff and after that, we’ll see.”

Previously trained by Christophe Clement, Meribel has compiled a career record of 6-2-7 in 22 races for earnings of $462,398. She won the 2006 Valley View (GIII) over Polytrack at Keeneland – beating future Grade I winner Precious Kitten – and has placed in four other graded stakes. Her lone Grade I try resulted in a fourth place finish in last year’s Diana at Saratoga in which she was beaten less than two lengths by My Typhoon.

The $150,000-added Locust Grove would be the second start for Meribel over the Matt Winn Turf Course. She finished sixth, beaten two lengths by Precious Kitten, in the 2006 Mrs. Revere (GII). That race was at 1 1/16 miles, a distance at which she has done most of her racing.

Sunday’s running of the Locust Grove will be the first at the mile distance since it was moved to the turf course in 1987. It had been run at 1 1/8 miles since 1990.

DESORMEAUX RETURNS ON FRIDAY, NEARING 5,000-WIN MARK – Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Kent Desormeaux will be back at Churchill Downs on Friday to ride Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song in the Firecracker Handicap (GII) in addition to four other mounts.

Desormeaux entered the Thursday card at Belmont Park with 4,994 wins, six shy of becoming the 23rd rider in North American to reach the 5,000-win plateau. He was scheduled to ride two horses on Thursday.

In addition to winning this year’s Kentucky Derby aboard Big Brown, Desormeaux also scored wins in the Run for the Roses in 1998 with Real Quiet and 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus.

A few other milestones are within reach on Thursday’s card at Churchill Downs.

Trainer David Vance will send out Doubleband in the second race. With a victory, Vance would become the 22nd North American trainer to achieve 3,000 victories.

Jockey Calvin Borel, who rode one winner on Wednesday, is seven victories away from becoming the 34th rider in North America to reach 4,500 wins. Borel’s victory on Wednesday came aboard Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s Coach Ryan in the eighth race. Borel has six mounts Thursday.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle four horses Thursday in his quest to become the sixth trainer in North American to reach 4,500 victories. Lukas currently stands at 4,496.

RAMSEYS CLINCH RECORD 13TH ‘LEADING OWNER’ TITLE – With the regard to the chase for the leading owner of the 52-day Churchill Downs Spring Meet, just say that the fat lady is in full-throated song.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who had combined to win a record 12 owners titles at Churchill Downs, extended that mark to 13 with a pair of victories on Wednesday’s racing program.

Those victories opened a seven-win lead (19-12) over Maggi Moss, who was the leading owner of the 2007 Spring Meet and has only five horses entered races over the current meet’s final four days. The Ramseys’ title-clinching victories on Wednesday were supplied by Duty Roster in sixth race and Self Made Man, who added win No. 19 in the seventh race.

The wins by the Ramsey runners were part of a big day for trainer Mike Maker. He also saddled Rollin Fishback and Charles Logsdon’s Kippersol to victory in the third race to become the third trainer of the meet to enjoy a three-win day. Others who accomplished the triple were Ken McPeek on May 24 and Steve Asmussen on June 19.

The Ramseys won nine consecutive meet titles (Spring 2000-04, Fall 2000-03) en route to their record overall haul of 13.

BARN TALK – Miguel Mena apparently will not let Robby Albarado coast to his first riding title at Churchill Downs. Mena rode four winners Wednesday to slice Albarado’s lead in race for leading jockey to 66-61 with four days left in the 52-day meet. Mena has nine mounts on Thursday’s card and Albarado has seven. … Tom Amoss extended his lead in the race for leading trainer to 31-29 over Steve Asmussen thanks to the victory by Coach Ryan in Wednesday’s eighth race. Amoss has one horse entered Thursday; Asmussen two. Ken McPeek, who is third with 26 winners, was scheduled to saddle four runners on Thursday.

WORK TAB (Turf: FIRM) – Craig Bernick’s You Go West Girl, prepping for Sunday’s Locust Grove Handicap (GIII), breezed three furlongs around the dogs on “firm” turf Thursday morning in :37.60. … Ballymore Lady, runner-up in the Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) for trainer Eddie Kenneally, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20.

 
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Wednesday, July 2

Jockeys (Starts 1-2-3)

1. Robby Albarado (255 66-39-32)
2. Miguel Mena (328 61-47-45)
3. Julien Leparoux (289 52-54-49)
4. Jamie Theriot (260 47-35-34)
5. Calvin Borel (271 44-40-38)
6. Shaun Bridgmohan (204 41-38-26)
7. Jesus Castanon (243 26-25-29)
8. Corey Lanerie (209 18-27-27)
9. Brian Hernandez Jr. (186 15-29-20)
10. John McKee (143 12-21-20)

Trainers

1. Tom Amoss (77 31-14-12)
2. Steve Asmussen (131 29-23-19)
3. Ken McPeek (73 26-13-7)
4. Mike Maker (65 20-13-9)
5. Dale Romans (134 15-27-23)
6. Ian Wilkes (49 14-12-7)
7. Eddie Kenneally (61 12-10-10)
8. Cody Autrey (56 10-9-11)
9. Greg Foley (61 9-9-8)
-. Todd Pletcher (47 9-5-7)
-. Bret Calhoun 24 9-2-4
Six (6) trainers tied at eight (8) wins

Owners

1. Ken and Sarah Ramsey (64 19-10-13)
2. Maggi Moss (29 12-7-4)
3. Zayat Stables, LLC (51 8-12-11)
4. Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein (36 7-7-7)
5. Heflin & Driver Racing (29 5-5-6)
-. Heiligbrodt Racing Stable (17 5-1-0)
Seven (7) owners tied at four (4) wins

Asmussen Saddles Pair in Search of Back-to-Back Bashford Manor Wins

Trainer Steve Asmussen will be gunning for back-to-back victories in Churchill Downs’ $150,000-added Bashford Manor Stakes (Grade III) when he sends out two of the eight horses entered in Saturday’s 107th running of the six-furlong test for 2-year-olds on the main track.

Representing the Asmussen stable in the Bashford Manor will be Padua Stables’ Segal, who will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and breaks from post position five, and J. Kirk Robison’s Lyin’ Heart, who will have Corey Lanerie in the saddle and will start from post seven.

Asmussen teamed with Lanerie to win last year’s Bashford Manor with Vinery Stables’ Kodiak Kowboy, who would eventually be named Canada’s 2-year-old champion and would finish third to Eclipse Award champion War Pass and Asmussen-trained stablemate Pyro in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Monmouth Park. Asmussen had earlier won the Bashford Manor in 2004 with Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Lunarpal and endured near-misses in the race with eventual Grade I winner Cuvee, a troubled third in 2003, and future Grade II winner Posse, the runner-up in 2002.

Lyin’ Heart, a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart, is the only multiple winner in the field. Lyin’ Heart broke his maiden at Lone Star Park going five furlongs on May 23 and followed up that score 15 days later by winning the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star. Segal broke his maiden at first asking on May 7 at Churchill Downs going 4 ½ furlongs. He followed that victory with a third-place finish in the Victoria Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack surface on June 15.

A victory by Segal would give Padua Stable sole possession of the record for Bashford Manor wins by an owner. Padua took three consecutive Bashford Manor runnings from 1998-2000 with Time Bandit, Dance Master and Duality to tie Milky Way Farm (1936, ’37 and ’41) and T. Alie Grissom (1957, ’61 and ’69) for that record.

The field for the 107th Bashford Manor, from the rail out, is as follows: William Carl’s Screen Your Friend (Calvin Borel, 118 pounds); Kevin Chessen and Wesley Ward’s Silver Bayer (Jesus Castanon, 118); Samotowka Stables and Magdalena Racing’s Theregoesjojo (Robby Albarado, 118); Richard Ravin and Larry Rivelli’s My Dominick James (Tim Thornton, 118); Segal (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118); Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters (Bill Troilo, 116); Lyin’ Heart (Corey Lanerie, 120); and, Paul Giacopelli and Donnie Kelly’s Medaglia D’Onore (Mick Ruis, 118).

Three-Time Grade I Winner Einstein Faces Six in Firecracker Handicap

 

SIX TO LINE UP AGAINST EINSTEIN IN FIRECRACKER – Trainer Helen Pitts’ turf star Einstein will go for his fourth grass victory of 2008 on Friday when he faces six rivals in the 19th running of the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) to be run at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

            The Firecracker will go as the 10th race on the 11-race holiday card. First post time is 1:15 p.m. (EDT).

Second in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on dirt to 2007 “Horse of the Year” Curlin on June 14 in his most recent start, Einstein will carry high weight of 124 pounds and concede 7-10 pounds to his Firecracker foes. Robby Albarado, who rode Einstein to victory in the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs, has the call Friday and will break from post position three.

            Owned by Patricia Cunningham and Melissa Green, Lessee, Einstein also won the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf this winter and ran second to 2007 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) winner Kip Deville in the Grade I Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland.

            The main rival to Einstein appears to be Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Inca King, who is undefeated in three starts over the Matt Winn Turf Course.

            Trained by Steve Asmussen, Inca King posted a front-running victory in the May 31 Opening Verse Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth in his most recent start and last year won the Grade II Jefferson Cup during the Spring Meet and the Commonwealth Turf in the Fall Meet. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Inca King who breaks from post position seven under a 118-pound impost.

            The field for the Firecracker, from the hedge out, is as follows: Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr., Marco Bommarito and the Molly Malone Racing Club’s A.P. Xcellent (Larry Melancon, 116 pounds); Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song (Kent Desormeaux, 118); Einstein (Robby Albarado, 124); Terry Raymond. Jana Wagner and Gus Goldsmith’s Faith’s Magic (Brian Hernandez Jr., 116); Stud TNT’s Portuga (Calvin Borel, 115); Oxbow Racing’s Steve’s Double (Miguel Mena, 115); and, Inca King (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118). 

DREAMING OF ANNA ASSIGNED TOP WEIGHT FOR LOCUST GROVE – Frank Calabrese’s champion filly Dreaming of Anna has been assigned the top weight of 124 pounds for the 27th running of the Locust Grove Handicap (GIII), to be run on closing day, July 6.

Winner of the Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) on June 14, Dreaming of Anna – the champion 2-year-old filly of 2006 – is not expected to compete in the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares ages 3 and up.

Assigned the second high weight of 121 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman was Ben McElroy’s Roshani. The Todd Pletcher trainee is considered as “possible” for the Locust Grove.

Expected to be the starting high weight in the Locust Grove is Pin Oak Stable’s Brownie Points, who was assigned 120 pounds. Trained by Donnie Von Hemel, Brownie Points won the Ouija Board Handicap (GIII) in her most recent start on May 26 at Lone Star Park and arrived at Churchill Downs from the Texas track on Tuesday.

Other expected starters, with weight assignments, are Jacks or Better Farm’s Bayou Lassie (119), Richard Shultz’s Lemonlime (117), Godolphin Racing’s Say You Will (115), James Barry’s Genuine Devotion (115), Peter Bradley’s Tears I Cry (115), Craig Bernick’s You Go West Girl (114) and Briland Farm’s Grace Happens (112).

            Three other mares are considered as “possible”: Runnymede Farm’s Meribel (118), Swettenham Stud’s Paris Winds (118) and Pegasus Horses’ Ballymore Lady (114).   

BOREL SET FOR RETURN, CLOSES ON MILESTONE – Jockey Calvin Borel is expected to be back in the saddle Wednesday afternoon after taking off all mounts Sunday because of a sore knee.

            “He worked five horses Sunday morning, but his knee swelled and he had it drained,” agent Jerry Hissam said of Borel, who suffered a swollen ligament in his knee after coming off a horse during training hours on June 13. “He gave it a couple days rest, but he’ll be back Wednesday.”

 Borel enters Wednesday’s card with 4,492 career victories, which is 34th best all time. He is named to ride six horses Wednesday and six on Thursday. He has 43 victories this meet, good for fifth in the rider standings.

            “He lost two of the eight he needs (to get to 4,500) on Sunday,” Hissam said referring to the mounts Borel took off that won on the card.

            Hissam said after the meet ends on Sunday Borel will head to New York for the July 12 Man o’ War (GI) to ride Marc Keller’s Grand Couturier, whom he rode to victory in last year’s Sword Dancer Invitational (GI) at Saratoga. 

NEXT WORK TO DETERMINE COURSE FOR ACOMA – Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Dogwood (GIII) winner Acoma worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Monday morning for trainer David Carroll. It was her third work since winning the May 31 Dogwood.

            “She worked very well,” Carroll said of the 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker. “She is going to either the Delaware Oaks or the Coaching Club American Oaks and her work next Monday will likely determine which one.”

            The $500,000 Delaware Oaks (GII) is run at a mile and a sixteenth on July 12 at Delaware Park. The $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (GI) is run at a mile and a quarter on July 19 at Belmont Park.

            Also appearing on the work tab for Carroll on Monday was Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork, the third-place finisher to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and winner of the Southwest Stakes (GIII).  In his first work since his runner-up finish in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (GI), Denis of Cork worked a half-mile in :50.

            “He went very nice,” Carroll said. “He is on track for the Jim Dandy (GII on July 27 at Saratoga). He is on a Monday work schedule, weather permitting.”

 
BARN TALK – Eliah and Lisa Kahn are the only owners of multiple winners at the Spring Meet to be batting a thousand: Four starters; four winners. On Thursday, the streak either will end or extend to six. Trainer Ken McPeek has entered Perfect Motion for the Kahns in the sixth race, a one-mile turf allowance event, and Subscriber in the 10th, a mile and a sixteenth allowance race. Perfect Motion, who has not run since Jan. 9 at Gulfstream Park, finished fourth last November in her lone start over the Matt Winn Turf Course. Subscriber has posted victories here this meet on May 24 and June 8. …  Sunday’s second race produced the 15th dead heat of the meet, but the first for the win. R.J. Thoroughbred Stables’ Ready’s Rocket finished on even terms with Frank Vozel’s Canali, trained by David Vance. The victory was the first of two for Vance on Sunday. TBS Farms’ This Kat Talks won the fifth race to boost Vance’s career total to 2,999 and 296 under the Twin Spires, ninth-best all time at Churchill Downs. Vance’s first chance to become the 22nd member of the 3,000-win club is slated to come Thursday when Doubleband goes to the post in the second race for TBS Farms. … Steve Asmussen, who saddled two winners on Sunday, now has 298 career victories at Churchill Downs. His career total of 4,252 ranks eighth all time and last week he passed Hall of Famer Ron McAnally for sixth all time in earnings at $120,343,848 through June 30. McAnally’s horses have earned $120,123,495. … Another trainer approaching a milestone is Hall of Famer and four-time Kentucky Derby-winner D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas, who has saddled eight winners this meet, has 4,496 for his career through June 30, sixth best all time. The leading trainer all time in money won ($250,703,543), Lukas has two horses entered at Churchill Downs on Wednesday and four on Thursday. 

WORK TAB (Track: FAST) –  Ronald Kirk, John Bates and Michael Riordan’s Run Away and Hide, winner of the May 1 Kentucky Stakes (GIII), worked five furlongs in 1:04.60 over a “fast” track for trainer Ronny Werner on Wednesday. … On Tuesday, Maggi Moss’ Indian Chant tuned up for his engagement in the July 12 Smile Sprint Handicap (GII) at Calder by working a bullet half-mile in :47.40 over a “fast” track for trainer Tom Amoss. … Other Tuesday works of note on the main track were W.S. Farish, Edward Hudson Jr. and Inwood Stable’s Grasshopper, winner of the Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) and fourth in the recent Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), a half-mile in :50.40; Uptown Racing’s Boss Lafitte, winner of Keeneland’s Transylvania Stakes (GIII), a half-mile in :50; and, Briland Farm’s Grace Happens, working toward Sunday’s Locust Grove, a half-mile in :50.40. … In his first work since a runner-up finish in the June 14 Northern Dancer Stakes (GIII), B. Wayne Hughes’ My Pal Charlie worked a half-mile in :52.40 over a “fast” track on Monday. ...  (Turf: FIRM, dogs up) – Heading the roster of Tuesday turf works were several horses that were prepping for closing weekend stakes appearances on the Matt Winn Turf Course.  Zayat Stables’ River City Handicap (GIII) winner Thorn Song breezed a half-mile in :50.60 in advance of his run in Friday’s Firecracker. … Peter Bradley’s Locust Grove contender Tears I Cry breezed a half-mile in :51.20. … Jacks or Better Farm’s Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) winner Bayou’s Lassie breezed a half-mile in :52 for the Locust Grove. … Runnymede Farm’s Locust Grove contender Meribel worked five-eighths in 1:01.40.

 

2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS

         Through Sunday, June 29

 

Jockeys                          Starts   1-2-3

 

Robby Albarado                  248  64-36-31

Miguel Mena                       321   57-47-46

Julien Leparoux                  284   51-54-49

Jamie Theriot                     254   46-35-34

Calvin Borel                        265  43-39-38

Shaun Bridgmohan             198   41-36-25

Jesus Castanon                   236   26-25-28

Corey Lanerie                    205   18-26-26

Brian Hernandez Jr.            184   15-29-19

John McKee                       142   12-21-20

Trainers

Tom Amoss                       75   30-13-12

Steve Asmussen                128  29-22-18

Ken McPeek                        70    26-12-6

Mike Maker                        61    17-13-9

Dale Romans                    132   15-27-23

Ian Wilkes                          48    14-12-7

Eddie Kenneally                  61   12-10-10

Cody Autrey                       54     9-9-11

Greg Foley                          61     9-9-8

Todd Pletcher                     47      9-5-7

Bret Calhoun                       24     9-2-4

Six (6) trainers tied at eight (8) wins     

Owners

Ken and Sarah Ramsey         61   17-10-13

Maggi Moss                         28     12-6-4

Zayat Stables, LLC                50    8-12-11

Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein   36     7-7-7

Heflin & Driver Racing           28     5-5-6

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable       17     5-1-0

    Seven (7) owners tied at four (4) wins

 

Spring Meet In The Homestretch, Five Racing Days Remain

 

Churchill Downs rolls in to the homestretch of its 52-day Spring Meet on Wednesday, July 2, with five days of racing that include three major stakes races and special events that include a Thursday “Holiday Happy Hours” party and an infield celebration on the 4th of July that bids to be the “World’s Largest Free Picnic.” The final week of live racing in the Spring Meet ends on Sunday, July 6.

The meet’s final five days of racing get underway on Wednesday with a nine-race program that begins at 1:15 p.m. (all times EDT). The closing week action quickly shifts into holiday mode on Thursday, July 3, with twilight racing and a first race post time of 2:45 p.m., as well as a special “Holiday Happy Hours” celebration. Like the meet’s popular “Friday Happy Hours” celebrations, Thursday’s “Holiday Happy Hours” is sponsored by Budweiser Select and Fischer’s and offers $2 beer, $2 frozen drinks and $2 hot dogs, and live music by Songs for Tuesday in the paddock garden from 4-7 p.m. The track offers 11 races on Thursday’s pre-holiday program. Admission gates open at 1 p.m.

The three-day 4th of July holiday weekend coincides with the final three days of racing in the Churchill Downs Spring Meet. Racing begins at 1:15 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with major stakes highlighting each of those days.

Racing on Independence Day is headed by the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap, a Grade II race for 3-year-olds and up on the turf that has attracted Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner Einstein, three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Inca King and River City Handicap winner Thorn Song. While the equine stars perform in holiday races, the Churchill Downs infield will be the scene of the “World’s Largest Free Picnic.” The daylong celebration of music, food and fun is sponsored by Louisville’s WAKY 103.5 and features music by Louisville’s legendary Monarchs and other great bands, a classic car show and inflatables for the kids. WAKY 103.5 will distribute passes for free admission on Friday at Gate 10 beginning at 11 a.m., while the music at the “World’s Largest Free Picnic” begins at 11:45 and continues through 6:15 p.m.

Saturday’s 11-race program features the $150,000-added, Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes for 2-year-olds. Fans will be able to meet some of the outstanding jockeys of the Spring Meet during Saturday’s final edition of “Jockey Talk” from 11:30 a.m. until noon next to the paddock. Sunday’s Spring Meet finale is also scheduled to feature 11 races and is headed by the $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf.

This week’s five days of Spring Meet racing at Churchill Downs will be the last live racing at the historic track until its 26-day Fall Meet, which will run from Oct. 26 through Nov. 29.

 

Champion Curlin Pleases In First Work On Turf, Race On Grass Next In Possible Arc Bid

 

Reigning “Horse of the Year” Curlin successfully completed the first step in what could be a journey to Paris to run in the famed Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with a solid work under jockey Robby Albarado over the Matt Winn Turf Course on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

Stonestreet Stables and Midnight Cry Stable’s 4-year-old son of Smart Strike worked in company with Stonestreet’s Hawaii Calls, a 4-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus, and covered seven furlongs around the “dogs” on “firm” turf in 1:31.20. The Steve Asmussen-trained champion started the work about one length behind his workmate, who is a two-time winner in eight career starts, and finished on even terms. Curlin finished well as Churchill Downs clockers recorded his final quarter mile in :24.20 and his final eighth in :12.20. He galloped out one mile in 1:45.30. Hawaii Calls was timed in 1:31.40 for the seven furlongs on turf.

“We were very excited to work him, he’s a tremendous athlete,” Asmussen said. “We were very pleased with how he looked. The main thing is that Robby loved how he felt.”

“He was as fluid as always,” Albarado said. “He’s got a great way of moving and he covers a lot of ground and I felt like this morning was no different. His initial steps on the turf were like he knew where he was the whole time. He’s a horse who’s very smart now and he’s very aware of his surroundings, and this morning he felt great.”

Curlin scored an emphatic 4 ¼-length victory in Churchill Downs’ $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) in his most recent race. It marked his fifth consecutive victory – a string that also includes Grade I wins in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The Stephen Foster victory improved his career record to 9-1-2 in 12 races and pushed his lifetime earnings to $9,396,800 – the third-highest North American total in Thoroughbred racing behind top earners Cigar ($9,999,815) and Skip Away ($9,616,30).

But all of Curlin’s races have been on dirt, which made Tuesday’s work on grass a critical step in realizing the hopes of Stonestreet owner Jess Jackson and Asmussen to give the champion a shot in the Oct. 5 Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris, Europe’s top test for older horses. Curlin’s regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas was aboard Hawaii Calls for this work, while Albarado worked the champion for just the second time in the colt’s career.

“The reason I wanted Robby to work him today was for him to feel,” Asmussen said. “I think that Curlin deserves to be prepared for what’s going to happen. Everybody was very pleased with how he handled it. He is blowing off of this move, but seven-eighths in 1:31-and-change around the dogs here is a very good move. I thought that he (galloped) out exceptional, as always. One thing that I really liked about it is when he went on the turf course and jogged off, he kept that presence about him – there was no caution, no worry. He was very confident and very relaxed behind that horse. He paced him well and didn’t get aggressive, like he was unsure of what he was supposed to do. I thought he picked him up very smoothly. When he got to him, head and head, he was a little aggressive again, which is what you expect from him at that stage.”

“I was more nervous working him this morning than I was riding him in the Foster – that’s the honest truth,” Albarado said. “It’s his first time on the turf and it’s an exciting time for all of us.”

Asmussen continues to point Curlin toward a racing debut on turf on July 12 in either the $500,000 Man o’ War Stakes (GI) at 1 3/8 miles at New York’s Belmont Park or the $200,000 Arlington Handicap (GIII) at 1 ¼ miles at Chicago’s Arlington Park. Concern about licensing of the colt’s minority owners remains a factor in both jurisdictions, so the question of which race will mark Curlin’s turf debut remains unsettled. But, if all goes well in that race, Stonestreet and Asmussen would look to Paris and the rare bid by a top American horse for the Arc.

“The perfect plan for us – for me, for Curlin and for everybody associated with him – is to first establish his level of quality on the turf with his next race and not get ahead of ourselves,” Asmussen said. “We have to see if he can compete at the same level – a nice work is not a graded stake. If he can compete at his level on the turf and we get the race that we expect, we will map out how to win the Arc with him. I think that getting him over there immediately and getting him used to going right (on right-handed turns) would be the biggest obstacle that we face. I think we establish that he’s as good a horse on the turf as he is on the dirt, then we get him over there and get him relaxed, comfortable and confident, and doing right.”

The most recent major American dirt star to make the trip to Paris for the Arc de Triomphe was Jack Price’s 1961 Kentucky Derby winner Carry Back. That colt finished 10th in a field of 24 horses in the 1962 Arc.

 

Final 'Happy Hour' Set for Thursday, July 3

Churchill Downs will provide its fans an ideal way to ease into the three-day Independence Day holiday weekend and the closing weekend of its 52-day Spring Meet as it offers special “Holiday Happy Hours” during a pre-holiday weekend twilight racing program on Thursday, July 3.

Like the popular “Friday Happy Hours” celebrations conducted during the meet, “Holiday Happy Hours” on Thursday, July 3 is sponsored by Budweiser Select and Fischer’s and offers special $2 beer, $2 frozen drinks and $2 hot dogs and music in the paddock garden from 4-7 p.m. (all times EDT). The track will offer 11 live races on Thursday’s pre-holiday program and first race post time is scheduled for 2:45 p.m.

The 4th of July holiday weekend coincides with the final three days of racing in Churchill Downs’ 52-day Spring Meet. Major stakes races are scheduled on each of those days of racing and post time on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is 1:15 p.m.

Racing on Friday, July 4 is headed by the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap, a Grade II race for 3-year-olds and up on the turf course, and the infield will be the scene that day of the “World’s Largest Free Picnic.” The celebration of music, food and fun is sponsored by Louisville’s WAKY 103.5 and features music by Louisville’s legendary Monarchs and others, a classic car show and inflatables for the kids.

Saturday’s racing program features the $150,000-added, Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes for 2-year-olds and Sunday’s closing day program is headed by the $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares on the turf.

Aristides Winner Indian Chant Pointing Toward Calder's 'Summit'

Maggi Moss’ top sprinter Indian Chant, winner of Churchill Downs’ Grade III Aristides in his most recent start on May 31, is headed for Calder’s “Summit of Speed” according to trainer Tom Amoss.

“He is going to work Tuesday or Wednesday,” Amoss said of Indian Chant, whose Florida objective is the Grade II Smile Sprint Stakes at six furlongs.

In winning the Aristides, Indian Chant covered the six furlongs in 1:08.40, the fastest time of the meet for the distance at which 95 races had been run through Saturday. The Amoss trainee set the record for the distance in an allowance race on the closing day of the 2007 Spring Meet under the Twin Spires.

“Everything has been going smooth since the Aristides,” Amoss said. “The thing about him is that he tips his hand with his training. I thought before his last race with the way he was doing, he was going to be tough to beat. His next work will tell us if he is ready to go.”

The 5-year-old California-bred gelding has compiled a career record of 9-9-2 in 23 starts for earnings of $471,823. At the six-furlong distance, Indian Chant has a record of 5-8-1 in 16 races.

DEBUTANTE WINNER GARDEN DISTRICT EXITS RACE WELL – Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, reported Sunday morning that Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Garden District came out of her hard-fought victory in Saturday’s $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (GIII) in good order.

“She is doing real good this morning,” said McCarthy, who oversees Pletcher’s Churchill Downs string. “She did all the dirty work yesterday, was down on the fence and under pressure and still won. She’s a nice filly.”

Pletcher had indicated Saturday that Garden District would head next to Saratoga and point to either the Grade III Schuylerville on July 23 or the Grade II Adirondack on Aug. 13.

Runner-up Rachel Alexandra is going to get some time off after running for the second time in 15 days and third time in five weeks according to trainer Hal Wiggins.

“I don’t know what is next, but I may wait until the Arlington-Washington (GIII on Sept. 6),” Wiggins said. “She came out of the race all right.”

Wiggins had put Rachel Alexandra’s chances of participation in the Debutante at “50-50” early last week before dropping her name in the entry box.

“The 15 days was a little quick, but as long as she was training well we thought we’d try,” Wiggins said. “Plus, it was a chance for the owner (Dolphus Morrison) to come down from Columbia, Mo., to see her run.”

A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Rachel Alexandra was bred by Morrison. The mare, Lotta Kim, was trained by Wiggins.

“Lotta Kim won going long. She won the Tiffany Lass at the Fair Grounds,” Wiggins said. “So, we are looking for more ground with Rachel Alexandra.”

Like her daughter, Lotta Kim ran well at Churchill Downs. Her races here included a runner-up finish to Be Gentle in the 2003 Golden Rod (GII) at 1 1/16-miles.

OUT OF RETIREMENT? NOPE, HALL OF FAMER McCARRON WAS JUST HELPING OUT – Onlookers did a double take Sunday morning after the renovation break when retired Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron galloped past on horseback headed to the starting gate.

McCarron, who now runs the North American Racing Academy (NARA) in Lexington, Ky., worked a 2-year-old out of the gate for Art and Stephanie Preston’s Oxbow Racing.

McCarron ponied one of his NARA graduates, Matthew Straight, to the starting gate in Straight’s first day of racing on Friday, but the break from the gate at Churchill Downs was his first since being on Came Home

in the 2002 Kentucky Derby.

“When I got in the gate, (starter) Scott Jordan said, ‘I guess you have been here a few times’ and I said ‘you ought to know. You were on my head with Tiznow in the (2000) Breeders’ Cup Classic.’ ”

He would win that Classic aboard Tiznow, outlasting European champion Giant’s Causeway in a memorable stretch duel.

McCarron said he was helping out the Prestons with their 2-year-olds.

“They have about 70 2-year-olds at their farm,” McCarron said. “There are a dozen of their horses at the Academy and with all of the students on vacation, exercise riders have been getting on them.”

McCarron won the Kentucky Derby with Alysheba in 1987 and Go for Gin in 1994. Other important wins under the Twin Spires included Kentucky Oaks victories aboard Seaside Attraction (1990) and Farda Amiga (2002) and his Breeders’ Cup Classic wins aboard Alysheba (1988) and Tiznow.

BALLYNOE FINALLY DELIVERS ON “STARS OF TOMORROW” PROMISE – The closing day card of the 2007 Fall Meet at Churchill Downs was the second all 2-year-old program of the meet and dubbed “Stars of Tomorrow II."

There were two first-time starters who broke their maidens that day: Denis of Cork and Ballynoe.

Racing fans are well aware of what became of Denis of Cork, who has accomplished much as the winner of the Grade III Southwest Stakes, third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (GI) for starters. But what happened to Ballynoe?

The question was answered Saturday afternoon when the Blue Nine Stables’ runner scored a 1 ½-length allowance victory on the Matt Winn Turf Course for her first win since breaking her maiden.

Trained by Steve Margolis, Ballynoe spent the winter knocking on the door at Gulfstream Park before coming to Churchill Downs. By Distorted Humor out of a Dynaformer mare, Margolis was eager to try Ballynoe on the grass and that chance finally came on June 7.

“She got beat five lengths that day, but I didn’t think she ran that bad,” Margolis said. “The horse that beat her, Closeout for Tom Proctor, is a nice horse, but she was caught down on the inside and she does not like to be in close.”

On Saturday, Ballynoe was reunited with jockey Larry Sterling Jr., who had ridden her to her maiden win, and she was drawn outside.

“The thing I liked about her race yesterday was that when the fresh horses came at her, she broke again,” Margolis said. “That was a nice bunch of fillies she beat.”

Margolis said Ballynoe could come back in two weeks in the Audubon Oaks at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf at Ellis Park on July 12.

“I might gamble and run her there,” Margolis said. “It is a little quick, but I would love to get some black type with her.”

ALBARADO, AMOSS AND RAMSEYS RACE TOWARD MEET TITLES – With six racing days remaining in the 52-day Spring Meet, Robby Albarado holds an eight-win margin (63-55) over Miguel Mena in the battle for leading rider honors.

The 35-year-old Albarado, who never has won a Churchill Downs riding title, is named on eight mounts Sunday, while Mena has mounts in each of the day’s 10 races.

Tom Amoss, who shared the 2002 Spring training title with Dale Romans and who ranks 10th all-time at Churchill Downs with 285 victories, enters Sunday’s card with a two-win lead over Steve Asmussen (29-27) with Ken McPeek next with 26. Asmussen, who claimed both Churchill Downs training titles in 2007, has increased his career victory total under the Twin Spires to 296, good for eighth all-time. Asmussen has six runners entered on Sunday, while Amoss has two and McPeek one.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who have won a record combined 12 owner titles at Churchill Downs, have two runners entered Sunday. They enter the day with a 16-12 edge over Maggi Moss, who was the leading owner here last spring.

Moss has no entrants on Sunday’s racing program.

BARN TALK – Unbridled Spring will attempt to become the first four-time winner of the meet Sunday afternoon when he faces five foes in the second race, a $5,000 starter/allowance test at seven furlongs. The 6-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song is owned by Alan Kingsbury and back in the barn of Kevin Aubrey, who claimed him back for $5,000 off Mike Maker after his third win of the meet on June 6. Unbridled Spring had been claimed by Maker for $10,000 at Keeneland on April 4. …A happy 41st birthday today to jockey Joe Johnson, a native of Owensboro, Ky. … Jockey Julien Leparoux posted his meet-leading 14th victory on the turf when he guided the Allen Paulson Living Trust’s Almonsoon to a win in Saturday’s ninth race. Robby Albarado is second in turf wins with 12.

WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Arindel Farm’s Wait a While posted her third work at Churchill Downs since returning from a minor injury in mid-March, covering a half-mile in :49.80 for trainer Todd Pletcher. A Grade I winner on turf, Wait a While was the 3-year-old filly champion of 2006. … Peter Vegso’s Sunshine Millions Turf winner War Monger worked three furlongs in :39.60 for trainer Bill Mott over a track labeled “fast.” Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s 2006 Pocahontas (GIII) winner Change Up worked a half-mile in :48.60 for trainer Steve Margolis. … Ocean Colors, a daughter of 1988 Kentucky Derby-winning filly Winning Colors who scored a 5 ¼-length victory in her career debut on June 13, breezed four furlongs in :52.20 for trainer Steve Asmussen.


2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS

Through Saturday, June 28

Jockeys (Starts 1-2-3)

1. Robby Albarado (243 63-34-29)
2. Miguel Mena (311 55-47-45)
3. Julien Leparoux ( 277 47-54-48)
4. Jamie Theriot ( 247 45-34-33)
5. Calvin Borel (265 43-39-38)
6. Shaun Bridgmohan (192 39-34-25)
7. Jesus Castanon (231 26-23-28)
8. Corey Lanerie (199 18-26-25)
9. Brian Hernandez Jr. (182 15-29-19)
10. John McKee (138 12-21-20)

Trainers

1. Tom Amoss (73 29-13-12)
2. Steve Asmussen (122 27-20-18)
3. Ken McPeek (69 26-12-5)
4. Mike Maker (60 16-13-9)
5. Dale Romans (128 15-26-22)
6. Ian Wilkes (47 13-12-7)
7. Eddie Kenneally (61 12-10-10)
8. Cody Autrey (53 9-9-11)
-. Greg Foley (60 9-9-8)
-. Bret Calhoun (23 9-2-4)
Five (5) trainers tied at eight (8) wins

Owners

1. Ken and Sarah Ramsey (59 16-10-13)
2. Maggi Moss (28 12-6-4)
3. Zayat Stables, LLC (47 8-10-10)
4. Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein (36 7-7-7)
5. Heflin & Driver Racing (27 5-5-6)
-. Heiligbrodt Racing Stable (17 5-1-0)
Seven (7) owners tied at four (4) wins

Einstein Could Face Eight Rivals In July 4 Firecracker

Three-time Grade I turf winner Einstein will be asked to concede between 6-10 pounds to as many as eight rivals in Friday’s 19th running of the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Einstein, owned by Patricia Cunningham and Melissa Green, Lessee, has scored Grade I victories this year in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 3 and the Feb. 23 Gulfstream Park Turf, was assigned 124 pounds for the Firecracker by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.

In Einstein’s most recent start at the Firecracker distance, he ran second to NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) winner Kip Deville in the Makers Mark Mile (GI) on April 11 at Keeneland.

Five horses are labeled as probable to challenge Einstein, according to Churchill Downs racing officials.

At 118 pounds are Churchill Downs turf stakes winners Inca King, owned by the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, and Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song. Other probables are Terry Raymond, Jana Wagner and Gus Goldsmith’s Faith’s Magic (116), D. Richard Masson’s Karelian (115) and Oxbow Racing’s Steve’s Double (115).

Three horses are considered as possible for the Fourth of July headliner: James Tafel’s Coragil Cat (117), Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr., Marco Bommarito and the Molly Malone Racing Club’s A.P. Xcellent (116) and Snookum Farms’ Baron Von Tap (114).

LOCUST GROVE FIELD TAKING SHAPE, BAYOU’S LASSIE LIKELY – Seven horses are considered as probable by the Churchill Downs racing office for the closing day Locust Grove Handicap (GIII) to be run at a mile over the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Weights for the race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up will be released Sunday, June 29.

Headlining the list of probables is Jacks or Better Farm’s Bayou’s Lassie, winner of the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) on May 3. Trained by Dale Romans, Bayou’s Lassie finished fourth in the Grade I Just a Game Handicap on June 7 in her most recent start.

Expected to come from Texas for the Locust Grove is Pin Oak Stable’s Brownie Points, who won the Ouija Board Handicap (GIII) at Lone Star Park in her most recent start on May 26. Trained by Donnie Von Hemel, Brownie Points ran fifth in the 2006 Mrs. Revere (GII) in her lone appearance at Churchill Downs.

Peter Bradley III’s Tears I Cry, runner-up to Brownie Points in the Ouija Board, also is considered a probable for trainer Cody Autrey.

Others probables include Pegasus Horses’ Ballymore Lady, second in the June 14 Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) at Churchill Downs; James Barry’s Genuine Devotion; Briland Farm’s Grace Happens; and, Craig Bernick’s You Go West Girl, runner-up in the 2007 Regret (GIII) at Churchill Downs.

ROMERO’S EXERCISE PROGRAM PAYING OFF FOR STEWART, TOO – Four weeks into his summer exercise program, 50-year-old Randy Romero could not be happier.

Romero, who rode 4,285 winners in a 25-year career, has been galloping horses trainer Dallas Stewart the past four weeks.

“I have been getting on seven horses a day,” said Romero, who rode three Breeders’ Cup winners highlighted by Personal Ensign’s victory over Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors in the 1988 Distaff (GI) at Churchill Downs. “I am not getting paid for it. I am just doing for exercise and it is good for my health.”

Romero has battled health issues since being diagnosed with hepatitis in 2002. This February, he lost a kidney.

“My kidney had burst and I was bleeding inside for two weeks,” Romero said.

He attended the Kentucky Derby and a month later he returned to Louisville from New Orleans to begin getting on horses for Stewart, something he had done in the past.

“I started swimming in New Orleans to get myself in shape and lose some weight and I am still swimming every day,” said Romero, who weighs 130 pounds. “I still have dialysis three times a week from 4 to 8 p.m.”

When the Spring Meet ends on July 6, Romero will follow Stewart to Saratoga.

“Dallas has a lot of good 2-year-olds and I think he is going to have an exceptional meet up there,” Romero said. “Horses like that make it easy to get up in the morning.”

BARN TALK – Happy 69th birthday wishes to trainer Lynn Whiting, conditioner of 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee. A native of Great Falls, Mont., Whiting has saddled 278 winners at Churchill Downs, good for 12th all time under the Twin Spires. Whiting saddled two other Kentucky Derby starters in addition to Lil E. Tee: At The Threshold who ran third in 1984 and Phantom on Tour, who ran sixth in 1997. … The smile still had not left jockey Jordan Springer’s face the morning after she won with second mount after coming back from a serious injury last November. “We did a little celebrating last night,” said Springer, who guided Geri’s Kid to a front-running 5 ¼-length score in Friday’s eighth race. “There was no speed in the race, so I just went on with it.” Springer will head to California when the current meet ends next Sunday. “I’m going to Del Mar and gallop horses for Bob Hess, Bobby Frankel, Eoin Harty and John Glenney,” Springer said. “I was out there last summer on vacation and I didn’t want to leave. During the winter when I was sitting at home in New York, I decided I would go back out there.” … Veteran Churchill Downs conditioner Angel Montano picked up his second win in two days when Dominic’s Desire won Friday’s seventh race. A native of Mexico City, Montano saddled his first winner at Miles Park in 1968 and has posted 314 winners all time at Churchill Downs, good for sixth best on the career charts. Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg ranks fifth with 335 winners. Lawrence Carroll’s Bold Start ran the fastest 6 ½ furlongs of the meet in 1:14.91 when he won Friday’s third race by 5 ½ lengths. The time in the 30th race at the distance this spring, was .57 of a second off the seven-year-old track record set by Love At Noon. The Ken McPeek-trained runner has a record of 7-2-2-2 on the main track at Churchill Downs that included a third-place finish in the 2007 Derby Trial. … Trainer Tom Amoss recorded his eighth two-win day of the meet on Friday and boosted his lead in the race for leading trainer to two over Steve Asmussen and McPeek (28-26).

WORK TAB – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, in his first work since finishing fifth in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (GI), worked a half-mile over a “good” track after the renovation break in :51 with Kenny Bourque up for trainer Dallas Stewart. … Tom Walters’ Elite Squadron, prepping for next Saturday’s Triple Bend Invitational (GI) at Hollywood Park, worked a half-mile in “good” going in :48.60 with Mick Jenner up. “I got him in 48 flat. It was perfect,” trainer Jim Baker said. “He leaves Monday for California.” … Trainer Ken McPeek worked the bulk of the heavy hitters in his barn highlighted by a bullet move from Magdalena Racing’s My Baby Baby, who covered five furlongs early Saturday morning when the track was labeled “muddy” in :59. My Baby Baby is scheduled to leave Monday for Hollywood Park and next Saturday’s American Oaks Invitational (GI). Other McPeek workers were Koolmen Racing’s graded-stakes placed A to the Croft (:50.60 for a half over a “good” track), Lawrence Carroll’s stakes-winning Old Man Buck (five furlongs in 1:02.40 “good”), fourth-place Preakness finisher Racecar Rhapsody (1:02.40, “muddy), and Samotowka Stables and Magdalena Racing’s Theregoesjojo (1:01.20 “muddy” in a prep for next Saturday’s Bashford Manor).

2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS

Through Friday, June 27

 

Jockeys Starts 1-2-3

 

Robby Albarado 232 61-30-22

Miguel Mena 303 53-47-43

Julien Leparoux 271 46-53-46

Jamie Theriot 241 44-34-33

Calvin Borel 258 41-38-38

Shaun Bridgmohan 192 39-34-25

Jesus Castanon 226 26-22-27

Corey Lanerie 194 17-26-23

Brian Hernandez Jr. 172 15-26-17

John McKee 136 12-21-20

Tracy Hebert 121 11-7-8

Trainers

Tom Amoss 70 28-12-12

Steve Asmussen 119 26-20-17

Ken McPeek 68 26-12-5

Mike Maker 56 15-13-8

Dale Romans 125 14-25-22

Ian Wilkes 46 13-11-7

Eddie Kenneally 60 12-10-10

Cody Autrey 53 9-9-11

Greg Foley 60 9-9-8

Bret Calhoun 23 9-2-4

Paul J. McGee 42 8-7-4

Nick Zito 20 8-5-1

D. Wayne Lukas 52 8-2-5

Robert O’Connor II 20 8-2-4

Owners

Ken and Sarah Ramsey 55 15-10-12

Maggi Moss 28 12-6-4

Zayat Stables, LLC 47 8-10-10

Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 36 7-7-7

Heflin & Driver Racing 27 5-5-6

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 16 5-1-0

Seven (7) owners tied at four (4) wins

Will Florida Invader Renda Be A "Calder Cannonball" in 108th Debutante?

Florida invader Renda, in town for Saturday’s 108th running of the $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies, made her first trip to the Churchill Downs track Friday morning with trainer Juan Arias in the saddle.

Juan Arias? Whoa, that name’s familiar. Wasn’t he the Venezuelan trainer of Canonero II, the “Caracas Cannonball” who won the 1971 Kentucky Derby?

“Different guy. I’m not him,” said Arias, who went out on his own as a trainer in 2003 after riding from 1988-90. “I was here once before as an assistant to Happy Alter. I had five horses here the year Monarchos won the Derby (2001).”

 Renda arrived from Calder on Thursday morning and Arias, who has a string of 30 horses at Calder, had her out early Friday morning on the muddy going.

“I jogged her once around the wrong way and then galloped her once around the right way and took her to the paddock and let her look around,” said Arias, who is from Panama.

 Also looking on was owner Richard Rowan, who said the pronunciation on the filly’s name is “Enda.”

“The R is silent,” Rowan said. “In Portuguese, Renda means wealth.”

Rowan is no stranger to Churchill Downs, having started Puxa Saco, who ran third in the 2005 Humana Distaff for trainer Jenine Sahadi.

“This filly is faster than Puxa Saco,” said Rowan of Renda, who broke her maiden at first asking by five lengths at Calder on May 31. ”She is such a big filly, and with her pedigree (by Medaglia d’Oro), I didn’t expect her to win going five furlongs. I thought it would take until she went seven-eighths or a mile.”

“Wesley (jockey Wesley Henry) just kept looking back for the competition and there was none. Florida is a great place to start a 2-year-old. If you have a good one, you can go anywhere.”

Churchill Downs was the next stop for Renda with the Debutante being the first graded stake for 2-year-old fillies in North America.

“There was an allowance race in New York, but that was only 5 ½ furlongs and this is six,” Rowan said.

CURLIN ASSIGNED 130 POUNDS, EINSTEIN 124 FOR FIRECRACKER – Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin was assigned 130 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for the July 4 Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and winner of the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) in his most recent start, Curlin is not expected to run in the Firecracker.

However, the second high weight for the Firecracker, three-time Grade I turf winner Einstein, is expected to compete for trainer Helen Pitts and tote 124 pounds. Owned by Patricia Cunningham and Melissa Greene, Lessee, Einstein finished second in his most recent start to Curlin in the Stephen Foster.

Team Valor and Gary Barber’s Becrux was assigned third high weight of 120 pounds, but he is entered in Saturday’s American Invitational Handicap (GII) at Hollywood Park. Hickory Tree Stable’s Rebellion, who is two-for-two in graded stakes in 2008, was assigned 119 pounds.

Two horses that have won stakes events over the Matt Winn Turf Course were assigned 118 pounds: Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Inca King winner of the recent Opening Verse, Jefferson Cup (GII) and Commonwealth Turf for trainer Steve Asmussen – and Zayat Stable’s Thorn Song, winner of last fall’s River City Handicap (GIII) for trainer Dale Romans.  Weighted at 117 are a pair of possible starters in Carl Moore Management and Martin Racing Stable’s Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII) victor Mr. Nightlinger and James Tafel’s Coragil Cat, winner of the Hanshin Handicap (GIII) over Polytrack at Arlington Park.

Also weighted at 117 was Tom Walters’ Churchill Downs Stakes (GII) winner Elite Squadron, but the Jim Baker trainee will pass on the Firecracker.

Entries for the Firecracker are set to be drawn on Tuesday.

ASMUSSEN COULD HOLD HOT HAND IN BASHFORD MANOR – Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled the winner of last year’s Bashford Manor in Kodiak Kowboy and it appears he may have the runners to beat in this year’s renewal, set for Saturday, July 5.

As of Friday, six colts were considered as probable for the six-furlong, Grade III event and Asmussen trains two of them.

J. Kirk Robison’s Lyin’ Heart is undefeated in two starts at Lone Star Park.In his most recent start, Lyin’ Heart, a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart, won the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity by 3 ½ lengths.

Asmussen also may be represented by Padua Stables’ Segal. A son of Harlan’s Holiday, Segal broke his maiden at first asking on May 7 at Churchill Downs and most recently ran third in the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine on June 15.

Others considered as probable by Churchill Downs racing officials are three undefeated colts: Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters, Kevin Chessen’s Silver Bayer and Samotowka Stables and Magdalena Racing’s Theregoesjojo; and Paul Giacopelli and Donnie Kelly’s Medaglia D’Onore, who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs on June 19.

Regarded as possible for the race is Richard Ravin and Larry Rivelli’s My Dominick James, a 2 ¾-length maiden winner in his career debut at Arlington Park on June 8. 

Entries will be taken for the Bashford Manor on Wednesday, July 2.    

MELANCON, LANERIE TO BE FEATURED AT “JOCKEY TALK” – Jockeys Larry Melancon and Corey Lanerie will be the featured guests during this Saturday’s “Jockey Talk” – a new program at Churchill Downs that allows horse racing fans to mingle with their favorite race riders.

Each Saturday through the remainder of the Spring Meet fans will get a chance to meet, visit, receive autographs and take pictures with select Churchill Downs jockeys from 11:30 a.m. to noon (all times EDT) in the paddock area.

Melancon, a 52-year-old native of Breaux Bridge, La., is the third-leading rider all-time at Churchill Downs with 901 victories under the Twin Spires.

Lanerie, a 33-year-old native of Lafayette, La., entered Friday’s 11-race program with 17 victories on the meet, good for eighth place in the rider standings. 

ALBARADO, McPEEK AND KLEIN SET FOR SEASON FINALE OF “CHURCHILL DOWNS IN SEASON” ON WAVE3 – Leading jockey Robby Albarado, trainer Ken McPeek and owner-breeder Richard Klein are scheduled as guests on Saturday’s season finale for “Churchill Downs In Season” on WAVE-3 TV.

            The weekly look at Churchill Downs racing is hosted by Churchill Downs’ John Asher and is scheduled to be telecast live from the paddock garden at 9:30 a.m. (EDT).

            Albarado, the leading jockey in the Spring Meet and regular rider of “Horse of the Year” Curlin, is bearing down on his first Churchill Downs riding crown.  McPeek is in a three-way battle with Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen for “leading trainer” honors for the 52-day meet.  Klein is a member of a family team that includes his mother and father, Elaine and Bert, and perennially ranks among the leading owners at Churchill Downs.

            The season finale of the 30-minute “Churchill Downs In Season” will also include a preview of Saturday’s 108th running of the Debutante Stakes (GIII) and a look ahead to the three stakes races scheduled for  meet’s July 4-6 closing weekend: the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII), the $150,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) and the $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (GIII). 

BARN TALK – Well-wishes go out to trainer John Churchman, who is recuperating at home after a stent procedure this week. “I had been feeling pretty sick for a while,” Churchman said Friday morning. “I have been home for a couple days, but I am not doing all that well.” The 73-year-old Louisville native has three horses stabled at Churchill Downs. Churchman saddled two Kentucky Derby starters, Fighting Fantasy in 1990 and Wilder Than Ever in 1991. … The seven double-figure win payoffs on Thursday’s card equaled a high for the meet, matching that of April 26, the opening day of the 52-day Spring Meet. … Robby Albarado recorded his second consecutive three-victory day on Thursday, giving him eight such days on the meet to go with two four-win days. Albarado, seeking his first riding title at Churchill Downs, opened an eight-win lead over second-place Miguel Mena with eight days remaining in the meet that closes July 6. … A victory by Padua Stables’ Hoya in the last race Thursday gave trainer Steve Asmussen his 25th win of the meet and moved him into a tie for second with Ken McPeek, one behind Tom Amoss in the chase for leading trainer. As usual, juvenile runners have been a key to Asmussen’s successful meet as 12 of his winners have come from his strong division of 2-year-olds.  Both Asmussen and Amoss have four horses entered on Friday’s 11-race card; McPeek has one. 

WORK TAB (Track: GOOD) – Phoenix Stakes (GIII) winner Off Duty worked a half-mile in :47.20 over a “good” track for trainer Lynn Whiting. The move was the fastest of 26 at the distance. … Padua Stables’ Segal worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 over a track labeled “muddy” in a probable prep for the Bashford Manor for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was the ninth fastest of 18 at the distance.

2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS

        Through Thursday, June 26Jockeys                           Starts   1-2-3

Robby Albarado                  223  59-29-27

Miguel Mena                       298   51-46-43

Julien Leparoux                  267   46-50-46

Jamie Theriot                     232   44-34-30

Calvin Borel                        253  41-35-38

Shaun Bridgmohan             192   39-34-25

Jesus Castanon                   222   26-22-26

Corey Lanerie                    189   17-25-22

Brian Hernandez Jr.            169   15-26-16

John McKee                       132   11-21-20

Elvis Trujillo                        77   10-10-19

Trainers

Tom Amoss                       67   26-12-12

Steve Asmussen                115   25-18-17

Ken McPeek                        67    25-12-5

Mike Maker                        54    15-11-8

Dale Romans                    121   14-25-20

Ian Wilkes                          45     13-11-6

Eddie Kenneally                  58    12-9-9

Cody Autrey                      52      9-9-11

Greg Foley                         59       9-9-8

Bret Calhoun                       23      9-2-4

Paul J. McGee                     42       8-7-4

Nick Zito                             20       8-5-1

D. Wayne Lukas                  49       8-2-4      

Owners

Ken and Sarah Ramsey         52   15-8-12

Maggi Moss                         27     12-6-4

Zayat Stables, LLC                46    8-10-10

Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein   35     7-7-6

Heflin & Driver Racing           26     5-5-6

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable       16     5-1-0

Six (6) owners tied at four (4) wins