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Hall of Fame trainer D Wayne Lukas suffered through a miserable fall here last year, failing to win a race from 34 starters.
What a difference six months and a barn full of precocious 2-year-olds can make.
“We are coming around,” Lukas said Saturday morning, a day after Westrock Stables, LLC’s Soundman ran the fastest 4 ½ furlongs of the meet (:51.40) in breaking his maiden by 7 ¾ lengths. “That’s three in a row I have won for them.”
The Westrock explosion began May 14 when Decelerator, a Dehere filly, won at first asking covering five furlongs in a meet-best :57.73. Tidal Pool, a daughter of Yankee Gentleman, won in her second outing on Thursday going 4 ½ furlongs and then Soundman, a son of Songandaprayer, won in his second start on Friday.
All three were purchased at auction in February. Decelerator cost $250,000, Soundman $240,000 and Tidal Pool $220,000.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg for Lukas, who has 13 babies purchased last year as part of 39 bought last year by Legends Racing and divided among Lukas and fellow Hall of Famers Nick Zito and Bob Baffert.
“All 13 Legends horses are here,” Lukas said. “And they are good, too.”
TEMPLE STREET MAKES THE HUGE JUMP FROM CLAIMER TO GRADE I PLACED – Little did trainer Brad Cox know what a bargain he was getting last fall when he claimed Temple Street for $15,000 out of a non-winners-of-three lifetime race for the K.C. Garrett Farm at Churchill Downs.
“She had run a good race the time before we claimed her,” Cox said. “We thought she would like the dirt more than the Polytrack.”
Since joining the Cox barn, Temple Street has run six times with two victories, three seconds and a third, highlighted by a runner-up finish to Informed Decision in the Grade I Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day.
“She ran OK at Turfway Park, but her (Beyer) number fell off a little bit,” Cox said of Temple Street’s first start for the barn. Then the 5-year-old Street Cry mare headed to Oaklawn Park for the winter and began a partnership with jockey Jon Court.
“The first time Jon rode her, I told him to ride the first half of the race like it’s a mile and a half turf race and the second half like it’s a 2-year-old going a quarter-mile out of the gate,” Cox said. “Jon knows her like the back of his hand. She really likes the dirt and is a come-from-behind sprinter.”
Temple Street jumps back into graded stakes company on Monday’s Memorial Day program when she faces six rivals in the sixth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III) at six furlongs.
“My worry in a small field is you won’t get a fast pace,” Cox said. “But I think there is enough speed in there with Keep the Peace and Dubai Majesty and maybe Lady Chace. I’d like to see a lot of pace, like 21 and 44. The long stretch here is perfect for her.”
LEPAROUX MAKING SHAMBLES OF RACE FOR LEADING RIDER – Steve Bass, agent for jockey Julien Leparoux was back in the heavy-duty donut delivery business Saturday morning, a day after Leparoux rode five winners from eight mounts on the Friday afternoon card at Churchill Downs.
“Thirteen dozen this morning,” Bass said as he made his backstretch rounds.
The five-win day was the third at Churchill Downs for Leparoux, who also has a six-win day and a seven-win day, the latter coming last Nov. 11. One of his winners on his seven-victory day, Yikes, accounted for his first victory Friday.
His record-equaling seven-win day helped propel Leparoux past Hall of Famer Pat Day for most wins for a Fall Meet (63), which shattered Day’s record by eight.
The overall record for Spring Meet wins is the 169 winners piloted by Day in an extended 93-day meet in 1983. Leparoux has 32 winners through 19 days of the 45-day meet and a 12-win lead over his closest pursuer, Miguel Mena. He won’t come close to Day’s all-time record, but has a shot at the record of a Spring Meet of similar length. That would be the 78 winners piloted by Day in a 47-day meet in 1999.
MILESTONE WATCH – Robby Albarado was blanked on five mounts Friday and remains at 3,996 career wins entering Saturday’s card. Albarado has 10 mounts Saturday and seven on Sunday. He will ride at Lone Star Park on Monday.
Trainer Ken McPeek, with 999 career wins, has one runner entered today, Millennium Lakes in the 11th. Should the milestone victory elude McPeek today, he has one Churchill Downs entrant on Sunday – Cobbler’s Reef in the seventh – and two on Monday: Rocket Zee in the fifth and Old Man Buck in the eighth.
Trainer Bill Connelly, with 998 career wins, has one runner entered at Churchill Downs today, It’s a Rap in the third. Connelly’s next Churchill Downs entrant is Button Dancer in the third race on Monday.
BARN TALK – Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped two miles before the renovation break under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa on Saturday morning. Trainer Chip Woolley plans to work Mine That Bird on Monday. Kentucky Oaks and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra galloped before the renovation break under exercise rider Dominic Terry. Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to work Monday.
Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Indygo Mountain, who stamped himself as a possible Kentucky Derby contender with an impressive maiden score here last Nov. 19, is back in training after being sidelined since February with a chip in his knee. “He just came back in training last week,” said Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. “We are going to take our time with him and it will be a while (before he works).”
A happy birthday on Saturday to trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi. Pitts-Blasi plans to work Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I) winner Einstein a half-mile on Sunday morning, the first of three scheduled works leading up to the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) on June 13.
Nominations close today for the 33rd running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) to be run on June 6. The race is for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/16th miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Champion Dreaming of Anna won last year’s renewal of the race.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Derby Trial (Grade III) winner Hull worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 for trainer Dale Romans in preparation for Woody Stephens (GII) on June 6 at Belmont Park. The move by the undefeated Hull was the second best of 19 at the distance over a fast track. Rainbow Miss winner Affirmed Truth, prepping for the May 30 Dogwood (GIII), worked five furlongs in 1:02.60, ninth best of 19, for trainer Tim Ice.
GENERAL ELECTRIC PARTNERS WITH CHURCHILL FOR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND GIVEAWAY – Churchill Downs has partnered with General Electric to giveaway GE stainless steel products in an on-track sweepstakes offer over the three-day Memorial Day weekend A prize drawing will be held each day after the seventh race and one daily winner will take home their choice of a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher or microwave oven, courtesy of GE. Registration for the drawings will take place at a tent in the paddock area, where the first 5,000 entrants each day will receive a free koozie.
Sunday, May 24 is “GE Day at the Races” at Churchill Downs. Employees of General Electric who show their employee ID badge at Gate 10 will receive complimentary admission for themselves and their guests, as well as reserved seating in either Sections 115-116 or Millionaires’ Row 6.
JUNIOR JOCKEY CLUB ACTIVITIES FOR MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY – Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club for children 3-10 will be open for all three days of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Special activities between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (all times EDT) include decorating “Triple Crowns” on Saturday and Sunday, and outdoor games on Monday. The Junior Jockey Club is located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. Coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are available as well, and Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand each day for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m.
NO LIVE RACING TUESDAY-THURSDAY, FREE ADMISSION TO THURSDAY SIMULCASTS – Following Monday’s special Memorial Day racing program, Churchill Downs will be dark on Tuesday, May 26; Wednesday, May 27; and Thursday, May 28. There will be no on-site simulcast wagering May 26-27. Churchill Downs will be open for simulcast wagering May 28 and will offer free general admission for patrons to place wagers on outlets around the country in the ITW area on the second floor of the clubhouse.
Borel Bandwagon Crowded/Calvin & Byrne In Saturday's 'Get in the Game' Seminar/Monday Work For 'Bird'?
Jockey Calvin Borel is not assured of having a mount in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (Grade I), but the leadup to the third jewel of the Triple Crown will have his fingerprints all over it.
Borel’s agent, Jerry Hissam, has a lot more on his plate these days than just lining up mounts for the popular rider.
“He is going to New York on Tuesday June 2 to tape the ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ that will air June 5,” Hissam said. “CNN is shooting something this week for Belmont Day. NYRA has something on June 2 at Madison Square Garden and after the Belmont, ’60 Minutes’ is coming to shoot a 10- to 12-minute segment that is supposed to air in September.”
All this action was made possible by Borel’s victories aboard Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Preakness Stakes (Grade I).
Borel has first call on Rachel Alexandra, but her connections have not commited to run in the Belmont. Trainer Chip Woolley of Mine That Bird is hoping to get Borel back if the filly doesn’t run and is expected to name a rider Monday.
Borel could become the first jockey to sweep the Triple Crown riding different horses, but to Hissam, his rider already has achieved a Triple Crown.
“He won the Oaks, Derby and Preakness,” Hissam said. “If he wins the Belmont, what would that be?”
Let’s call it a “Calvin Slam.”
Only one other rider has won the same three races in the same year as Borel and that was Don Brumfield in 1966. Brumfield rode Native Street to victory in the Oaks and then won the Derby and Preakness aboard Kauai King before finishing fourth aboard the Derby winner in the Belmont Stakes.
FANS HAVE CHANCE TO HEAR CALVIN WITH JILL BYRNE SATURDAY’S “GET IN THE GAME” SEMINAR – Popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Calvin Borel will be Racing Analyst Jill Byrne’s special guest during Saturday’s free “Get in the Game” Handicapping Seminar at Churchill Downs.
The new weekly series takes place every Saturday in the paddock area at noon (EDT) and features informative and in-depth analysis of races and handicapping topics. Among Borel’s scheduled mounts on Saturday is a ride aboard veteran Brass Hat in the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII).
DERBY WINNER MINE THAT BIRD COULD WORK MONDAY – Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Kentucky Derby Mine That Bird galloped two miles before the renovation break under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.
Trainer Chip Woolley said Mine That Bird may work Monday, “something light, like three-eighths. If he works, I’ll probably wait until after the break.”
Also scheduled to work Monday is Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, who galloped early Friday morning with Dominic Terry up.
Woolley plans to give Mine That Bird his serious Belmont tune-up the following Monday, June 1, and send the gelding to New York by plane on Wednesday, June 3.
Originally sold as a yearling for $9,500, Mine That Bird was purchased by his current connections for $400,000 last fall. His Derby victory and runner-up showing in the Preakness have attracted more interest.
“We have had a couple of inquiries,” Woolley said.
In recent Kentucky Derby lore, the highest price paid for a gelding was $750,000 by J.E. Jumonville Sr. for Real Dare in 1982. A sensation in his home state of Louisiana, Real Dare finished last in the Derby won by Gato Del Sol.
SUNDAY FEATURE HAS STAKES QUALITY FEEL – The Memorial Day Weekend offers two Grade III stakes in the Louisville Handicap on Saturday and Monday’s Winning Colors. Sunday’s feature, an allowance optional claiming race at 1 1/16th miles on the main track, offers up a salty field that includes five stakes winners.
With the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) looming in three weeks, Sunday’s test could serve as a springboard to that event.
“It’s a prep for something,” said Gary Thomas, trainer of Golden Yank. “I don’t know about the Foster; maybe the Cornhusker (on June 27 at Prairie Meadows).”
Golden Yank has been idle since finishing ninth in the March 14 Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial (GII) on turf at Fair Grounds.
“He got beat up and knocked around at New Orleans and we gave him some time off,” Thomas said. “Same thing happened when he ran here last year in the Jefferson Cup and in the million dollar race (the Delta Jackpot) at Delta (Downs) when he got hit from both sides.”
Golden Yank’s most recent start on dirt came in a runner-up finish in Oaklawn Park’s Essex Handicap. He lost to Prom Shoes, who also shows up in Sunday’s race.
“We are just looking for a spot to run,” trainer William “Jinks” Fires said of Prom Shoes. “We’ll see how he comes out of it (before making a decision on the Foster).”
Prom Shoes ran eighth in the Grade III Alysheba here on May 1 and Fires is looking for a better effort Sunday.
“He didn’t run too good the last time,” Fires said. “There was no pace in the race and he needs pace to run at. I haven’t looked at the race yet, but I hope to see some pace in there Sunday.
BARN TALK – Robby Albarado moved one victory closer to the 4,000-win plateau on Thursday with a score on Handlethetruth in the fifth race. Albarado had 3,996 wins heading into Friday’s 11-race program. He was scheduled for five mounts on Friday in his bid to become the 56th North American rider to reach 4,000 wins.
Ken McPeek, with 999 career victories, will have two chances this afternoon to get No. 1,000. He saddles Chapel Affair in the fifth and Our Dahlia in the 10th.
Bill Connelly, who has 998 career victories, saddles Mr. Brutus in the opener and Hungry Tigress in the 10th. Connelly also has a starter tonight at Indiana Downs, Patchen Prince in the sixth.
WORK TAB – Trainer Ian Wilkes had a couple of hopefuls for the Stephen Foster Super Saturday card turn in identical five furlong works of 1:02.40 over “fast” footing. Miss Isella, winner of two consecutive Grade II events under the Twin Spires – last November’s Falls City Handicap and the May 1 Louisville – prepped for the $200,000 Fleur De Lis (Grade II) and Warrior’s Reward, a Kentucky Oaks Day allowance winner, tuned up for the $100,000-added Northern Dancer (Grade III),
Speedy Dubai Majesty Heads Grade III Winning Colors on Monday's Memorial Day Card at Churchill Downs
Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Dubai Majesty, the pacesetter in the Humana Distaff (Grade I) on Kentucky Derby Day, headlines a field of seven fillies and mares ages 3-years-old and up entered for sixth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III), the featured event on a special Memorial Day holiday program at Churchill Downs.
The six-furlong Winning Colors will go as the 10th race on the 11-race Memorial Day card that kicks off with a 12:45 p.m. (EDT) post time.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Dubai Majesty faded to third behind Informed Decision in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs on the May 2 Derby Day undercard. The race was a virtual replay of the Grade I Vinery Madison over seven furlongs on Polytrack at Keeneland, a race in which Dubai Majesty set the pace only to be run down late by Informed Decision.
Jamie Theriot, who has ridden Dubai Majesty to two of her six victories, has the mount Monday and will exit from post position five.
Dubai Majesty has three wins and three seconds from seven starts at the Winning Colors distance of six furlongs. However, the best six-furlong mark in the Winning Colors belongs to Keep the Peace, who is undefeated in three starts at the distance.
Owned by Gary and Mary West and trained by Eddie Kenneally, Keep the Peace broke her maiden at first asking in November 2007 at Churchill Downs and has since posted runner-up finishes in the 2008 renewals of the Grade III La Troienne and Grade III Dogwood under the Twin Spires. Corey Lanerie has the mount on Monday.
The field for the Winning Colors, from the rail out, is as follows: Keep the Peace (Lanerie, 118 pounds), Temple Street (Jon Court, 118), Nadeshiko (Shaun Bridgmohan, 120), Tar Heel Mom (Jesus Castanon, 118), Dubai Majesty (Jamie Theriot, 118), Lady Chace (Miguel Mena, 118) and Tiz to Dream (Calvin Borel, 118).
The race is named for the late Eugene Klein’s Winning Colors, a gray daughter of Caro who won the 1988 Kentucky Derby (GI) to become only the third – and most recent – female to win America’s greatest race.
She was the first of four Derby winners trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas and returned to Churchill Downs that fall to suffer a narrow loss to unbeaten Personal Ensign in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI), a race that is considered by some to be the greatest and most memorable in Breeders’ Cup history.
Winning Colors was elected Thoroughbred Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2000.
BRASS HAT SEEKS ELUSIVE FIRST TURF WIN IN LOUISVILLE HANDICAP – When Fred Bradley’s homebred Brass Hat made his turf debut in 2004, four of his rivals in Saturday’s Louisville Handicap (Grade III) had not been foaled.
“Four of them? That’s pretty neat, I’ve got to tell my dad,” said trainer William “Buff” Bradley of the popular 8-year-old gelding who has yet to win in seven career turf tries.
The Louisville Handicap will mark the fourth race back for Brass Hat since he suffered a strained suspensory ligament in his left leg last summer.
“He has been playing when he comes off the track, which is great for an 8-year-old,” Buff Bradley said. “He is training like a 4- or 5-year-old. It is amazing how he keeps coming back. You don’t ever count him out.”
After breaking his maiden in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park in March 2004, Bradley put Brass Hat on the grass in the Forerunner at Keeneland.
“He is bred for the grass (by Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Prized) and he ran second to (eventual Jefferson Cup winner) Prince Arch,” Bradley said. “He was beaten only five lengths by Kitten’s Joy here in the American Turf, and Kitten’s Joy was a champion that year. He has been competitive against top horses on the grass.”
Brass Hat’s second of three Matt Winn Turf Course tries came two years later in his first start after suffering a condylar fracture in his right front ankle a year earlier in the Lone Star Derby. Brass Hat ran seventh that day, his worst turf showing ever.
“The rail was out that day and the first thing (jockey) Willie (Martinez) said was, ‘He’s good. Don’t worry about it.’ ” Bradley said.
Fourth in the Louisville Handicap last year behind Lattice, Brass Hat enters Saturday’s race off a third-place finish in the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland.
“I thought he ran huge at Keeneland,” Bradley said. “Maybe he flattened out a little bit at the end. (Jockey) Calvin (Borel) keeps saying I should run him on the dirt the way he is training.
“I am not completely off the dirt with him. I’d like to go back to the Mass Cap (a race Brass Hat won in 2007). But you get in a cycle and if I had gone in the New Orleans Handicap (instead of the Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial) which may have been better for him, I would have gone in the Alysheba (on May 1). I thought the surface (grass) would be kinder for him and the distance (a mile and a half) would make it so he would not have to run so hard the whole way.”
Brass Hat has a career record of 8-5-2 in 29 races with earnings of $1,825,814.
WOOLLEY’S WONDERFUL RIDE ENTERS SECOND MONTH – On April 21, Chip Woolley was a little known trainer from New Mexico who came to Churchill Downs with modest expectations for a Kentucky Derby hopeful named Mine That Bird.
One month, a Kentucky Derby (GI) victory and runner-up finish in the Preakness (GI) later, life has totally changed for Woolley.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Woolley said as he watched Mine That Bird gallop twice around the main track before the renovation break Thursday morning. “When we came here, we had planned on going on to the Belmont after the Derby.”
But what Woolley did not count on was an extended stay personally in Kentucky and tending to one horse instead of 25, which are being overseen by Woolley’s older brother Bill in New Mexico.
“Bill can gallop and do everything and if I stay here after the Belmont, I might let him come in for a while and I’ll fly home for a week,” Woolley said.
Despite all the notoriety from the Triple Crown run, Woolley yearns a bit for the regular routine of a full barn.
“With 25 head, there is something new every day,” Woolley said. “There are a lot of things going on. This (watching Mine That Bird gallop) is the highlight of my morning right now and with my leg, I can’t do a lot of stuff.”
In addition to Mine That Bird, all other Churchill Downs-based Preakness runners were on the track Thursday morning headlined by Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, who galloped under Dominic Terry.
Returning to the track for the first time since their Pimlico excursions were Flying Private (fourth) and Luv Gov (eighth) for D. Wayne Lukas, seventh-place finisher Terrain for Al Stall Jr. and ninth-place finisher General Quarters for Tom McCarthy.
PURE CLAN HAS FIRST TURF WORK OF 2009 – Three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Pure Clan worked six furlongs around the “dogs” in 1:14.60 under exercise rider Steve Schmelzel on Thursday morning.
“It was a pretty good work around the dogs,” trainer Bob Holthus said as he prepares Pure Clan for her 2009 debut in the June 6 Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III). “This will probably be her only turf work.”
Winner of two races on the dirt in the fall of 2007 as a 2-year-old, Pure Clan moved to the grass last summer to win Churchill Downs’ Grade III Regret, then headed to California to win the American Oaks Invitational (Grade I) at Hollywood Park.
Nominations for the Early Times Mint Julep, worth $100,000-added for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going a mile and a sixteenth on the Matt Winn Turf Course, close on Saturday, May 23
FIELD OF SEVEN PROBABLE FOR MONDAY’S WINNING COLORS – The 2-3 finishers from the May 2 Humana Distaff (Grade I), Temple Street and Dubai Majesty, are among seven fillies and mares expected to pass the entry box Friday for Monday’s sixth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III) at six furlongs on the main track.
Among the other probables according to stakes coordinator Allison De Luca are Keep the Peace, Lady Chace, Nadeshiko, Tar Heel Mom and Tiz to Dream.
Two stakes scheduled for May 30, the Dogwood and the Aristides, drew 25 and 21 nominations, respectively.
Heading the probables on De Luca’s list for the Dogwood is Rainbow Miss Stakes winner Affirmed Truth, a stablemate of sixth-place Kentucky Derby finisher Summer Bird trained by Tim Ice. Other probables for the $100,000-added Dogwood for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the main track are Hightap, Lady’s Laughter and Slides Choice.
Two-time Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (Grade III) winner Semaphore Man heads the list of probables for the $100,000-added Aristides for sprinters 3-years-old and up going six furlongs. Other probables include Bold Start, Cassoulet, Garfine, Grand Sensation, Knights Cross and Vicarian.
Entries for both stakes will be drawn Wednesday.
CLASSIC WINNER BOREL JOINS JILL BYRNE FOR SATURDAY’S “GET IN THE GAME” SEMINAR – Popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Calvin Borel will be racing analyst Jill Byrne’s special guest during Saturday’s free “Get in the Game” Handicapping Seminar at Churchill Downs.
The new weekly series takes place every Saturday in the paddock area at noon (EDT) and features informative and in-depth analysis of races and handicapping topics. Among Borel’s scheduled mounts on the day is a ride aboard veteran Brass Hat in the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap.
BARN TALK – Julien Leparoux, who entered Thursday’s card with a six-win lead (24-18) over Miguel Mena in the race for leading rider, will be out of town on Memorial Day to ride at Lone Star Park. Leparoux’s major mount that day will be trainer Marty Wolfson’s It’s a Bird in the $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (Grade III).
Robby Albarado entered Thursday’s card with 3,995 career victories. He has five mounts Thursday and five more on Friday as he bids to become the 56th North American rider to reach the 4,000-win plateau.
Also approaching milestones are trainers Ken McPeek and Bill Connelly. McPeek, with 999 career wins, has one horse entered Thursday (Sandstorm Cat in the eighth). Connelly, with 998 career wins, sends out two runners – Dancing Lydia in the fifth and Talkin Indian in the eighth.
Mambo in Seattle, runner-up in the 2008 Travers (Grade I) worked a half-mile Thursday in :48.40 before the renovation break, fourth-best of 31 at the distance. Also working a half-mile Thursday was Sam P., ninth-place finisher in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, who covered the distance in :51.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND KICKS OFF WITH ‘FRIDAY HAPPY HOURS’ – This week’s “Dress to Impress” Friday Happy Hours at Churchill Downs will showcase live music by Radio Radio. The popular Spring Meet promotion, which takes place most Fridays from 4-7 p.m. in the paddock area, also features $2 Budweiser Select, $2 select specialty drinks and $2 hot dogs. Also, one female in the crowd will be chosen as “best dressed” and win a $250 gift certificate to a Louisville area boutique.
Churchill Downs has partnered with General Electric to giveaway GE stainless steel products in an on-track sweepstakes offer over the three-day Memorial Day weekend (Saturday, May 23 through Monday, May 25). Each day, there’ll be a daily prize drawing after the seventh race with one daily winner who’ll take home their choice of either a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher or microwave oven, courtesy of GE. Registration for the drawings will take place at a tent in the paddock area, where the first 5,000 entrants each day will receive a free koozie.
Sunday, May 24 is “GE Day at the Races” at Churchill Downs. Employees of General Electric who show their employee ID badge at Gate 10 will receive complimentary admission for themselves and their guests, as well as reserved seating in either Sections 115-116 or Millionaires’ Row 6.
Spice Route (GB), stylish winner of the Elkhorn (Grade II) in his most recent start at Keeneland on April 24, headlines a field of nine entered for Saturday’s 72nd running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (Grade III) to be run at a mile and a half over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Louisville Handicap goes as the 10th race on Saturday’s 11-race card that has a first post time of 12:45 p.m. ET.
Owned by Harlequin Ranches, Ralph Johnson and Roger Attfield and trained by Attfield, Spice Route will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and carries high weight of 121 pounds. He breaks from post position eight and will concede 3-8 pounds to his rivals.
A 5-year-old gelded son of King’s Best, Spice Route closed out 2008 with a victory in the tropical Turf Handicap (Grade III) at Calder. He opened 2009 with a troubled third-place finish as the favorite in the Grade II Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 21. He was second to Marsh Side in last fall’s Canadian International (GI).
The second high weight at 118 pounds is Fred Bradley’s veteran Brass Hat, who will break from post position seven under Calvin Borel, a two-time winner of the Louisville Handicap. Brass Hat finished third in the Elkhorn behind Spice Route. A Grade I winner on dirt, the 8-year-old Brass Hat has yet to win in seven attempts on turf, but was a troubled fourth to Lattice as the beaten favorite in last year’s running of the Louisville. He dropped far behind a slow pace that day, but lost by just 2 ½ lengths.
Jockey Robby Albarado, who shares the stakes record of four Louisville Handicap victories with Steve Brooks and Larry Melancon, will go for win No. 5 aboard Always First, runner-up in the 2007 race to Drilling for Oil. The Thomas Voss-trained Always First will break from post position five and carry 115 pounds.
The field for the Louisville Handicap, from the hedge out, is as follows: My Happiness (ARG) (Larry Sterling Jr., 113 pounds), Gangbuster (Brian Hernandez Jr., 114), Transduction Gold (Jon Court, 114), Silver Mountain (Jesus Castanon, 113), Always First (GB) (Albarado, 115), Why Tonto (Corey Lanerie, 113), Brass Hat (Borel, 118), Spice Route (GB) (Bridgmohan, 121) and Thabazibi (Julien Leparoux, 113).
It was a day for racing royalty at Churchill Downs on Wednesday as Preakness (Grade I) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra returned to track for a gallop and Mine That Bird, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and a fast-closing runner-up in the Preakness, continued to show his spirit during his first gallop since Saturday’s race.
Rachel Alexandra, the first filly in 84 years to win the Preakness and the second Kentucky Oaks winner in three years to defeat males in a Triple Crown race in her next start, galloped a mile over a “fast” track for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was her first trip from the track since her dazzling victory in Saturday’s Preakness at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course and her return to Churchill Downs on Sunday.
Assistant trainer Scott Blasi said Rachel Alexandra would stand in the starting gate before she gallops on Thursday, so she will go to the track around 7:15 a.m. (all times EST). She normally heads to the track with Asmussen’s second set of horses around 6:15 a.m.
Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to work on Monday, May 25.
Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Mine That Bird galloped 1 ½-miles in his second trip to the one-mile oval at Churchill Downs since he returned to the scene of his greatest triumph Monday evening. Exercise rider Charlie Figeuroa was in the irons as the Birdstone gelding went through his energetic gallop and appeared to be none the worse for wear after huge efforts in the first two races of the Triple Crown.
“The horse is just doing super – he’s on his game,” said trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. “We’re really surprised that he’s as fresh as he is after two good, hard races. The fortunate this for us is he only runs three-eighths of a mile, so he doesn’t use himself as hard as a lot of horses. So we’re pretty happy with where we’re at.”
Mine That Bird has been playful in both trips to the track since his return from Baltimore and Woolley said the Derby winner clearly loves his surroundings at Churchill Downs.
“Yesterday we just jogged him backwards and he was fresh and bright-eyed,” said Woolley. “But today he was really froggy out there, wanting to buck and play. And that’s kind of unlike him, because he’s more of a laid-back kind of horse. But I think he’s just really on his game right now and feels good. So we’ll figure out this week, and let him be the judge, and set up a work here pretty soon.”
Woolley said Mine That Bird would not work before early next week.
Regarding his search for a rider for the June 6 Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, Woolley said he and co-owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach have decided to wait until early next week before they make that choice. Calvin Borel was aboard for his 6 ¾-length romp in the Kentucky Derby, but chose to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Mike Smith rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, but has a previous commitment on June 6 that will knock him out of the Belmont.
Mine That Bird is set to return to the track for a gallop on Thursday. He usually heads to the track between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m., which would put him on the track at approximately the same time as Rachel Alexandra during Thursday’s training.
Although there will be no live racing on Wednesday, May 20 at Churchill Downs, the historic track will offer wagering on tracks from around North America at its Trackside at Churchill simulcast center.. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. (all times EDT) and patrons will enjoy free admission throughout the day.
Post time for the first of the day’s simulcast signals is 12:30 p.m. for Freehold Raceway’s harness program and 12:40 p.m. for Thoroughbreds at Calder Race Course. Others on the simulcast menu include Belmont Park, Delaware Park and evening racing at Evangeline Downs. Evening simulcast wagering will continue through 9 p.m.
Wednesday, May 20 was one of the seven live racing dates dropped from the track’s Spring Meet racing calendar when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved the track’s request to reduce its spring schedule from 52 to 45 days. The remaining dates that had been designated for live racing on which Trackside at Churchill will continue to offer simulcast wagering include Thursday, May 28; each Wednesday in June (3, 10, 17 & 24) and Wednesday, July 1. Admission is free to each session.
Live racing resumes at Churchill Downs on Thursday, May 21, which will be the first of five consecutive days of racing that will include a Memorial Day holiday program on Monday, May 26. Post time for Thursday-Monday live racing programs is 12:45 p.m., with the exception the “Friday Happy Hours” program on Friday, May 22 that begins with its first race at 2:45 p.m.
Kentucky Derby Winner Mine That Bird Playful in Jog; Rachel Alexandra Set for Wednesday Return to Track
After two days off and a 9 ½-hour van ride from Baltimore, Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner Mine That Bird returned to the track at Churchill Downs for a light jog on Tuesday.
Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s gelded son of Birdstone had regular exercise rider Charlie Figueroa in the saddle as he headed to the track around 7:15 a.m. (all times EDT). It was Mine That Bird’s first trip to the track since his runner-up finish to the Kentucky Oaks-winning filly Rachel Alexandra in Saturday’s Preakness.
Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. said Mine That Bird jogged one mile the wrong way over a “fast” surface.
“He went good, he looked good,” Woolley said. “He was bucking and playing a little, so we’re in good shape I think.”
Woolley said Mine That Bird would on gallop on Wednesday as the Kentucky Derby winner continues his preparation for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI), the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. There is no set schedule for Mine That Bird’s next work.
The trainer’s phone continues to ring with offers from agents of jockeys who hope to pick up the mount on Mine That Bird for the Belmont Stakes. Mike Smith, who rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, cannot ride because of a previous commitment in California. Calvin Borel, who was aboard for his 50-1 upset in the Derby, is committed to ride Rachel Alexandra, but her status for the Belmont Stakes (GI) has not been decided by majority owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen.
Woolley said he would discuss the issue with Mine That Bird’s owners and they hope to have a decision in “a couple of days.”
The runner-up finish in the Preakness improved Mine That Bird’s career record to 5-2-0 in 10 races and lifted his earnings to $2,011,581.
Meanwhile, Rachel Alexandra walked under Asmussen’s shedrow on her second day back at Churchill Downs following her historic win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to return to training on Wednesday. Asmussen said the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro would go to the track with his second set of horses around 6:15 a.m.
Her Preakness victory marked the sixth consecutive win for Rachel Alexandra, who has a record of 8-2-0 in 11 races with earnings of $1,618,354.
KENTUCKY DERBY CONTENDER ADVICE WORKS – WinStar Farm’s Advice, winner of the Coolmore Lexington (GII), turned in his first serious training move since his 13th-place finish in Kentucky Derby 135 when he worked four furlongs around the dogs on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.
The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Chapel Royal had exercise rider Kevin Willey in the saddle as he covered the distance on “firm” turf in :50.80. The move ranked fifth out of seven at the distance on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Among the possible near-term options for Advice would be a run in the $150,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII) on the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) undercard on June 13.
Other stars who worked on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Tuesday include three-time Louisville Handicap (GIII) winner Silverfoot. The 9-year-old son of With Approval breezed six furlongs in 1:15.40 as trainer Dallas Stewart guides the veteran toward his 2009 racing debut.
Demarcation, a dead-heat winner of last fall’s River City Handicap (GIII) for trainer Paul McGee, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80, which tied for second among eight works on the turf at that distance.
Tuesday workers on the “fast” main track included Silverton Hill’s 2007 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Dominican, who covered four furlongs in :47.80. The quick move was the second-fastest of 33 at the distance.
Keep the Peace, who figures to be among the favorites in the upcoming $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII) for older fillies and mares, breezed a half-mile for trainer Eddie Kenneally in :47.40, which was the fastest work of the day at the distance.
Be Fair, fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, breezed four furlongs in 1:01, which was the third-fastest move at the distance.
Golden Yank breezed a half-mile in :51.
Multiple stakes winner Tizdejavu remained unbeaten on the grass course at Churchill Downs when he returned from a nine-month absence from competition to win Sunday’s $57,780 featured allowance race at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, the leading jockey of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, the 4-year-old son of Tiznow rallied from just off the pace and then held off the late charge of Jazz in the Park to win by three-quarters of a length.
The favored Tizdejavu, winner of the Grade II Jefferson Cup and Grade III Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Downs and the Grade II American Derby at Arlington Park in 2008, paid $4.20, $3 and $2.40 as the strong favorite in a field on seven 3-year-olds and up. Jazz in the Park, ridden by Calvin Borel, paid $3.40 and $2.80. Boss Lafitte, who was three lengths farther back under Robby Albarado, edged Corrupt by a nose for third and paid $4.40 to show.
The winner covered 1 1/16 miles on “firm” turf in 1:42.93.
Tizdejava, who is owned by Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth and trained by Greg Fox, won for the fifth time in nine career races. He is perfect in three starts over the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs and Sunday’s victory boosted his career earnings to $494,307.
The victory was the second of the day for Leparoux, who returned to Churchill Downs after riding on Friday and Saturday in Preakness Weekend races at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. Leparoux’s Sunday riding double increased his victory total in the Spring Meet to 24 and he now leads second-place Miguel Mena by six wins.
There will be no racing at Churchill Downs on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 19-21. The Spring Meet at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby resumes on Thursday, May 21 with the first of five consecutive racing sessions that include a special Memorial Day holiday program on Monday, May 25.
Stostreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s Preakness Stakes (Grade I) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra returned to trainer Steve Asmussen’s Barn 38 at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning following a flight from Baltimore.
Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s chief assistant, accompanied the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro on the flight. Blasi led her off the van at 10:20 a.m. (all times EDT) and back to barn, where she was walked and bedded down in Stall 24.
“She traveled great,” Blasi said. “She’ll be left alone the rest of the day; that’s what she wants. She’ll definitely walk for three days so the earliest she’d go back to the track would be Wednesday. We’ll just continue to evaluate her and keep our options open.
Rachel Alexandra, ridden again by Calvin Borel, defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird by a length in the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
“We’re very pleased with how she ate last night and her attitude is good and she’s physically in good shape. We’re just very fortunate to be in this position. She’s all class and all heart. All of the credit goes to her.”
The Preakness marked Rachel Alexandra’s first start for Asmussen, and the victory over males lifted her career record to 8-2-0 in 11 races with earnings of $1,618,354. The Preakness victory came just shy of a year after her career debut on May 22, 2008 at Churchill Downs, when he finished sixth in a field of nine 2-year-old fillies in the only poor effort of her career. She has now won six consecutive races, a string that started in late November with a 4 ¾-length romp in the Golden Rod (GII).
Rachel Alexandra became the second Kentucky Oaks winner in three years to defeat males in a Triple Crown race in her next start. Rags to Riches won the 2007 Oaks and returned to defeat the Asmussen-trained Preakness winner and eventual two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (GI).
Asmussen was due back in Louisville Sunday afternoon and was scheduled to saddle horses in Churchill Downs’ Races 8 and 10. Meanwhile, winning jockey Calvin Borel had six mounts, starting with Race 4.
WIGGINS WATCHES PREAKNESS AT CHURCHILL, BEAMS OVER RACHEL AND STAFF – She had been out of his barn for just over a week, so it was clearly a bittersweet experience for veteran trainer Hal Wiggins as he watched Rachel Alexandra, his horse of a lifetime, become the first filly in 84 years to win Saturday’s Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Wiggins had just saddled Lucky Trio Stable’s Betty Bye to finish fourth in the 11th race at Churchill Downs – a race won by the Steve Asmussen-trained Girls Do Rule, which should have been the “Omen of the Day.” Then Wiggins settled into the Horseman’s Service Center adjacent to the paddock to watch Rachel Alexandra’s bid for history.
“When the gates opened, I was pulling for her,” Wiggins said. “Down the backstretch I was expecting her to be behind a horse or two, but she just bounded out of there. Where she was, I just thought she was in perfect position.
“I’m just really, really proud of her and Calvin. Racing is real fortunate to have him out there like that. There’s nothing phony about him – it’s all genuine. People see that and they realize that, and I’m just tickled for him. I’ll tell you, if anyone deserves it he does.”
Wiggins was also impressed by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who closed strongly to lose by only a length to Rachel Alexandra.
“I’ll tell you what, I was really proud of that Derby horse,” Wiggins said. “Some of those guys were saying he might be a one-race wonder and that the wet track (on Derby Day) might have had something to do with it, but he showed he was legitimate. He really did.”
Rachel Alexandra’s new trainer, Steve Asmussen, has praised Wiggins’ work in the development of Rachel Alexandra, whose final race for Wiggins was her record-smashing 20 ¼-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1. Asmussen did so again on NBC Sports’ national telecast of the Preakness on Saturday.
“I appreciate that,” Wiggins said. “It’s a tribute to the crew here at the barn. I appreciate that, I really do.”
MATT WINN DUO WELL AFTER STIRRING FINISH – The respective camps of Capt. Candyman Can and Cash Refund reported that both horses were doing well on the morning after their stirring stretch duel in Saturday’s $106,900 Matt Winn Stakes.
Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can rallied in the stretch to wear down Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein’s previously unbeaten Cash Refund to win the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds by three-quarters of a length. The winning time over a “fast” track was 1:09.75.
Capt. Candyman Can, who was ridden by Javier Castellano, won his fourth stakes race – and third this year – for trainer Ian Wilkes. Earlier wins came in the Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream Park and the Bay Shore (GIII) at Aqueduct, and Wilkes said his hard-fought win in the Matt Winn had earned the gelded son of Candy Ride a rest.
Saratoga’s $300,000 NetJets King’s Bishop (GI) at seven furlongs on Aug. 29 remains the top near-term objective for Capt. Candyman Can.
“I may just go to Saratoga with him, I may not run him beforehand,” Wilkes said. “He runs so hard for me. I think I’ve got to fill his tank a little.”
Capt. Candyman Can remained unbeaten in races shorter than a mile and perfect in three starts at seven furlongs. His career record improved to 5-0-1 in eight races with earnings of $410,423.
Cash Refund lost for the first time in three career races, but impressed in his stakes debut as he battled for the lead throughout and was determined in the run through the stretch before he gave way late to the winner. Trainer Steve Margolis said the Petionville gelding walked on Sunday and was “bright and alert” on the morning after the first real test of his young career.
Cash Refund had won his first two races by a combined 13 ¾-lengths. The Klein homebred went off as the narrow favorite in the Matt Winn, mostly due to a dazzling allowance victory on the first day of the Spring Meet when he won by seven lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110. The winner earned a Beyer Figure of 99 on Saturday.
“It was a good effort,” said Margolis. “He fought all the way to the end. He was on the inside and it took him a little longer to put away the Holthus horse (Dance Caller, who faded to finish last of five), and when Ian’s horse came as a challenger, he didn’t just lay down. That horse was already a proven three-time stakes winner, so I don’t think it was any disgrace at all to lose to him.”
Margolis said Cash Refund would probably appear next in the $200,000 Jersey Shore (GIII), a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park on July 5.
A victory in the Matt Winn by the promising gelding would have been a boost to the Kleins, but it would also have provided Margolis with an elusive milestone: his first stakes victory at Churchill Downs.
“I had that horse Request for Parole and was second in a couple of stakes races with him, and Change Up was second and third,” Margolis said. “So I’ve got to get that elusive first stakes win at Churchill. Hopefully we can do that soon.”
Margolis’ next bid for a local stakes win will come next week when he saddles Gold Square’s Lady Chace in the Winning Colors (GIII). That six-furlong race for older fillies and mares will be the highlight of the Memorial Day racing program on May 25.
BARN TALK – James C. Spence’s homebred Flying Pegasus, idled by an infection since a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII), returned to serious training with an easy three-furlong breeze in :38 over a “fast” track on Sunday. The Ralph Nicks-trained son of 2000 Kentucky Derby Fusaichi Pegasus finished second to Friesan Fire in the Risen Star (GIII) in his only other start this year and was a runner-up to Charitable Man in last year’s Belmont Futurity (GII). … Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune, 10th to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, breezed five furlongs on Sunday in 1:01.80 … Leading jockey Julien Leparoux returns Sunday after two days of Preakness Weekend riding at Pimlico with a diminished lead in the battle for leading rider of the Spring Meet. Leparoux led the surging Miguel Mena 22-18 heading into Sunday’s racing. … Two-time Preakness-winning trainer Steve Asmussen won two races on Saturday at Churchill Downs to open an 8-6 lead over Bill Mott, Greg Foley and Wesley Ward in the race for “Leading Trainer”. … With no live racing on Wednesdays for the remainder of the Spring Meet, Churchill Downs will offer free general admission for ITW simulcast wagering on Wednesdays through the remainder of the Spring Meet.