Ready's Rocket Set for Bid to Make History

May 25, 2011 Gary Yunt, Travers Manley & John Asher

READY’S ROCKET READY TO MAKE HISTORY — History is made on the first Saturday of every May at Churchill Downs. On this third Saturday in May, Ready’s Rocket will look to make his own history.

         On May 30, 2010, Ready’s Rocket became the seventh horse to record eight victories at Churchill Downs since 1976, which is the first year detailed information was gathered by Equibase. A victory in Saturday’s second race at 6 ½ furlongs would put the 8-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready in the elite company of one, as he would become the first horse to record nine victories beneath the Twin Spires. 

         Trainer Tim Glyshaw, who has won with three of his first 12 starters of the meet, is hopeful Ready’s Rocket finally can capture his ninth Churchill Downs win after being unsuccessful in three previous attempts following his eighth victory.

         “He’s probably lost a step and isn’t as fast as he used to be,” Glyshaw said. “But he’s training well, likes Churchill, and still enjoys his job.”

            Saturday’s start, which will be the 62nd of Ready’s Rocket’s career and 23rd at Churchill Downs, will be his first outing since finishing fourth in a five-furlong race Feb. 23 at Delta Downs. The three-month break was by design according to Glyshaw, who said, “It was just a matter of little odds and ends. It was nothing major; it just goes with being an 8-year-old.”

         The most distinguished member of Churchill Downs’ eight-win club is Bet On Sunshine, a multiple-graded stakes winner who recorded back-to-back victories in the 2000 and 2001 Aristides (GIII). His victory in the 2001 Aristides at age 9 made him the oldest graded-stakes winner in track history.

            Other eight-time winners at Churchill Downs and the years they raced here are Athenium (1991-94), Canela (2005-10), Crown Lease (1991-95), Lord Rusty (1993-2000), and Maxxed (1995-98). 

ROMAN’S KEENELAND SUCCESS TRANSLATES INTO FAST CHURCHILL DOWNS START – As a 20-year-old apprentice rider, being in a room with virtually all of the top riders in North America could be a daunting experience.

            Not so for Constantino Roman, the leading apprentice jockey at the Churchill Downs spring meet.

“There was no real pressure,” Roman said. “They are all good guys and friends.”

            Roman, who rode his first winner last Dec. 1 at Hawthorne on his fifth starter, held his own in a star-studded jockey colony at Keeneland with five winners in the 15-day meet. Roman finished 10th in the standings and his average win mutual payoff of $22.50 was tops among top 10 riders.

            “Of all the young riders I have brought in here, he is the best schooled,” said Roman’s agent Steve Elzey, who give a huge credit for his rider’s development to trainer Brian Williamson, for whom Roman galloped horses for four years. “I like everything about him.”

            Roman has six wins so far at the meet, good for a tie for sixth place in the rider standings with Calvin Borel. Two of those victories came on the opening night of the meet with many top riders that are not regulars on the Kentucky circuit riding against him.

           “A lot of guys helped me, guys like James Graham and Javier Castellano,” Roman said.

Was there any rider he paid particular attention to?

“Bejarano!” Roman said with a big smile, referring to Rafael Bejarano, who rode three winners Derby Week to move into a tie with Earlie Fires for 15th all time in Churchill Downs victories with 403.

For now, Roman has his tack firmly planted in Kentucky.

“I’d like to stay in Kentucky,” said the native of Guerrero, Mexico, who has four mounts on the Friday card. “But then maybe go to Florida and ride at Gulfstream Park in the winter.”

ASMUSSEN HAPPY WITH 400TH WIN, HAPPIER FOR HORSE THAT EARNED IT – Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen continues to add victories to his career stats at a pace unequaled by few in Thoroughbred racing history, but he was very happy last Sunday to collect his 400th victory beneath the venerable Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.

            But the 45-year-old Asmussen was most pleased by the horse that secured his latest Churchill Downs milestone: Stonestreet Stable’s promising 3-year-old Wilburn.  The son of Bernardini out of 2002 Arlington-Washington Lassie (GIII) winner Moonlight Sonata took control of the 1 1/16-mile entry-level allowance race in upper stretch and held off a late rally by Infrattini to win by three-quarters of a length. 

            “I was mainly very happy with who won and how he won,” Asmussen said this week when asked about Sunday’s milestone.  “I think he’s a very good horse.”

            It was the second win in three starts for Wilburn, who was an impressive 3 ½ length winner in his career debut on March 5 at Santa Anita, but faltered in a fifth-place finish behind the well-regarded Uncle Sam in a one-mile allowance race over the same track on April 3.

            Sunday’s Churchill Downs victory came at 1 1/16 miles and he covered the distance over a sloppy track in 1:45.15. 

            Wilburn is an imposing colt who stands 17 hands tall, and Asmussen said his size was one factor that kept him away from competition until the spring. 

            “I was definitely concerned with the off going,” Asmussen said.  “He’s a huge horse.  I thought he ran well.”

            With the victory by Wilburn, Asmussen became just the fifth trainer in Churchill Downs history to earn 400 victories at the track.  Those ahead of Asmussen on the all-time Churchill Downs win list are (in order) Bill Mott, Dale Romans, D. Wayne Lukas and Bernie Flint.

            Heading into Friday’s racing, Asmussen had 120 victories on the year to lead U.S. trainers in 2011 wins.  He has collected 5,814 wins in his career, which ranks Asmussen fifth in career victories in American racing history.  Asmussen trails only the late Dale Baird (9,445), Jack Van Berg (6,405), King T. Leatherbury (6,317) and Jerry Hollendorfer (5,943) in career wins by U.S. trainers.

 BARN TALK – Archarcharch, who suffered a condylar fracture to the left front ankle in running 15th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on May 7, left Friday morning for Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, where he will stand at stud beginning in the 2012 season. Owners Robert and Val Yagos, who two weeks ago were snapping pictures of the colt’s preparations for the Derby, were on hand to record the departure to Spendthrift from trainer Jinks Fires’ barn. “I might slip in a bag of peppermints,” Fires said of a possible parting gift for his first Kentucky Derby starter who may have been at Pimlico today preparing for the Preakness with a better outcome two weeks ago. “Unfortunately in this game, things can be over in a minute.” …

              The first two-time winners of the meet emerged on Day 11 of the 39-day meet that runs through July 4 when Shot of Kela won Thursday’s fifth race and Valid Citizen took the nightcap. Owned by Ira Mersack and Penny Lauer and trained by Mike Lauer, Shot of Kela had broken his maiden for a $10,000 tag on May 4 by 3 ¼ lengths. On Thursday, he won a nonwinners of two lifetime for a $15,000 tag by a nose. Kenneth Dalton’s Valid Citizen won his second consecutive $5,000 claimer on Thursday under Corey Lanerie for trainer Matt Kordenbrock. Valid Citizen’s initial score came on April 30. …

        Freshman sire High Cotton, winner of the 2006 Northern Dancer (GIII) at Churchill Downs, was represented by his first winner on Thursday when Tarpy's Goal won the second race by 2 ¾ lengths. Owned by Mike Tarp and trained by Dale Romans, Tarpy’s Goal covered the five furlongs in :58.88 to win at first asking. The Florida bred was a $70,000 purchase at auction in February.

WORK TAB – Friday morning’s work tab was 100 horses deep and full of marquee names headed by Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Plum Pretty who worked a half-mile in :49. Owned by Peachtree Stable and trained by Bob Baffert, Plum Pretty was on the track before 6:15 with Shaun Bridgmohan up for her first work since her Oaks victory two weeks ago. Working solo, Plum Pretty posted fractions of :13.20, :25.40, :37.20 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 and six furlongs in 1:13.80 over a “fast” track. It was the 16th fastest move of 53 at the distance.

            One of the first horses to work Friday morning was Barbara Hunter’s Keertana for trainer Tom Proctor. Expected to face males for the first time in her career next Saturday in the Louisville Handicap (GIII), Keertana worked five furlongs on the main track in 1:00.80. Fractions for the move, ninth fastest of 27 at the distance, were :13, :25.20, :36.80, :48.80 and out six furlongs in 1:13.60. Also working for Proctor was Keertana’s younger half-sister, Snow Top Mountain, who worked a half-mile in :50.60 (38th fastest of 53). Snow Top Mountain is being pointed to the June 11 Early Times Mint Julep (GIII).

            Putting in his first work since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby was Tom Walters’ Santiva, who breezed a half-mile in :49.80 for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Fractions for the work were :13, :25 and out five furlongs in 1:02.80.

            Bridgmohan also worked the Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, winner of last fall’s Clark Handicap (GI). Working on his own after the renovation break in preparation for the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on June 18, Giant Oak worked a half-mile in :48.60 with fractions of :12.20, :24.40, :36.60 and out five furlongs in 1:01. Chris Block trains Giant Oak.   

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