Veteran trainer Wayne Catalano, already enjoying his best year at Churchill Downs, will attempt to build on his 2014 accomplishments when he sends multiple stakes winner I’m Already Sexy and two stablemates into an overflow field of 16 fillies and mares entered for Saturday’s 41st running of the $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (Grade III) on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Cardinal, the final stakes race scheduled on the Churchill Downs turf course in 2014, attracted entries of 16 fillies and mares ages 3 and up looking to put an exclamation point on their racing season. A total of 14 horses will be allowed to compete in the 1 1/8-mile race, the maximum number of horses permitted for any contest on the grass course.
The Cardinal Handicap is scheduled to be the ninth of 11 races on the next-to-last Saturday racing program of Churchill Downs’ 26-date Fall Meet. Post time for the first of Saturday’s races is 12:40 p.m. (all times EST) and the Cardinal is scheduled to be run at 4:36 p.m.
I’m Already Sexy, a 4-year-old daughter of Ready’s Image owned by Hit the Board Stables, has run six times in 2014 and collected stakes victories in the Modesty (Grade III) at Chicago’s Arlington Park and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf at the all-grass racing venue in Franklin, Ky. She has one victory in four career starts at Churchill Downs and has a pair of outings over the course this year. She ran sixth to Coffee Clique in her 2014 debut in the $300,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on Kentucky Derby (GI) Day and was a narrowly-beaten second to Honey Hues in the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII).
Catalano’s filly has displayed early speed throughout her career and will need another alert start after she drew the inside post for Saturday’s race. Jockey Calvin Borel will ride I’m Already Sexy, who will carry high weight of 119 pounds in the Cardinal and will concede two-to-seven pounds to her rivals.
A victory by I’m Already Sexy in the Cardinal would provide Catalano with his third Churchill Downs stakes victory of 2014, following triumphs in the Regret (GIII) (via disqualification) by Aurelia’s Belle and West Coast Belle in the Rags to Riches overnight stakes. Catalano’s breakthrough season also has included his first leading trainer title at Churchill Downs. He saddled seven winners during the 12-day September Meet to share that honor with 15-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen.
I’m Already Sexy traveled to Santa Anita for her most recent outing in the $200,000 Goldikova (GII) on Breeders’ Cup weekend. She finished fourth to Filimbi, but was disqualified and placed fifth after interfering with a rival in the homestretch. Her career record stands at 7-1-0 in 17 races and she has earned $509,998 heading into Saturday’s race.
The other members of Catalano’s Cardinal trio are Team Valor International’s Angegreen (ITY), who is winless in 10 starts in the United States but finished a fast-closing third last time out to White Rose in a division of the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon at 1 5/16 miles, and Coffeepot Stables’ Imposing Grace, winner of the 2013 Arlington Matron (GIII) on the Chicago track’s synthetic Polytrack course. Channing Hill will ride Angegreen (ITY), who will carry 114 pounds from post four, while Imposing Grace will also carry 114 as she breaks from post seven under Rafael Mojica Jr.
An intriguing invader for the Cardinal is Sycamore Racing LLC’s Nellie Cashman, a 4-year-old daughter of Mineshaft who returns to Churchill Downs for the first time since a sixth-place run behind Emotional Kitten in last fall’s Mrs. Revere (GII). I’m Already Sexy finished ninth in that race.
Trained by Francis “Trey” Abbott III, Nellie Cashman scored a comfortable victory in a Laurel Park turf allowance on Sept. 26 to snap a six-racing losing streak that began last fall with a runner-up finish to Overheard in Keeneland’s Valley View (GIII). Nellie Cashman’s 3-year-old campaign included a victory in the Virginia Oaks (GIII) and she finished first in Saratoga’s Lake Placid (GII), but was disqualified from that win and placed third.
The Pennsylvania-bred filly, who trains at Maryland’s Fair Hill Training Center, will break from post eight under regular rider Forest Boyce. Nellie Cashman was assigned the second high weight of 117 pounds for the Cardinal.
Another Cardinal contender could be Amerman Racing Stables’ Royal Fury, runner-up the Canadian Stakes (GII) on the Woodbine grass for trainer Brian Lynch, who won last week’s $100,000 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) at Churchill Downs with Heart to Heart.
She has only one win in eight races this year, but has run strongly in the second half of 2014 with performances that include a runner-up finish to multiple graded stakes winner La Tia in the Ontario Matron (GIII) and a runner-up finish in the Trillium Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack course. In her most recent outing, she displayed early speed before she encountered traffic problems and finished seventh of eight behind Just the Judge in Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor (GI) on turf.
Julien Leparoux, who has ridden the winner of the last three graded stakes at Churchill Downs, will ride Royal Fury from the outside gate in the field of 14 and will carry 116 pounds.
Other possible contenders include Courtlandt Farms’ Strike Charmer, a David Carroll-trained daughter of Smart Strike who finished second to I’m Already Sexy in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf; John C. Oxley’s Ontario-bred Northern Passion, a Mark Casse-trained daughter of First Samurai who won the Sweet Briar Too Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack course in July; Pappascat, a Garry Simms-trained daughter of Scat Daddy with a pair of wins over the Matt Winn Turf Course; and the Vicki Oliver-trained Frivolous, who was third to Spinster (GI) winner and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) runner Don’t Tell Sophia on dirt in the Locust Grove for owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr. Oliver also trains Humphrey’s Honey Lake, who is one of two also-eligible horses entered in the race.
The field for the Cardinal, from the hedge out (with jockey, weight): I’m Already Sexy (Borel, 119), Keening (Joe Rocco Jr., 105), Frivolous (Brian Hernandez Jr., 114), Bitty Kitty (Robby Albarado, 116), Angegreen (ITY) (Hill, 114), Pappascat (Ricardo Santana Jr., 116), Imposing Grace (Mojica, 114), Nellie Cashman (Boyce, 117), Street of Gold (Jesus Castanon, 114), Antonia Autumn (Rafael Hernandez, 114), Rosee is Cozee (Didiel Osorio, 114), Strike Charmer (Chris Landeros, 115), Northern Passion (Jon Court, 117) and Royal Fury (Leparoux, 116). Also eligible for the race are Annabird (Santana, 113) and Honey Lake (Court, 113). Either or both of those horses could run if there are pre-race scratches.