Roger Attfield and William Werner’s Simmard arrived at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning from Woodbine to continue his preparations for Saturday’s 75th running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (Grade III). While the winner of the Mac Diarmida (GII) is likely to be favored in the 1 ½-mile event, he figures to have his work cut out for him against rivals that include Cease and Tahoe Lake-BRZ.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Cease, winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston in March, is coming into the race in good order, according to trainer Al Stall Jr.
“He’s doing really well and he’s been training fine,” Stall said.
Cease, a homebred 5-year-old gelding and the only supplemental nominee to the Louisville, will be making his first start on turf since being disqualified and placed third in a maiden special at Churchill Downs last July. He has since raced seven times on the dirt or Polytrack.
“We’ve always thought turf with him because he’s by War Chant, but he hasn’t been on the grass in awhile because he took to the dirt so well and it just worked out that way.”
In his most recent start, Cease finished fourth to Wise Dan in the Ben Ali (GIII) on the Polytrack course at Keeneland.
“I’ve seen him travel a lot better on the dirt than on the Polytrack,” Stall said. “(Jockey) Miguel (Mena) confirmed that he wasn’t traveling well after the race. He finished second on the Polytrack in his first race, so we thought he would handle it fine, but no more Polytrack for him.”
Cease was being pointed to the Pimlico Special (GIII) on May 18, but was not entered because the race came up too tough for Stall’s liking.
“It came up a little too tough for a Grade III,” Stall said. “Also, we were going to be at equal weight with the Donn Handicap (GI) winner (Hymn Book) and Alternation.”
After the decision was made to not enter the Pimlico Special, Cease was pointed to the Louisville. He will break from the rail under Brian Hernandez Jr.
Breaking next to Cease in post position two will be Alastar Thoroughbred Company LLC’s Brazilian-bred Tahoe Lake, who will be ridden by Manny Cruz.
The 6-year-old gelded son of Know Heights-IRE made his 2012 debut at 1 ½ miles on the turf at Keeneland and finished second to Point of Entry. Tahoe Lake ran second to that rival again in Elkhorn (GII), also run at 1 ½ miles over the Lexington track’s grass course, in his most recent start.
“He’s run two good races this year and the horse that beat him both times isn’t running (in the Louisville), so that’s good,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “He’s been really solid and he’s a typical Brazilian-bred horse, he can run all day long. Manny seems to know him well and I think this is a good spot for him.
“I think the third start (off the layoff) could be his best race. I wasn’t real thrilled with the way he looked going into his first race, but he still ran well. In his last race he ran even better, so we suspect this could be his best race.”
The Louisville will go as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race program with a post time of 5:25 p.m. (all times Eastern). Post time for the first race Saturday is 12:45 p.m.
The field for the Louisville, from the rail out, is as follows: Cease (ridden by Hernandez Jr., 116 pounds), Tahoe Lake-BRZ (Cruz, 118), Rescue Squad (Victor Lebron, 116), Harrods Creek (Miguel Mena, 117), Joinem (Calvin Borel, 116), Depeche Chat (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., 113), Simmard (Gabriel Saez, 120) and Derby Kitten (Jon Court, 115).
AMIE’S DINI HEADS OPTIMISTIC GAL ON LOUISVILLE ‘CAP UNDERCARD – The undercard of the 75th running of the Louisville Handicap (GIII) will be highlighted by the $68,000 Optimistic Gal, scheduled as Race 3 at 1:47 p.m., and the field of five is led by Mike Walker and Lou Sutterfield’s Amie’s Dini.
Amie’s Dini won the Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park in February and then finished second over the Hot Springs, Ark. track in both the Honeybee (GIII), where she was beaten by On Fire Baby, and the Fantasy (GII), where she chased Mamma Kimbo home. She earned herself a spot in the starting gate for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) and finished eighth in the Run for the Lilies. It was the only time she has finished off-the-board in eight career starts, but trainer Ron Moquett said Amie’s Dini is in great form.
“She’s doing great,” trainer Moquett said. “She’s just getting better and better. She’s doing better now than before the Oaks.”
In preparation for the Optimistic Gal, Amie’s Dini breezed a bullet five furlongs in :59.20 on Sunday at Churchill Downs. She will break from post three under Jon Court, who has been aboard the daughter of Bandini in her previous six starts.
Moquett is also the trainer of Livi Makenzie, who will break from post four under Greta Kuntzweiler in the Optimistic Gal. The chestnut daughter of Macho Uno has run her last two races in graded-stakes company, finishing third in the Beaumont (GII) at Keeneland and most recently fourth in the Eight Belles Presented by Xerox (GIII) on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard.
“She’s perfect,” Moquett said.
Moquett noted Friday that he could opt to run just one of his 3-year-old fillies in the Optimistic Gal.
“Originally I wasn’t sure if I was going to run either of them,” Moquett said. “Now I’m definitely going to run one of them, but I don’t know if I’ll run them both.”
The field for the Optimistic Gal, from the rail out, is as follows: Scat Baby (Calvin Borel, 118), Funny Proposition (Miguel Mena, 118), Amie’s Dini (Court, 120), Livi Makenzie (Kuntzweiler, 118) and Ice Cream Silence (Brian Hernandez Jr., 118).
GRADE I WINNERS SASSY IMAGE, NOBLE’S PROMISE, HOOH WHY TOP NOMINATIONS FOR JUNE 2 STAKES AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Grade I winners Sassy Image, Noble’s Promise and Hooh Why top a stellar list of 70 nominations for the three graded stakes races at Churchill Downs to be run under the lights as part of the Downs After Dark racing program on June 2.
Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image leads the list of 21 nominations for the ninth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII) for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs.
The Dale Romans-trained Sassy Image is no stranger to the Churchill Downs surface and has recorded five wins beneath the Twin Spires, including four graded-stakes victories. As a 2-year-old, Sassy Image broke her maiden at Churchill Downs in the spring and, in the fall, she completed the Pochantas (GIII) – Golden Rod (GII) double.
She did not race at Churchill Downs in either of her two races at three, but Sassy Image returned to Churchill Downs as a 4-year-old to win the Humana Distaff (GI) on the 2011 Kentucky Derby Day undercard by three lengths. She followed-up that performance with narrow victories in last year’s Winning Colors and then the Princess Rooney Handicap (GI) at Calder. She ended her 2011 campaign with a sixth-place finish in the Ballerina (GI) at Saratoga.
In her only start of 2012, Sassy Image finished sixth in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.
Other graded stakes winners nominated to the Winning Colors include 2010 Azalea (GIII) winner Pica Slew and 2011 Dogwood (GIII) winner Salty Strike.
JCM Racing Stable’s Noble’s Promise tops a list of 19 nominations for the 24th running of the $100,000-added Aristides (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs.
Noble’s Promise, a bay son of Cuvee, made noise as a 2-year-old when he won the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland and then finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) behind Vale of York-IRE and Lookin At Lucky and second to Lookin At Lucky in the CashCall Futurity (GI).
Noble’s Promise was put on the Derby trail at age 3 and finished fifth to Super Saver in the Run for the Roses. He returned to Churchill Downs in the fall to win the Jimmy V “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up!” and then finished fifth in his 4-year-old debut in the Churchill Downs (GII) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard.
The Ken McPeek trainee rebounded from that effort to win last year’s Aristides by a length under Alan Garcia. It was the most recent win for the now 5-year-old who has a record of 5-3-3 from 20 starts and earnings of $1,080,810.
Other graded stakes winners nominated to the Aristides include Maryland Sprint Handicap (GIII) winner Hamazing Destiny and 2010 Aristides winner Riley Tucker.
Hooh Why, who races under the colors of the Estate of Gail Gee, Mark Hoffman and Earl Trostrud Jr., won the Ashland (GI) at Keeneland as a 3-year-old and she heads the 30 fillies and mares nominated for the 36th running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The now 6-year-old chestnut daughter of Cloud Hopping recorded her second graded-stakes win in the 2010 Seaway (GIII) at Woodbine.
Trained by Shirley Girten-Drake, Hooh Why appears to have plenty left in the tank as she has won three of her four starts in 2012, including the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park in January and the First Dude Turf Distaff at Tampa Bay in April.
Overall, Hooh Why has an impressive record of 11-8-7 from 39 lifetime starts and career earnings of $1,007,672.
Other graded stakes winners nominated to the Early Times Mint Julep include Golden Rod (GII) and Rachel Alexandra (GIII) winner Kathmanblu, Honey Fox (GII) winner Tapitsfly, 2011 Regret (GIII) winner Bizzy Caroline, Marshua’s River (GIII) winner Heavenly Landing and Suwannee River (GIII) winner Snow Top Mountain.
Weights for the Early Times Mint Julep are to be announced Saturday and entries for the three graded events will be taken Wednesday, May 30.
BARN TALK – Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, third in the Kentucky Derby (GI) in his most recent start, is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Saturday after the renovation break at approximately 8:30 a.m. He will van to Belmont Park on Sunday to continue his preparations for the Belmont (GI) on June 9, according to trainer Dale Romans.
Right Time Racing LLC’s Bouquet Booth, a six-length winner of Thursday’s featured allowance race at Churchill Downs, will be pointed to the $68,000 Roxelana, according to trainer Steve Margolis. The Roxelana is scheduled to be run beneath the Twin Spires on Saturday, June 30. …
The Bluegrass Art Experience Festival will take place in the Churchill Downs infield on Memorial Day Weekend. The family-friendly festival will be open Saturday through Monday from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. and provides a unique environment to showcase the vast variety of artistic expression in Kentucky and the surrounding region. The event will also be used as a platform to raise money and create public awareness of nonprofit charities that include Home of the Innocents and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. Admission to the festival is free with the $3 general admission to Churchill Downs. …
The Churchill Downs racing program on Sunday, May 27 will be accompanied by Family Fun Day activities Presented by Kroger. Family Fun Days promise a very special day for the entire family with attractions that include Horse Racing Bingo, Junior Jockey Club activities, a walking tour of the Kentucky Derby Museum to visit with Winston, its resident miniature horse, visits with Churchill Charlie and more. Family Fun Day activities take place from 11:30 a.m-4 p.m. in the Paddock Pavilion on Sundays throughout the meet.
WORKTAB – Bert, Elaine and Richard Klein’s Cash Refund continued his preparations for the June 2 Aristides (GIII) at Churchill Downs with a half-mile breeze in :47.60 on the fast main track Friday morning for trainer Steve Margolis. The work was the fastest of 29 at the distance.
Good Deed, second to Contested in the Eight Belles Presented by Xerox (GIII) on Kentucky Oaks Day, also worked for the connections of the Kleins and Margolis. The bay daughter of Broken Vow breezed four furlongs in :50. The worked ranked 21st of 29 at the distance Friday. …
Vinery Stables’ Regally Ready, winner of the Nearctic (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) in 2011, breezed four furlongs in :49.60 for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was the 17th fastest work at the distance. Regally Ready, a 5-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready, most recently finished 14th of 15 in the Al Quoz Sprint (GI) at Meydan in Dubai.
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