GOLDEN TICKET HEADS QUARTET OF STAKES CONTENDERS FOR McPEEK
Trainer Kenny McPeek, 11th in all-time wins at Churchill Downs with 324, will saddle four stakes contenders at the Louisville track on Saturday night, including Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) hopeful Golden Ticket.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket, a dead-heat winner of last year’s Travers (GI), enters the $500,000-added Stephen Foster off a 2 ½-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 2.
“If he’s ever going to beat these, he’s going to do it right here, right now,” McPeek said. “His confidence is high and he runs well with time in between races.”
Golden Ticket will break from the rail under Joel Rosario against a field that includes Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned, Alysheba (GII) winner Take Charge Indy, defending Stephen Foster winner Ron the Greek, multiple graded stakes winner Successful Dan and 2011 Stephen Foster winner Pool Play.
“It’s a tough race, but they’re not supposed to be easy,” McPeek said.
The 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster will go as Race 8 at 9:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) as the highlight of Saturday’s Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
In the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, McPeek will send out Magdalena Racing’s Bellarmine, who defeated Code West by a neck in an allowance/optional-claiming race on Kentucky Derby Day. It was the second consecutive win for Bellarmine, who broke his maiden at Keeneland in April.
“The sky is the limit with him,” McPeek said. “He wasn’t Triple Crown nominated because we got a late start with him. Otherwise, he probably would have been in the thick of it this year. We expect him to improve and we’ve got a chance Saturday.”
The Matt Winn is scheduled as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.
McPeek also will saddle Praia and Beverage Queen for the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Praia, which means “beach” in Portuguese, is owned by the Brazilian connections of Haras Old Friends. In her most recent start, she finished second behind Kitten’s Dumplings in the Edgewood on Kentucky Oaks Day at odds of nearly 46-1.
“We thought she’d run well and the owners are always looking to get black type,” McPeek said.
The Edgewood was the stakes debut for Praia, who broke her maiden at Keeneland in April in what was her turf debut.
“We suspect she’ll improve and run even better Saturday,” McPeek said.
Peter Callahan’s Beverage Queen will be making her third start of the Spring Meet in the Regret. She ran sixth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional-claiming race on the main track on Kentucky Oaks Day and most recently finished third behind Oscar Party and Pappascat in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the Matt Winn Turf Course on May 25.
“We were looking for a 1 1/8-mile race and didn’t see any other options,” McPeek said. “We decided to take a flyer with her because she’s doing so well. We’ll find out if she fits with these and how good she is.”
The Regret will go as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. and concludes the all-stakes Pick 4 that begins with the Fleur de Lis in Race 6 at 8:30 p.m.
MAKER LOOKS TO KEEP ROLLING WITH KITTEN’S DUMPLINGS AND SUNBEAN
Mike Maker leads the trainer standings at Churchill Downs with 26 victories through the 27th day of the 38-day Spring Meet and he’ll look to continue his success with Kitten’s Dumplings and Sunbean on Saturday night’s Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
Kitten’s Dumplings headlines the field of 11 three-year-old fillies entered for the $100,000-added Regret (GIII), which will go as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. In her most recent start, she cruised to a 3 ¾-length win in the Edgewood on Kentucky Oaks Day.
“She’s always shown a lot of talent and I’m glad it’s coming through,” said Maker, who became the 31st trainer to record 200 wins at Churchill Downs when Stormy Lord won Thursday’s third race. “She’s a high-strung, nervous filly and she’s learning to channel some of that energy a little better and it’s showing up in the afternoon.”
Kitten’s Dumplings was bred in Kentucky by her owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, whose 22 victories this season is a Spring Meet record. The Ramseys held the previous record of 21, which they set at the 2006 Spring Meet. The overall record for wins by an owner in one meet at Churchill Downs is 27, set by A.J. Foyt III at the 1984 Spring/Summer Meet that included 93 days of live racing.
Brittlyn Stable Inc.’s homebred Sunbean is one of the many top contenders in the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII), which is scheduled as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.
While under the care of trainer Al Stall Jr., Sunbean won two stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds and then finished eighth in the Louisiana Derby (GII). In his lone start for Maker, Sunbean ran fifth in the Lexington (GIII) at Keeneland.
“The Lexington was kind of a last-minute decision and I hadn’t had the horse very long,” Maker said. “He looks like an exceptional Louisiana-bred, which he’s already proved, and now he’ll try to prove it against open company.”
SEANEEN GIRL MAKES TURF DEBUT IN SATURDAY’S REGRET
Seaneen Girl, winner of last year’s Golden Rod (GII) at odds of 31-1, is a winner on dirt and Polytrack and will make her turf debut in Saturday’s $100,000-added Regret (GIII).
The Regret for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course will go as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m.
“She runs on dirt; she runs short; she runs long; she runs on the Polytrack,” trainer Bernie Flint said. “So what is she going to do on the grass? Where I come from, they’ve got to do it all.”
Seaneen Girl, a chestnut daughter of Spring At Last, broke her maiden going 4 ½ furlongs on the Polytrack at Woodbine in her career debut and her second career win came in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod on the main track at Churchill Downs.
Seaneen Girl made her 3-year-old debut in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and finished third behind Unlimited Budget and Flashy Gray. Following a ninth-place finish in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), Naveed Chowhan’s Seaneen Girl finished second by a length to Apropos in an allowance/optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 26.
“If (Shaun Bridgmohan) would have ridden her once before, she wins the race,” Flint said. “He didn’t know what he had because he’d never been on her before. When you look at her, she doesn’t look like much, but she’s got an ability to do one thing: run.”
Bridgmohan will be back aboard Seaneen Girl in the Regret.
“I could have shipped her out of town and run somewhere else, but I’m trying to help Churchill Downs out and keep the better horses here,” Flint said. “Some others are shipping out of town to other places, but I stayed here to support Churchill.”
Nominations for the 112th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), 23rd running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) and the $65,000-added Roxelana close Saturday.
The Roxelana, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs, will be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 22.
The Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds at six furlongs and the Firecracker Handicap for 3-year-olds & up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course will be run Saturday, June 29.
ALL-STAKES PICK 4 ON RACES 6-9
While fans will enjoy Saturday evening’s unique mix of music and food, Churchill Downs will make it a special night for racing fans as it features an all-stakes Pick 4 and two Pick 5s on the special wagering menu.
There will be three Pick 4 wagers Saturday night (Races 1-4, 3-6 and 6-9) with the latter an all-stakes Pick 4 that concludes with the Regret. The two Pick 5s will cover Races 2-6 and 5-9. Both the Pick 4 and Pick 5 are 50-cent minimum bets. Meanwhile, the $2 Pick 6 will be held on Races 4-9.
HRTV, HRRN TO BROADCAST LIVE
HRTV – the 24-hour horse racing television network which airs on Insight Communications channel 564 in Louisville, AT&T U-verse channel 672 and DISH Network channel 404 –will be onsite for this year’s Downs After Dark debut with reporter Caton Bredar.
Additionally, hosts Mike Penna and Jude Feld of Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will air coverage of three stakes races, including the Stephen Foster Handicap, from 8-10 p.m. EDT on Sirius 94 and online at www.horseracingradio.net.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Last year’s Debutante (GIII) winner Blueeyesintherein exited her impressive 4 ¾-length victory in Thursday’s seventh race in good order, according to trainer Garry Simms. No plans have been made for her next start. …
Trainer Bret Calhoun said Fiftyshadesofgold, a 10-length winner in her career debut on May 24 at Lone Star Park, will make her next start in the $100,000-added Debutante at Churchill Downs on June 22.
Calhoun added that Bahnah, a six-length winner at Churchill Downs on June 6 in her first start, is being pointed to the Schuylerville (GIII) at Saratoga on July 19. “The Debutante was coming back just a little too quick,” Calhoun said.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, June 14
- 11 races from 2:45-7:54 p.m. (Gates 1:30 p.m.)
- Feature: $57,000 alw opt clm, 3 & up, 6 ½ F
- City’s Best Happy Hour! Drink specials ($2 Budweiser/Bud Light; $3 Stella Artois; $4 14 Hands Blackberry Sangria), food trucks & live music (The Juice Box Heroes) in The Plaza from 4-7 p.m.
Saturday, June 15 – Downs After Dark
- 11 races from 6-11:10 p.m. (Gates: 4 p.m.)
- Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka
- Theme: The White Party. Guests are encouraged to “dress to impress” and wear an all-white wardrobe. There’ll be a contest for best dressed female, male, couple and group.
- Feature (Race 8 at 9:30 p.m.): $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) – a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Classic Division Challenge Race, 3 & up, 1 1/8 M
- Co-Feature (Race 6 at 8:30 p.m.): $175,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII), f & m, 1 1/8 M
- Co-Feature (Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.): $100,000-added Matt Winn, 3yo, 1 1/16 M
- Co-Feature (Race 9 at 10:11 p.m.): $100,000-added Regret (GIII), 3yo f, 1 1/8 M (T)
- Co-Feature (Race 10 at 10:42 p.m.): $100,000-added President of the United Arab Emirates Cup, Arabian 4 & up, 1 1/16 M
- Entertainment on The Plaza Stage includes Pawnshop Guitar (4-8:30 p.m.) and Off the Hook (8:45 p.m. to close).
- Popular text-to-win sweepstakes “Bet or No Bet,” sponsored by Thorntons.
- Ceremony to present engraved Kentucky Derby trophies to the connections of Orb.
Sunday, June 16 – Father’s Day
- 10 races from 12:45-5:29 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Feature: $58,000 alw, 3 & up, 5 F (T)
- Family Fun Days Presented by Kroger on The Plaza Balcony from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Games, crafts, entertainment & Churchill Charlie appearance. Special craft is Father’s Day cards.