‘NOT A SCRATCH’ ON WISE DAN AFTER GUTSY FIRECRACKER WIN
It wasn’t the easiest race for reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, but the Mort Fink-homebred trimmed the hedge of the Matt Winn Turf Course and found a way to win the Firecracker Handicap (Grade II) under the lights at Churchill Downs. Trainer Charlie LoPresti reported the 6-year-old was in good order Sunday morning at Keeneland.
“He looks really good today and he doesn’t have a scratch on him, believe it or not,” LoPresti said.
Wise Dan, the top-ranked active runner in the latest Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, also overcame a 128-pound impost, a driving rainstorm and a yielding turf course to become the first two-time winner of the Firecracker.
“I watched the race a bunch last night and this morning,” LoPresti said. “It was nerve-racking with the weight spread and the way the weather played out, but we got through it. And he handled the weight spread and showed he’s truly a great horse. I just hope they don’t put too much weight on him down the road.
“I’m glad he got to run up there and the fans really cheered him on when he came back. Hopefully it was good for Churchill to have a horse like that run up there.”
LoPresti said Wise Dan will remain at Keeneland for a couple weeks and then will head to Saratoga in mid-July.
“We’re thinking about the Fourstardave (GII on turf on Aug. 10) and the Whitney (GI on dirt on Aug. 3),” LoPresti said. “We’ll see how he comes out of it and how he handles going up there. We’ll also look at the Bernard Baruch (GII on turf on Aug. 31) and the Woodward (GI on dirt on Aug. 31). There are four races up there that we’re looking at with this horse.
“I’d really like to keep him undefeated and I’d like to win a Grade I on dirt with him this year. If we get a Grade I on dirt with him and then keep him going and get a few wins on the grass and then get to the Breeders’ Cup, maybe he’ll get Horse of the Year again.”
Wise Dan’s win in the Firecracker was his seventh consecutive victory and the 16th of 23 career starts. He has earned $4,164,070.
Wise Dan’s older half-brother Successful Dan, most recently fourth in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), also will make the trip to Saratoga with LoPresti.
“Successful Dan is going with us too and we’ll train him accordingly,” LoPresti said. “We’ll look at the Whitney and the Woodward with him, as well.”
BRIDGMOHAN READY TO TALK WITH JOCKEYS’ TITLE CLINCHED
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan kept quiet about leading the jockey standings throughout most of the Spring Meet, but finally was ready to talk after he clinched his second Churchill Downs riding title on Saturday night.
“I tried something new this year,” Bridgmohan said. “I let my riding do the talking and I kept my mouth shut. I guess you could say I’m a little superstitious.”
Bridgmohan, who tied with Calvin Borel for the meet lead at Churchill Downs at the 2006 Fall Meet, led the rider standings at the Spring Meet through Memorial Day last year. He held a 26-24 lead over Corey Lanerie before Lanerie won 47 races over the final 19 days of the Spring Meet and finished 24 wins ahead of Bridgmohan.
“Last year I started out great, but then I slowed down and Corey was able to pick up some momentum and went by me,” Bridgmohan said. “This year, my horses ran well consistently throughout the whole meet.”
Bridgmohan, a 34-year-old native of Spanish Town, Jamaica, is ranked 11th in all-time wins at Churchill Downs with 487.
“I would have to say this is the best meet I’ve had here,” Bridgmohan said. “The horses showed up and ran well and a lot of the trainers I ride for had great meets too and that helped. I also give a lot of the credit to my agent (Lenny Pike). He did a fabulous job and put me on a lot of good horses.”
Bridgmohan, a winner of more than 2,500 races during his 17-year career, said he had the rider standings in the back of his mind during the final weeks of the Spring Meet.
“I was thinking about it a little bit because it was something I really wanted,” Bridgmohan said. “The riding colony here is strong, like always. We’ve got some very good riders here.”
Bridgmohan, who entered Sunday’s program with a 51-43 lead over Rosie Napravnik, will ride at Saratoga when the meet begins on July 19.
He will be joined at Saratoga by fellow Churchill Downs riders Napravnik, Alan Garcia, Joe Rocco Jr. and Robby Albarado.
The majority of the Churchill Downs jockey colony will remain in Kentucky to ride at Ellis Park, including Corey Lanerie, Ricardo Santana Jr., Leandro Goncalves, Dylan Davis, Brian Hernandez Jr., Miguel Mena, Borel, Norberto Arroyo Jr., Jesus Castanon, Jon Court, Victor Lebron and John McKee.
RAMSEYS SET SIGHTS ON SARATOGA
Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey entered closing day of the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs with a record 30 wins and will collect their record 19th owners’ title at the Louisville racetrack. The Nicholasville, Ky. couple now have set their sights on collecting their third leading-owners title at Saratoga.
“You can tell them to look out at Saratoga,” Ken Ramsey said. “It’s the 150th anniversary and I’m bringing enough horses up there to win the owners’ title. I know I’m going to have some competition up there, but I think you might be talking to the leading owner at Saratoga for the 150th anniversary meet.”
The Ramseys won the owners title at Saratoga in 2008 and ’09, but Mike Repole’s Repole Stable took home the trophy in ’10-12.
“Repole’s reign is getting ready to come to a screeching halt,” Ramsey said with a grin.
The Ramseys, the all-time leading owners at Churchill Downs with 362, won 25 races at Keeneland’s Spring Meet and shattered the previous record of 12 wins by an owner during a single meet.
One of the few holes in the resume of the Ramseys is the absence of a victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). That is something they hope to change soon.
“Next year, I’m changing my focus completely and going for quality over quantity,” Ramsey said. “We’ve got to win this Kentucky Derby. We’ve got to get our picture taken on the other side of the track (in the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle).
“I’ve sent seven horses to Todd Pletcher and we actually think five of them are Derby material. They’re working right now and they’ll be running at Saratoga. We also think we got the best 2-year-old colt out of the OBS sale a few weeks ago (Hip 176). We named him Ichiban Warrior. Ichiban means No. 1 in Japanese.”
Ichiban Warrior is a bay son of First Samurai and sold for $155,000 at the OBS June Sale.
MOQUETT HAS BIG WEEKEND
Trainer Ron Moquett had 11 stakes victories to his name over the span of his 16-year career, but added three more to his total in less than 24 hours over the past weekend.
After winning the Saylorville with Livi Makenzie and the Iowa Sprint Handicap with Gentlemen’s Bet on Friday night at Prairie Meadows, Moquett won the Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs on Saturday night with Right to Vote.
“That’s the kind of stuff that’s supposed to happen to (Steve) Asmussen, (Todd) Pletcher and (D. Wayne) Lukas, not us,” Moquett said. “It all worked out this weekend. It’s good to be lucky.”
Moquett, whose biggest victory game in the 2006 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) with Seek Gold, said his three recent stakes winners will be a part of the string he plans to take to Saratoga.
“Hopefully they’ll all go to Saratoga and we can get a plan together,” Moquett said. “We’ll be selective in picking their next spots.”
RACE FOR LEADING TRAINER WILL COME DOWN TO FINAL DAY OF SPRING MEET
Ken and Sarah Ramsey have locked up their record 19th owners’ title at Churchill Downs and Shaun Bridgmohan has secured his second local riding title with 51 victories going into Sunday’s 10-race card, but the race for leading trainer is not over yet.
In the trainer standings, Mike Maker and Steve Asmussen enter closing day tied with 33 wins each.
Maker was the leading trainer at the Churchill Downs Fall Meet in 2008 and tied for the meet lead with Asmussen at the Fall Meet in 2011. He has six horses entered Sunday.
Asmussen, ranked fourth in all-time Churchill Downs wins with 478, has won 11 local training titles, most recently the 2011 Fall Meet. Asmussen will saddle four horses Sunday.
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
The Spring Meet at Churchill Downs will come to an end Sunday, but fans will have the opportunity to enjoy racing at the home of the Kentucky Derby sooner than normal at the inaugural Homecoming Meet.
The first September racing meet in the history of Churchill Downs Racetrack will open on Friday, Sept. 6 and continue through Sunday, Sept. 29. Racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during each of its four weeks and “Downs After Dark” night racing celebrations are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7 and Saturday, Sept. 28.
The 12 days of racing features eight stakes with total purses of nearly $1 million. Highlighting the stakes schedule are the $150,000-added Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies, the $150,000-added Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds and the inaugural $175,000-added Homecoming Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.
The two 2-year-old stakes are Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge races