Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s homebred Lea, winner of last year’s Commonwealth Turf (Grade III), will take on Horse of the Year Wise Dan and six other rivals in Saturday’s 23rd running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs.
The Firecracker Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course is one of three stakes races on Saturday’s “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” racing program. Post time for the first of 11 races is 6 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Firecracker is scheduled as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m.
Wise Dan is the 128-pound high weight for the Firecracker and Lea is the co-second high weight with Corporate Jungle at 117 pounds.
“We picked this race in November to set us up for the rest of the year,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “It was part of our schedule all along. We didn’t expect to face the Horse of the Year. When the weights came out, we felt like 11 pounds was enough to give it a whirl.”
Lea made his 2013 debut on June 1 and won an off-the-turf allowance/optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs by 3 ¼ lengths.
“We’re only in our second race of the year with him, so this shouldn’t be his best race,” Stall said. “If he can compete with Wise Dan in his second start of the year then that would give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”
Lea raced very close to the pace in his seasonal debut and Stall said he expects the 4-year-old chestnut to be forwardly placed again.
“He likes to lay close,” Stall said. “I think the horse on the outside (Ol Army) under Jon Court will probably go to the lead. I think we’ll be behind him and checking him out.”
Stall said Lea likely will be a part of the string he will take to Saratoga this summer.
“If he runs well Saturday, then we’ll probably take a long look at the Fourstardave (GII on Aug. 10).”
D’CAJUN CAT HEADS ASMUSSEN DUO IN SATURDAY’S BASHFORD MANOR
Trainer Steve Asmussen began Thursday with seven wins in 2-year-old races at the Spring Meet and he will look to add to that number with D’cajun Cat and Gun Roar in Saturday’s 112th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The Bashford Manor is one of three stakes races on the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” racing program. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m. and the Bashford Manor will go as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.
Southern Equine Stable LLC and Whispering Oaks Farm LLC’s D’cajun Cat scored a 5 ¼-length victory in his career debut on June 1 at Churchill Downs. Mike McCarty’s Gun Roar won his debut by a neck on May 10 at Churchill Downs. Both races were run on a sloppy track.
“I’ve got high hopes for both horses,” Asmussen said. “They’ve both trained very well since their wins and hopefully they’ll have a little success.”
D’Cajun Cat will break from post six in the field of seven under Rosie Napravnik while Gun Roar will break from the rail under Corey Lanerie.
“I love D’cajun Cat’s draw with him drawing six of seven for a horse that’s had one race,” Asmussen said. “I don’t like Gun Roar’s draw at all going three-quarters (of a mile) here. It starts at an odd place for a baby.”
Asmussen, a three-time winner of the Bashford Manor, entered Thursday’s card ranked second in the trainer standings at Churchill Downs with 28 wins. Mike Maker leads all trainers with 31 victories.
BROUSSARD MAKES CAREER DEBUT FRIDAY
Ashley Broussard, a 20-year-old exercise rider from Youngsville, La., summed up her feelings about her first career mount on Friday at Churchill Downs with just one word – “awesome.”
Broussard, who grew up competing in barrel races in her hometown near Lafayette, first considered switching to riding in Thoroughbred races at age 15 and made her way to Evangeline Training Center at 18.
“In barrel racing, you’re by yourself,” Broussard said. “Horse racing is more of an adrenaline rush because you’re racing with other horses.”
Broussard made her way to Kentucky this year after spending the winter at Fair Grounds and now is ready to ride in her first race after more than two years as an exercise rider. She will be aboard It’snotyouit’sme in Friday’s ninth race. Post time for Race 9 is 6:54 p.m.
“I’ve got family flying in from Louisiana for the race,” Broussard said. “I’m not nervous about it, though. I’m trying not to think about it too much, but I’m not really one that gets nervous.”
While many jockeys need to focus on keeping their weight down, at 4 feet 11 inches, Broussard actually worked to gain weight in preparation for her riding career.
“I weighed 84 pounds last year and now I weigh 99,” Broussard said. “I always ate enough, but I started going to the gym and just gave it time.”
Broussard mentioned that she has received help from many people on her journey to becoming a jockey, including her agent Fred Aime and jockey Rosie Napravnik.
“Fred has helped me a lot and I wouldn’t be this far without Rosie,” Broussard said.
Broussard said she plans to ride the meet at Ellis Park at the conclusion of the Churchill Downs meet.
“The plan is to go to Ellis and then I don’t know where I’ll go from there,” Broussard said.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Groupie Doll, last year’s Champion Female Sprinter, is scheduled to breeze at Churchill Downs on Saturday morning, according to trainer Buff Bradley.
Groupie Doll, a 5-year-old chestnut daughter of Bowman’s Band, has neither raced nor recorded a published workout since she was beaten by Stay Thirty by a nose in the Cigar Mile (GI) at Aqueduct on Nov. 24.
Bradley said Groupie Doll will work at approximately 6 a.m. Plans for who will be aboard Groupie Doll for the work have not been finalized. …
Trainer Eddie Kenneally said Burban, 3 ¼-length winner of the Roxelana at Churchill Downs on June 22, will make her next start in the Honorable Miss Handicap (GII) at Saratoga on July 29.
DOWNS AFTER DARK CELEBRATES HALF A MILLION GUESTS
In celebration of 500,000 Downs After Dark guests, fans at Churchill Downs for Saturday’s “Star-Spangled Night” can enter to win a Millionaires Row table, $250 betting voucher and trophy presentation for the Sept. 7 Downs After Dark event during the inaugural Homecoming Meet (Sept. 6-29). Five sets of reserved box seats for six in the 3rd floor Clubhouse will be given away as well.
DOWNS AFTER DARK RESERVED SEATS
Reserved seats for the final “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” racing program of the Spring Meet are limited and online sales will cut off Friday at 12 p.m. EDT. The theme for Saturday is “Star-Spangled Night” and fans are encouraged to dress in red, white and blue for a pre-Fourth of July holiday celebration.
Indoor dining packages for the delectable Chef’s Table on Millionaires Row are $59.90 per person. Meanwhile, outdoor reserved box seats on the 3rd Floor of the Clubhouse are $20 per person. Those prices include admission, a reserved seat and racing program.
The Downs After Dark general admission, or cover charge, is $10. Holders of shareholders passes or horsemen licenses and children age 12 and under (when accompanied by an adult) will be admitted free. No one under the age of 18 will be admitted to the track unless they are accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
Reserved seating can be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets or the on-track box office located at the Gate 1 entrance off Central Avenue (open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on ‘Downs After Dark’ Saturdays).
FLAGS 4VETS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Flags 4Vets will place 3,000 U.S. flags in the Jockey’s Garden for display on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also, a 1,500-square foot U.S. flag will be displayed by the Louisville Fire Department near the paddock. Fans also will have the opportunity to purchase flag pins at Gates 10 and 17 to raise money for purchasing flags for veterans’ graves.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Thursday, June 27
- 9 races from 12:45-4:59 p.m. EDT (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Feature (Race 7 at 3:57 p.m.): $57,000 alw opt clm, f & m, 1 M (T)
Friday, June 28
- 11 races from 2:45-7:54 p.m. (Gates 1:30 p.m.)
- Feature: $57,000 alw opt clm, 3 & up, 1 1/8 M (T)
- City’s Best Happy Hour! Drink specials ($2 Budweiser/Bud Light; $3 Stella Artois; $4 14 Hands Blackberry Sangria), food trucks & live music (The Rumors) in The Plaza from 4-7 p.m.
- Flags4Vets will place 3,000 U.S. flags in the Jockey’s Garden $ Louisville Fire Department to display giant U.S. flag near paddock.
- Annual visit to Kosair Children’s Hospital (231 East Chestnut) by Churchill Downs’ jockeys and track officials at 11 a.m.
Saturday, June 29
- 11 races from 6-11:10 p.m. (Gates: 4 p.m.)
- Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka
- Theme: Star-Spangled Night. Guests are encouraged to “dress to impress” for a flashy, fun and patriotic pre-Fourth of July celebration of red, white and blue. There’ll be a contest for best dressed female, male, couple and group.
- Feature: $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII), 3 & up, 1 M (T)
- Co-Feature: $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), 2yo, 6 F
- Co-Feature: $65,000-added Kelly’s Landing, 3 & up, 7 F
- Celebration of 500,000 Downs After Dark guests with prize drawings to win a Millionaires Row Table, $250 betting voucher and trophy presentation for the Sept. 7 Downs After Dark event during the inaugural Homecoming Meet (Sept. 6-29). Five sets of reserved box seats for six in the 3rd floor Clubhouse will be given away as well.
- Entertainment on The Plaza Stage includes 64 West from (4-7:30 p.m.) and the Jordan English Band from (8-11:30 p.m.). There also will be music by The Rumors on the Clubhouse’s fifth floor balcony and Jamie Vessels at the Gate 17 entrance.
- Popular text-to-win sweepstakes “Bet or No Bet,” sponsored by Thorntons, on Races 6-9.
- Winner’s circle ceremony to honor six Congressional Medal of Honor Montford Point Marines
Sunday, June 30
- 10 races from 12:45-5:29 p.m. (Gates: 11:30 a.m.)
- Closing Day of the 38-day Spring Meet
- Feature: $61,000 alw opt clm, f & m, 1 1/16 M (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 activity includes Cookies & Canvas, a patriotic craft and a snow cone truck.