Kentucky’s legendary Claiborne Farm will attempt to claim a new spot in the record book at historic Churchill Downs when the 2-year-old filly Vexed takes on seven rivals in Sunday’s first running of the $60,000-added Rags to Riches Overnight Stakes, the co-featured event on the “Stars of Tomorrow I” racing program that opens the Louisville track’s 25-day Fall Meet.
A victory by Vexed in the Rags to Riches would be the 32nd in a stakes race at Churchill Downs and would lift the Paris, Ky. breeding and racing facility into a tie with Calumet Farm for all-time stakes victories at Churchill Downs by an owner. Claiborne and longtime partner Adele Dilschneider earned a pair of stakes victories in the 2012 Fall Meet with Sign, who won the Grade II Pocahontas, and Lea, winner of the Grade III Commonwealth Turf.
The daughter of Arch, owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and Dilschneider, looms as a major contender in the one-mile race for juvenile fillies that is the co-feature with the $60,000-added Street Sense on the first of two “Stars of Tomorrow” programs scheduled during the meet. Those popular programs are devoted exclusively to racing among 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. “Stars of Tomorrow II,” which will feature the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) for open company and $175,000-added Golden Rod (GII) for fillies, is set for Saturday, Nov. 28, the closing day of the five-week Fall Meet.
Post time for the Sunday’s first race is 12:40 p.m. and admission gates open at 11:30 (all times Eastern). The Rags to Riches is scheduled as the ninth of the day’s 11 races with a post time of 4:34 p.m.
The Rags to Riches is named in honor of the Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s winner of the 2007 Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) who was named that year’s Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old filly. Following her victory in the Oaks, trainer Todd Pletcher’s daughter of A.P. Indy defeated eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin to win the Belmont Stakes (GI) and become the first filly to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown in 102 years and just the third of her gender to win that race.
Vexed scored an emphatic 2 ¼-length victory in a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs in her most recent start on Sept. 14 and is one of six fillies in the Rags to Riches that are coming into the race off a win. The Al Stall Jr.-trained filly finished third in her career debut at the same distance over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Arlington Park on July 19.
Shaun Bridgmohan was in the saddle for her September victory and will return to ride Vexed in her stakes debut. The Claiborne-Dilschneider filly will break from post five.
Vexed’s bid to secure the a share of the record for Claiborne could run into roadblocks provided by Grosse Point Farm’s Ocean Boulevard and Danny White’s Dream S’more, the only fillies in the race with experience in stakes races.
The Ian Wilkes-trained Ocean Boulevard finished fifth to Miss Behavior in the Grade I Matron Stakes at Belmont Park in her most recent outing on Sept. 29. She launched her career with a late-running third-place finish at odds of 31-1 in a June 27 maiden race at Churchill Downs and finished fourth in a Saratoga maiden event before collecting her first career victory at that New York track on Aug. 26. Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride Ocean Boulevard, a daughter of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus who drew post six for the Rags to Riches.
Dream S’more has won two of five races for trainer Eric Reed, including a 5 ½-length romp in a Penn National allowance race in her most recent outing on Sept. 28. She competed in back-to-back stakes races prior to that victory, finishing third in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies at Mountaineer Park and sixth in the $50,000 Tippett on turf at Virginia’s Colonial Downs. Joe Rocco Jr., who rode Dream S’more to a third-place finish in her April debut at Keeneland, will be reunited with the daughter of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft in Sunday’s race.
Four more fillies entered in the Rags to Riches are coming off victories in maiden races as they make their debut against stakes company. Green Lantern Stables LLC’s Clever Beauty was elevated to a victory for trainer Rusty Arnold via the disqualification of Harlan’s Special in a 1 1/16-mile race on Sept. 20 at Churchill Downs; Twin Creeks Racing Stable LLC’s Prepared won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race over Keeneland’s Polytrack on Oct. 5; Robert Masterson’s Tepin won at seven furlongs for trainer Mark Casse on Oct. 6 at Keeneland; and Carson Springs Farm and J K R Investments’ Loya, won a six-furlong maiden race at Hawthorne.
The field for the inaugural the Rags to Riches (with jockey, weight) from the rail out includes Hot and Dangerous (Kent Desormeaux, 118), Clever Beauty (Corey Lanerie, 118), Prepared (Rosie Napravnik, 118), Tepin (Miguel Mena, 118), Vexed (Bridgmohan, 118), Ocean Boulevard (Hernandez, 118), Dream S’more (Rocco, 120) and Loya (Robby Albarado, 118).
In just eight years, Stars of Tomorrow has been the launching pad for 33 Grade I winners, including 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; and 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can. Eighteen graduates became millionaires: Fort Larned ($4,171,322), Court Vision ($3,746,658), Rachel Alexandra ($3,506,730), Shackleford ($3,090,101), Lawyer Ron ($2,790,008), Pure Clan ($1,987,498), Super Saver ($1,889,766), Will Take Charge ($1,827,371), Macho Again ($1,825,767), Giant Oak ($1,484,829), First Dude ($1,442,140), Swift Temper ($1,296,688), Believe You Can ($1,280,324), General Quarters ($1,226,655), Fly Down ($1,256,115), Any Given Saturday ($1,083,533), Overanalyze ($1,046,381) and Uncaptured ($1,005,147).
Sunday’s “Stars of Tomorrow I” races share the Fall Meet’s opening day spotlight with the giveaway of a 2014 Churchill Downs Calendar Presented by Humana. The first 5,000 fans through admission gates will receive a voucher that can be exchanged for the calendar filled with captivating images of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs.
Sunday’s opener also features the first of the Fall Meet’s weekly Family Fun Days Presented by Kroger. Family activities are featured each Sunday on the Paddock Plaza Balcony, and this week children 12-and-under are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes and follow Churchill Charlie on a Trick-or-Treat Parade through the track. Family Fun Days activities are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (all times Eastern).