Coming off an eighth-place finish in the $1.5 million Whitney (Grade I) at Saratoga on Aug. 2, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing is seeking a return to top form in Saturday’s $125,000-added Homecoming Classic under the Twin Spires for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Breaking from post position four with Robby Albarado in the saddle, Departing has been made the 2-1 second choice in the Homecoming field of six. Claiborne Farm President Walker Hancock said that their 4-year-old homebred has been training well.
“He’s been training well,” Hancock said. “He put in a good work last weekend and he’s doing fine.”
Hancock was shocked by Departing’s performance in the Whitney, a race the connections thought would be a huge effort for their 4-year-old homebred colt by War Front.
“It was a disappointment, obviously,” Hancock said. “We thought we were sitting on a huge race with him. He had been training well. He loves Saratoga and really we were all just shocked by the result.
“There’s really no excuse. I guess you could say he got bumped pretty hard at the break and he was really wide in the first turn but things just didn’t go his way. I don’t know if he just threw in the towel after that or what but unfortunately he didn’t run a jump in the Whitney.”
Hancock said Departing came out of the race well and is hoping for a different result in the 1 1/8-mile contest Saturday.
“He seemed to come out of it alright,” Hancock said. “He’s been training like he was all of last year when he had all of his success, so hopefully we can just draw a line through that last one and move forward.”
Departing won three graded stakes in 2013 coming from significantly off the pace, but Hancock said he will need to run a bit closer to the leaders to have a shot at winning Saturday.
“Being a short field, you obviously can’t get too far out of it,” Hancock said. “It doesn’t look like there’s too much speed in there. Cigar Street on paper looks like probably the main speed. I know Departing sometimes tends to come from the clouds, but obviously he won’t be able to get away with that on Saturday if he’s going to win. I’d say he’ll be stalking the pace right there with them.”
When asked if the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic would be in consideration for Departing pending a strong finish in the Homecoming Classic, Hancock responded: “No, but it was before the Whitney. Now we’re not as sure what to think about him. Saturday should tell us a lot about his future but the Classic isn’t really in consideration at this point. We just want him to return to the horse that we thought he was before the Whitney.”
The Homecoming Classic will be the ninth of 11 races on Saturday’s card with an approximate post time of 4:49 p.m. ET.
BATTLEFRONT READY FOR U.S. DEBUT IN SATURDAY’S JEFFERSON CUP
Coming off a minor hind-end injury, Joseph Allen’s Battlefront is set to make his U.S. debut in Saturday’s $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (Grade III) at Churchill Downs for trainer Ben Colebrook.
Made the 6-1 fourth choice in the Jefferson Cup field of eight 3-year-olds, Battlefront will break from post position seven and jockey Robby Albarado has the call.
Colebrook said Battlefront, who recorded a pair of wins from six starts in France, was sent to his barn earlier this summer after his injury.
“He was sent to me earlier this summer,” Colebrook said. “He had been in France, had an injury over there and came back to the states and rehabbed here. They sent him to me and this race came up as a relatively short field so we decided to take a shot with him.”
Most recently, the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of War Front worked a half-mile under the Twin Spires in :48.40, the third fastest of 53 workers at the distance.
“He’s been training really well,” Colebrook said. “He’s been training over the dirt; but obviously with the European horses the turf should be no problem. He’ll run on Lasix for the first time so hopefully he’ll run well.”
Colebrook is looking for a big effort from Battlefront on Saturday and said the horse returned to training in good form after the injury.
“The injury was nothing major,” Colebrook said. “I just think he had some hind-end issues that they took care of. Since he’s been back and in our care everything’s been good with him here in the states and we’re looking for a good effort from him.”
Colebrook was confident in the abilities of Battlefront’s first American jockey although Albarado has yet to ride the colt.
“Robby hasn’t been on him yet,” Colebrook said. “Usually I don’t have jocks breeze them in the mornings; I tend to just use my guys. But Robby knows his way around there and I think he’ll do fine.”
The Jefferson Cup will be the 10th of 11 races Saturday at Churchill Downs with an approximate post time of 5:20 p.m. ET.
AUTUMN N’SPIRES FESTIVAL SUNDAY
Sunday is the final day of Churchill Downs’ September Meet and the finale will be highlighted by the Autumn N’Spires Festival, a new event combining the excitement of Thoroughbred racing with a social, festival-style atmosphere.
Live music on the Plaza stage will be performed by Southern Sirens, an all-girl Folk/Americana trio hailing from the Kentuckiana area, and the native-Louisville group A Lion Named Roar, known from FOX’s The Next Great American Band and self-described as “men that make pop music drenched in blue collar sweat and moral fiber.”
In addition to live music, the Plaza also will feature food trucks: Grind, Holy Mole, Busta Grill, Lil’ Cheezers, Longshot Lobsta and Jam Pan; and a bourbon bar which will offer specialty drinks Woodford N’Spired, Louisville’s Old Fashioned and the Kentucky Mule.
ODDS AND ENDS
Jockey Corey Lanerie remains in the lead of the Churchill Downs jockey standings after winning aboard Tarpy’s Goal in Sunday’s eighth race. Lanerie leads Ricardo Santana Jr. by a 12-11 margin with three days of racing remaining. … Lanerie was involved in a spill Wednesday at Kentucky Downs but reported via text: “I am fine.” … Lanerie will be in New York on Saturday to ride Ack Ack winner Bradester in the $400,000 Kelso (GII) at Belmont Park. … Rosie Napravnik has riding engagements in several stakes races at Santa Anita on Saturday and Remington Park on Sunday. … Brian Hernandez Jr. also is scheduled to ride a pair of Mike Tomlinson-trained horses Sunday at Remington: Greengrassofyoming in the $100,000 Remington Green and For Goodness Sake in the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (GIII). … Francisco Torres was named to ride Nicky’s Brown Miss in Sunday’s $200,000 Miss Grillo (GIII) at Belmont Park. … Jockey Jon Court, 53, was given the go-ahead by his doctor to resume riding and has four mounts Saturday and three on Sunday. They will mark his first mounts since breaking his right hand in the final race on Kentucky Derby Day. … Steve Asmussen won the fifth race Sunday with Unseen Visitor to regain sole possession of first place in the leading trainer standings with six. Dale Romans and Chris Richard are tied with five each in second… Ken and Sarah Ramsey remained tied with Maggie Moss with five wins in the race for leading owner after Sunday’s card. … Horses and Hope, the breast cancer initiative of Kentucky’s First Lady Jane Beshear and the Kentucky Cancer Program, are scheduled to be on the Churchill Downs backstretch Monday with their mobile mammography to provide brief one-on-one interventions, group education and screening referrals to track workers and their families.