John C. Oxley’s Spring in the Air, coming off a third-place effort in the Aug. 24 Seaway (Grade III) at Woodbine, will return to dirt in Saturday’s $200,000-added Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs for trainer Mark Casse.
The one-mile Chilukki will mark the second dirt start for Spring in the Air, who won the Grade I Darley Alcibiades over Keeneland's former Polytrack surface in 2012 before she finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on dirt.
“She’s been here at Churchill Downs for about a month,” Casse’s assistant trainer and son Norman Casse said. “She’s had several works over this racetrack with Shaun Bridgmohan on her.
“She really seems to appreciate this racetrack and I don’t have a horse here who has been training better than she has.”
With $913,032 in earnings, a win in Saturday’s Chilukki would place Spring in the Air over the coveted million-dollar mark.
“I’m really excited to see her run here and I think the distance is going to end up being right up her alley,” Casse said.
Other possible Chilukki contenders include: Grade II winner Molly Morgan; Grade III winners My Option, My Happy Face and Honey Hues; stakes winners Toasting and Street Girl, graded stakes placed Frivolous; stakes placed Kipling’s Joy; half-sister to champion Wise Dan, Enchanting Lisa; and Call Pat.
The 29th running of the Chilukki received a $50,000-purse increase from 2013. Last year’s edition was won by Don’t Tell Sophia, recent winner of the Spinster (GI) at Keeneland who is pre-entered in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI).
SILVER MAX, ZA APPROVAL HEAD NOMS FOR NOV. 8 RIVER CITY HANDICAP
Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max and Live Oak Plantation’s Za Approval head a proven cast of 30 horses nominated to the $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Trained by Dale Romans, Silver Max is best known for handing two-time Champion Horse of the Year Wise Dan his only loss in the last two years, when he upset the Champion in the 2013 Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland, a race that was moved to the Polytrack and run at the distance of 1 1/16 miles due to extreme weather. Most recently, Silver Max finished fifth in the 2014 edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile, a race won by Wise Dan. The 5-year-old son of Badge of Silver has won 12 of 26 starts and earned $1,953,598.
Also nominated for Romans is Michael J. Bruder’s Guys Reward, a 7-year-old Grade II winner and earner of $789,619.
Za Approval, trained by Christophe Clemente, won the $98,000 Real Courage at Belmont in his last start on Sept. 7. He has won eight of 22 starts and banked $1,165,071.
Another notable nominee is Augustin Stable’s Holiday Star, who is coming off a half-length victory in the Sycamore (GIII) on Oct. 16 at Keeneland. The 4-year-old gelding trained by Graham Motion has earned $198,603 and won four of 13 starts.
Motion has five others nominated to the River City in Stud Golconda’s Alakazan Alakazan-BRZ, My Meadowview Farm’s Buck Benny, OTI Racing and Earle I. Mack LLC’s Manighar-FR, West Point Thoroughbreds LLC’s Tattenham and Live Oak Plantation’s Under Control-BRZ.
August Dawn Farm’s Saratoga Snacks is another nominee of note. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, Saratoga Snacks would be trying the turf for the first time should he enter in the River City. The 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat has won eight of 17 starts and earnings of $503,100.
AWESOME JILL RETURNS TO TURF IN WEDNESDAY ALLOWANCE
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Indian Oaks (GII) in her last start, Agave Racing Stable’s Awesome Jill will make her first turf start of 2014 in a $45,000 allowance race at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Trained by Michelle Lovell, Awesome Jill will face eight other 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“We caught a tough field in Indiana,” Lovell said. “We were hoping to get a dirt race here at Churchill for her but there wasn’t one. We’ll try her back on the turf, but this race didn’t exactly come up easy either.”
The only two victories for the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile have come under the Twin Spires: her maiden debut in Sept. 2013 and an allowance optional claiming event on May 30, both on dirt.
“I look for her to run well,” Lovell said. “She’s always pretty honest. She was pretty green in her first two starts and I think she is pretty versatile.”
Awesome Jill’s two prior turf starts were both in 2013: a sixth-place finish in an allowance event at Keeneland and a third-place effort in an optional claiming event at Fair Grounds.
“I think she’ll handle it nicely,” Lovell said. “I don’t think it’s supposed to rain Wednesday but if it did I’d say that would be an advantage for us if it came off. But we’re excited for her and we’ll see.”
Jockey Chris Landeros has the call on Awesome Jill, who will break from post position five in Wednesday’s allowance event. Approximate post time is 4:38 p.m. ET for the ninth of 10 races.