Michael Bruder’s Guys Reward, a two-time stakes winner on the Matt Winn Turf Course, will seek his sixth win on the grass at Churchill Downs in Sunday’s $100,000-added River City Handicap (Grade III).
A victory in the River City would make the Dale Romans-trained Guys Reward the first horse to complete the Firecracker Handicap (GII)-River City double in the same year.
Following his win in the Firecracker, Guys Reward was shipped to Saratoga and finished fourth in the Fourstardave (GII) behind Wise Dan and fourth behind Dominus in the Bernard Baruch (GII). In his most recent start, he was seventh behind Newsdad in the Fayette (GII) on the Polytrack at Keeneland.
“I don’t know (if he didn’t like the Polytrack),” Romans said. “The race just really didn’t set up for him.”
A 5-year-old dark bay or brown son of Grand Reward, Guys Reward will carry 118 pounds and be ridden by Corey Lanerie from post seven in the 12-horse field.
“He’s been training well coming up to this race and he loves it here,” Romans said.
When asked how special a River City win would be to cap off the biggest year of his career, Romans grinned and said, “What, you don’t think we’re going to win anything in December?”
TOP THREE FROM CLARK HANDICAP IN FINE ORDER SATURDAY – The day after a fantastic renewal of the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), the top three finishers were in fine order in their stalls at Churchill Downs, but definite plans for each horse have yet to be decided.
The decision to retire Clark winner Shackleford following Friday’s race was made before he even passed the entry box, but what remains unknown is when the 4-year-old son of Forestry will walk out of his stall at Churchill Downs for the final time. Trainer Dale Romans said Shackleford will likely leave for Darby Dan Farm on Monday, but nothing has been finalized.
Chuck and Maribeth Sandford LLC’s Take Charge Indy, runner-up in the Clark, came out of the race in fantastic order, according to trainer Pat Byrne. Chuck and Maribeth Sandford, along with WinStar Farm President and CEO Elliott Walden, were at Churchill Downs early Saturday morning to discuss the future racing career of Take Charge Indy.
“He came back great and he’s as happy as he could be,” Chuck Sandford said. “A decision (on whether or not he will be retired) is coming quick. WinStar will make the announcement when the decision is made. It could come as early as Monday or Tuesday and shouldn’t be any later than Wednesday.”
Kellyn Gorder’s assistant trainer Evan Downing said Bourbon Courage exited his third-place effort in the Clark in perfect condition.
“There’s no reason to turn him out if he’s 100-percent,” Downing said. “The plan is to take him to New Orleans on Monday. We’ll look at something like the Mineshaft (GIII at Fair Grounds on Feb. 23). That would be a good prep for something like the New Orleans Handicap (GII at Fair Grounds on March 30).”
RACE FOR JOCKEY, TRAINER TITLE WILL COME DOWN TO THE WIRE – Perhaps a couple of the best races at Churchill Downs over closing weekend will be the races for leading rider and leading trainer. Entering Saturday’s card, Corey Lanerie had a 26-22 lead over Shaun Bridgmohan in the Jockey Standings and Dale Romans and Ken McPeek were tied at 12 in the Trainer Standings with Al Stall Jr. in third with 11.
Below are the entries that remain for each jockey and trainer with a shot at the title.
Lanerie is seeking his second straight riding title at Churchill Downs, but his first at the Fall Meet. He has mounts Saturday in Races 2-12 on Saturday and Races 1 and 3-11 on Sunday.
Bridgmohan, whose lone local title came at the 2006 Fall Meet, has mounts Saturday in Races 1-4 and 6-12 and Sunday in Races 1 and 3-10.
McPeek, seeking his second training title at Churchill Downs and first since the Fall Meet in 2002, has one entry in Races 2-5 and 7 on Saturday and two horses each in Races 6, 8 and 11. On Sunday, McPeek has one horse entered in Races 3, 5 and 7 and two horses entered in Race 8.
Romans, winner of the trainer’s title at the 2012 Fall Meet, is seeking his 10th local title overall. He has two horses each entered in Races 3, 6 and 8 on Saturday and one horse entered in Races 1, 5, 7 and 10-12. On Sunday, he has two horses entered in Races 3 and 9 and one horse in Races 7-8 and 10.
Stall’s remaining entries at the meet will come in Races 4 and 6 on Saturday.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Ready’s Rocket, 11-time winner at Churchill Downs, has been retired to Old Friends, but will first be saluted at his favorite track on closing day of the Fall Meet. He will walk from the barn area with horses running in Race 2, parade in front of the Churchill Downs grandstand and then head to the Paddock where he will remain during the running of the race. Post time for Race 2 is 1:08 p.m. … Santa Claus is coming to town for Sunday’s Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The popular series promises fun for adults and children that includes a “Name That Person” contest and special Junior Jockey Club activities such as a walking tour to the Kentucky Derby Museum garden to visit with Winston, its resident miniature horse. This Sunday’s special finale features a visit from Santa Claus and there also will be story time with the Kentucky Derby Museum and a visit by Churchill Downs’ popular mascot, Churchill Charlie … In keeping with the holiday spirit, track bugler Steve Buttleman will entertain fans Sunday with holiday music during each race’s post parade.
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