Highlighted by a half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) winner Mine That Bird, a number of well-bred 2-year-old colts will be making their debuts Saturday at Churchill Downs where the excitement for new Derby prospects is always brewing on the backside.

Zayat Stables LLC’s Thirtysevenliveson is not only a half-brother to Mine That Bird but also a half to multiple Grade I-winner Dullahan, who finished third in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Debuting in Saturday’s seventh race, Thirtysevenliveson is trained by Dullahan’s conditioner Dale Romans, who said that their personalities are similar.

“I don’t know too much about Mine That Bird, but Thirtysevenliveson and Dullahan have about the same personality,” Romans said. “They’re both class horses who are all business.”

Thirtysevenliveson, a son of three-time champion sire Giant’s Causeway, was a $675,000 purchase at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. While Romans acknowledged the similarity to Dullahan, he did not seem to feel much pressure entering Saturday’s 6 ½-furlong maiden event.

“I don’t get nervous about any of them anymore,” Romans said. “The first start doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot to me; you just have to wait and see how they develop.”

Dullahan finished third in his maiden debut at Churchill Downs in June 2011, but did not break his maiden until his fifth start, which was subsequently the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland that October.

“When they’re training is when I really start getting excited about them,” Romans said. “I know Thirtysevenliveson can run and I know he’s going to be a mile-and-a-quarter horse. I’d love to see him win this race, but there’s more to it about getting him going than just worrying about winning this first maiden race.

“Thirtysevenliveson is one who I think needs to get a little more distance,” Romans said. “Going six-eighths (of a mile), he might need a little more (distance) to really show his form, but at the end of the day I think he’s going to be a very special racehorse.”

Also on Saturday’s card, Romans will saddle West Point Thoroughbreds LLC’s first-time starter Toasting Master in the fifth race, who is a half-brother to three stakes winners including 2012 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) runner-up Broadway’s Alibi.

“Toasting Master is a little different,” Romans said. “He wasn’t quite as expensive but I do think he’s the type that can win first time out. I just think he’s a little more ready.”

Toasting Master will take on Jerry Durant’s Peacenquiet for trainer Steve Asmussen, who was first in 2-year-old wins during Churchill Downs’ 2014 Spring Meet with six, five of which were first-time starters.

“Peacenquiet was a pretty expensive yearling, obviously he’s attractive,” Asmussen said. “I think that he’ll stretch out nicely and I think it’s a good starting spot.”

Asmussen has high hopes for Peacenquiet, a $170,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton’s 2013 July Sale.

“A lot of time and patience has been put in to getting them to this point,” Asmussen said. “It’s anxious anticipation; you don’t want to put too much pressure on the situation but you’re obviously hoping for huge things.”

Asmussen still is seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory, his best effort coming with Nehro for Zayat Stables in 2011.

The fifth race, a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight, is scheduled for an approximate post time of 2:51 p.m. (all times Eastern).

Facing off against Thirtysevenliveson in Saturday’s seventh race is another first-time starter in Charles Fipke’s homebred Tale of Beaucette, whom trainer Dallas Stewart is hoping to develop into yet another young success.

“We took our time with him,” Stewart said. “We had him up in Saratoga but he just wasn’t quite ready to run there. So we brought him back to Churchill and he’s had a couple of really good works. It looks like he’s a talented horse.”

Stewart campaigned the last two runner-up finishers in the Kentucky Derby with West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve in 2013 and another Fipke homebred, Golden Soul, in 2012. Both Commanding Curve and Golden Soul made significant starts under the Twin Spires as 2-year-olds.

Commanding Curve finished sixth last year in his debut at Saratoga, then broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in his fourth start last November. Golden Soul was a runner-up in his debut at Churchill Downs and won in his next start at Fair Grounds.

“When they get accomplished as a 2-year-old going long, you feel like you have a chance,” Stewart said. “Going short, you just don’t know yet, but if they can stretch out and win at a mile, or even like Commanding Curve going two turns, you feel like you have a shot early.”

Stewart did not acknowledge that Tale of Beaucette would be his next Derby success, but said he should get a better feel for the 2-year-old son of Tale of Ekati after Saturday’s start.

“This race here is six-and-a-half (furlongs), so it’s a good place for this horse to start,” Stewart said. “We’ll know a little more after this race.”

Saturday’s seventh race is scheduled for an approximate post time of 3:53 p.m.

ASMUSSEN SEEKING OPEN MIND REPEAT WITH AIREOFDISTINCTION

Gillian S. Campbell’s Aireofdistinction will look to give both Campbell and trainer Steve Asmussen a consecutive victory in Saturday’s $100,000-added Open Mind at Churchill Downs.

“She had a bit of a crowded trip in her last start at Mountaineer,” Asmussen said. “It was a credible and hopefully we can get her back to her winning ways here on Saturday.”

Aireofdistinction placed third in her last start, the West Virginia Secretary of State at Mountaineer on Aug. 2.

“She had a really good Oaklawn meet earlier this year,” Asmussen said. “Then we gave her the summer off. She’s doing great now though, and I think she will benefit from a smaller field and hopefully we can another win under her belt.”

The horse Asmussen trained to victory in last year’s Open Mind, Vuitton, has since changed hands and now is in the barn of conditioner Eddie Kenneally.

Vuitton is entered in both the Open Mind and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs on Saturday. Kenneally said Thursday morning that he was still undecided as to where the mare’s next start would be.

The Open Mind will go as the ninth of 10 races on Saturday’s card with an approximate post time of 4:55 p.m.

THIS WEEKEND AT CHURCHILL DOWNS

Churchill Downs Friday Happy Hour

Friday, Sept. 12, 4-7 p.m.

The best way to start the weekend this September is to take advantage of Churchill Downs’ Friday Happy Hours.

This Friday from 4-7 p.m., guests can enjoy live racing plus cold drink specials and live music in the Plaza. Churchill Downs will serve up cold Bud/Bud Light for $2 and Stella Artois for $3 while country music artist Pamela K. Ward performs on the Plaza stage.

Friday’s 10-race program begins at 2:45 p.m., Happy Hour runs from 4-7 p.m. and the final race is scheduled for 7:27 p.m. General admission is $3.

Football Watch Party / $100,000 Open Mind

Saturday, Sept. 13, 12:30 p.m. Kick Off

If you can’t make it to Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., the next best place to watch Saturday’s ACC showdown between the University of Louisville Cardinals and Virginia Cavaliers is Churchill Downs.

The legendary Louisville racetrack has a 10-race program and will simultaneously stage a Football Watch Party for U of L fans in its 30,000-square-foot outdoor Plaza adjacent to the saddling paddock.

The ACC Network’s telecast will be shown uninterrupted with volume on the giant 16’ x 20’ Plaza video screen, and portions of the game will air on the massive Big Board between races.

Bleacher seating is being added to the Plaza and there’ll be a tailgate-like atmosphere, complete with cornhole and other games, a Plaza Grill and game-time drink specials – cold $2 Bud/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois, $1 Pepsi products and bottled water. 

College students with a current student ID will be admitted free of charge. Paid general admission is $3.

Gates open at 11:30 a.m., the Louisville game starts at 12:30 p.m. and the first race is 12:45 p.m. The featured racing event is the $100,000-added Open Mind, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares that goes as Race 9 at approximately 4:55 p.m.

Family Adventure Day presented by Kroger

Sunday, Sept 14, 11:30 a.m. Gates Open

Sunday is Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger at Churchill Downs and there’s a surplus of activities for kids of all ages and the entire family.

In anticipation of the Belle of Louisville’s looming 100th Birthday Bash, Churchill Downs will pay special tribute to the steamboat by transforming its Plaza into a family-fun-filled carnival atmosphere featuring a 20-foot replica of the Belle of Louisville, a photo station where families can have their picture taken with the Captain of the Belle of Louisville Mark Doty, and a Belle of Louisville activity tent. The highlight of the day will be the selection of three families to participate in the Belle of Louisville Great Steamboat Race, with the race taking place on the Churchill Downs turf course. Each family will race carrying a large photograph cutout of the Belle of Louisville. As the sponsor of Family Adventure Day, Kroger will mark the celebration by serving up birthday cupcakes to the first 1,000 children.

Activities include:

  • Belle of Louisville Centennial Celebration Activity including Belle replica float and a meet-and-greet with Captain Mark Doty
  • Belle of Louisville Great Steamboat Race featuring three families between races on the turf course
  • 1,000 free Belle of Louisville birthday cupcakes, courtesy of Kroger
  • Stick Horse Races in the Paddock
  • Petting Zoo
  • Pony Rides
  • Themed Inflatables
  • Cornhole
  • Video Game Truck
  • Interactive Sports Games
  • Nine-hole Miniature Golf Course
  • Hula Hoop Contest
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Junior Jockey Club Bingo
  • Kosair Children’s Hospital Activity
  • Kentucky Derby Museum Activities: a meet and greet with the museum’s resident miniature horse Winston, story time and printmaking crafts.
  • Churchill Charlie’s Corner (children under 4)
  • Kona Ice Truck
  • DJ music from Plaza Stage
  • Strolling Magician (1-3 p.m.)
  • Face Painters (1-5 p.m.)
  • Churchill Charlie Walk Around & Dance Party (2-3 p.m.)
  • Family-friendly Pricing at Concessions

Participation in the Family Adventure Day activities requires the purchase of a Family Pavilion Ticket which is $10 for adults or $5 per child and includes gate admission and access to family seating on the Grandstand Terrace. Adults can save $5 by buying wristbands in advance online at www.ChurchillDowns.com. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. and the first race is at 12:45 p.m. General admission is $3 and reserved box seats are $10.

The new Grandstand Pavilion (including Sections 326-328) has been designated as a family-friendly area for the day where guests can gather for group dining and seating to watch the races. It also allows convenient access to family activities in the Plaza. A Family Pavilion wristband is required to use the area and take part in all Family Adventure Day activities.

Family Adventure Day supports Kosair Children’s Hospital with Churchill Downs donating $1 for each person in attendance at the track. 

Churchill Downs gates open Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Post time for the first race is 12:45 p.m. and the last race runs at 5:27 p.m.

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