A busy morning of works on a glorious autumn morning at Churchill Downs included a serious training move by a filly who is racing royalty on the track’s grounds: a five-furlong move by Brereton Jones’ Believe You Can, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks (Grade I).
Jockey Rosie Napravnik, who became the first woman to ride an Oaks winner when she guided Believe You Can home in last year’s renewal, was in the irons as the homebred daughter of Proud Citizen covered the distance over a fast surface in 1:00.20.
The move ranked as the third-fastest of 49 at the distance and trainer Larry Jones said he hopes to run Believe You Can in the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII), a 1 1/8-mile race for older fillies and mares and the traditional centerpiece of the Thanksgiving Day celebration on Thursday, Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
“We’re trying for the Falls City,” Jones said. “We’ll probably need at least one more work"
Believe You Can last competed in the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap on May 27 at Belmont Park. She finished last in a field of six under jockey John Velazquez. It was a very disappointing race for Jones because his Joyful Victory, ridden that day by Napravnik, ran fifth."We haven’t figured that one out,” Jones said of the disappointing Phipps run. “She never got untracked. But it was also a bad race for Joyful Victory, so I don’t know if we shipped too close to the race, because both horses ran almost identical races.
“Both horses got a layoff after that and Joyful Victory came back really good, so we’re expecting this one to do that, too.”
The work by Believe You Can was also notable for Napravnik, as her appearance at Churchill Downs was the first for the 25-year-old jockey since Sunday. She had suffered this week from body soreness that is attributable to a pair of mishaps. Napravnik was thrown from a mount at the start of a race on the Oct. 27 opening day of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet, then was shaken up late last week in a traffic mishap in Louisville before she travelled to Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup.
Napravnik is scheduled to ride five mounts on Saturday, including a ride aboard Phipps Stable’s Abaco in the 40th running of the $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (GIII), which is scheduled as the eighth of the day’s 10 races.
NECK ‘N NECK WORKS, WILKES STILL SEARCHING FOR A RACE – Sunny skies scrapped trainer Ian Wilkes’ latest hope to find a prep race for Neck ‘n Neck, so the 4-year-old colt had to settle for a sharp five-furlong work on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Wilkes has been trying to find a prep race for A. Stevens Miles son of Flower Alley to prepare him for a planned run in the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Friday, Nov. 29. He has entered the colt in several races, but none have attracted sufficient entries.
Neck n’ Neck was entered in Saturday’s second race, an allowance optional claiming race at a mile on grass just in case wet weather forced that race to be moved to the main track, but Wilkes scratched the colt when sunshine and an anticipated high temperature reading of 62 ensured that the race would stay on the grass.
With today’s race off the table, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. climbed in the saddle aboard Neck ‘n Neck and worked him five furlongs in a brisk 1:00.80, which was the sixth-fastest move of 49 at the distance.
It was a good and useful move, but Wilkes said he needs more to have Neck ‘n Neck ready for the Clark – a race that could attract the likes of Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) runner-up and Travers (GI) winner Will Take Charge, Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude and other accomplished stars that include Windswept, runner-up to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in Churchill Downs’ inaugural Homecoming Classic, and Bourbon Courage, third in 2012 Clark.
“You can’t run against those horses without the right preparation,” Wilkes said.
Neck ‘n Neck would certainly be a worthy candidate for the Clark. His lifetime record stands at 15-5-2-1 with earnings of $687,852.
Neck ’n Neck closed 2012 with a rush by scoring back-to-back wins in the Indiana Derby (GII) and Churchill Downs’ Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), but a training injury shortly after the latter derailed hopes for a run in the Clark Handicap. Wilkes finally got Neck ‘n Neck back to the races with a late-running third-place finish in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Downs on Oct. 5, but efforts find another prep for this year’s Clark have resulted in nothing but frustration.
So the next few days will be anxious ones for Wilkes, who will be watching for possible opportunities for a prep race at Churchill Downs or another track.
“The horse is doing good,” Wilkes said. “We just hope we get the opportunity to run.”
REIGNING WINNER KEEP UP, MILLIONAIRE TURALLURE JOIN DADDY NOSE BEST, AIR SUPPORT, NAJJAAR AMONG NOMINEES TO NOV. 23 RIVER CITY HANDICAP – Mill Ridge Farm’s defending winner Keep Up and Four D Stables’ millionaire Turallure, winner of the 2011 Woodbine Mile (GI) and a narrowly-defeated runner-up in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs, top a roster of 43 older turf stars nominated to compete in Churchill Downs 36th running of the $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The track’s final major turf event of the year for older horses will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Keep Up, a lightly-raced 6-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song out of 1999 Kentucky Oaks winner Keeper Hill, rallied from 10th to win last year’s River City for trainer Alex Clarkson. It was the first graded stakes triumph for Keep Up, who prepped for a defense of his title in an Oct. 24 allowance victory on the grass at Keeneland. His two wins in six 2013 races also includes a triumph in Arlington Park’s Swoon’s Son on June 8.
The reigning winner has a career record of 17-7-1-4 with earnings of $293,382.
If he runs in the River City, the Charlie Lopresti-trained Turallure would be looking for his first victory in two years. He has lost 11 consecutive races since his win in the 2011 Woodbine Mile, a streak that started when he finished a nose back of Court Vision in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The string of setbacks includes a narrow loss to Data Link in the 2012 Maker’s 46 Mile (GI) at Keeneland. His most recent outing was a late-running sixth-place finish in a field of 12 in an Oct. 18 turf allowance at Keeneland won by Regally Ready, winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI) at Churchill Downs.
Turallure, a son of Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, has a career record of 26-6-5-3 and earnings of $1,378,997.
Other notable nominees include Bob and Kathy Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best, 10th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby for trainer Steve Asmussen and winner of the Remington Park’s Remington Green and Edward DeBartolo Memorial in his last two starts; Stuart Janney III’s Air Support, winner of the 2012 Bowling Green (GII) at Belmont Park who has won five of 20 races and earned $963,619 for trainer Shug McGaughey; and Shadwell Stable’s homebred Najjaar, winner of Keeneland’s Sycamore for trainer Dan Peitz in his most recent race.
Other accomplished River City nominees include Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Coalport, winner of the Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs; Michael Bruder’s Guys Reward, winner of 2012 Firecracker Handicap (GII) and Opening Verse at Churchill Downs; Juddmonte Farm’s Kalamos, a Bill Mott-trained son of Empire Maker who started his career in France and won a Keeneland allowance race in his U.S. debut; Glen Hill Farm’s Leave A Message, a 4-year-old filly who was runner-up in Keeneland’s Dowager in her most recent outing for trainer Tom Proctor; the Kenny McPeek-trained Kentucky Turf Cup (GIII) runner-up Olympic Thunder (BRZ); Jesse Iglesias and Michael Imperio’s Plainview, second to eventual 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Za Approval in the recent Knickerbocker (GIII) at Belmont Park; Calumet Farm’s Skyring, winner of the 2011 Dixie Handicap (GII) at Pimlico for trainer D. Wayne Lukas; Hoosier Daddy’s Stable’s Voodoo Storm, an easy winner of the Mountaineer Mile for trainer Tim Glyshaw on Nov. 2 at Mountaineer Park; and Moyglare Stud Farm’s Speaking of Which (IRE) and Pablo Gomez’s Quick Casablanca (CHI), a pair of New York-based stakes veterans trained by Christophe Clement.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Locust Grove winner Flashy American, prepping for the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day, breezed four furlongs in :47.80 for trainer Kenny McPeek. The move ranked as third-fastest of 63 at the distance … Circle Unbroken, winner of the 2012 Bashford Manor (GIII), breezed a half-mile in :51.30 for trainer Garry Simms … Kentucky Derby Presetnted by Yum! Brands (GI) runner-up Golden Soul breezed a half-mile in :51.20 for trainer Dallas Stewart …River City Handicap (GIII) hopeful Olympic Thunder (BRZ) breezed four furlongs in :48.60 … Golden Rod (GII) hopeful Streethomealabama breezed four furlongs in :49.40 for McPeek. … Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Admiral Kitten, winner of the Secretariat (GI) at Arlington Park and a nominee for next week’s Commonwealth Turf (GIII) at Churchill Downs, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 for trainer Mike Maker over the six-furlong dirt course at the Trackside training center. Maker also breezed Mrs. Revere (GII) nominee Always Kitten, the winner of the Ta Wee at Indiana Downs who covered five furlongs in 1:02.40 … Also at Trackside, River City Handicap nominee Najjaar breezed five furlongs in 1:02/
A VETERANS DAY TRADITION CONTINUES – In honor of Veterans Day, all United States veterans and active military will receive free general admission to Churchill Downs on Sunday (Nov. 10) with proof of identification. The first of 10 races is 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern) and admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.
SUNDAY IS FAMILY FUN DAY – Pumpkin and face painting highlight Sunday's Family Fun Days presented by Kroger. The family-focused activities during the races will take place on the Plaza balcony from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.