With only five days left of the Spring Meet, the race for the Churchill Downs riding title is neck and neck between defending leading rider Corey Lanerie and Julien Leparoux, who both entered Saturday’s action with 35 wins apiece.
Lanerie has won seven of the last eight Churchill Downs titles, including five in a row.
“I’m real happy with the way the meet has gone,” Lanerie said. “I’ve got a lot of support behind with the trainers and everything. I get to ride a lot of the better horses this meet so it feels good.
“I’ve had a great meet, trying to get the riding title. It means a lot to me because I have won so many so it’s kind of like I want to hold that spot. You would hate to give it up. If I don’t get it, there are a lot of other good riders here, too, and as long as I can keep winning and making a good living, I’ll be very happy. But I definitely want to get it. It’s a goal in mind to get it so I’m going to give it every chance I’ve got.”
Lanerie scored the second Grade I victory of his career with Bill Cubbedge’s 6-year-old mare Molly Morgan in the $300,000 La Troienne on Kentucky Oaks Day – the highlight of his meet. His first was aboard Hooh Why in the 2009 Ashland at Keeneland.
“It was a big deal to win that race especially on Oaks Day, [it was] pretty special,” he said.
Lanerie plans on shipping around to different tracks after the Spring Meet concludes before going to upstate New York in late July to ride full time at Saratoga throughout their summer meet.
Lanerie was named the rider on seven horses for Saturday afternoon’s card; Ready by You (Race 2), Share the Sugar (Race 4), John Gordon (Race 6), Tanq on the Rocks (Race 7), Street Strategy (Race 8), Milam (Race 10) and Northern Screamer (Race 11).
Leparoux, who scored four wins on Friday afternoon’s card, will be riding Divining Rod in the $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on Saturday afternoon, but has six mounts on Churchill’s Sunday afternoon card.
Leparoux is a nine-time leading rider at Churchill Downs but hasn’t won a local title since the 2011 Fall Meet.
CLOSING WEEK STAKES POSSIBLES – Trainer Bret Calhoun plans to start Douglas Scharbauer’s He’s Comin In Hot in next Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000 Bashford Manor (Grade III) for 2-year-olds over six furlongs. The juvenile sprint is one of four stakes races scheduled for the “Downs After Dark” nighttime event that will conclude the 38-day Spring Meet.
The Texas-bred son of Early Flyer will enter the race off a maiden victory on his third attempt – a 4 ½-length romp over five furlongs on June 12. In his second start, he was second beaten 2 ¼ lengths but finished 5 ½ lengths clear of the third place-finisher, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier’s Acapulco, who won the Queen Mary (GII) overseas at Royal Ascot earlier this week.
“Some of the horses that he has been up against have come back and run some big races,” Calhoun said via telephone. “The horse that he ran third to in his first race [Cocked and Loaded] came back and won the (Tremont) stakes at Belmont so that gives him some legitimacy. He should be very competitive in this race.
“I think he’ll be able to stretch out fine. The three-quarters shouldn’t hurt him at all. His running style is very versatile.”
Also nominated to the Bashford Manor out of the Calhoun barn is Jet Over, a Texas-bred son of Jet Phone who broke his maiden on his first attempt at Churchill on May 23. Calhoun plans on sending the horse back to his native Texas to run in the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park on July 11.
Other probables for the Bashford Manor include Dothat Dance, Justanothermorgan and Paynes Prairie, who looks to give trainer Steve Asmussen his fifth Bashford Manor victory which would tie Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’s record in this race. Asmussen has found previous success in this race with Lunarpal (2004), Kodiak Kowboy (2007), Kantharos (2010) and Cinco Charlie (2014).
Vaqueros and Friends Racing LLC’s Bella Vaquera is nominated to the $100,000 Debutante (Listed), which Calhoun has won the past two editions with Fiftyshadesofgold and Promise Me Silver, respectively. The 2-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate is the lone Calhoun-trainee nominated to the race, however Calhoun confirmed that she will not run in the Debutante and will be given a 30-day rest.
The probables for the Debutante include Cosmic Evolution, Langstar’s Charmer, Sheza Fine Justice and Tia Chuy.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy is on the fence for next Saturday’s $200,000 Firecracker (GII), according to Kenny McPeek’s assistant Matt Shirer, who stated that the son of Scat Daddy would breeze once more before deciding on whether or not he would start. Frac Daddy worked five furlongs in 1:00 Friday with Corey Lanerie up. The $150,000 Dominion Day (GIII) at Woodbine on July 1 also is an option.
Probables for the Firecracker include Hammers Terror, Lurego, R Great Adventure, and Skyring.
HARTMAN ENJOYS FIRST MEET AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – It has been an excellent meet for trainer Chris Hartman, who spent his first Spring Meet with a full string of horses at Churchill Downs. With only five days left, Hartman entered Saturday tied for fourth in the trainer standings with 11 victories. Mike Maker leads all trainers with 19 victories on the meet.
“I think we’ve exceeded our expectations for this meet,” Hartman said. “Hopefully we’ll get some more before the meet is over.”
Prior to the season, Hartman was unsure of how well his horses would match up against some of the others.
“The big question mark was how well that they would fit and it looks like they fit in pretty well,” Hartman said. “They fit right in. We found spots and upgraded livestock which is all you can really do. The big question mark was whether or not we’d be competitive in the allowance races; we won our share of those, too. I was just hoping to fit in and that the horses would fit in good here.”
Hartman’s Spring Meet is highlighted by a victory in the $100,000 Aristides (GIII) with Alsvid, as well as Paganol’s triumph on the Kentucky Derby undercard in an allowance race. Hartman has two horses entered on Saturday, SC Redslegacy and American Road in the sixth and seventh races, respectively.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Gunpowder Farm’s Divisidero breezed three furlongs in :36.80 on Saturday morning for trainer William “Buff” Bradley in preparation for the $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational (GI) on July 4. … Black Hawk Stable’s Alsvid breezed a half-mile in :48.20 for trainer Chris Hartman in preparation for the $250,000 Smile Sprint (GII) at Gulfstream Park on July 5. … Sunday at Churchill Downs doubles as Father’s Day and Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger with more than 20 fun activities for children under 12. Kids’ activities include a Mighty Titans obstacle course, Father’s Day crafts, strawberry carnival ride, stick horse races in the historic Churchill Downs Paddock, petting zoo, miniature pony rides, inflatable bounce house, corn hole, face painting, sidewalk chalk art, Kona Ice trucks, video game truck, bubble station, interactive sports games, miniature horse meet and greet, a strolling magician, Carmichael’s Kids Story Time and more.