One can reasonably expect the name of Kenny McPeek, a trainer who always has some very promising juveniles in his barn, to be tossed about frequently during the Fall Meet at Churchill Downs, a racing session well-known for being an early proving ground for 2-year-olds.

The 52-year-old Lexington native will take aim at both of the 1 1/16-mile major events on Saturday’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” program when he saddles Grayson Farm’s I’m A Chatterbox and Five D ThoroughbredsKathballu in the $200,000-added Golden Rod Stakes (Grade II) for fillies, and Magic City Thoroughbred PartnersJumpin Frac Flash in the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII).

McPeek has a good history in both races, having won the 2010 Golden Rod with Kathmanblu, a full sister to Kathballu, and he took the 2001 Kentucky Jockey Club with Repent.

He just missed winning another Golden Rod in 2001 with Take Charge Lady, one of the best horses he has trained. Take Charge Lady finished second to Belterra in the Golden Rod and returned the next year to be runner-up to Farda Amiga in the Kentucky Oaks.   She also won Keeneland’s Spinster (GI) twice in a career during which she won 11 of 22 races, participated in three Breeders’ Cup events and earned $2,480,377.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia favors Kathballu a solid chance to emulate her sister. The daughter of Bluegrass Cat is the 6-1 third choice in a field of 12 entered on Wednesday to compete in the Golden Rod.

Kathballu finished sixth in her racing debut at Keeneland on Oct. 17, but returned at Churchill Downs with a head-turning maiden victory at the Golden Rod distance of 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 7.

I’m a Chatterbox is a 20-1 risk in Battaglia’s morning line following a third-place finish behind Golden Rod rival Simply Confection in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on Nov. 9. But McPeek thinks that effort, in which the daughter of Munnings set the pace until just over a furlong remained, could be better than it might appear at first glance.

She drew the one-hole in her last race and I think she was kind of compromised there,” McPeek said. “She had to kind of commit (to the lead), or else. I’m hoping she can get an outside trip (in the Golden Rod) and she can stalk a bit better. She worked really well this past week in preparation for it, so I think she’s in with a big chance.”

Jumpin Frac Flash drew the outside gate in a field of 12 for the Kentucky Jockey Club, and is rated a 15-1 shot following a five-length romp in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 13. The win followed losses in a pair of starts at Keeneland, but he displayed significant improvement in a 1 1/16-mile outing in his second start an appeared to relish the two-turn distance.

The son Any Given Saturday is owned by Magic City Thoroughbreds, who also own Frac Daddy, who was the runner-up to Uncaptured in the 2012 Kentucky Jockey Club.

“His last race was real impressive and I think he wants two turns instead of the flat mile,” McPeek said. “He has worked well, too.”

Like all horses stabled at Churchill Downs, Kathballu, I’m a Chatterbox and Jumpin Frac Flash missed training time last week when an early winter blast resulted in a frozen track that resulted in the cancellation of two racing days and three training sessions before racing and training resumed on Friday. But that is not a major concern for McPeek heading into Saturday’s race.

“We got some really nice works in on Sunday,” he said. “We were able to gallop Saturday and work Sunday and none of them seems the worse for wear. Everybody else had to deal with it, too.”

HOWARD HOPES EAGLE WILL FLY IN SATURDAY’S KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB

 It takes very few fingers to count the number of times friends of Churchill Downs-based trainer Neil Howard have seen him truly and outwardly excited.

For a guy who has the exploits of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft and a classic winner in 1990 Preakness victor Summer Squall on his résumé, Howard’s cautious manner belies his accomplishments. He went out on his own as a trainer in 1979, but his longtime nickname – “Nervous Neil” – still sticks.

So don’t expect a barrage of superlatives should you talk with Howard about the promise of William S. Farish’s homebred Eagle, a son of Candy Ride-ARG who has done enough in three races to merit a run in Saturday’s $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at 1 1/16-miles. The step into a stakes race is a big one, but Howard is looking forward to seeing what Eagle will do following a pair of wins in three career outings at Ellis Park, Churchill Downs and Keeneland.

The latter has been the biggest eye-catcher, so far. In his debut at two turns, Eagle won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at the Lexington track by 1 ¾ lengths. His races have been well spaced and include a victory in his six-furlong debut on July 5 at Ellis and a runner-up finish at Churchill Downs’ one-turn mile in a Sept. 26 allowance race prior to his Keeneland win.

“He’s a lovely colt, and so far he’s been doing real well,” Howard said. “He had a little bit of growing up to do, but he made tremendous strides and I’ve been very pleased with him.”

Eagle is out of Sea Gull, a daughter of Mineshaft who is part of the talented broodmare band at Farish’s Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky. The relationship between Howard and Lane’s End has been a long and successful one, with Mineshaft being the most successful result of an enduring partnership.

“I’m very fortunate that the majority of my work is under the auspices of Lane’s End,” Howard said. “The people at the farm that raised the colt always felt he had that something about him that maybe set him apart from the rest of the group. It’s never bad when you get one like that.

"He's trained nicely right from the start, but he was a little bit ‘too much on his bicycle’ early on. But he’s settled down and he’s gotten better and better with everything that he does from each start.”

Howard will not have to wait long to see if Eagle continues that progression following his victory at Keeneland.

“I thought that was a turning point race,” Howard said. “The two turns suited him beautifully. He’s by Candy Ride out of a Mineshaft mare, so you would think that would be something you would be looking for.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. has been aboard Eagle in each of his races and will return to the saddle again in the Kentucky Jockey Club.  Howard’s colt will break from post two in the full field of 12 juveniles and oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed Eagle as a 12-1 risk in his morning line odds.

GATES 10 A.M., FIRST RACE 11:30 A.M. ON THANKSGIVING DAY AT THE DOWNS

Thursday’s special 12-race Thanksgiving Day card at Churchill Downs will begin early at 11:30 a.m. ET, and admission gates will open at 10 a.m.

Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition since 1969 where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number-served anywhere in the region.

The 12-race holiday program is topped by the 99th running of the $200,000-added Falls City Handicap, a Grade II event for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles headlined by Grade I winner and Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up Don’t Tell Sophia.

The Falls City goes as Race 11 at 4:22 p.m. and the final race of the day is set for 4:50 p.m.

‘BLACK FRIDAY’ TICKETS AVAILABLE 

There are still some interior dining options left for “Black Friday” at Churchill Downs, featuring the 140th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I). Tickets to the Skye Terrace are $34.50, which includes the Chef’s Table buffet. Also, tickets to the Matt Winn Dining Room are $15, which includes a reserved seat in the dining room plus an outdoor reserved third-floor box. Guests have the option for a buffet or to order a la carte, but a $15 minimum purchase is required.

Millionaires Row 4 with a buffet ($34.50) and the Matt Winn Dining Room have availability for Stars of Tomorrow II on Saturday, Nov. 29 and closing day on Sunday, Nov. 30. 

 

STARS OF TOMORROW PRODUCES

 

Saturday’s 10th annual Stars of Tomorrow II program is entirely devoted to hopeful 2-year-old stars that have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks.

Inaugurated in 2005, Churchill Downs’ Stars of Tomorrow programs have helped launched the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including 34 Grade I winners and 20 millionaires led by 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can; and 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge.

LOUISVILLE/KENTUCKY RIVALRY FEATURED AT PIGSKINS & PONIES

Area sports fans that don’t have a ticket to Saturday’s annual showdown between the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky can watch and listen to the game at Churchill Downs while taking in the annual “Stars of Tomorrow II” racing program.

The noon EST game will be shown on the Plaza video board, select TV monitors around Churchill Downs and between races on the Big Board.

Also, attendees of the game at nearby Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium are invited to Churchill Downs after the game. They’ll be admitted free of charge with a ticket stub from the game.

Churchill Downs has showcased college football games during the races most Saturdays during the Fall Meet. Pigskins and Ponies also features all-day drink specials – $2 Bud/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois and $1 Pepsi products and bottled water – in the Lower Club near the paddock, and free admission to college students with a current student I.D.

TRAFFIC ALERT ON SATURDAY

With kickoff for Saturday’s UofL/UK football game at nearby Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium scheduled at noon ET, Churchill Downs patrons are advised to enter the track from Interstate 264 (Watterson Expressway) and Taylor Blvd.

Those who exit I-264 can travel north on Taylor Blvd. and turn right on either Longfield Ave. or right on Central Ave. to get to Churchill Downs with minimal traffic congestion.

UK GRAD FLANERY GIVES THUMBS UP TO LIGHTING TWIN SPIRES RED THIS WEEK 

Churchill Downs will show support for its neighbors, the University of Louisville this week, by lighting its historic Twin Spires with a glow of red in advance of Saturday’s football game against state rivals, the University of Kentucky.

Amazingly, the idea came from Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery, a Bellarmine College grad who holds a juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

“Hey, it’s a home game,” Flanery said. “My Big Blue Nation brethren might try to kick me out of the alumni association but UofL has always been a great neighbor to Churchill Downs. But the love only goes so far; I’ll be sporting my Wildcat blue at the track on game day!”

SUNDAY IS ‘FAN APPRECIATION DAY’ WITH FREE ADMISSION & CALENDAR, $1 BEER

As the racing year at Churchill Downs Racetrack winds to a close on Sunday, the historic racetrack will offer a sincere “Thank You” to its guests with a multi-faceted “Fan Appreciation Day”:

  • Free general admission
  • Free 2015 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar that features classic Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby imagery to the first 5,000 fans through admission gates courtesy of Humana
  • $1 domestic draft beer (16 oz.)
  • $1 Pepsi product fountain drinks (22 oz.)
  • $1 bottled water
  • $1 hot dogs

Also, fans have an opportunity to back a strong opinion or purchase a great holiday stocking stuffer by participating in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager that closes Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

Additionally, Churchill Downs will salute its Fall Meet Champion Jockey, Trainer and Owner between races.

Post time for Sunday’s closing day card is 12:40 p.m. ET and admission gates will open at 11:30 a.m.

SUNDAY’S WHO’S THE CHAMP? WINNER OFF TO HORSE PLAYER WORLD SERIES

The winner of Sunday’s “Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge” will be awarded with a fully-paid spot in the Horse Player World Series at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on March 25-28.

Last week, Dewey Petty of Louisville won the first prize besting a field of 70 handicappers. On Nov. 16, Craig Meuter of Louisville beat 66 others to snag the top prize.

The “Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge” requires entrants to place mythical $2 Win/Place wagers on Races 3-8 at Churchill Downs. The contestant with the highest bankroll at event’s end is crowned the winner.

The weekly grand prize includes a four-night hotel stay and $250 travel voucher. Second place gets a $500 betting voucher and the third place-finisher receives a $250 betting voucher.

Registration for Sunday’s finale is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Churchill Downs Lounge. It costs $35 to enter ($30 for TSC Elite members) and entrants receive an official program and meal voucher.

CONSTRUCTION ON WINNER’S CIRCLE SUITES AND COURTYARD BEGINS MONDAY 

Preliminary construction on Churchill Downs’ new Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard will commence after training hours on Monday.

The $4.2 million capital improvement project includes the construction of 20 private, open-air, all-inclusive Winner’s Circle Suites in a premium location under the Twin Spires between the sixteenth pole and finish line; a remodeled Trackside Winner’s Circle; and the creation of a new Courtyard that will accommodate temporary premium seating during Derby Week while providing a relaxed park-like setting for everyday racing fans.

The project, which encompasses 16,000 square feet, involves converting what are now box seats in Section 118 and 119 Clubhouse on the south side of the paddock runway, and bleacher seats in Section 119 Grandstand and one-third of Section 120 Grandstand on the paddock runway’s north side.

The project will be completed before the start of the 2015 Spring Meet on Saturday, April 25.

CLOSING WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS

Thursday, Nov. 27 (Day 23 of 26) – Thanksgiving Day

  • 12 races from 11:30 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. (Gates 11:30 a.m.)
  • Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition since 1969 where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region
  • Feature (Race 11 at 4:22 p.m.): 99th running of $200,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII), f&m, 1 1/8 M 

Friday, Nov. 28 (Day 24 of 26) – Clark Handicap Day

  • 12 races from 12:40-6:03 p.m. (Gates 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature: 140th running of $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), 3&up, 1 1/8 M
  • Clark Handicap, a “Black Friday” tradition dating back to 1978, annually lures some of the top older horses in North America and is the centerpiece of four stakes events cumulatively worth $1.1 million that will be contested over the Thanksgiving/closing weekend
  • Special Wager: Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 (opens Friday, Nov. 28 at 12 p.m. ET and closes Sunday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Nov. 29 (Day 25 of 26) – Stars of Tomorrow II

  • 12 races from 12:40-6:03 p.m. (Gates 11:30 a.m.)
  • 10th annual Stars of Tomorrow II program which is entirely devoted to hopeful 2-year-old stars that have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks
  • Stars of Tomorrow programs, inaugurated in 2005, have helped launched the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including 34 Grade I winners and 20 millionaires led by 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can; and 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge
  • Co-Feature: 88th running of $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), 2yo, 1 1/16 M, RTKD Points: 10-4-2-1
  • Co-Feature: 71st running of $200,000-added Golden Rod (GII), 2yo f, 1 1/16 M, RTKO Points: 10-4-2-1
  • Pigskins and Ponies featuring college football games on Plaza video board (University of Kentucky at University of Louisville at noon); drink specials ($2 Bud/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois and $1 Pepsi products and bottled water); tailgate-style food from Plaza Grill; and free admission to college students with current student I.D.
  • Come to the races after the UofL/UK football game. Free general admission with ticket stub.

Sunday, Nov. 30 (Day 26 of 26) – Closing/Fan Appreciation Day

  • 11 (possibly 12) races from 12:40-5:38 p.m. (Gates 11:30 a.m.)
  • Feature: TBA
  • Fan Appreciation Day
  • Free general admission
  • Free 2015 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar that features classic Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby imagery to the first 5,000 fans through admission gates courtesy of Humana
  • $1 domestic draft beer (16 oz.)
  • $1 Pepsi product fountain drinks (22 oz.)
  • $1 bottled water
  • $1 hot dogs
  • Salute Fall Meet Champion Jockey, Trainer and Owner between races
  • Special Wager: Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 (opens Friday, Nov. 28 at 12 p.m. ET and closes Sunday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. ET)
  • Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge in the ITW area on the second floor of the Grandstand. $35 to enter ($30 for TSC Elite members) and includes official program and meal voucher. Registration from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Churchill Downs Lounge. $2 Win/Place mythical wagers on Races 3-8. First prize: Fully-paid spot in the Horse Player World Series at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on March 25-28, including a four-night hotel stay and $250 travel voucher. Second prize: $500 betting voucher. Third prize: $250 betting voucher.

LAST WEEK’S LEADERS

In an abbreviated three-day week (Nov. 21-23) at Churchill Downs, Brian Hernandez Jr. (4-for-15) led all jockeys in wins, and was followed by Calvin Borel (3-for-14) and Jon Court (3-for-15).

Ian Wilkes (3-for-11) led all trainers in wins, followed by Steve Asmussen (2-for-5), Wayne Catalano (2-for-8) and Angel Montano Sr. (2-for-6). 

Maggi Moss (2-for-7) and Gary and Mary West (2-for-5) led all owners with a pair of trips to the winner’s circle.

Follow this link to a PDF copy of Churchill Downs' Race Day Notes for Wedneday, Nov. 26 - including additional information and statistical data.

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