After an impressive 1 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s $135,500 Homecoming Classic, Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott was not ready to rule out the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) on Nov. 1 as the next start for Jake Ballis and Rashard Lewis’ Cigar Street.
“We certainly had the Breeders’ Cup Classic on our mind,” Mott said. “But Saturday wasn’t a ‘Win and You’re In’ race. So we’ll sit down and talk to the connections and see what our next move will be but I wouldn’t rule the Classic out at this point.”
Mott seemed satisfied with Cigar Street’s performance in a phone call from New York on Sunday morning.
“He ran a great race,” Mott said. “That was his second start back and we obviously didn’t think he was ready to go to the Jockey Club Gold Cup, so we really weren’t sure what he would do going into Saturday. But we were impressed with his performance and I think he’s moving forward like we had hoped.”
Mott’s longtime assistant at Churchill Downs, Kenny McCarthy, confirmed the 5-year-old son of Street Sense exited the Homecoming Classic in good form.
“He came out great,” McCarthy said. “We couldn’t be happier with yesterday’s performance. He walked the shedrow this morning and he’s due to ship back to New York on Wednesday, Oct. 1.”
Cigar Street’s dam, Arcadiana, is a half-sister to the legendary Cigar, a member of Racing’s Hall of Fame who won the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic also for Mott.
DEPARTING EXITS IN GOOD ORDER FOR STALL, FAYETTE MAY BE NEXT
After finishing 1 ¾ lengths behind Cigar Street in Saturday’s Homecoming Classic, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing reportedly exited his runner-up performance in good order, according to his conditioner Al Stall Jr.
“He came out fine,” Stall said. “You’re never happy to lose but at least he tried. It was a lot better effort than his last race in the Whitney.”
Stall pointed out the Oct. 25 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland as a possible next start for the 4-year-old son of War Front.
“That’s the logical next spot,” Stall said. “Nothing is set in stone at this point but the Fayette makes the most sense since its right down the road. We’ll see how he does in the next couple of weeks before we decide. If he needs more time we might wait for the Clark.”
The Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) will be run on its traditional day-after-Thanksgiving spot on Friday, Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
SANTANA SEEKS FIRST CHURCHILL RIDING TITLE, BUT COULD COME DOWN TO THE FINAL RACE
Seeking his first riding title at Churchill Downs, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. enters closing day of the 12-date September Meet clinging to a one-win lead on Corey Lanerie by a count of 13-12 in the race for leading rider.
“I don’t really worry about the standings too much,” Santana said. “I just worry about keeping my trainers happy and pretty much take it one race at a time.”
Santana, who did not win on any of his four mounts Saturday, missed a golden opportunity to widen his win-count on Lanerie, who was riding at Belmont Park in New York. Lanerie and Santana went head-to-head in Races 3 and 4 on Sunday but neither came away with a victory. They also will face each other in Races 7, 9 and 10 Sunday. Additionally, Lanerie did not win on his first mount Sunday or in Race 6, leaving him with an additional mount in Races 8.
Santana attributed his success this meet to having a wider array of trainers reach out to him, resulting in more mounts.
“I’ve had more trainers help me out and give me a shot this year,” Santana said. “Mr. (Steve) Asmussen has always helped me a lot, but now I have different people reaching out to me. It’s different compared to last year, since last year was my first year on the scene here.”
To no surprise, Santana acknowledged his Iroquois (GIII) win on Lucky Player to be the most coveted victory of the meet, followed by Aireofdistinction’s score in the $111,500 Open Mind.
“Lucky Player was the most memorable,” Santana said. “It was a graded stakes and a ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Breeders’ Cup, so that was definitely the best one this meet. I also won the Open Mind on Aireofdistinction so that was good too.”
While Santana admitted to paying little attention to the standings, he thinks he always has a shot.
“I think all of my horses have a shot,” Santana said. “If they’re in the race, then we have a shot, so you never know.”
With 12 wins on the meet, Brian Hernandez Jr. will not be in the hunt for leading rider honors, as he is riding at Remington Park in Oklahoma on Sunday.
Trailing Lanerie and Hernandez in fourth is Shaun Bridgmohan with nine wins, but he also will not be in the hunt as three of his six mounts Sunday were scratched.
ASMUSSEN, CATALANO ENTER SUNDAY TIED FOR LEADING TRAINER
Trainers Steve Asmussen and Wayne Catalano entered Sunday’s Churchill Downs closing day card with seven wins each seeking leading trainer honors for the meet. Catalano will saddle a pair of horses in Giulietta in the sixth race and Coin Flip in the eighth, while Asmussen only has one mount Sunday in Sky Drama, entered in Race 7.
Asmussen has claimed the leading trainer title at Churchill Downs a record 14 times, including the 2014 Spring Meeting. In addition to Asmussen’s seven winners, he’s saddled three seconds and two thirds and his starters have earned $287,027 this meet.
Catalano is seeking his first training title under the Twin Spires, having captured six seconds and five thirds in addition to his seven victories, with his runners banking $188,682 in earnings. His best finish in the trainer standings was a tie for fourth-place at the 2012 Fall Meet, where he won seven races.
Dale Romans, who took over sole possession of second with six wins after Late Night Artist won the fourth Sunday, could force a three-way tie if Alpha Dude can beat Sky Drama in the seventh and pending that Catalano does not to win with either of his two. Romans is seeking a share of his 12th leading trainer title at Churchill Downs.
RAMSEYS HOLD SLIGHT ADVANTAGE IN RACE FOR LEADING OWNER
Ken and Sarah Ramsey hold a one-race advantage over Gary and Mary West in the race for the meet’s leading owner entering Sunday’s closing day at Churchill Downs ahead by a 7-6 count.
The Ramseys have been leading owners at Churchill Downs a record 21 times, including last September’s inaugural meet which they won by capturing six victories. The Ramseys have four starters entered Sunday with coupled entry Scrumpdilicious and Big Blue Talent in the eighth race, Lucky Kitten in the ninth and Rico Rolando in the 10th and final.
The Wests will face off against the Ramsey’s in Race 8 with Coin Flip, their only Sunday runner after their coupled entry of Highball and Life’s Reward were scratched from the ninth. The Wests took a share of leading owner honors in 2012 when they finished in a four-way tie from four victories. The Wests would need Coin Flip to win and hope the Ramseys do not win either of the last two races for a share at the title.