Canada’s legendary Sam-Son Farm has enjoyed some wonderful moments beneath Churchill Downs’ famed Twin Spires, but it has been some time since its distinctive red silks with gold sleeves have visited the winner’s circle after a major race here.
Trainer Malcolm Pierce hopes that will change Saturday night when he brings a pair of Sam-Son homebreds to the Louisville track to compete in the stakes races for 3-year-olds on turf that are the main events on the Fall Meet’s only “Downs After Dark” program of racing under the Churchill Downs lights.
The first to see action will be Golden Sabre, a late-developing son of Medaglia d’Oro who will break against the hedge when he faces a dozen rivals in the 10th running of the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (Grade III). The race for open company at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course is scheduled as the seventh of 10 races on Saturday evening.
Two races later Pierce will saddle Dance Again when the homebred daughter of Awesome Again faces 13 3-year-old fillies in the 23rd running of the $175,000-added Mrs. Revere (GII).
The Woodbine-based Pierce is making a stop at Churchill Downs with the stakes duo as the season at the Toronto track wraps up and his stable begins its journey south for a winter at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds.
He hopes to wrap up the racing year for both on a high note in those races, which are among the year’s last opportunities for 3-year-old turf horses to face members of their age group in graded stakes competition.
Both horses are coming into their debuts at Churchill Downs off strong runs at Woodbine. Golden Sabre got up to nip Commonwealth Turf rival River Seven by a neck in a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance on Sept. 29. Dance Again comes into the Mrs. Revere off a last-to-first victory in Woodbine’s $150,000-added Carotene at 1 1/8 miles turf on Oct. 13. It was the second win in nine starts for Dance Again and her first triumph in a stakes event.
“Both of them area really training well,” Pierce said. “I think that Golden Sabre is quite a nice colt. He should be a stakes winner already, but he got disqualified in the Charlie Barley back in the summertime. But he’s quite a nice horse.
"Dance Again is coming out of a stakes win. Obviously I think both of them are doing good and can make a good showing for themselves down there.”
Sam-Son’s biggest victory at Churchill Downs was a triumph by Canadian Horse of the Year Dance Smartly in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) under Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in 1991.
Wilderness Song, who finished seventh as part of a betting entry with her stablemate, remained at Churchill Downs to run second to Fit for a Queen in the Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup, a Grade III race at a mile that is now the Chilukki (GII). The Wild Again filly returned the following autumn to win the race, which by then was a Grade II event, by 5 ½ lengths as the favorite.
She returned for one more shot at the race in 1993, but ran fourth in a stellar group that included the victorious Miss Indy Anna, the favored front-runner ridden by Day, and runner-up One Dreamer, who would return to Churchill Downs a year later to score a 45-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Sam-Son has a total of five stakes wins at Churchill Downs, with the most recent being a win by Always a Classic in the 1997 Early Times Turf Classic (GI) (now the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic). Sam-Son also won the 1993 American Turf with Desert Wave and that year’s Early Times Mint Julep with Classic Reign.
Golden Sabre appears to have a splendid opportunity to collect Sam-Son’s first Churchill Downs stakes victory in more than 16 years. Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed the Sam-Son colt as the 5-1 co-second choice with Canadian rival River Seven. Alto Racing LLC’s Winning Cause, winner of the Coolmore Lexington (GIII) on synthetic Polytrack for trainer Todd Pletcher, is the lukewarm 4-1 morning line choice.
A late June 7 foal, Golden Sabre got a belated start on his racing career with a fourth-place finish over synthetic Polytrack in a Woodbine maiden race on April 26. He won easily on turf at next asking on June 13, then finished first less than a month later in the $125,000 Charlie Barley Stakes on turf, but was disqualified to fourth for interference in the stretch.
A mishap during training hours kept him away from competition for the July 6 Charlie Barley until his win over River Seven on Sept. 20.
“He dropped the rider on the way home from the track that day and slipped on the pavement,” Pierce said. “He was all scraped-up on one side from falling on the pavement, so that took some time to get all that healed-up. I thought he was maybe going to be out for the season, but he healed up faster than I expected and made it back for that last race. I thought that was a big effort.”
The development of Mrs. Revere contender Dance Again has been more gradual. She is out of dam produced by Dancethruthedawn, a daughter of Dance Smartly who defeated males in the Queen’s Plate and won the Go for Wand (GI). She broke her maiden at Fair Grounds in her third start, but it took six more starts before she returned to the winner’s circle with a victory over stablemate Smartyfly in the Carotene, a 1 1/8-mile turf race on Oct. 13.
“She went into that race in good order,” Pierce said. “She was just training so good. She was training with horses like (Sam-Son homebred) Up With the Birds, who won the Jamaica (Grade I) at Belmont. After he won that race I was pretty confident she was going to run a big race.”
Dance Again is rated a 30-1 longshot in Battaglia’s morning line, but her pedigree holds the potential for success. Her dam, Song of the Lark, is a daughter of Wilderness Song.
Pierce will be at Churchill Downs to saddle his horses. He’ll drive down from Toronto on Friday, stop in Louisville and head on to New Orleans after the race. He hopes that his horses have more luck in their races than they had at the post draw. Golden Sabre will break along the hedge in the one post, while Dance Again drew number 12 of 14 in the Mrs. Revere.
“I would have preferred for them to both be in the middle, but you can’t pick your post position,” Pierce said. “Hopefully they’re good enough to win from any post.”
ALL SYSTEMS ‘GO’ FOR KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB BID BY ALMOST FAMOUS – Promising 2-year-old Almost Famous came out of Saturday’s six-length allowance romp at Churchill Downs in perfect shape, so trainer Pat Byrne now has the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) on Nov. 30’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” racing program as the next and final stop of his juvenile campaign.
Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s son of Unbridled’s Song won at first asking over the well-regarded Coastline in his September debut, but finished a dull fourth to that rival in their next meeting in the $60,000 Street Sense Overnight Stakes on the Oct. 27 “Stars of Tomorrow I” program for 2-year-olds that opened the Fall Meet.
Byrne quickly added blinkers to the colt’s training equipment, worked him sharply in a three-furlong move from the starting gate and entered him in last week’s 1 1/16-mile allowance test – his first race at two turns – off just two weeks rest.
“He’s fantastic,” Byrne said. “It was like a breeze. So all systems are 'go' and at this time I’m looking forward to the Jockey Club for sure.”
Corey Lanerie, a pinch-hitter for the injured three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, rode Almost Famous in the allowance victory and will be aboard for the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club.
“He’s a nice horse,” Lanerie said. “He’s made right. He’s got all the credentials to be a good horse. His disposition is good and he’s got a lot of class about him. He was in high-cruising speed (in the allowance win) and the good thing is he looked like he could have gone a little bit further.”
Given that he has run twice in 2 ½ weeks, Byrne said Almost Famous won’t need much in terms of serious work during the 2 ½ weeks leading up to the Kentucky Jockey Club.
“If I do, I’ll maybe go three-eighths with him,” Byrne said. “The horse gallops very strong on a regular basis – he just does it so effortlessly. If I work him it’ll be a little blowout a couple of days out, or something like that.”
Byrne has repeatedly accepted blame for the poor run by Almost Famous in the Street Sense, saying that he “babied” the $500,000 sales purchase between his first two races. Byrne said the colt has developed so quickly, there is no danger of a repeat of that mistake.
"I’m just putting the blinkers on him now to breeze and race,” Byrne said. “He’s a very smart horse. He’s already figured it out that he’s got to run, not to play around.”
Regardless of the result in the Kentucky Jockey Club, the race will be the colt’s final start of 2013. He hopes that Almost Famous will come out of that race as one of the horses on the short list of contenders for the 140th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 3.
“We’ll give him December off and head to (Florida’s) Palm Meadows,” he said. “We’ll look for something in February to run him in. He won’t run in January.”
Almost Famous has earned $56,479 in his 3-2-0-0 start on his racing career.
Another of the Sandfords’ talented 2-year-olds, Chas’s Legacy, has finished his work for the year. The gelded son of Bernardini won a Churchill Downs maiden race last week and Byrne had briefly considered him to be a Kentucky Jockey Club candidate, but the trainer has decided to put him away and prepare for a return in Florida after the first of the year.
CHURCHILL DOWNS GOVERNOR’S SCHOLARS CLASS OF 2013 VISITS TRACK – Thirty accomplished high school seniors from throughout the Metro Louisville area that make up the 2013 class of Churchill Downs’ Winner’s Circle Governor’s Scholars (“CDGS”) visited the home of the Kentucky Derby with family members and school officials on Thursday.
The students were honored for their participation in the Churchill Downs program, a 13-year-old corporate partnership with the overall Kentucky Governor’s Scholars program. That program, launched in 1983, places outstanding students from across the state on one of three college campuses for five weeks in the summer prior to their senior years. While on those campuses, they undergo experiences designed to enhance their role as the state’s next generation of civic and economic leaders.
The Churchill Downs Governor’s Scholars program is unique in that all students who participate in it must have overcome personal challenges or adversity to become high achievers in both their personal lives and the classroom. In its role in the public-private partnership, the track annually funds the participation of one student from each of Jefferson County’s Kentucky legislative districts.
“We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can be a part of life-changing organizations like the Governor’s Scholars Program,” said Siera Hanks, a senior at Atherton High School and a member of the 2013 CDGS class. “Participating in GSP opened up a new world of possibilities. … It has offered me the opportunity to experience things and people I never would have otherwise.”
Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery, Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Executive Director Dr. Aris Cedeno, Kentucky Sen. Morgan McGarvey, Dana Johnson, Churchill Downs Incorporated Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Affairs; and KGS board member Bill Malone were among those honoring the 2013 CDGS class.
With the addition of the 30 Churchill Downs Governor’s Scholars honored Thursday at Churchill Downs, the number of alumni of that program since its creation in 2001 rose to 399.
Information on the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars program is available online at www.kgs.org.
BARN TALK – Jockeys Corey Lanerie and Miguel Mena each won a pair of races on Wednesday’s racing card to maintain their 1-2 positions in the battle for leading rider of the 25-day Fall Meet. Lanerie, a three-time Churchill Downs riding king, leads Mena 19-13 heading into Thursday’s racing. Leandro Goncalves, who notched a single win on the Wednesday card, is next in the standings with 11 wins. … Bret Calhoun, seeking his first “leading trainer” title at Churchill Downs, continues to lead that competition with nine wins heading into Thursday’s racing. Mike Maker was in second with seven wins, and Steve Asmussen and Greg Foley were tied for third with five victories. Asmussen and Foley each won a race on Wednesday. ... Ken and Sarah Ramsey, bidding to become the first owners to win three meet titles in a single year at Churchill Downs, led Maggi Moss 8-5 in that category when Thursday’s racing began.