Trainer Dale Romans will saddle the morning line favorite and co-second choice in Saturday’s $100,000-added River City Handicap (Grade III) at Churchill Downs with Silver Max (7-5) and Guys Reward (5-1).
Owned by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells, Silver Max is the earner of $1,953,598 from 12 wins in 26 starts, but has only made three starts in 2014. After taking the first part of the year off, the 5-year-old son of Badge of Silver appeared as if he hadn’t missed a beat when he won the June 28 Firecracker (GII) by 1 ½ lengths in his first start back.
Since then, he finished eighth in the Fourstardave (GII) at Saratoga and fourth in the Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland.
With all three of his races this year being at the distance of a mile, Romans thinks the pace scenario could work in his favor going 1 1/8 miles for the first time in 2014.
“It’s a different pace scenario going a mile-and-an-eighth and maybe it will be better for him,” Romans said. “He should be able to open up on the field and hopefully he can keep on going.”
Romans also noted that it always helps Silver Max’s chances when he doesn’t have to face two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
“It’s a major class drop when you go from facing the two-time horse of the year to a race like this,” Romans said. “These are good horses but not near Wise Dan’s level.”
As for Guys Reward, a 7-year-old earner of $789,619, Romans said the 1 1/8-mile distance likely will work in his favor as well.
“If you look at his past record you’ll see that he likes a mile-and-an-eighth a little better than a mile,” Romans said.
Owned by Michael Bruder, Guys Reward has not made a start since finishing fifth in the More Than Ready at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 13.
“There wasn’t really a great race to run him in,” Romans said. “He’s an old man and a little rest and spacing does him some good.”
Guys Reward will break from post position five with jockey Corey Lanerie up and Silver Max in post six with Robby Albarado in the saddle. The River City will go as the ninth of 10 races on Saturday’s card with an approximate post time of 4:37 p.m. ET.
HERNANDEZ GETS MILESTONE 300TH CHURCHILL DOWNS VICTORY
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who celebrated his 29th birthday Monday, celebrated his milestone 300th Churchill Downs victory after riding King Thief to a win in Thursday’s second race.
“It’s definitely not something I keep up with on a regular basis,” Hernandez said. “But this is pretty much home base for us now, so to get an accomplishment like that, it’s pretty special. Anytime you get 300 wins at Churchill Downs it’s pretty exciting.”
A native of Lafayette, La., Hernandez began riding in 2003 and got his first career victory on Hughes at Delta Downs. His first Churchill Downs victory came on April 27, 2004 aboard Cherokee Prospect for trainer Pat Byrne.
“I do remember the first one,” Hernandez said. “Actually I had the bug and I came here Derby week. I took off of high school and on the Tuesday of Derby week Pat Byrne put me on one and he won and drew off, it was a great feeling.”
Hernandez relocated to his tack to Kentucky later that May.
The biggest win of Hernandez’s career came in 2012 when he guided Fort Larned to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) for trainer Ian Wilkes.
2-YEAR-OLD WAGING WAR STRETCHES OUT TO 1 1/16 MILES SATURDAY
Saturday’s 10-race card at Churchill Downs includes a 1 1/16-mile first level allowance/optional claiming race for promising 2-year-olds, and trainer Al Stall Jr. remains hopeful that 5-2 morning line favorite Waging War can handle a distance of ground.
Waging War enters the race off a three-length maiden victory at Keeneland going 6 ½ furlongs. While Stall was optimistic about the young son of War Front, he said he tries not to get too excited this early in a horse’s career.
“He’s been doing great,” Stall said. “This race will be a good measuring stick for him. If he can get the distance, then I’m sure we’ll at least nominate him to the (Kentucky) Jockey Club (on Saturday, Nov. 29), but you never really know with these young horses until they actually get out there and run.”
Saturday’s test will be the fourth start for Waging War and the first at a route distance. He finished fifth and sixth in his first two maiden attempts, both six-furlong dirt races in August at Saratoga.
“I can’t remember ever entering a horse in the Jockey Club,” Stall said. “Of course it would be exciting, but you have to focus on where he is right now. If he wins, then we’ll see; it all depends on how he progresses and how the race comes up.”
aging War drew post six in the seven-horse field and will have jockey Jesus Castanon in the saddle. Post time for Saturday’s fourth race is 2:06 p.m. ET.
Stall reports that Top Decile, who was second beaten a half-length by Take Charge Brandi in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), would not race again in 2014, eliminating her from consideration for the Nov. 29 Golden Rod (GII), a race Stall won last year with Vexed.
Stall also said that multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Departing would be nominated for the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), but they would wait and see how things played out in the coming weeks before making a decision to run.
“He came out of his last race fine,” Stall said. “We’ve been close these last couple of times now and felt we had to nominate him. We’ll see how things play out in the next couple weeks. But he’s doing great and don’t be surprised if you see him back for the Clark.”
GENTLEMAN’S KITTEN, MAKER SHOOTING FOR RIVER CITY UPSET
Coming off a runner-up effort in the Remington Green in his last start, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Gentleman’s Kitten is one of 10 horses trying to knock off 7-5 favorite Silver Max in Saturday’s $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII).
Prior to the Remington Green effort, the 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy was a wire-to-wire winner of the Cliff Guilliams Handicap on Sept. 1 at Ellis Park, which was his second victory of 2014.
Trained by Mike Maker, Gentleman’s Kitten has won five of 14 starts, and most of his victories have come from either being on the lead for the majority of the race, or stalking very closely throughout.
“He’s like any other horse; if he gets the lead uncontested that definitely works in his favor,” Maker said. “We’ll see how he does. There’s obviously some more speed in there but he’ll run his race no matter where he starts out.”
Gentleman’s Kitten has raced under the Twin Spires twice in his career, finishing third in the 2013 Jefferson Cup (GIII) and winning an allowance race as a 3-year-old, but Maker said he doesn’t take his track with him.
“He’s run a couple of solid races at Churchill Downs and at other tracks,” Maker said. “He’s not one that needs to take his track with him.”
Gentleman’s Kitten was given morning-line odds of 8-1, making him the co-fourth choice. He will break from post position two with jockey Rafael Hernandez in the saddle.
“He’s been training well,” Maker said. “This won’t be an easy race for anyone, but he’s a tough horse and we’ll see what happens. We’re looking forward to it.”
The River City will go as the ninth of 10 races on Churchill’s Saturday card with an approximate post time of 4:37 p.m. ET.
Maker also scored a victory in Wednesday’s featured ninth race when Kitten’s Queen captured the allowance optional claiming event going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
The $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (GIII) also is run at the 1 1/8-mile distance on the turf, and Maker did not rule out Kitten’s Queen for the Cardinal.
“She came out of the race fine,” Maker said. “We nominated her to the Cardinal, so we’ll see how that race comes up.”
The Cardinal is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 22, which would mean Kitten’s Queen would have to run back in 17 days, but she was successful turning around that quickly earlier this year when second in an allowance event at Saratoga on July 20 and returning to win another allowance contest on Aug. 6.
NOMINATION REMINDER – On the horizon, horsemen have until Wednesday, Nov. 12 to nominate for the four lucrative stakes scheduled for closing weekend (Nov. 27-30): the Grade II, $200,000-added Falls City Handicap (fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles); Grade I, $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles); Grade II, $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles); and Grade II, $200,000-added Golden Rod (2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles).
MILESTONE WATCH – Robby Albarado needs two victories to become the third jockey in history to reach the 1,000-win milestone at Churchill Downs. He was winless through the first five races Thursday, but still had mounts aboard Above the Bar (Race 6), Bridaria (Race 8) and Perfect Title (Race 9). Trainer Bret Calhoun is one win away from his 100th Churchill Downs victory and will have a chance to achieve that milestone also with Bridaria in Race 8.
Churchill Downs Race Day Notes
Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014
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EVENTS THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Pigskins and Ponies returns in the Plaza for the final four Saturdays of the Fall Meet with college football games on the Plaza video board, drink specials ($2 Bud/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois and $1 Pepsi products and bottled water) and tailgate-style food from the Plaza Grill. Churchill Downs will offer free admission to college students every Saturday with a current student I.D. … Next Sunday is Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger, which was a hit for families during the Spring and September meets with plenty of games and activities for children while the adults enjoy an exciting day of horse racing.
ON THE WORKTAB – Thursday’s worktab featured a five-furlong breeze from Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) winner Bradester in 1:02.80. Also on the worktab were nominees for the Nov. 15 Commonwealth Turf: Sopresa d’Oro (4F in :51.60) and Highball (5F in 1:02.40) and nominees for the Nov. 15 Mrs. Revere (GII): Black Elegance-IRE (5F in 1:03.60) and Cash for Fever (5F in 1:03.60).
DOWN THE STRETCH – Jockey Corey Lanerie won three races Wednesday at Churchill Downs: Cause for Victory ($2.80) in Race 4, Queen of Scotio ($9.20) in Race 7 and Kitten’s Queen ($3.80) in Race 9. The five-time leading rider at Churchill Downs widened his lead by a count of 14-8 over Shaun Bridgmohan in the local jockey standings… Lanerie’s last win on Cause for Victory was the sixth win of the meet for trainer Dale Romans, who is in sole possession of first in the trainer’s standings. Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey moved into a tie with owners Gary and Mary West at the top of the Fall Meet owner’s standings Wednesday with three. The Ramsey’s got their milestone 400th Churchill Downs victory with Sandbar ($4) in Race 2 and also campaigned Kitten’s Queen in the ninth.