ARUNA’S ACTIVITY CAPS BUSY MORNING FOR MOTION – Flaxman Holdings Ltd’s Aruna, pre-entered in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (GI) with first preference in the Ladies’ Classic, arrived at Churchill Downs from Keeneland Thursday night and settled into Barn 22, which served as the spring accommodations for 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner Animal Kingdom.
Aruna, who posted her first graded stakes victory in last November’s Mrs. Revere (GII) at Churchill Downs, went to the track shortly after 9:30 Friday morning with Heather Craig in the saddle and alongside trainer Graham Motion on a pony. Winner of the Juddmonte Spinster (GI) in her most recent start that marked the first outing of her 12-race career not on turf, Aruna jogged around to the eighth pole alongside the pony and then galloped a little more than a mile and a half.
Motion initially had planned to bring Aruna to Churchill Downs on Wednesday and work today, but rain in the middle of the week altered his schedule.
“I wanted to give her a gallop day before a work day and it looks like the track will be better tomorrow,” Motion said. “She will work after the break probably around 8:45 or 9.”
Before overseeing Aruna’s morning activity, Motion was at Keeneland where the remainder of his Kentucky string is stabled. Team Valor International’s Lucky Chappy (IRE), a pre-entrant in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GII) worked a half-mile on Polytrack in :48, fifth fastest of 30 at the distance.
Motion may employ a similar tactic Saturday with State of Play, another Team Valor International pre-entrant in the Juvenile Turf and Team Valor International’s Pluck, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and a probable starter in Thursday’s Commonwealth Turf (GIII).
“They did not train on the turf here this morning and I am a little concerned the track may be soft tomorrow,” Motion said. “We’ll walk the course later today, but we may work State of Play and Pluck on Polytrack over there.”
ON FIRE BABY COMES RUNNING FOR HARTLAGE ON HEELS OF HIGH HEELS – One early morning in mid-May, trainer Gary Hartlage pointed out a 2-year-old filly coming off the track.
“Just got here a few days ago,” Hartlage said. “That’s High Heels’ little sister, On Fire Baby. You might want to watch her.”
Fans can watch the daughter of Smoke Glacken Sunday afternoon in the 43rd running of the Grade II, $150,000-added Pocahontas at a mile on the main track.
On Fire Baby, owned and bred by Anita Cauley, won her first start, taking a 5 ½-furlong sprint by four lengths at Ellis Park. In her most recent start, On Fire Baby finished fifth in the Darley Alcibiades (GI) on Polytrack at Keeneland.
“She broke from the 13 hole and everything was winning on the lead that day and (jockey) Joe (Johnson) put her in position to run her best race,” Hartlage said of the Alcibiades pace-setter. “Polytrack may not be her best surface; you never know. But that was not a bad race at all, getting beat 6 ½ lengths in a Grade I in just your second start.”
Cauley also owned and bred High Heels, who was sired by E Dubai. The daughter of Ornate compiled a career mark of 17-3-5-4 for earnings of $486,636 that included a victory in the Fantasy (GII) and four other graded-stakes placings, one which came in the Golden Rod (GII) as a 2-year-old.
“I think she is better than High Heels at this stage,” Hartlage said of On Fire Baby. “She is so smart and focuses so well. I think she will be better next year.”
MOTOR CITY RETURNS TO THE DIRT IN SUNDAY’S IROQUOIS – At the 2006 Breeders’ Cup, Street Sense began his rocket rise to stardom with a 10-length victory in the Juvenile that he parlayed into a Churchill Downs double with a triumph in the Kentucky Derby the following spring.
Trainer Ian Wilkes had a front-row seat to the colt’s activities on a daily basis sharing Barn 26 with trainer Carl Nafzger. Today, the Street Sense babies are hitting the track and Wilkes has one in Motor City, who figures to be one of the favorites in Sunday’s 30th running of the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) at a mile on the main track.
Owned and bred by Lantern Hill Farm, Motor City broke his maiden in his second start at Ellis Park and then ran third on Polytrack in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII).
“The Arlington race was the next logical spot for him,” Wilkes said of the colt’s first start on an all-weather surface. “And then on to Keeneland for the (Dixiana) Breeders’ Futurity.”
Motor City finished eighth in the Breeders’ Futurity in a field of 13.
“I was surprised he beat a horse,” Wilkes said. “He sprung a shoe coming out of the gate and wasn’t able to run at all. We were very lucky he didn’t get hurt.”
On Sunday, Motor City returns to the dirt.
“I think he is better on dirt,” Wilkes said. “He has worked very well here.”
GIANT OAK ASSIGNED HIGH WEIGHT FOR FRIDAY’S ACK ACK – The Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s multiple Grade I-winner Giant Oak has been assigned the high weight of 121 pounds by racing secretary Ben Huffman for Friday’s 19th running of the $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Chris Block, Giant Oak was promoted to first place following the disqualification of Successful Dan in last fall’s Clark Handicap (GI) beneath the Twin Spires. The 5-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway was given the rest of 2010 off and then kicked off his 2011 campaign with a two-length victory in the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park.
Giant Oak, who finished fifth in the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (GII) in his most recent start, is scheduled to start in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GII).
The next high weight at 120 pounds is WinStar Farm LLC’s Rule. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Rule won the Boyd’s Gaming Delta Jackpot (GIII) as a 2-year-old and the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at three. Now a 4-year-old, the son of Roman Ruler is scheduled to make his next start in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI).
Entries for the Ack Ack Handicap will be taken Monday.
BARN TALK – Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie winner Rocket Twentyone breezed four furlongs from the gate on a fast Churchill Downs track Friday morning in :50.20, which was the 21st fastest of 36 at the distance.
Rocket Twentyone, under regular rider Eddie Razo Jr., recorded splits of :26, :38.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:04.40.
"She left the gate running, was on the bit the whole way and then galloped out nicely,” Razo Jr. said. “I’m very happy with the work and excited for the race.”
Pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII) and the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), Rocket Twentyone will be entered in the Juvenile Fillies on Monday according to trainer Tom Howard. …
Also working beneath the Twin Spires on Friday was Don Benge’s A. U. Miner, who breezed three furlongs in :36.40 in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GII) on Saturday. The work was the fastest of 11 at the distance.
A. U. Miner recorded splits of :12, :24.20 and galloped out four furlongs in :49.20 and five furlongs in 1:02.60. …
The first arrival into Barn 17 for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is Eklektikos LLC’s Tamarind Hall, who pulled into the Churchill Downs backstretch Thursday night after a 9 ½-hour van ride from Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
"If someone had told me at the start of the year that I would have a horse in the Breeders’ Cup, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Pennsylvania-born and upstate New York-raised trainer Jeremiah Englehart. “Kentucky is one of my favorite places. I have been to Lexington for the sales and to one (Kentucky) Derby, Big Brown’s (2008).”
Tamarind Hall, pre-entered in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI), enters the World Championships off a second-place finish in the Gallant Bloom (GII) at Belmont Park on Sept. 24.
Tamarind Hall worked a half-mile at Finger Lakes in :49.40 over a sloppy track on Wednesday and had her first exercise at Churchill Downs Friday morning. Englehart said that David Cohen, who has been aboard the filly in her past three starts, would have the mount in the Breeders’ Cup.