With an eye toward possibly spending another Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs, trainer and co-owner Phil Sims sent Juddmonte Spinster (Grade I) winner and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) runner-up Don’t Tell Sophia on a Saturday road trip from his Keeneland base to the Louisville track to workout in advance of a planned run in Thursday’s 99th running of the $200,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII).
The 6-year-old daughter of Congaree, who has been assigned high weight of 125 pounds for next week’s 1 1/8-mile race for older fillies and mares, breezed a half-mile over a fast surface in :49.60. Churchill Downs clockers recorded her first quarter-mile in :24.80 and she galloped-out five furlongs in 1:03.60.
“She went well,” Sims said. “We have not made final decision yet. But that’s kind of what we’re planning on right now, a run in the Falls City.”
Don’t Tell Sophia was the 122-pound high weight in the 2013 renewal of the Falls City. She finished second in that Thanksgiving centerpiece to Wine Princess. The Falls City was her final start before a 2014 campaign that has been the best so far in her increasingly-successful career.
The $1,000 Keeneland 2009 September Sale yearling purchase by Sims and co-owner Jerry Namy has won four of six races in 2014 with earnings of $866,413. Her career record after 23 races is now 11-5-3 with earnings of $1,339,295. She has a record of 3-1-0 in five races at Churchill Downs that include stakes wins in the 2014 Chilukki (GII) and September’s Locust Grove.
If Don’t Tell Sophia runs in the Falls City, she will concede three pounds to Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan, whose successful 2014 campaign includes stakes victories at Churchill Downs in the Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII) and Chilukki (GII) and runner-up finishes to the now-retired On Fire Baby in the La Troienne (GI) on Kentucky Oaks Day and Don’t Tell Sophia the Locust Grove. The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Ghostzapper ran third to Don’t Tell Sophia in the Spinster and won the Gardenia (GIII) at Ellis Park.
Molly Morgan has a record of 5-3-2 in 13 races at Churchill Downs and has collected $454,851 of her career bankroll of $662,407 beneath the Twin Spires. One of her rare poor efforts at the Louisville track was a seventh-place finish in last year’s Falls City. Her career slate stands 7-4-5 in 26 races.
Horses known to be under consideration for the Falls City (with assigned weight and trainer): Don’t Tell Sophia (125 pounds, Sims), Molly Morgan (122, Romans), Strut the Course (119, Barbara Minshall), Flashy American (119, Kenny McPeek), Jojo Warrior (118, Bob Baffert), Teen Pauline (Todd Pletcher, 118), Frivolous (117, Vicki Oliver), Tiz Windy (117, Carl Nafzger), Imposing Grace (114, Wayne Catalano) and Mufajaah (114, Dan Peitz).
Frivolous and Imposing Grace were scratched from Saturday’s Cardinal Handicap (GIII) and both are considered “possible” for the Falls City. Entries will be taken Sunday morning.
RESPECTED VETERAN JOE KRISTUFEK JOINS CHURCHILL DOWNS TEAM OF RACING ANALYSTS
Churchill Downs Racetrack will strengthen its talented roster of on-track and simulcast racing television analysts and the track’s fan education efforts when the home of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks welcomes respected veteran Joe Kristufek to that team during the final week of its 24-day Fall Meet.
Kristufek will be part of a trio of Churchill Downs on-track and television racing analysts that also features Jill Byrne, the track’s senior racing analyst and director of programming who has handled duties at Churchill Downs since 2006 and has performed similar duties for the HRTV and TVG networks, and Kevin Kerstein, the newest member of that team will continue to handle occasional duties as an on-track analyst in the team’s new configuration.
As Kristufek joins that team, Byrne will be a less-frequent presence for on-track and simulcast television duties in order concentrate on the development and creation of special programming for Churchill Downs daily television product, its 4K Big Board video screen and the track’s web sites. She will remain an important member of the team of racing analysts and will be prominent on the track’s biggest racing days.
Kristufek’s first appearance as an analyst in the Churchill Downs Paddock will come next week during the track’s final five days of Fall Meet racing and he will return as a full-time presence during the track’s 2015 Spring Meet that begins with Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Week.
“I am very excited for this opportunity and to work closely with Jill, Kevin and the entire Churchill Downs staff,” Kristufek said. “As an ambassador of the game, I believe the job of the paddock host can be much more than just picking horses. Fan development should also be emphasized. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion with the masses.”
Kristufek is best-known to many fans for his work through the years as a handicapper and analyst at Chicago-area tracks that include Arlington Park and Hawthorne. He has also served as a fan education specialist at Arlington Park and as served as a handicapper/racing correspondent for the Daily Herald since 1999.
He currently serves as a horse racing ambassador with America’s Best Racing, (www.AmericasBestRacing.net) and served as the on-air talent and guided the production and development of its “Racing 101” features that can been seen on the ABR web site and have aired on NBC and the NBC Sports Network.
FIELDS FOR CLARK HANDICAP, 2-YEAR-OLD STAKES BEGINNING TO TAKE SHAPE
The fields for Friday’s $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) and Saturday’s pair of 2-year-old stakes on Stars of Tomorrow II – the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) – are beginning to take shape.
Horses known to be under consideration for the 140th running of the Clark Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles (with assigned weight and trainer): Departing (121 pounds, Al Stall Jr.), Pick of the Litter (121, Dale Romans), Constitution (119, Todd Pletcher), Hoppertunity (118, Bob Baffert), Prayer for Relief (118, Romans), Easter Gift (117, Chad Brown), Protonico (117, Pletcher), Midnight Aria (115, Nick Gonzalez), Knights Nation (114, Dallas Stewart) and Looking Cool (112, Murat Sancal). Entries will be taken Wednesday morning.
Horses known to be under consideration for the 88th running of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles (in order of earnings with trainer): International Star (Mike Maker), W V Jetsetter (George Weaver), Imperia (Kiaran McLaughlin), The Truth or Else (Kenny McPeek), Lord Nelson (Bob Baffert), Lucky Player (Steve Asmussen), Danny Boy (Dale Romans), Academy Bay (Asmussen), Majestico (D. Wayne Lukas), Sky Hero (Mark Casse), Eagle (Neil Howard), Sharm (Lukas), Flashaway (Casse), Tough Customer (Wayne Catalano), War Point (Billy Gowan), Unblunted (Michael McCarthy), Keen Ice (Romans), Toasting Master (Catalano), Jumpin Frac Flash (McPeek), Instant Replay (Catalano), Moonlight Bandit (Casse), War Story (Tom Amoss), Chip Leader (Catalano) and Astounding (Catalano). A maximum 14 will be allowed to run. Entries will be taken Thursday morning.
Horses known to be under consideration for the 71st running of the Golden Rod (GII) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles (in order of earnings with trainer): Cristina’s Journey (Dale Romans), Heart’s Song (Bill Connelly), Harlan’s Destiny (Wayne Catalano), Simply Confection (Jinks Fires), West Coast Belle (Catalano), I’m A Chatterbox (Kenny McPeek), Ancient Goddess-FR (John Terranova II), Movie Mystery (Catalano), Kathballu (McPeek), Lavender Chrissie (Romans), Keen Pauline (Romans), Martz (Ron Moquett), No Fault of Mine (Chris Block) and Super Saks (D. Wayne Lukas). A maximum 14 will be allowed to run. Entries will be taken Thursday morning.
KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB ODDS AND ENDS
Trainer Mike Maker on Grey Stakes (GIII) winner International Star: “He ran a good second on dirt against stakes-company at Belmont Park in his second start. So with the distance and the time of year we think it’s worth a shot. He’ll breeze on Monday or Tuesday in advance of Saturday’s race.”
According to assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Dan Bork it appears that W V Jetsetter, winner of $75,000 My Dandy Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park on Nov. 15, is on the fence for Kentucky Jockey Club.
The Truth or Else appears more likely to run in the Remsen. “It’s not set in stone but at this point we’re leaning that way,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. McPeek also has Jumpin Frac Flash nominated: “He’s a big solid horse,” McPeek said. “It looks like he’s got a lot of talent. He galloped out really strong the day he won. I’m flirting with running him (in the Kentucky Jockey Club) or an allowance race.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen said via text that he “might run both” California-based Lucky Player and locally-based Academy Bay.
Dale Romans’ chief assistant Baldemar Bahena said the Romans camp could run Danny Boy or Keen Ice in the Kentucky Jockey Club, although the latter is also under consideration for the Remsen.
Bork expects D. Wayne Lukas to enter one in the Kentucky Jockey Club, either Majestico or Sharm.
Trainer Mark Casse would like to enter three in the Kentucky Jockey Club: Sky Hero, Flashaway and Moonlight Bandit. “All three are pretty equal,” Casse said. “We’ll enter three but will likely only run two and wait to see how the draw goes. They all might be cross-entered in the Remsen, too. With a large field an outside post is a concern and can be disadvantageous.”
On Sky Hero and Flashaway: “Both ran well that day. Sky Hero was better that day and finished with something left with his ears moving back and forth. Flashaway broke a little slow, was wide and got a little tired, which can be expected with horses making the switch from synthetic to dirt for the first time.”
Wayne Catalano plans to run Tough Customer in the Kentucky Jockey Club: “Tough Customer is going to run. We may enter something else, too. We need to see what allowance races go that day.” His other possible starters include Toasting Master, Instant Replay, Chip Leader and Astounding.
HORSES & HOPE RETURNS SUNDAY
“Horses and Hope,” the initiative created in 2008 by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the Pink Stable, will return to Churchill Downs on Sunday (Nov. 23) in Millionaires Row 4 and Skye Terrace 5.
The mission is to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families.
The color of pink will be scattered throughout Churchill Downs that day, including saddle towels for a featured race (Race 5 at 2:39 p.m.), jockey arm bands, groom’s vests, outriders, the bugler, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners.
To help celebrate, Churchill Downs’ world famous Twin Spires will be bathed in pink light, as well.
Also, $1 will go toward Horses and Hope for each Grey Goose Oaks Lily sold on Sunday.
All guests are encouraged to incorporated pink into their wardrobe on Sunday.