Frank Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly, runner-up to Hungry Island in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by American Commercial Lines (Grade II) has been assigned the high weight of 121 pounds by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for Saturday’s 36th running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII).
The Early Times Mint Julep is for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up and will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Dale Romans-trained Tapitsfly, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf as a 2-year-old, was making her third start of the year in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. She won the Honey Fox (GII) at Gulfstream Park in March in her 2012 debut and then finished third in the Jenny Wiley (GI) at Keeneland.
A 5-year-old gray/roan daughter of Tapit, Tapitsfly has raced four times on the Matt Winn Turf Course, including a third-place finish behind My Baby Baby and Ravi’s Song in last year’s Early Times Mint Julep.
The next high weight at 120 pounds is the Estate of Gail Gee, Mark Hoffman and Earl Trostrud Jr.’s Hooh Why. A 6-year-old chestnut daughter of Cloud Hopping, Hooh Why won the 2009 Ashland (GI) at Keeneland and the Seaway (GIII) at Woodbine in 2010. She won the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in January.
Horses believed by Churchill Downs officials to be probable for the Early Times Mint Julep include Hard Seven (trained by Dan McFarlane, weighted at 118 pounds), Heavenly Landing (Eddie Kenneally, 118), Snow Top Mountain (Tom Proctor, 118) and Artemus Kitten (Mike Maker, 117).
The Early Times Mint Julep will be the co-featured event on Saturday’s program at Churchill Downs with the ninth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII) for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the main track and the 24th running of the $100,000-added Aristides (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the main track.
The 1-2 finishers in last year’s Winning Colors, Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image and Martin Racing Stable LLC and Morgan Thoroughbred LLC’s Beat the Blues, are expected to return in this year’s edition.
The Winning Colors was the four graded-stakes victory at Churchill Downs for Sassy Image, who has also recorded wins in the Humana Distaff (GI), Golden Rod (GII) and Pocahontas (GIII).
Her most recent win came in last July’s Princess Rooney Handicap (GI) at Calder. In her last start, she was sixth to Groupie Doll when trying to defend her crown in the Humana Distaff.
Other horses believed by Churchill Downs officials to be probable for the Winning Colors include Fortune Play (trained by John Booker Jr.), Gleaming (Bret Calhoun), Good Deed (Steve Margolis), Island Bound (Ian Wilkes), Page Springs (Dan McFarlane) and Speedacious (Calhoun).
Zayat Stables LLC’s Riley Tucker, winner of the Aristides in 2010, is expected to make his third consecutive start in the Grade III event. He was fifth to Noble’s Promise in last year’s running.
Other horses believed by Churchill Downs officials to be probable for the Aristides include Cash Refund (trained by Steve Margolis), Rothko (Steve Asmussen), Whiskey Rebellion (Akiko Gothard) and Will’s Wildcat (Jimmy Baker). Global Power (Tom Amoss) and Turnofthecat (D. Wayne Lukas) are considered to be possible for the Aristides.
ST. JOHN’S RIVER WORKS TOWARD FLEUR DE LIS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Dede McGehee’s St. John’s River, runner-up to Juanita in the La Troienne Presented by Steelcase and ORI (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day, breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:01 for trainer Andy Leggio Jr. in preparation for the Fleur de Lis (GII).
The 37th running of the Fleur de Lis for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs will be run on June 16 as part of the Stephen Foster Handicap Day undercard.
Working under retired jockey Larry Melancon, the fifth all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs with 914 victories beneath the Twin Spires, St. John’s River recorded fractions of :12.60, :24.60, :36.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.60.
“She went terrific,” Leggio said. “She went easy the first half-mile and then we let her run a bit in the final eighth (of a mile). She’s fit and I just have to keep her fit until the race.”
The La Troienne was the second race at Churchill Downs for St. John’s River. The 4-year-old bay daughter of Include also finished second in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) last spring.
“Maybe we’ll actually win one this time,” Leggio said.
Bred in Kentucky by Heaven Trees Farm, St. John’s River has a career record of 2-4-1 from eight lifetime starts, highlighted by a victory in the Delaware Oaks (GII). In her only off-the-board finish, she was fifth in the Alabama (GI) at Saratoga in her final start as a 3-year-old.
St. John’s River’s main rival in the Fleur de Lis could be Besilu Stables’ champion Royal Delta. The Bill Mott-trained filly, winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) and the year’s champion 3-year-old filly, is under consideration for the race following a troubled ninth-place effort in the Dubai World Cup (GI).
NEHRO HAS MAINTENANCE WORK AFTER PIMLICO SPECIAL – Zayat Stables LLC’s Nehro, second by a nose to Alternation in the Pimlico Special (GIII), breezed four furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning in :51.80 for trainer Steve Asmussen.
“It was a nice maintenance breeze,” Asmussen said. “I haven’t talked to Mr. Zayat yet (about his next start). We’ll see how he comes out of the work and then make a decision.”
Nehro finished second to Animal Kingdom in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) in his lone start at Churchill Downs.
BARN NOTES – Alastar Thoroughbred Company LLC’s Tahoe Lake-BRZ came out of his third-place finish in Saturday’s Louisville Handicap (GIII) in good order according to Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek.
Bauer also noted Sunday morning that Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance, a five-length winner of the featured allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 20, is under consideration for the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) to be run beneath the Twin Spires on June 16. …
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. is four victories away from the 200-win milestone at Churchill Downs. The 26-year-old native of Lafayette, La. has mounts at the Louisville track Sunday in Races 1, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 and Monday in Races 2, 6 and 8.
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