Four D Stables’ homebred Turallure, who was narrowly defeated by Court Vision in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (Grade I) beneath the Twin Spires, will carry the top weight of 122 pounds when he faces five rivals in the 22nd running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) on Sunday at Churchill Downs.
The Firecracker for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course is the featured event on the 10-race closing night program for the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. Sunday was originally scheduled as a daytime program, but with near-record heat looming in the forecast, Churchill Downs officials moved the first post on Friday, Saturday and Sunday back to 6:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). The Firecracker is scheduled as Race 7 at 9:30 p.m.
Turallure’s runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile capped off an impressive season that included victories in the Woodbine Mile (GI) at Woodbine, the Bernard Baruch (GII) at Saratoga and the Opening Verse at Churchill Downs. Trained by Charlie Lopresti, who won last year’s Firecracker with Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan, Turallure made his 5-year-old debut in the Maker’s 46 Mile (GI) at Keeneland and finished second by a neck to Data Link. In his most recent start, he finished seventh of 11 in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
A gray or roan son of Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, Turallure will break from post four under Julien Leparoux, the 10th all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs.
Turallure’s main competition could be Michael Bruder’s Guys Reward, who has already recorded two wins on the Matt Winn Turf Course this spring, including the Opening Verse on June 9. Weighted at 118 pounds, Guys Reward sports an impressive record of 4-1-2 in eight starts on the Matt Winn Turf Course for trainer Dale Romans, who won the Firecracker in 2005 with 2004 turf champion Kitten’s Joy. Guys Reward’s two third-place finishes came in the American Turf (GII) in 2010 and last spring’s Louisville Handicap (GIII). A 5-year-old dark bay or brown son of Grand Reward, Guys Reward will break from the outside under the Spring Meet’s leading rider, Corey Lanerie.
The other stakes winner in the field is G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing LLC’s Seruni. A 5-year-old gelded son of Saint Liam, Seruni won the off-the-turf Labor Day at Moutaineer last September and most recently finished second behind Guys Reward in the Opening Verse. Prior to the Opening Verse, Seruni won an allowance race on the turf at Churchill Downs, making him one of five runners in the Firecracker to have a win over the Matt Winn Turf Course. He will seek his second victory on the grass at the Louisville track when breaking from post two under Jon Court, who was aboard Wise Dan for his Firecracker victory last year.
The lone horse without a previous victory on the turf at Churchill Downs is Camelia Casby’s Night Party, who is coming off a runner-up effort in a stakes race on the turf at Indiana Downs on June 20. Prior to that performance, Night Party finished third behind Nates Mineshaft and Get in Da House in the Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII) for trainer Pat Huffman. A 4-year-old chestnut son of Rahy, Night Party will break from the rail under Shane Sellers.
Rounding out the field is Kip Colvin’s Mandurah, an 8-year-old gelded son of A.P. Indy coming off a recent allowance win on the Matt Winn Turf Course, and Melynk Racing Stables Inc.’s Silver Rock, who finished second by a nose in a June 3 allowance on the turf at Churchill Downs in his 5-year-old debut. The Grant Forster-trained Mandurah will break from post three under Brian Hernandez Jr. and Silver Rock, trained by Mark Casse, will break from post five under Shaun Bridgmohan.
The field for the Firecracker Handicap, from the rail out, is as follows: Night Party (trained by Pat Huffman, ridden by Shane Sellers, weighted at 115 pounds), Seruni (Philip Oliver, Jon Court, 117), Mandurah (Grant Forster, Brian Hernandez Jr., 115), Turallure (Charlie Lopresti, Julien Leparoux, 122), Silver Rock (Mark Casse, Shaun Bridgmohan, 116) and Guys Reward (Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie, 118).