Unbeaten Almost Famous, a dazzling winner in his racing debut in September at Churchill Downs, looms as the likely favorite in Sunday’s $60,000-added Street Sense, one of two overnight stakes races that highlight an 11-race program that raises the curtain on the 25-day Fall Meet at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I).
The Street Sense, a one-mile race for 2-year-olds, is co-featured with the $60,000-added Rags to Riches, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies, on the first of two “Stars of Tomorrow” programs scheduled for the meet. The “Stars of Tomorrow” programs are devoted exclusively to racing among 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. “Stars of Tomorrow II,” which will featured the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) for open company and the $175,000-added Golden Rod (GII) for fillies, is set for Saturday, Nov. 28, the final day of the Louisville track’s five-week racing meet.
Post time for Sunday’s first race is 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern) and admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. The Street Sense is the day’s fifth race with a scheduled post time of 2:35 p.m.
The “Stars of Tomorrow I” races share the Fall Meet’s opening day spotlight with the giveaway of a 2014 Churchill Downs Calendar Presented by Humana. The first 5,000 fans through the admission gates will receive a voucher that can be exchanged for the calendar filled with captivating images of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs.
Sunday’s opener also features the first of the Fall Meet’s weekly Family Fun Days Presented by Kroger. Family activities are featured each Sunday on the Plaza Balcony, and this week children 12-and-under are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes and follow Churchill Charlie on a Trick-or-Treat Parade through the track at 2:30 p.m. Family Fun Days activities are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The Street Sense – named in honor of the James Tafel’s son of Street Cry-IRE who is the only horse to win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (2006) and Kentucky Derby (2007) – has attracted a talented field of seven 2-year-olds, but the pre-race spotlight will shine most brightly on Almost Famous.
Owned by Chuck and Maribeth Sandford and trained by Pat Byrne, the son of Unbridled’s Song notched an impressive 2 ¼-length victory under three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel in his debut in a six-furlong maiden race on Sept. 13. The colt was purchased by the Sandfords for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sale in March.
Almost Famous will break from post three under jockey Joe Rocco Jr., who was named to ride the colt after Borel was injured in a Wednesday riding mishap at Keeneland. Borel suffered a fractured tibia in the accident and is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks.
The strong impression left by Almost Famous in his September bow was strengthened when runner-up Coastline, who finished 13 lengths clear of the third-place finisher in that race, returned on Oct. 5 to score a 3 ½-length victory at seven furlongs in his next start over Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface.
The gray-roan son of Speightstown is owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse and returns for a rematch with Almost Famous in Sunday’s race. He will break from post two in the Street Sense under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. He is coupled in the Street Sense wagering with Oxley’s Phenomenalmoon, a winner of one of four starts for Casse. Bridgmohan also is named to ride Phenomenalmoon, who drew post two.
The major threat to Almost Famous in the Street Sense could be Dan Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin, a colt who attracted reported seven-figure purchase offers after he set a track record in a July 13 maiden victory over 5 ½ furlongs at Ellis Park. Ride On Curlin then finished fourth to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Cleburne in the Iroquois (GIII) on Sept. 7 at Churchill Downs before heading to New York’s Belmont Park, where he was a late-running third behind Havana, who also is bound for the Juvenile at Santa Anita, and favored runner-up Honor Code in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (GI). The colt finished just 1 ¾ lengths behind the highly-regarded Champagne winner and was 6 ¾ lengths clear of the fourth-place finisher. Among those who finished behind Ride On Curlin that day were Hopeful (GI) winner Strong Mandate and Debt Ceiling, the winner of Churchill Downs’ Bashford Manor (GIII).
Trained by William Gowan, the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin will be ridden in the Street Sense by Corey Lanerie and is set to start from post position five.
The only stakes winner in the field is Richard P. Hessee’s Chippewawhitechief, who took the Mark McDermott Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds for trainer Greg Compton at Presque Isle Downs on Sept. 8.
Completing the field are Ichiban Warrior, a winner last time out at Keeneland for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Todd Pletcher, and McKee Stable’s Cee ‘N O, who won his debut at Ellis Park for trainer Dale Romans before finishing third to Solitary Ranger in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII) over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Arlington Park.
The field for the Street Sense (with jockey, weight) from the rail out includes Cee ‘N O (Alan Garcia, 118), Phenomenalmoon (Bridgmohan, 118), Almost Famous (Rocco, 118), Coastline (Bridgmohan, 118), Ride On Curlin (Lanerie, 118), Chippewawhitechief (Jon Court, 118) and Ichiban Warrior (Rosie Napravnik, 118).
In just eight years, Stars of Tomorrow has been the launching pad for 33 Grade I winners, including 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; and 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can. Eighteen graduates became millionaires: Fort Larned ($4,171,322), Court Vision ($3,746,658), Rachel Alexandra ($3,506,730), Shackleford ($3,090,101), Lawyer Ron ($2,790,008), Pure Clan ($1,987,498), Super Saver ($1,889,766), Will Take Charge ($1,827,371), Macho Again ($1,825,767), Giant Oak ($1,484,829), First Dude ($1,442,140), Swift Temper ($1,296,688), Believe You Can ($1,280,324), General Quarters ($1,226,655), Fly Down ($1,256,115), Any Given Saturday ($1,083,533), Overanalyze ($1,046,381) and Uncaptured ($1,005,147).
The Street Sense is the first of 13 stakes races cumulatively worth $1,815,000 that will be held during the Fall Meet. The most lucrative race is the 139th running of the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI). The 1 1/8-mile test, which annually lures some of the top 3-year-olds and up in America, is scheduled for “Black Friday” on Nov. 29.