ROMANS LOOKS AHEAD TO NEXT CHURCHILL DOWNS MILESTONE – Trainer Dale Romans was a happy man Friday morning, the day after Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Skipadate gave the conditioner his 500th victory at Churchill Downs.
It was the first victory for Romans here since Suz Slew won on May 31 and Skipadate represented the 20th runner for Romans trying to get that 500th win.
“It seems like the closer you get to a milestone, the harder it is to get over the hump,” said Romans, a 43-year-old native of Louisville.
Son of trainer Jerry Romans, all of Dale’s victories have been with horses that have come out of Barns 4 and 5, where he is stabled today.
“Dad had Barn 4 and I was in 5 until he had his stroke and then I moved into 4,” Romans said. “His best piece of advice was to just keep grinding. The successful ones are the ones that could last.”
Of the 500 victories, 23 have come in stakes. Romans said he rates 2004 Eclipse Award turf champion Kitten’s Joy’s triumph in the 2005 Firecracker (GII) as his favorite victory among the 500.
The quest for 600 begins with tonight’s program in which Romans has three horses entered. Romans will run three on Saturday’s card and four on Sunday.
Eight more cards remain to be drawn for the Spring Meet that ends July 4, and Romans has one runner that could aid on the road to 600: Frank L. Jones Jr.’s homebred Tapitsfly, winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“She had a chip taken out of her ankle after the Breeders’ Cup,” Romans said of Tapitsfly, who returned to the work tab May 23. “She could run before the end of the meet.”'
BRASS HAT WORKS BULLET TOWARD CORNHUSKER START – Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat punched his ticket to next Saturday’s $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (GII) by working a bullet five furlongs in :59.20 on Friday morning under jockey Calvin Borel.
Brass Hat worked at 6:30 over a fast track and his time was the fastest of 30 at the distance. Churchill Downs clockers had Brass Hat galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.
“I wanted to get a good work in him this morning,” trainer Buff Bradley said of Brass Hat, who has not started on dirt since finishing fifth in the 2008 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs. “He was very relaxed and striding out well. Calvin said it’s hard to believe he is nine years old. He likes what he does.”
Brass Hat, who has earned $2,097,921 with a record of 9-7-5 in 36 races, finished third in his most recent start, the mile and a half Louisville Handicap (GIII) on May 22. Seven of Brass Hat’s past eight starts have been at 12 furlongs.
“I wanted to cut him back to a mile and an eighth,” Bradley said. “There is a mile and a sixteenth race here, but I am afraid it won’t go. I hate not to run him here because he loves this track.
“But I looked at the past performances for the Cornhusker, and it looks like he might be one of the top ones. Three of the horses nominated ran in the Stephen Foster, so that would be coming back in two weeks out of a Grade I race, and I don’t think many will do that.”
WALKING THE BEACH RETURNS TO WORK TAB FOR CALHOUN – The final tasty morsel from last fall’s Thanksgiving Day program at Churchill Downs was the initial outing of Cobra Cooper Racing’s Walking the Beach, who swept past the field under Miguel Mena for a 1 ½-length victory in the 12th race at six furlongs.
A son of Medaglia d’Oro out of the Woodman mare Babeinthewoods, Walking the Beach became an instant hot commodity on Kentucky Derby watch lists. Two off-the-board finishes in route races at Fair Grounds in January faded the watch lists to black.
“He had a few minor issues, first with a foot and then an ankle but nothing significant,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “He was just not the horse we expected him to be. He went off the Derby trail early and we decided to back off.”
Walking the Beach reappeared on the work tab Thursday with a three-furlong work in :38.20.
“He has grown up and looks good,” Calhoun said. “He is 45 to 60 days to a race, closer to 60. We will start him out short; maybe that is just what he wants to be. We ran him twice at two turns and it seemed like a mental thing. He seemed lost out there, but he has the body and pedigree to go two turns.”
It marked the second straight year that Calhoun had early Derby dreams dashed before the real running even began. In 2008 Indygo Mountain had been a dazzling winner at a mile during the Churchill Downs Fall Meet.
“Indygo Mountain is coming back to our barn at Lone Star Park on Sunday,” Calhoun said. “He ran here last fall off a long layoff and got hurt in that race and has been on the shelf since.”
Indygo Mountain is owned by Clarence Scharbauer Jr., who also owned another promising 2-year-old in 2008 in Silver City, trained by Calhoun.
“He came in on the same van with Walking the Beach,” Calhoun said. “He won this winter at Fair Grounds off a layoff and we were preparing him for the Count Fleet in April at Oaklawn Park when he had a mild strain of a suspensory and we backed off. He has had a couple of three-eighths works.”
A couple of Calhoun’s stable stars will be in action in the coming weeks.
Multiple stakes winner Chamberlain Bridge, runner-up in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint (GIII) on April 30, is being pointed to the $75,000 Arlington Sprint Breeders’ Cup at five furlongs on the turf at Arlington Park next Saturday. Winning Colors (GIII) winner Dubai Majesty most likely will go to Calder for the $350,000 Princess Rooney (GI) at six furlongs on July 10 with the July 4 Chicago Handicap (GIII) at seven furlongs also as an option.
BARN TALK – Backtalk, winner of the 2009 Bashford Manor (GIII) and idle since finishing 20th in the Kentucky Derby, returns to the races Saturday night at Charles Town in the $400,000 Red Legend at seven furlongs. Miguel Mena will ride Backtalk for trainer Tom Amoss. Chief among the opposition for Backtalk is Comedero, winner of seven of eight starts including the Chick Lang (GIII) by three lengths at Pimlico on May 15. Robby Albarado will ride Comedero in the sprint for 3-year-olds. …
Tiz My Time, placed second in a maiden race at Churchill Downs on May 28, ran third in the six-furlong Group II Albany Stakes for 2-year-olds at Royal Ascot on Friday for trainer Ken McPeek. McPeek, whose fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher Noble’s Promise ran fifth in Tuesday’s St. James’s Palace Stakes (GI) at a mile, will send out the maiden Casper’s Touch in Saturday’s Chasham Stakes at seven furlongs. …
Nominations close Saturday for the final three stakes of the Spring Meet scheduled to be run July 3 and 4. Scheduled for July 3 are the 109th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds going six furlongs and the 29th running of the $100,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares going a mile on the turf. The 20th running of the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course is the closing day feature on July 4.
WORK TAB – Buckleupbuttercup, winner of the Eight Belles (GIII) on May 1, worked a half-mile in :50.20 over a fast track. … Matt Winn runner-up Cool Bullet, winner of the Rumson Stakes at Monmouth Park in his most recent start June 6, worked a half-mile in :50.40. … Multiple stakes winner Euroears worked three furlongs in :37.60.