ARISTIDES RUN A STEP TOWARD THE BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT AT CHURCHILL DOWNS FOR ATTA BOY ROY - Veteran trainer Valorie Lund scored the first graded stakes win of her 27-year career when R.E.V Racing's Atta Boy Roy pulled off a front-running upset in the $250,000-added Churchill Downs Stakes (Grade II) over a sloppy Churchill Downs surface on Kentucky Derby Day.
The 5-year-old ridgling has remained in Louisville since the milestone win for both trainer and horse to await Saturday's running of the $100,000-added Aristides (GIII), a six-furlong test for older sprinters. He will face a small, but very talented, group of five rivals in a race that Lund hopes will keep the Washington-bred son of Tribunal on the road to the year's ultimate goal: the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (GI) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
"We actually wanted to go to the Breeders' Cup last year, but I took him to Santa Anita and tried him on the [synthetic] Pro-Ride track and he hated it," said Lund. "He absolutely floundered on the racetrack. So that was out for us last year. We just turned him out and started looking toward the Breeders' Cup at Churchill. The track is dirt, which is his favorite medium, and so we decided to bring him out there and get him over that surface. I can tell you from training him on it, he loves the surface. So the Breeders' Cup is our goal - it's the whole reason we came out here."
The half-length victory in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs, accomplished in front-running style with a signature rail-skimming ride by Calvin Borel provides ample proof that the Breeders' Cup race is a realistic goal for Atta Boy Roy. He defeated Carter Handicap (GI) winner Warrior's Reward and Musket Man, who finished third in both the 2009 Kentucky Derby (GI) and Preakness (GI) and narrowly lost to Warrior's Reward in the Carter. Both horses will run back on Monday in the Metropolitan Mile (GI) at Belmont Park.
"I have always had a lot of confidence in this horse and believed in him, but I was concerned that day because the track seemed to be favoring closers," Lund said. "I love Calvin - I absolutely love Calvin. I can't say enough about what a good horseman he is. He's patient, he's got good hands, he's a smart jock - yeah, I love Calvin."
Lund is thrilled with the training of Atta Boy Roy, who is stabled at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center, where she plans to stay with the horse throughout the summer and fall. If all goes well in the Aristides, Lund plans two more starts for Atta Boy Roy before the Breeders' Cup, although she has no specific targets.
She believes that Aristides' distance of six furlongs, which is also the Breeders' Cup Sprint distance, suits her star much better than his seven-furlong run on Derby Day.
"Six [furlongs] I feel is his very best distance - period," she said. "It's not that he can't get a little further, but he is really exceptional at six furlongs. They have a hard time catching him and a hard time keeping up with him."
Atta Boy Roy has been in Lund's care most of his life. She purchased him as a yearling and realized in his early training that the young horse might be something special. Before his arrival at Churchill Downs, Atta Boy Roy raced at Arizona's Turf Paradise, Minnesota's Canterbury Downs, Washington's Emerald Downs and made his disappointing trip to Santa Anita, where he finished seventh of 10 behind Gayego in the Ancient Title (GI) in his final start of 2009. He's perfect in two races this year and his career record stands at 9-4-0 in 19 races with earnings of $312,999.
Atta Boy Roy has encountered a couple of physical problems during his past two racing seasons, but Lund says he's perfect now and she's ready to see him take his next step in an ambitious 2010 campaign in tomorrow's Aristides.
"I thought this horse was great, not good, from the first time I started galloping him as a 2-year-old," said Lund. "It's taken a lot of patience. He had some quarter crack issues as a 3-year-old, and even last summer he had two quarter cracks - one in the front and one in the hind - that we dealt with all summer long, But, knock on wood, his feet are perfect."
SATURDAY STAKES COULD KICK OFF BIG WEEK FOR MARGOLIS - Trainer Steve Margolis makes a return to the Triple Crown series next Saturday when he runs Stay Put in the Belmont Stakes (GI).
However, before a shot at glory at Belmont, Margolis has a double-barreled chance to make some noise on Saturday in the Aristides (GIII) and the Dogwood (GIII).
In the six-furlong Aristides, Margolis will send out Cash Refund for Bertram, Richard and Elaine Klein, who also own Stay Put. In the one-mile Dogwood, Margolis has Martin Cherry's Visavis.
Cash Refund, has won five of six career starts with his only setback being a runner-up finished to subsequent Grade I winner Capt. Candyman Can in last spring's Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.
"After that race, we were getting ready for a race at Monmouth and two weeks out we discovered the start of a little fracture," Margolis said. "It did not require surgery. We gave him about three months off and then brought him back at the Fair Grounds in December."
Cash Refund has not run since winning the Duncan Kenner at the New Orleans track on March 27.
"We have spaced his races and we targeted the Aristides," Margolis said. "We chose not to run Derby Day (in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs), instead waiting for six furlongs. Last year in the Matt Winn, that was seven-eighths and he came back in three weeks."
Dogwood hope Visavis has compiled a record of 2-2-0 in five races, with her only off-the-board effort coming in a 10th-place finish to Quiet Temper in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
"She has little issues at the gate," Margolis said. "She will be good and then she will blow up. In the Fair Grounds Oaks, she was good in the gate when the filly next to her shifted a little bit and she just blew up and broke through the gate."
A daughter of Indian Charlie, Visavis broke her maiden at first asking in an 8 ¼-length victory last July at Delaware Park.
"She always trained like she had talent, but she just had some gate issues," Margolis said. "She ran a big second in the Eight Belles (at 7 ½ furlongs) and a mile is probably the limit with her."
Stay Put left Thursday afternoon for Belmont, accompanied by longtime Margolis assistant Loren Diego. Diego galloped Margolis' other Triple Crown participant, Request for Parole who ran fifth behind War Emblem in the 2002 Kentucky Derby as well as 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint (GI) winner Cajun Beat, Margolis' only starter in the World Championships.
"He will gallop Friday and Saturday and Loren will probably work him a half-mile Sunday," said Margolis, who plans to go to New York on Tuesday. "It is just a maintenance work to get him familiar with the track."
BOREL BACK IN ACTION; PICKS UP BELMONT STAKES MOUNT - After nearly two weeks on the sideline with an eye infection, leading Spring Meet rider Calvin Borel was back in the saddle Friday afternoon.
"I am taking him off two mounts," Borel's agent Jerry Hissam said. "I am just looking out for my rider. It's going to be 82 degrees and humid and he has been in the hospital for four days and off eight after that."
Borel, who rode in the Belmont Stakes (GI) last year for the first time with a third-place finish on Mine That Bird, has picked up the mount for next Saturday's race on Ike and Dawn Thrash's Dave in Dixie for trainer John Sadler.
"I called John to ask to take off Emmy Darling in the Winning Colors on Monday to ride Warrior's Reward in the Met Mile," Hissam said of the Ian Wilkes trainee who would have been ridden by the injured Julien Leparoux. "John graciously allowed me to do that and said he might have one for the Belmont and would Calvin be available. He said he wanted to see how the horse worked and he'd call me back."
Dave in Dixie worked a mile at Hollywood Park in 1:39.60 on Thursday and the call was made.
"He's never sent me an empty horse yet," Hissam said Sadler, for whom he rode for the first time in the Bay Shore (GIII) on April 3 with Hurricane Ike, also owned by the Thrashes, Hurricane Ike was second in the Bay Shore and came back to win The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial (GIII) on opening day.
The day after the Derby Trial, Borel won the feature with Emmy Darling, also owned by the Thrashes.
NOMINATIONS CLOSE SATURDAY FOR KENTUCKY DERBY ALUMNI DAY STAKES - Saturday is the deadline for nominations for the five graded stakes that will highlight the card for Kentucky Derby Alumni Day on Saturday June 12.
Headlining the stakes extravaganza that day will be the 29th running of the $600,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) slated for 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The race, won last year by Macho Again, has been won three times by horses that went on to claim Horse of the Year honors with Curlin being the most recent in 2008.
The secondary feature of the day will be the 36th running of the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis (GII) for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Miss Isella won last year's renewal.
Other stakes closing are the 13th running of the $125,000-added Northern Dancer (GIII) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the 41st running of the $125,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course, and the 35th running of the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
BARN TALK - Chrysalis Stables' Silverfoot has been retired after running eighth in last Saturday's Louisville Handicap (GIII). The 10-year-old Silverfoot won the Louisville Handicap three times from 2004-06. Trained by Dallas Stewart, Silverfoot retires with a record of 40-11-1-2 with earnings of $949,503. His last stakes victory was in the Tin Man on June 6, 2009 at Arlington Park and his last graded stakes score came in the Stars And Stripes (GIII) at Arlington Park on July 4, 2008. ...
Trainer Dale Romans moved closer to the 500-victory plateau at Churchill Downs on Thursday when he saddled two winners to boost his career total to 496. Persuading ($10) rallied late to win Thursday's seventh race under apprentice Freddie Lenclud and in the ninth Blown ($2.80) prevailed under Shaun Bridgmohan. Romans' total at Churchill Downs is second only to Bill Mott's 630. Romans could hit the milestone this weekend with four horses entered Friday and two on Saturday. ...
Exercise rider Lara Van Deren, who was injured in a spill during training hours Tuesday morning, is expected to return to work soon according to trainer Darrin Miller. "I just texted her this morning and she is doing great," Miller said. "She still gets a little dizzy, but she is champing at the bit to get back. I told her to take her time, but convincing her of that is a little tough. Everything checked out fine."
SPECIAL RACING ON MEMORIAL DAY - Churchill Downs will be celebrating Memorial Day with an extra day of racing on Monday. The feature race on the card will be the Grade III, $100,000-added Winning Colors for fillies and mares at six furlongs. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. and the 11-race card will begin at 12:45 p.m. Following Monday's special holiday card, Churchill Downs will be dark on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with live racing set to resume on Friday, June 4.
TRAINER STEVE MARGOLIS WILL BE SPECIAL ‘GET IN THE GAME WITH JILL BYRNE' GUEST ON SATURDAY - Trainer Steve Margolis, who will saddle Cash Refund in the Aristides and Visavis in the Dogwood on Saturday, will be Saturday's "Get in the Game with Jill Byrne" special guest. Byrne and Margolis will discuss several topics including Saturday's stakes events, plus Stay Put's upcoming start in the June 5 Belmont Stakes. The weekly 30-minute seminars offer fans an insider look
at the world of horse racing every Saturday in the paddock area starting at 11:45 a.m. Also, it will be televised on television monitors throughout Churchill Downs.
CULVER TAKES WEEK 2 OF WHO'S THE CHAMP - Travis Culver of Louisville took the second week of the popular handicapping contest "Who's the Champ" last Sunday. Culver earned a spot in the 2011 Horseplayer World Series in Las Vegas and $1,500. "Who's the Champ" returns Sunday. Handicappers can sign up starting at 11:30 a.m. in the Champions Club Lounge until 1:30 p.m. Contestants will start the tournament with a $24 imaginary bankroll and can only wager exactly $2 to win and $2 to place on six specific races from Churchill Downs. Entry into the "Who's the Champ" is $30 ($25 for Twin Spires Club Members) and is limited to 400 entries with a limit of three entries per person.
JUNIOR JOCKEY CLUB IN FULL SWING DURING SPRING MEET - Junior Jockey Club is back during the Spring Meet most Saturdays and Sundays. Children age 3-10 can look forward to a fun-filled schedule that includes crafts, art projects, games, tours and special guests. Churchill Charlie will also visit to take pictures and hang out with the kids. This weekend kids will be able to make their own horse fan and on Memorial Day kids will get the chance to create a horse sculpture. Parents must accompany their children in the "Kids Zone" located near the guest services booth inside admission Gate 10.
HORSEMEN'S GOLF SCRAMBLE RETURNS ON JUNE 8 - The second annual Horsemen's Golf Scramble will be held Tuesday, June 8 at the Glenmary Country Club in Fern Creek, Ky. to help raise funds for the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs. The cost of the golf outing is $100 per player with four players to a team. Players will be treated to an 11 a.m. lunch. The 18-hole tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. There will be contests for the longest drive, closest to the pin, and a hole-in-one in which someone could win a 2010 Toyota Corolla from Oxmoor Toyota. Registration is due today (Friday) and entry forms can be found at the Backside Learning Center or by visiting www.derbymusuem.org/backsidelc.