Louisville-based owners and breeders Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein have raced some very talented horses at Churchill Downs through the years, but few have attracted the early attention generated by their 3-year-old gelding Cash Refund.
The talk surrounding the unbeaten son of Petionville figures to intensify if he notches a third consecutive victory when he makes his stakes debut in Saturday’s eighth running of the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Steve Margolis-trained Cash Refund won his two prior starts by a combined margin of 13 ¾ lengths, has been so impressive that Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia made him the close 8-5 second choice in the field of five in the Matt Winn.
The more accomplished Capt. Candyman Can – the Ian Wilkes-trained winner of Gulfstream Park’s Hutcheson (GII), Aqueduct’s Bay Shore (GIII) and Churchill Downs Iroquois (GIII) – got the narrow nod as the 6-5 morning line favorite. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. has been in the irons for his earlier romps and will ride again in Saturday’s seven-furlong outing.
The fact that Cash Refund has won his first two starts by gaudy margins was enough to attract attention from horsemen and racing fans, but what has really generated the buzz around Margolis’ gelding was the dazzling Beyer Speed Figure of 110 earned in his most recent race, a seven-length allowance romp at six furlongs on the opening day of Churchill Downs’ Spring Meet.
“The horse has done everything right and we were very happy with his race,” Margolis said. “He rated nicely and when Brian asked him to run, he just kind of ran away from them. Of course we know that was just an entry-level allowance, but the Beyer and the Ragozin figures he got were very good.”
Margolis said the Kleins weighed a couple of options for Cash Refund’s next step, but decided the Matt Winn worked best despite the imposing presence of Capt. Candyman Can.
“We feel this is the right opportunity at the right time while we’re here at Churchill to take a shot in the race on Saturday,” he said. “Ian’s horse is a very, very good horse and he’s an accomplished three-time stakes winner and he’s a serious horse.”
Like Allamerican Bertie, De Bertie and so many of the stakes winners campaigned by the Kleins, Cash Refund is a homebred. Out the Mystery Storm mare Swept Away, Cash Refund puzzled his connections when he first came to the track last summer with a seeming lack of interest in his training. Margolis said he just did not appear to be “an unhappy horse,” and that led to the decision in late summer to geld Cash Refund. He was turned out on a farm for a few weeks after that and returned to Margolis’ care at Churchill Downs during the 2008 Fall Meet and resumed serious training over the winter at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds.
Cash Refund was a different horse when he returned to serious training at Fair Grounds, but tipped his hand to Margolis with a work from the gate with the veteran True Course, a six-year-old veteran who is a minor stakes winner and has earned nearly $250,000 in his career.
“I worked him with True Course and two other babies, and Cash Refund wouldn’t let anyone by him,” recalled Margolis. “His workouts were really positive and he was doing it pretty easily, so we were looking forward to seeing him run.”
Cash Refund finally made it to the starting gate and did not disappoint as he rolled to an easy 6 ¾-length victory. Then came his dominant victory on the opening day of the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs and the glittering Beyer Speed Figure registered on a track that otherwise turned out mostly slower times throughout that day.
Margolis’ best horse to date was the sprinter Cajun Beat, a gelding that won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Oak Tree at Santa Anita as a 3-year-old. It’s too early to know how good Cash Refund might be, but Saturday’s Matt Winn – which also includes stakes winners Dance Caller and Zigaree and impressive allowance winner Conchacer in its field of five – could further validate the high opinion of the gelding held by his owners and trainer.
“I’m so happy for the Kleins,” Margolis said. “He’s really developed a personality now and he’s coming into this race as good as we could ask. If he runs the way he’s been training, it’ll be a good horse race.”
RIVER CITY CO-CHAMP DEMARCATION TRAINING SHARPLY FOR RETURN – Amerman Racing’s Demarcation, mostly quiet since his dead-heat victory with Karelian in last fall’s River City Handicap (GIII) on the Churchill Downs turf, turned heads on Tuesday with a very sharp five-furlong work on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The 5-year-old gelded son of Gulch had jockey Julien Leparoux in the saddle as he zipped 5/8ths of a mile around the dogs on “firm” turf in 1:00.60. It was easily the fastest move of the day on the grass and the eye-catching move came in his first work for trainer Paul J. McGee since Demarcation ran sixth to Proudinsky in the Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap (GII) on the grass at Fair Grounds.
The gap in serious training for Demarcation was due to a quarter crack that McGee said is no longer a concern. Although that problem has been cleared up, the swift workout time by Demarcation came as a surprise to McGee.
“I told Julien he’s not a very good work horse,” McGee said. “I said if you just let those reins dangle, he’ll go in 1:06. He’s just that kind. So Julien kind of rode him all the way around there.”
After his effort in the Muniz, in which Demarcation was beaten by just 2 ¾ lengths, McGee had hoped to run his veteran in an allowance race on the Keeneland turf with a summer goal of competing in the $150,000 Firecracker Handicap (GII). But the quarter crack emerged and changed that plan.
Following Tuesday’s work the one-mile Firecracker at the top of Demarcation’s summer agenda and McGee hopes to prep his veteran in an allowance race sometime next month.
“He’s back to doing good now,” said McGee. “It was just that quarter crack that kept him out.”
Demarcation has a career record of 6-3-5 in 21 races aand has earned $266,833.
BARN TALK – Jockey Julien Leparoux notched career victory 1,000 on Wednesday when he piloted Janet Dunlay’s My Little Connor ($6.20) to a 1 ¾-length victory for veteran trainer David Vance in the third. Leparoux picked up one more victory in the day’s ninth race to extend his early lead in the race for leading rider of the Spring Meet. Leparoux ended the day with 20 victories for a four-win cushion over Jamie Theriot. … Wednesday was a good day for Leparoux’s family as brother-in-law Tony Farina notched a victory in the second race with Margaux Farm’s Special Clearance ($30.80). Farina is married to Leparoux’s sister, Virginia. … Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel notched three wins on Wednesday’s card to push his Spring Meet victory total to 13. Borel will ride Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (GI), the second jewel of the Triple Crown. … Saturday’s eighth race at Churchill Downs has been named “The Chuck Olmstead Memorial” to honor the popular Louisville newsman who died March 10 after working 34 years as a reporter for WHAS-11. Along with being a longtime fan of Thoroughbred racing, He was a veteran of WHAS-11’s Kentucky Derby telecasts and Olmstead and his signature hat were broadcast fixtures in the paddock on Derby Day … Kentucky Derby veteran Sam P. worked four furlongs over a “sloppy” track on Thursday for trainer Todd Pletcher. Sam P. finished ninth to Street Sense in the 2007 “Run for the Roses” … With no live racing on Wednesdays for the remainder of the Spring Meet, Churchill Downs will offer free general admission for ITW simulcast wagering on Wednesdays through the remainder of the Spring Meet.
ADVANCE PREAKNESS BETTING AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY – Churchill Downs will offer advance wagering on Saturday’s $1.1 million Preakness Stakes all day Friday. Also, the Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Double – similar to the Oaks/Derby Double – will link Friday’s Grade II, $150,000 Black-Eyed Susan (Pim 12 at 5:50 p.m. ET) and Saturday’s Preakness (Pim 12 at 6:15 p.m. EDT).
Churchill Downs will have a Pimlico-feel for a simulcast of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, complete with yellow, white and black bunting and flowers and live Dixieland and Big Band music. Fans who pass through admission gates will receive their choice of a free Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra button while supplies last. Also, Black-Eyed Susan specialty drinks and coastal food specials will be sold at select locations throughout the facility. And between races in the paddock area, the “World’s Largest Black-Eyed Susan” will be on display, and select customers will get a chance to compete in “Crab Races” – they’ll be in costumes dressed as crabs – with the final scheduled for later in the day on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Early arrivals to Churchill Downs on Preakness Stakes Day can take part in the new “Get in the Game” Handicapping Seminar that will feature informative and in-depth analysis of races and handicapping topics. Hosted by Churchill Downs racing analyst Jill Byrne with a weekly special guest, the series will take place Saturdays in the paddock area (note: it will be held in the ITW area on the second floor of the clubhouse if there is inclement weather) at 11:45 a.m. . .
NEXT “FRIDAY HAPPY HOURS” SET FOR MAY 15 – This week’s “Dress to Impress” Friday Happy Hours at Churchill Downs will showcase live music by Radio Radio. The popular Spring Meet promotion, which takes place most Fridays from 4-7 p.m. in the paddock area, also features $2 Budweiser Select, $2 select specialty drinks and $2 hot dogs. Also, one female in the crowd will be chosen as “best dressed” and win a $250 gift certificate to a Louisville area boutique.