As trainer Tom Amoss stood in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs following his 300th victory under the historic Twin Spires of the home of the Kentucky Derby, he recalled his first journey to the Louisville track.
The 47-year-old New Orleans native picked a good day for that first visit.
“I always, when I started training, aspired to train here at Churchill Downs,” said Amoss. “My first day of racing at Churchill Downs was the 1979 Kentucky Derby that Spectacular Bid won. I was a senior in high school and I came up with (fellow trainer) Al Stall and his family. That morning, the morning of the race, I rode (trainer) Frank Brothers’ pony on the track. I always thought it would be wonderful to train here one day.”
Amoss made it to Louisville and Thursday’s milestone win in the fifth race with Maggi Moss’ McGlamery Road made him just the ninth trainer in Churchill Downs history to achieve 300 victories at the track. The eight who preceded him are: Bill Mott (615 wins), D. Wayne Lukas (466), Dale Romans (460), Bernie Flint (411), Jack Van Berg (335), Angel Montano Sr. (319), Steve Asmussen (314) and Forrest Kaelin (309).
“I’m very proud it and I’m very proud for my staff,” Amoss said. “These guys have all been with me a long time. Anybody that comes to the barn sees the same faces and I really feel we did it together. It’s a good deal for everybody.”
Among those 300 wins are a couple of personal highlights. Amoss ranks last spring’s victory by Moss’ Indian Chant in the Aristides (GIII) at the top of that roster.
“That was a wonderful win,” Amoss said. “That’s something that was really exciting to me and to the staff. That and maybe Lone Star Sky’s (2002) Bashford Manor (Grade III) win. Those two are the ones that quickly come to mind.”
Amoss, who won last year’s Spring Meet training crown to go with an earlier spring crown he earned in 2002, has 36 horses in training at Churchill Downs. His horses have run well at the meet with a record of 4-7-3 in 19 starts entering Friday’s 10-race program – an in-the-money rate of 74 percent. His win total is tied for third in the “leading trainer” race behind co-leaders Steve Asmussen and Wesley Ward, each of whom has six wins heading into Friday’s racing at Churchill Downs.
Along with his success at Churchill Downs, Amoss has enjoyed tremendous success at Fair Grounds in his hometown of New Orleans. Amoss has exactly 800 wins at Churchill Downs’ sister track in the Crescent City.
STEWART AIMS MACHO AGAIN TO GRADE I STEPHEN FOSTER – West Point Thorughbreds’ Macho Again came out of a disappointing fifth-place finish in the $150,000-added Alysheba (GIII) on Kentucky Oaks Day in good shape and is now being pointed toward the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), the track’s top race for older horses on Saturday, June 13.
The Dallas Stewart-trained runner-up to Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) Big Brown in the 2008 Preakness (GI) was favored in the Alysheba following an impressive win over a “sloppy” track in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (GII) at Fair Grounds on March 14. But he was far back early behind a slow pace in the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba and was never contention, although he did close ground late to finished just 4 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Bullsbay.
But Stewart liked what he saw when the son of Macho Uno returned to serious training on May 11 with a half-mile work in :49 over a “fast” local surface.
“He’s doing good,” Stewart said. “He was probably up against it with the pace last time. He ran well and was coming on, and maybe a little more distance will help him out. He’s ready to roll.”
The 1 1/8-mile Foster is expected to attracted two-time Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) winner Einstein, the runner-up to two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in the 2008 Stephen Foster.
The Alysheba marked the first time in four starts that Macho Again had finished worse than second at Churchill Downs. He scored an emphatic 5 ½-length victory in his career debut here in late October of 2007 and notched an upset victory in last year’s Derby Trial prior to his outstanding run in the Preakness. His other loss here was a narrow defeat to eventual Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Monba in an allowance race that followed his maiden win in the fall of his 2-year-old season.
Macho Again’s career slate stands at 5-4-0 in 17 races with earnings of $1,078,323. His New Orleans ‘Cap win is his only victory in three 2009 starts.
Stewart has never won the Stephen Foster Handicap, but did saddle Dollar Bill for a runner-up finish behind Godolphin’s Street Cry in 2002.
SPICE ROUTE TOPS WEIGHT ASSIGNMENTS FOR LOUISVILLE HANDICAP, BRASS HAT PROBABLE STARTING HIGH WEIGHT – Spice Route, winner of Keeneland’s Elkhorn (GIII) in his most recent start and the runner-up to Marsh Side in last fall’s Canadian International (GI) at Woodbine, has been assigned high weight of 121 for next Saturday’s 72nd running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Co-owned by Harlequin Stable, Ralph Johnson and trainer Roger Attfield, the 5-year-old son of King’s Best is not considered a likely starter in the 1 ½-mile race over the Matt Winn Turf Course, but would concede from three to 11 pounds to the 27 other horses nominated to the race.
Veteran Better Talk Now, winner of the 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) at Lone Star Park, and Churchill Downs-based veteran Brass Hat, winner of the 2006 Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulstream Park and runner-up in that year’s $5 million Dubai World Cup (GI) before being disqualified for a medication violation, were weighted at 118 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.
Brass Hat, an 8-year-old gelding owned and bred by Fred Bradley and trained by Bradley’s son William “Buff” Bradley, is scheduled to run in the Louisville and is expected to be its starting high weight. He finished a late-running third to Spice Route in the Elkhorn and prior to that was a fast-closing fifth to Proudinsky in the Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap (GII) at Fair Grounds.
The son of Prized closed strongly off a very slow pace to finish fourth to Lattice in last year’s running of the Louisville.
Others considered likely for the race include Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Furthest Land, a 4-year-old Smart Strike gelding won finished eighth to Einstein in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI), and Kim and John Glenney’s Transduction Gold, who was assigned 114 pounds.
BARN NOTES – Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel will not be adding to his milestone victory total for a couple of days as he has traveled to Pimlico to ride Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Borel became only the fourth rider to win 900 races in the 135-year history of Churchill Downs to win 900 races when he piloted Patton’s Creek Farm’s War Eagle Lady to a 14 ¾-length romp in Thursday’s sixth race. Borel, who won Fall Meet riding titles at Churchill Downs in 1999 and 2006, ranks fourth in total wins at the track and trails only retired Hall of Famers Pat Day (2,482 wins) and Don Brumfield (925) and active veteran Larry Melancon (907). The 42-year-old native of St. Martin, La. will return to Churchill Downs on Sunday. … Also out of town on Friday and Saturday to ride in Preakness weekend races at Pimlico are leading rider Julien Leparoux and Jamie Theriot, who ranks second in the Spring Meet standings. Robby Albarado, sixth in the standings heading into Friday’s racing, will ride at Pimlico on Saturday. … Leparoux had a pair of wins on Thursday to increase his lead over Theriot in the early stages of the battle for the Spring Meet’s leading jockey to 22-16. … 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. … Secret Gypsy, winner of the Distaff (GII) at Aqueduct but last of nine to Informed Decision in the Humana Distaff (GI) on Derby Day, breezed four furlongs over a “good” track in :49.20 on Friday. It was the first work for trainer Ronny Werner’s 4-year-old daughter of Sea of Secrets since her disappointing Derby Day outing.
ENJOY THE PREAKNESS SIMULCAST ON SATURDAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Churchill Downs will take on 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 will get a choice of a free Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra button while supplies last in the paddock area. 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.
Post time for Churchill Downs’ Preakness simulcast is 6:15 p.m. (all times EDT)
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. Churchill Downs racing analyst Jill Byrne hosts the seminar each week and will be joined Saturday by jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. The seminar is held paddock area at 11:45 a.m. (note: event will be held in the ITW area on the second floor of the clubhouse if there is inclement weather).
WEEKEND ACTIVITIES IN CHURCHILL DOWNS’ JUNIOR JOCKEY CLUB – Decorating paper horses highlight this weekend’s activities at Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. Coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are available as well, and Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand both Saturday and Sunday for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m. The Junior Jockey Club, designed for children age 3-10, is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.