BUSY MORNING FOR CLASSIC WINNERS: RACHEL ALEXANDRA POSES FOR VOGUE; MINE THAT BIRD GALLOPS – The whole morning Friday was decidedly not business as usual for Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Preakness (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra at Churchill Downs.
The first part of the morning was routine: a trip to the track at 6:20 for one time around the main track under exercise rider Dominic Terry.
Four hours later, the cameras were out and the backdrop was up between Barns 36 and 38 for a photo shoot of Rachel Alexandra by acclaimed fashion photographer Steven Klein. His images of the Oaks and Preakness winner are set to be published in the August issue of Vogue.
Klein may be best known for his striking photos of such pop icons as Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Natalie Portman and Justin Timperlake. His work has appeared in Vogue and W and in ads for Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana.
“Done photo shoots before, but first one for Vogue,” said Scott Blasi, the assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen who held the shank on the star filly while Klein shot his images just after noon.
Among those looking one were Barbara Banke, the wife of Stonestreet Stables’ Jess Jackson, the filly’s majority owner.
Klein’s session with Rachel Alexandra grew out of a trip to the Preakness by Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour.
“She was there at the Preakness and was inspired, like so many other women were,” said Carolina Shaw, senior vice president for Public Relations, Family & Brand Communications for Jackson Family Enterprises.
A 10’x16’ plywood wall was erected next to the Asmussen barn to serve as the backdrop for the photo shoot of the Preakness winner, who had to be awakened in her stall when was time for her star turn before the camera.
There were no photo shoots for Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner and Preakness runner-up Mine That Bird who quietly went about his business of galloping twice around the main track under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa before the renovation break.
Trainer Chip Woolley said that co-owners Mark Allen and Leonard Blach may be here on Monday to watch Mine That Bird’s final work before the June 6 Belmont Stakes .
“They may be coming in Sunday night, I’m not sure,” Woolley said as Mine That Bird walked back to Barn 42 after his morning exercise.
Woolley said that Mine That Bird would work after the renovation break Monday morning and that jockey Calvin Borel would be aboard. Borel is leaving immediately after the work for a 10 a.m. flight to New York.
Woolley is scheduled to fly out at 7:15 Tuesday morning with Mine That Bird leaving on Wednesday. “I’ll check in on him Tuesday morning early and then take off,” Woolley said.
WELL-TRAVELED SEMAPHORE MAN MAKES FIRST CHURCHILL STOP ON SATURDAY – In 27 starts during his five-year racing career, Double Bogey Stable’s Semaphore Man has raced at 10 tracks.
On Saturday in the 21st running of the $100,000-added Aristides (Grade III), Churchill Downs will become the 11th.
“After he won the Count Fleet (on April 10 at Oaklawn Park), we thought about trying him on the turf in the five-eighths race (the Aegon Turf Sprint on May 1),” trainer Kelly Von Hemel said. “But he was awful tired after that and we gave him a little time.”
A model of consistency throughout his career, the 7-year-old Semaphore Man has finished worse than fourth only four times in those 27 starts. Two of those came on Polytrack at Keeneland and Turfway Park last year, the worst such finishes since 2005.
“He works good on it in the mornings at Arlington Park, but the afternoons are a different story,” Von Hemel said. “He liked Keeneland better than Turfway, but I don’t think he’d run on it again. If he did it would be at Arlington because he trains well on it.”
Semaphore Man shipped to Arlington after the Count Fleet where Kelly’s father, Don, oversees his training. Semaphore Man shipped to Churchill Downs on May 20 and worked a half-mile here on Tuesday in :49.40 for the Aristides.
While the horse is here, the trainer is not.
“We have six in here that night,” Von Hemel said from his home base at Prairie Meadows where he has 52 horses stabled. “Five of them (run) for me and one for my dad. Lynn (Whiting) will saddle my horse there.”
Semaphore Man will face 10 rivals in the six furlongs Aristides and break from post position six under Jesus Castanon as he tries to give Von Hemel a second sprint stakes victory under the Twin Spires.
Von Hemel sent out Miss Macy Sue to score in the 2007 Winning Colors, a race in which she ran second last year. A victory by Semaphore Man would tie Von Hemel with his brother Donnie, who has won two Churchill Downs stakes – the 1992 Clark Handicap with Zeeruler and the 1994 Mrs. Revere with Mariah’s Storm.
PRETTY PROLIFIC RETURNS SATURDAY FOR BAKER – One of the more impressive debut winners at Churchill Downs last summer was Tom Walters’ Pretty Prolific, who broke her maiden by 3 ½ lengths going five furlongs on June 22.
After a brief break, trainer Jim Baker sent Pretty Prolific straight into stakes company and the daughter of Lion Heart ran third in the Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga. Two more stakes tries followed and 2008 closed with a runner-up finish in allowance company on “Stars of Tomorrow II” day on Nov. 29.
Six months later, Pretty Prolific makes her belated 2009 debut in Saturday’s seventh race.
“She was a breeze away from running at Oaklawn and we had to take a tiny flake out of her ankle,” Baker said. “I am glad I stopped on her. She has grown and really filled out. She about 100 pounds bigger and she has been working lights out.”
Three bullet works since May 10 signify Pretty Prolific’s readiness for the six-furlong test.
“All we need now is a little luck,” Baker said.
There is one other debut winner from last summer in the field of nine: Ocean Colors, the next-to-last foal of 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors.
Owned by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. and trained by Steve Asmussen, Ocean Colors romped by 5 ¼ lengths in her five-furlong debut on June 13. Like Pretty Prolific, Ocean Colors raced next in a stake at Saratoga but faded to last in the six-furlong Schuylerville (Grade III) in what was her last start of 2008.
Ocean Colors ran fourth at Keeneland on April 18 in her 2009 debut.
WOOLLEY JOINS JILL BYRNE FOR ‘GET IN THE GAME’ SEMINAR –Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Chip Woolley Jr. will be Churchill Downs racing analyst Jill Byrne’s guest for Saturday’s “Get In The Game” handicapping seminar.
Woolley notched his first Kentucky Derby victory in his first attempt with longshot Mine That Bird, who finished second in the Preakness and is scheduled to run next in the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown..
Saturday’s seminar is set for noon (all times EDT) in the paddock and is free with regular track admission. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.
MILESTONE WATCH – Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby, will bid to become the 10th trainer in Churchill Downs history with 300 victories at the track when he sends out Action Seeker in today’s eighth race. Whiting will have another shot at the mark Saturday, if needed, when he sends out Niobrara in the second race.
Also on Saturday, trainer David Vance, who like Whiting has 299 Churchill Downs victories, can hit the 300 mark with Kiss Mine in the ninth.
Robby Albarado, seeking to become the 56th North American jockey with 4,000 victories, has six mounts Friday on which to build on his 3,998 career total.
BARN TALK – Calvin Borel, who won 13 races over Memorial Day Weekend, now has 917 career victories at Churchill Downs and is only eight behind Don Brumfield for second place all-time at the track. Pat Day is the all-time Churchill Downs wins leader with 2,482. Brumfield, a member of racing’s Hall of Fame, was the last jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Derby and Preakness in the same year. Brumfield won the 1966 Oaks on Native Street, and took the Derby and Preakness on Kauai King.
General Quarters, who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and ninth in the Preakness, returned to Barn 37 late Friday morning after spending a couple of days at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington. “We just sent him over there to deal with some little issues,” owner-trainer Tom McCarthy said.
Trainer Gary Thomas said that Golden Yank, fourth-place finisher in last Sunday’s feature race, would likely point to the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (Grade II) in Iowa on June 27 at 1 1/8 miles.
Brass Hat, winner of last Saturday’s Louisville Handicap (Grade III), is scheduled to return to trainer Buff Bradley’s barn on Monday. “He’s been at the farm, bucking and playing every day,” Bradley said.