DOWNS AFTER DARK RECEIVES STRONG REVIEWS – The talk of the backstretch Saturday morning was all about the night before … the debut of night racing at Churchill Downs that brought out a crowd of 28,011.
“The racing department did a fine job and everything was smooth on that end. It pumped us up having all the people come out to see us,” said trainer William “Buff” Bradley, whose lone starter of the night came in the 11th race that went off at 11:11 p.m. “I wish it could be like that every day.”
“I knew it would be popular and I am sure they will address any glitches that occurred,” trainer Neil Howard said.
. “I ran at 7:30 and it wasn’t dark yet,” said veteran Kentucky-based trainer Steve Penrod. “I like to walk over with my horses and I can usually count the people in the stands. I couldn’t do that last night. I hope they all come back.”
Chip Woolley, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird who is based in New Mexico, liked what he saw.
“I thought for the first time, they did an awesome job. It was a great, great deal,” Woolley said. “I got here about 7 o’clock and when I turned the corner driving in I saw all the people on the balconies and it looked just like Derby Day.”
Robby Albarado, who rode two winners on the card, was back out working horses Saturday morning despite the late finish to the program.
“I usually go to bed between 11 and 11:30, but I didn’t procrastinate too long when I got home last night,” Albarado said. “It was a little bit different for us with the people and the lights. It was a nice crowd, a young crowd and hopefully a lot of them will come back.”
MISS DIANE MAKES FAVORABLE FIRST IMPRESSION FOR SCHERER – For $27,000, trainer Merrill Scherer plucked a 2-year-old Montbrook filly out of the April sale at Ocala for himself, Centaur Farms and Dan Lynch. On Friday night, he got to see what he had in the filly named Miss Diane.
What he saw was the fastest 4 ½ furlongs of the meet when Miss Diane outdueled Ad Litem by a neck in :50.99.
“She fought horses off two times in the race that was impressive,” Scherer said. Not many 2-year-olds can do that. She kept trying.”
The :50.99 clocking included a final sixteenth of a mile in 5.67 seconds.
“I didn’t know it was the fastest time of the meet, but she might have broken the track record if she had broken from the gate,” Scherer said. “She shot up like a skyrocket at the break and then she re-broke again.”
Miss Diane had two solid works at Churchill Downs before the debut, including a bullet move of :47 for a half-mile on June 5.
“She was fast every time I worked her and just ready to run,” said Scherer, who was surprised to come away with the filly for only $27,000. “I just got her papers the day before, which is why I entered both (Yes It’s Valid also was entered) in case they didn’t get here.”
So, what’s next for Miss Diane?
“Not a clue,” Scherer said.
OCEAN COLORS DAZZLES IN TURF DEBUT – Expectations have always been high for Ocean Colors, the next-to-last foal of 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors. The expectations heightened when she romped at first asking last June at Churchill Downs.
Owned by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Ocean Colors made her grass debut Friday night and it was a smashing success as she won the five-furlong sprint in :57.10 by 2 ½ lengths.
“She ran big last night and she’s fine this morning,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “I am not sure what we are going to do next with her, because there are not that many races that fit her at five and five and a half furlongs.”
MILESTONE WATCH – Greg Foley, who has 298 career victories at Churchill Downs, can become the 12th trainer in track history to reach the 300-win mark on Saturday with two horses entered: Oh Charlie Boy in the fifth and Cajun Prize in the 10th. Foley, who saddled his first winner at Churchill Downs during the 1981 Spring Meet, also has two horses entered on Sunday: Q Mac’s Phone in the sixth and Hickory Dee in the 10th.
BARN TALK – Saturday is the deadline for nominations for the final three stakes of the Spring Meet. Closing that day will be the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (Grade III) for 2-year-olds going six furlongs on the main track to be run July 3, the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (Grade II) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course for 3-year-olds and up on July 4, and the $100,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (Grade III) for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up also going a mile on the turf on closing day July 5.
WORK TAB – Luv Gov and Flying Private, fifth and sixth respectively in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (Grade I) for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, returned to the work tab Saturday morning with half-mile works. Working over a track labeled “good”, Luv Gov was clocked in :48.60 with Flying Private, fourth to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness (GI), posting a :50.60 time. … Terrain, working toward a Friday start in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows, covered a half-mile in :49.60 for trainer Al Stall Jr. Also heading to Iowa on Wednesday for Stall will be My Pal Charlie for the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders’ Cup Handicap (Grade II) and Bear Now for the Iowa Distaff Breeders’ Cup. … Debut winner Beautician, nominated to next Saturday’s Debutante (Grade III), worked a half-mile in :49 over a sloppy track for trainer Ken McPeek, the seventh fastest of 70 at the distance.