Hall of Fame trainer D Wayne Lukas suffered through a miserable fall here last year, failing to win a race from 34 starters.
What a difference six months and a barn full of precocious 2-year-olds can make.
“We are coming around,” Lukas said Saturday morning, a day after Westrock Stables, LLC’s Soundman ran the fastest 4 ½ furlongs of the meet (:51.40) in breaking his maiden by 7 ¾ lengths. “That’s three in a row I have won for them.”
The Westrock explosion began May 14 when Decelerator, a Dehere filly, won at first asking covering five furlongs in a meet-best :57.73. Tidal Pool, a daughter of Yankee Gentleman, won in her second outing on Thursday going 4 ½ furlongs and then Soundman, a son of Songandaprayer, won in his second start on Friday.
All three were purchased at auction in February. Decelerator cost $250,000, Soundman $240,000 and Tidal Pool $220,000.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg for Lukas, who has 13 babies purchased last year as part of 39 bought last year by Legends Racing and divided among Lukas and fellow Hall of Famers Nick Zito and Bob Baffert.
“All 13 Legends horses are here,” Lukas said. “And they are good, too.”
TEMPLE STREET MAKES THE HUGE JUMP FROM CLAIMER TO GRADE I PLACED – Little did trainer Brad Cox know what a bargain he was getting last fall when he claimed Temple Street for $15,000 out of a non-winners-of-three lifetime race for the K.C. Garrett Farm at Churchill Downs.
“She had run a good race the time before we claimed her,” Cox said. “We thought she would like the dirt more than the Polytrack.”
Since joining the Cox barn, Temple Street has run six times with two victories, three seconds and a third, highlighted by a runner-up finish to Informed Decision in the Grade I Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day.
“She ran OK at Turfway Park, but her (Beyer) number fell off a little bit,” Cox said of Temple Street’s first start for the barn. Then the 5-year-old Street Cry mare headed to Oaklawn Park for the winter and began a partnership with jockey Jon Court.
“The first time Jon rode her, I told him to ride the first half of the race like it’s a mile and a half turf race and the second half like it’s a 2-year-old going a quarter-mile out of the gate,” Cox said. “Jon knows her like the back of his hand. She really likes the dirt and is a come-from-behind sprinter.”
Temple Street jumps back into graded stakes company on Monday’s Memorial Day program when she faces six rivals in the sixth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III) at six furlongs.
“My worry in a small field is you won’t get a fast pace,” Cox said. “But I think there is enough speed in there with Keep the Peace and Dubai Majesty and maybe Lady Chace. I’d like to see a lot of pace, like 21 and 44. The long stretch here is perfect for her.”
LEPAROUX MAKING SHAMBLES OF RACE FOR LEADING RIDER – Steve Bass, agent for jockey Julien Leparoux was back in the heavy-duty donut delivery business Saturday morning, a day after Leparoux rode five winners from eight mounts on the Friday afternoon card at Churchill Downs.
“Thirteen dozen this morning,” Bass said as he made his backstretch rounds.
The five-win day was the third at Churchill Downs for Leparoux, who also has a six-win day and a seven-win day, the latter coming last Nov. 11. One of his winners on his seven-victory day, Yikes, accounted for his first victory Friday.
His record-equaling seven-win day helped propel Leparoux past Hall of Famer Pat Day for most wins for a Fall Meet (63), which shattered Day’s record by eight.
The overall record for Spring Meet wins is the 169 winners piloted by Day in an extended 93-day meet in 1983. Leparoux has 32 winners through 19 days of the 45-day meet and a 12-win lead over his closest pursuer, Miguel Mena. He won’t come close to Day’s all-time record, but has a shot at the record of a Spring Meet of similar length. That would be the 78 winners piloted by Day in a 47-day meet in 1999.
MILESTONE WATCH – Robby Albarado was blanked on five mounts Friday and remains at 3,996 career wins entering Saturday’s card. Albarado has 10 mounts Saturday and seven on Sunday. He will ride at Lone Star Park on Monday.
Trainer Ken McPeek, with 999 career wins, has one runner entered today, Millennium Lakes in the 11th. Should the milestone victory elude McPeek today, he has one Churchill Downs entrant on Sunday – Cobbler’s Reef in the seventh – and two on Monday: Rocket Zee in the fifth and Old Man Buck in the eighth.
Trainer Bill Connelly, with 998 career wins, has one runner entered at Churchill Downs today, It’s a Rap in the third. Connelly’s next Churchill Downs entrant is Button Dancer in the third race on Monday.
BARN TALK – Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped two miles before the renovation break under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa on Saturday morning. Trainer Chip Woolley plans to work Mine That Bird on Monday. Kentucky Oaks and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra galloped before the renovation break under exercise rider Dominic Terry. Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to work Monday.
Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Indygo Mountain, who stamped himself as a possible Kentucky Derby contender with an impressive maiden score here last Nov. 19, is back in training after being sidelined since February with a chip in his knee. “He just came back in training last week,” said Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. “We are going to take our time with him and it will be a while (before he works).”
A happy birthday on Saturday to trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi. Pitts-Blasi plans to work Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I) winner Einstein a half-mile on Sunday morning, the first of three scheduled works leading up to the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) on June 13.
Nominations close today for the 33rd running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) to be run on June 6. The race is for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/16th miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Champion Dreaming of Anna won last year’s renewal of the race.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Derby Trial (Grade III) winner Hull worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 for trainer Dale Romans in preparation for Woody Stephens (GII) on June 6 at Belmont Park. The move by the undefeated Hull was the second best of 19 at the distance over a fast track. Rainbow Miss winner Affirmed Truth, prepping for the May 30 Dogwood (GIII), worked five furlongs in 1:02.60, ninth best of 19, for trainer Tim Ice.
GENERAL ELECTRIC PARTNERS WITH CHURCHILL FOR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND GIVEAWAY – Churchill Downs has partnered with General Electric to giveaway GE stainless steel products in an on-track sweepstakes offer over the three-day Memorial Day weekend A prize drawing will be held each day after the seventh race and one daily winner will take home their choice of a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher or microwave oven, courtesy of GE. Registration for the drawings will take place at a tent in the paddock area, where the first 5,000 entrants each day will receive a free koozie.
Sunday, May 24 is “GE Day at the Races” at Churchill Downs. Employees of General Electric who show their employee ID badge at Gate 10 will receive complimentary admission for themselves and their guests, as well as reserved seating in either Sections 115-116 or Millionaires’ Row 6.
JUNIOR JOCKEY CLUB ACTIVITIES FOR MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY – Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club for children 3-10 will be open for all three days of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Special activities between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (all times EDT) include decorating “Triple Crowns” on Saturday and Sunday, and outdoor games on Monday. The Junior Jockey Club is 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 each day for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m.
NO LIVE RACING TUESDAY-THURSDAY, FREE ADMISSION TO THURSDAY SIMULCASTS – Following Monday’s special Memorial Day racing program, Churchill Downs will be dark on Tuesday, May 26; Wednesday, May 27; and Thursday, May 28. There will be no on-site simulcast wagering May 26-27. Churchill Downs will be open for simulcast wagering May 28 and will offer free general admission for patrons to place wagers on outlets around the country in the ITW area on the second floor of the clubhouse.