“I thought he had a chance once he got clear,” Whiting said of Action Seeker, who rallied to collar Duke of Pearl in deep stretch to win by a head.
The victory made Whiting only the 10th trainer to post 300 career victories in 135 years of racing at Churchill Downs.
“My first year here was 1979,” said Whiting, who began training in 1969. “I spent my first couple of years in Rhode Island at Lincoln and Narragansett and then the next eight winters in Maryland.”
Whiting’s biggest Churchill Downs winner was W.C. “Cal” Partee’s Lil E. Tee, who captured the 1992 Kentucky Derby (Grade I) under Hall of Famer Pat Day. The trainer has a couple of other favorites to go with his Derby winner.
“Big Pistol had the three fastest times here in the 1980s at six furlongs, 7 ½ furlongs and a mile and an eighth,” Whiting said of his sprint star who won five races at Churchill Downs, three of them stakes events. “At the Threshold (a two-time Churchill Downs winner) ran third in the 1984 Derby. All of those were owned by Mr. Partee.”
MINE THAT BIRD CONTINUES PREPARTIONS FOR BELMONT STAKES RUN – As Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird headed to the track Saturday morning, he and jockey Calvin Borel crossed paths.
Borel walked up to Mine That Bird, tousled his mane, gave him a couple of pats on the neck and planted a big smooch on the gelding’s forehead.
Trainer Chip Woolley could only grin at the exchange between horse and rider who will be reunited on the Triple Crown trail next Saturday in the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI) at New York’s Belmont Park.”
“Calvin really likes him and the horse likes him too,” Woolley said as he watched Mine That Bird gallop twice around before the renovation break under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.
Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, but was aboard Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness in which the filly beat Mine That Bird. On Friday, the connections of Rachel Alexandra announced that the filly would pass on the third jewel of the Triple Crown, thus freeing Borel to return to Mine That Bird.
“It was a relief, but I never believed she would run,” Woolley said. “In my mind, I thought I had him (Borel) all along. I am glad to have it all ironed out.”
Woolley was called by Rachel Alexandra’s majority owner Jess Jackson about the decision not to run.
“It was good that he called me first so I was ready for the barrage (of questions),” Woolley said. “I called (owners) Mark (Allen) and Doc (Leonard Blach) and they were happy.”
Mine That Bird will gallop again Sunday morning and then is scheduled to work five furlongs after the break Monday morning with Borel up. Tuesday would be a walk day and Mine That Bird would fly to New York on Wednesday. Woolley is leaving for New York on Tuesday.
Rachel Alexandra backtracked to the frontside and then galloped about a mile and a half under exercise rider Dominic Terry. Rachel Alexandra is scheduled work for trainer Steve Asmussen early Monday morning.
KAELIN ENJOYING BEST SPRING MEET IN YEARS – Last fall, veteran trainer Forrest Kaelin could not buy a win at Churchill Downs. Six months later, Kaelin has six winners from 17 starters and is enjoying one of his best Spring Meets beneath the Twin Spires in years.
“I have no idea for the big turnaround,” Kaelin said Saturday morning. “It was just one of those falls. (D. Wayne) Lukas, Frankie (Brothers) and (Bob) Holthus couldn’t win a race either. I told folks to wait until we go to Tampa and we won 15 there.”
Kaelin, 74, began his career at the track as a rider in 1952 and has been a Churchill Downs training fixture since the 1960s. He won the first two runnings of the Stephen Foster Handicap, long before it achieved its current Grade I status, with local favorite Vodika Collins in 1982 and ’83.
“You go through things like that,” Kaelin said of the winless fall. “I had one year at Ellis when I was riding and I only had two winners and 20-something seconds. It gets to you.”
Kaelin picked up his sixth victory of the spring Friday when Nick’s Girl won the fourth race.
“She has some issues, but she’s got a big heart,” Kaelin said. “But she got claimed from me by (Wayne) Catalano.”
Kaelin, who has 14 horses here, has 312 career wins at Churchill Downs, eighth most in track history. The six wins equal Kaelin’s total from 1989 when he was 6-for-48 and he is en route to having his best season here since he saddled 16 winners in the spring 1985 meet.
“Things have just come around,” said Kaelin, who has been stabled in Barn 46 for 40 years. “Sometimes that old worm gets in a hole and eventually has to come up for air.”
ONE CAROLINE SIDELINED BY INJURY -- G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s One Caroline, who suffered her first career loss in six starts when she ran second to Miss Isella in the Louisville Distaff (Grade II) on May 1, will not get a rematch with that rival in the June 13 Fleur De Lis (Grade II).
“She suffered a slight injury yesterday and she will be out for 60 days,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “It is not major and she will be back in the fall. If you had to ask me now, I’d say we’d look for Churchill Downs in the fall.”
One Caroline worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Friday at Keeneland and the injury was detected afterward.
“It is not career threatening, just a bump in the road,” Arnold said. “I feel sorry for Churchill, because we wanted to come back and meet (trainer) Ian Wilkes’ filly (Miss Isella) again. It looks like that is going to be a nice little rivalry.”
MILESTONE WATCH – Robby Albarado has eight mounts at Churchill Downs on Saturday as he continues his pursuit of 4,000 career victories. Albarado has 3,998 wins.
David Vance will go for Churchill Downs victory No. 300 in Saturday’s ninth race with Kiss Mine. Ten trainers have won 300 races at Churchill Downs, the most recent being Lynn Whiting, who achieved the feat on Friday.
Bill Connelly, who has 998 career victories, will saddle two horses Saturday night at Indiana Downs in his bid to reach 1,000. The two horses are Hard Rock Man in the seventh and Go Lydia Go in the eighth.
BARN TALK – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has named Julien Leparoux to ride Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private in next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Lukas’ other Belmont prospect, the Marylou Whitney Stables’ Luv Gov, will be ridden by Miguel Mena. The horses will leave for Belmont Park at 2 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.
The Kentucky Derby-winning team of trainer Chip Woolley and jockey Calvin Borel will join New York-based trainer Gary Contessa in ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning, June 4.
Nominations close Saturday for the five stakes that make up the June 13 Reunion Day card, highlighted by the $600,000-added Stephen Foster (Grade I) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Other stakes that day are the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis (Grade II) for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the $150,000-added Jefferson Cup (Grade II) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course, the $100,000-added Northern Dancer (Grade III) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16th miles on the main track and the $150,000-added Regret (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
WORK TAB – Three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Pure Clan put in her final major prep for next Saturday’s Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) by working five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast track after the renovation break under exercise rider Steve Schmelzel. The move was the second fastest of 25 at the distance.
The Mint Julep will be Pure Clan’s first start since a loss to champion Forever Together in the Oct. 24 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) at Santa Anita.
“I am eager to get her going again,” trainer Bob Holthus said. “She is the best filly I have had. I want to see how she comes out of this one. She is nominated to the Modesty (Grade III on July 11) and the Beverly D. (Grade I on Aug. 11) at Arlington Park.”
Terrain, in his first work since finishing seventh in the Preakness, worked a half-mile in :47.60, the second fastest of 71 at the distance. Trainer Al Stall Jr. is pointing Terrain toward the Iowa Derby on June 26 at Prairie Meadows.
Undefeated Hull worked a half-mile in :49.60 as his final tuneup for next Saturday’s Woody Stephens (Grade II) at Belmont Park.