Trained by Helen Pitts-Blasi, Einstein ran second in last year’s Stephen Foster behind Horse of the Year Curlin. The 7-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Spend A Buck is scheduled to work a half-mile Sunday morning. A winner of 11 of 25 races with earnings of $2,609,904, Einstein will be shooting for a third consecutive Grade I victory and his first win at that level on traditional dirt.
A win in the Stephen Foster would allow Einstein to join Lava Man as the only horses to win Grade I races on dirt, grass and synthetic courses. The two-time winner of Churchill Downs’ Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on turf and the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (GI) on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita, Einstein won the $500,000 Clark Handicap (GII) last fall on the man track at Churchill Downs.
The next high weight was assigned to Asiatic Boy with 122 pounds. The 6-year-old is coming off a 12th-place finish to Well Armed in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI) and the Foster will mark both his U.S. bow and debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Previously trained by South African Mike de Kock, he has a record of 7-3-2 in 15 races and earnings of $3,068.090. He was second to Curlin in last year’s Dubai World Cup and won the $2 million UAE Derby as a 4-year-old in 2007.
Other probable starters and their weight assignments include 2008 Meadowlands Cup (GII) winner Arson Squad (118); Finallymadeit, winner of Calder’s Memorial Day Handicap (GIII) and Gulfstream Park’s Skip Away (GIII) (118); Researcher (118), winner of the Queens County (GIII) at Aqueduct and the recent $500,000 Charles Town Classic; Alysheba (GIII) winner Bullsbay (117), Macho Again (117), runner-up to Big Brown in the 2008 Preakness (GI) and winner of the 2009 New Orleans Handicap (GII).
Domino Stud of Lexington’s Miss Isella, winner of the Louisville Distaff (Grade II) on the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (GI) undercard, was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the 35th running of the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap (Grade II) for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Miss Isella has won four of six starts at Churchill Downs, including the Grade II Falls City Handicap last fall. The daugheter of 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm has a record of 4-1-0 in six races under the Twin Spires and has earned $436,733. Of that total, $400,968 has been earned at Churchill Downs.
Second high weight for the Fleur De Lis is the Eric Guillot-trained Santa Teresita, winner of Santa Anita’s Santa Maria (GI) with 121 pounds. Other probable starters and their weight assignments are Sixty Saile (GIII) and Gardenia (GIII) winner Swift Temper (117); Arlington Matron (GIII) runner-up Kiss With a Twist (115); Unforgotten (115), the runner-up in Churchill Downs Chilukki (GII) and Pimlico’s DuPont Distaff (GII); and Distinctive Dixie (114), runner-up in Oaklawn’s Bayakoa. Considered as possible for the race are Maryland-based multiple stakes winner All Smiles (115) and Humana Distaff (GI) runner-up Temple Street (113).
COURT RELISHES RETURN TO THE BLUE GRASS – A familiar scene from the Spring Meet played out after Friday’s sixth race, where jockey Jon Court’s mega-watt smile illuminated the winner’s circle as a fat, double-figure payoff lit up the tote board.
Hidden Bay gave Court his 14th winner of the meet and returned $35.20. The average payoff for Court’s winners is $25.10, which nearly triple the average return for a winners ridden by the meet-leading Julien Leparoux and almost double the return on Calvin Borel’s winners, which include the $103.20 Derby mutuel on Mine That Bird.
“People are hollering back ‘welcome home’ and it just doesn’t get any sweeter than that,” said Court, who last rode regularly at Churchill Downs in the 2003 Fall Meet. “I was just thinking that maybe about this time next year it will wear off, but I hope the rejuvenation doesn’t.”
When Court, 48, left for Southern California to ride regularly five years ago, he held on to his house in Shelbyville. Now, that house is home again.
“I am far more delighted about being back in Kentucky than I thought I would be,” said Court, the 18th-leading rider all time at Churchill Downs with 323 victories. “Second of all, I thought I would miss California a bit, but the warm homecoming has been so overwhelming that I have no longings to go back to California.”
Court feels the return to Kentucky may prolong his career.
“I have found that at my age I get an agent (Tony King) that puts you on the card and your career has some longevity that a year ago you didn’t think was possible,” Court said. “I had people ask last year what I would do after I was done riding.
“At that point, I had no plans on quitting, but apparently the way my career was moving -- it had slowed down quite a bit – people were thinking I was taking that as an option. I know that is down the road. I just hope it is further down the road.”
Another plus for Court is the fact that his son Justin is here and works as an exercise rider.
“That has been a pleasure to have my oldest son on the track,” Court said. “he is always a joy to be around.”
FINAL LIGHTS ARRIVE FOR NIGHTS NEXT WEEK – “Downs After Dark” night racing debuts June 19 and its final sets of temporary lights arrive next week.
“They will be installing one set of lights at the top of the stretch and two near the track kitchen on June 10 and 11,” said David Sweazy, Churchill Downs’ vice president, Operations. “There will be eight mobile trailers for the infield that will go up between June 10 and 13.”
Training hours on Monday and Tuesday, June 15 and 16, will begin at 5 a.m. to give trainers an opportunity to have their horses on track under the lights.
Two more Downs After Dark programs are scheduled for June 26 and July 2 with the first post time for each card being 6 p.m.
RAMSEYS IN COMMAND OF OWNERS RACE – With 60 percent of the 45-day Spring Meet in the books, the husband-wife team of Ken and Sarah Ramsey appear to be well on their way to a 15th owner’s title at Churchill Downs.
The victory by Pauillac in Friday’s fifth race gave the Ramseys 12 winners for the meet, six more than their closest pursuer, Maggi Moss.
The Ramseys, who have won the past three meet titles at Churchill Downs, had 20 winners during last spring’s 52-day meet.
Steve Asmussen, who has won five training titles at Churchill Downs, leads Mike Maker 16-12 in the chase for leading trainer.
In the race for leading rider, four-time meet leader Julien Leparoux has a 43-35 lead over Calvin Borel. Both jockeys are riding at Belmont Park on Saturday and have mounts in the Belmont Stakes (Grade I): Leparoux on Flying Private and Borel on Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
MILESTONE WATCH – Calvin Borel will be back at Churchill Downs on Sunday, with mounts in nine of the 10 races. Borel has 920 career victories at Churchill Downs and needs six wins to surpass Don Brumfield for second place all time at the track. Pat Day is No. 1 all time with 2,482 victories.
David Vance has one starter in at Churchill Downs on Saturday – Westline in the eighth -- in his bid to become the 11th trainer with 300 victories beneath the Twins Spires.
BARN TALK – The disqualification of Calimonco for interference in the stretch of Friday’s 11th race that elevated Victory Notion to the win was only the second DQ of the meet for first place. The other previous win DQ came on May 7 in the seventh race when Cross Village was disqualified and placed third for interference in the stretch.
WORK TAB – Three possible candidates for next Saturday’s Fleur De Lis worked over a fast track Saturday morning at Churchill Downs. Likely starter Unforgotten worked a half-mile in :49.80, the 41st fastest of 70 at the distance. Also working were possible starters Temple Street, who worked a half in :47.40 under jockey Jon Court for the second fastest move at the distance of the morning, and French Kiss, who worked seven furlongs in 1:27.60 under jockey Joe Johnson. Probable Regret starter The Best Day Ever worked five furlongs in 1:03.20, the 20th fastest of 33 at the distance. Posting half-mile works were Matt Winn runner-up Cash Refund (:49.20, 30th fastest) and seventh- place Preakness finisher Terrain (:49.60, 36th fastest), who runs next in the Iowa Derby.