CITIZEN JOHN DELIVERS MILESTONE DOWNS VICTORY FOR VANCE – Trainer David Vance and owner Carl Pollard have been a team for more than 15 years, so it was probably fitting that a Pollard-owned horse, Citizen John, presented the veteran trainer with his 300th triumph at Churchill Downs and his 3,012th win overall.
“That made it special,” Vance said Saturday morning. “He has always been a one of my major supporters and very much so lately.”
Vance currently has 17 horses in his barn, which is overseen by his daughter Tricia. The trainer continues to recover from injuries suffered on Dec. 9, 2007, when his truck hydroplaned on a slick interstate highway while transporting horses to Northern Kentucky’s Turfway Park from Churchill Downs.
“I get here at 7:15 every morning and watch my horses from the third floor and then I am back at the barn until about 11:30,” said Vance, whose mobility is limited to a wheelchair because of the injury to his C-4 vertebra. “I am making a little progress, but not as much as I would like.”
What keeps any trainer going is the prospect of having a good 2-year-old in the barn and the prospects are there for Vance, now 68.
“We have four 2-year-olds in here now and one may start next week,” Vance said. “We have one more coming in July 1 and two more the first of September.”
Vance’s biggest victory at Churchill Downs came in 2000 when Caressing won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I) for Pollard. Caressing was named champion 2-year-old filly that year and is Vance’s only Eclipse Award champion.
Vance, one of 22 North American trainers with more than 3,000 victories, has won three Churchill Downs training titles outright, the 1980 and ’81 Spring Meets and the 1994 Fall Meet, and shared the 1967 spring title.
BOREL CONTINUES TO MOVE UP CHURCHILL DOWNS CHARTS – Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel’s spectacular spring added another chapter Friday when he won two races to give him a total of 926 victories at Churchill Downs.
That makes Borel the No. 2 all-time leading rider beneath the Twin Spires as he surpassed Don Brumfield, the 1996 Hall of Fame inductee who rode 925 winners at Churchill Downs.
“I really didn’t know what was going on,” Borel said of a winner’s circle ceremony that included the presentation of a placard signifying the milestone victory. “It’s just been unbelievable. The last eight, nine, 10 years have just been unbelievable.”
Brumfield won 12 riding titles at Churchill Downs during his career compared to two for Borel. He won the 1966 Kentucky Derby aboard Kauai King.
“This is a major accomplishment considering the only titles he won were in the fall,” said Jerry Hissam, Borel’s agent. Borel, who began riding regularly at Churchill Downs in the fall of 1995, won the title outright in 1999 and shared it in 2006 with Shaun Bridgmohan. Along with this year’s Derby win on Mine That Bird, Borel won the 2007 “Run for the Roses” aboard Street Sense.
The all-time Churchill Downs’ leader in victories is Pat Day, who rode 2,482 winners. Borel, who has averaged a little more than 60 victories a year during his career at Churchill Downs, would have to maintain that pace for another 25 years to get in Day’s neighborhood.
“I think Pat will hold that records for a while,” Hissam said.
BACKTALK SPEAKS ELOQUENTLY IN CAREER DEBUT – A possible star of the future may have appeared Thursday afternoon when Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk won his career debut by 2 ¾ lengths over a field of 2-year-old runners sporting high quality pedigrees.
“He has earned the right to stay here,” trainer Tom Amoss said of Backtalk, who had put together a string of impressive works at Arlington Park. “He ran well and we’ll look to go to the Bashford Manor (Grade III on July 3).”
Backtalk was purchased for $250,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September Sale for Gold Mark.
“I didn’t have anything to do with the purchase,” Amoss said. “Todd Quast and his wife (Lori) picked him out and they are good at it. Initially (Backtalk) went to Gold Mark Farm and that is Polytrack, so we thought the transition would be easier taking him to Arlington.”
Backtalk is a half-brother to two-time graded-stakes winner Bsharpsonata, who ran fifth in last year’s Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and also won her career debut as a 2-year-old. They are the only two foals of the Affirmed mare Apasionata Sonata.
“We would have liked to have named him Bsmartsonata, but couldn’t get it,” Amoss said of Backtalk, a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones.
BRASSY BOY GIVES WIGGINS AN UNEXPECTED TREAT – It has been a roller coaster spring for trainer Hal Wiggins, from the high of Rachel Alexandra’s historic romp in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) to the low of having the best horse he has trained sold shortly after that triumph.
The ride may be heading back up for Wiggins with a 2-year-old colt named Brassy Boy, who improved to 2-for-2 with a neck victory in a Thursday allowance race.
“I told my wife that I’d be happy if he ran fourth,” said Wiggins of the colt who broke his maiden for a $30,000 claiming tag on May 29 at Churchill Downs. “I may nominate him to the Bashford Manor and see how strong it will be. I am sure some of those in Thursday were prepping for it.”
Owned by Betty and Leon Millsap, Brassy Boy is an Arkansas-bred son of Storm and a Half out of the Dixie Brass mare Brass Doll.
“We got him right when we left Hot Springs to come up here,” Wiggins said. “David Whited gets them ready for us. I have had all of the mare’s foals and they are all solid horses.”
Brassy Boy is the fifth foal for Brass Doll, who has produced two stakes winners in Brassie Prince and Doll and a Half from matings with Storm and a Half, a son of Storm Cat. Brass Doll’s other two foals also were sired by Storm and a Half.
BARN TALK – The final sets of temporary lights have been moved into place in the infield and horsemen will get a chance Monday and Tuesday for a dry run under those lights in advance of Friday’s first “Downs After Dark” night racing card. Training hours will begin at 5 a.m. (EDT) on Monday and Tuesday. Other night cards are scheduled for Friday, June 26 and Thursday, July 2.
Expected to work under the lights Monday is Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Preakness Stakes (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra. On Saturday morning, Rachel Alexandra back-tracked to the front side and then went 1 ½ times around the main track under exercise rider Dominic Terry.
Mine That Bird, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), back-tracked once around on Saturday morning under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.
“He actually jogged a little bit this morning,” trainer Chip Woolley said. “The other day he just wanted to buck and play. He’ll walk tomorrow and then jog again Monday.”
Mine That Bird finished second to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness (GI) and third to Summer Bird in last week’s Belmont Stakes (GI), the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown. Woolley said Friday that his Kentucky Derby winner would likely run this summer in the Aug. 1 West Virginia Derby (GII) and the Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers (GI).
Nominations close Saturday for the 109th running of the Debutante (Grade III) for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs on the main track on June 27. Garden District won the 2008 Debutante by a half-length over Rachel Alexandra.
Next Saturday, June 20, will be 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 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 – Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat, winner of the May 23 Louisville Handicap (Grade III) returned to the tab on Saturday morning by working five furlongs in 1:00.40 for trainer Buff Bradley. The move over the fast track was the second fastest of 29 at the distance. Helen Groves and Helen Alexander’s stakes-winning filly Selva worked the same distance in 1:00.80, third fastest of the morning, for trainer David Carroll. Lawrence Carroll’s Bold Start, winner of the May 30 Aristides (Grade III), worked a half-mile in :48 for trainer Ken McPeek. It was the sixth best of 55 at the distance.