FLYING PEGASUS BEGINS THE ROAD BACK FRIDAY NIGHT – The road with Flying Pegasus has been anything but smooth for trainer Ralph Nicks, but he’ll saddle the promising 3-year-old for a return to action following a three-month break when he competes in a seven-furlong allowance test on Friday night at Churchill Downs.
“With 3-year-olds, you hope they bounce back quick,” Nicks said of Flying Pegasus, who came down with a lung infection after running sixth in the Louisiana Derby (Grade II) on March 14.
Owned and bred by James Spence, Flying Pegasus won his first career start on July 2 by 2 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs and followed that up with an allowance win as the 3-5 choice five weeks later at Delaware Park. His 2-year-old campaign ended after a runner-up finish to Charitable Man in the Futurity (Grade II) at Belmont Park in September when he exited the race with a bone chip in a hind ankle.
Nicks brought Flying Pegasus back to the races in February with a runner-up finish to Friesan Fire in the Risen Star (Grade III), but Kentucky Derby (GI) hopes for the son of 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus ended in at the Louisiana Derby.
“I don’t want to say ‘confidence builder’, but we hope to use this race to go on to the next race that is not a graded stake,” Nicks said. “There are a lot of races for 3-year-olds in August and September.”
GETTING READY FOR SOME NIGHT MOVES – So, what do you do if you are saddling a horse in the nightcap, scheduled for 11:11 p.m. (all times EDT), in the historic debut of Churchill Downs’ “Downs After Dark” night racing?
“I guess I’ll sleep on the couch (at the barn) that night,” trainer William “Buff” Bradley said with a laugh.
Con Lover is in Friday’s finale and will be Bradley’s only starter on the 11-race card that begins at 6 p.m. A regular on the Kentucky circuit, Bradley is a veteran of night racing at Turfway Park.
“I would usually stay up there if we were in a late race,” Bradley said. “I never thought I would see lights here, and if it works, fine. We need to do whatever we can to boost racing.”
One of the effects of the night card for Bradley will be adjusting work schedules, including barn star Brass Hat, winner of the recent Louisville Handicap (Grade III) and earner of more than $1.8 million.
“I am going to work him Friday instead of Saturday, and that (the night card) is one of the reasons,” Bradley said. “I have a few that will work longer and harder and then will walk for two days, so we won’t have so many going to the track Saturday.”
TRACK RECORD HOLDER HOT DIXIE CHICK TOPS DEBUTANTE NOMINATIONS – Grace Stables’ Hot Dixie Chick, who established a Churchill Downs track record for five furlongs (:56.48) in her second career start on June 13, tops a list of 23 nominations for the 109th running of the $100,000-added Debutante (Grade III).
The six furlong race for 2-year-old fillies is scheduled to be run on June 27.
Hot Dixie Chick is one of five fillies nominated to the Debutante trained by Steve Asmussen, a four-time winner of the race. Included among the quintet are two Churchill Downs maiden winners: Lewis Lakin and Roger Stanton’s Wild Forest Cat, and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Fiesty Ex.
D. Wayne Lukas, who owns the Debutante record as the trainer of six winners, has nominated four fillies including Westrock Stables’ Decelerator, who beat Hot Dixie Chick when they met on May 14. Decelerator worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40 on a muddy track Tuesday morning.
Silverbulletday, who will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame this summer, is the most recent Debutante winner to return the following spring and win the Kentucky Oaks. Silverbulletday achieved her double in 1998-99.
Last year’s Debutante runner-up, Rachel Alexandra, won this year’s Kentucky Oaks and followed that with a win over the boys in the Preakness (GI).
BARN TALK – Rapport, a $475,000 yearling purchase, will be the first runner from the Legends Racing Stable to make the races when she goes postward in Friday’s fifth race. Legends Racing Stable is a partnership between multiple Kentucky Derby-winning trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Nick Zito and Bob Baffert. The three Hall of Fame trainers selected horses at public auction last year for owners who joined the Legends partnership and split those purchases between the three. Rapport, a 2-year-old daughter of Songandaprayer, is one of 13 Legends horses stabled at Churchill Downs with Lukas. “They are a nice set of horses,” Lukas said. Legends, which purchased 38 horses at auction in 2008 for $15,285,000 plus one private acquisition, also has 13 horses each with Nick Zito and Bob Baffert.
Leading rider Julien Leparoux and Corey Lanerie will be at Colonial Downs on Saturday for the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Grade II). Leparoux will be riding Lime Rickey and Lanerie is named on Final Count. Both riders have mounts in the $150,000 All Along (Grade III): Leparoux on Icon Project and Lanerie on Precious Princess.
Saturday, June 20 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.
MILESTONE WATCH – Greg Foley, who has saddled 297 winners at Churchill Downs, has a chance Thursday to become the 12th trainer to achieve 300 victories beneath the Twin Spires. Foley is scheduled to send out Faithope in the second, Western Frontier in the fourth and Badger Barry in the seventh. Foley has no horses entered Friday, but two on Saturday: Oh Charlie Boy in the fifth and Cajun Prize in the 10th.
Bill Connelly, who has saddled 998 winners in his career, has Buckeye Buddy entered in Thursday’s seventh race and Sweetasnails in Friday night’s 11th race.
WORK TAB – Aegon Turf Sprint (Grade III) winner Chamberlain Bridge worked a half-mile in :50 over a fast track, the 15th fastest of 31 at the distance. Tizdejavu, winner of the 2008 Jefferson Cup (Grade II), worked six furlongs in 1:16.20.