THREE-WIN DAY BOLSTERS HERNANDEZ’S SPIRITS – It has been a frustrating meet so far for jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., but things started to turn around a bit on Saturday when he enjoyed his first three-day win of the meet.
“You hope to have more days like yesterday,” said Hernandez, a 23-year-old native of Lafayette, La.
Hernandez took the Saturday opener on Cat Island and followed with scores on Gather All in the second and Darboy in the fourth. The three wins gave him 14 for the meet to go with 27 runner-up finishes.
“The 20-something seconds get old in a hurry,” he said. “You start trying to figure out what you are doing wrong, but a lot of the time your horse is just second best.”
The one day that stands out for Hernandez as being symbolic of the meet was May 7. He won two races but also lost three photo finishes, two by a nose.
“Every photo that day I lost,” Hernandez said. “It seemed like I got beat a nose every time.”
When the meet ends in two weeks, instead of staying in Kentucky and riding at Ellis Park, Hernandez is planning on heading east.
“I am going to go to Delaware Park,” Hernandez said. “I never have been there.”
SEVEN FILLIES CONSIDERED PROBABLE FOR SATURDAY’S DEBUTANTE – Westrock Stables’ Decelerator, Clifford Grum’s Brown Eyed Baby and Lewis Lakin and Diane and Roger Stanton’s Wild Forest Cat, all maiden winners this spring at Churchill Downs, are among seven 2-year-old fillies considered as “probable” starters in Saturday’s 109th running of the $100,000-added Debutante (Grade III).
Of the three, only Decelerator won at first asking, taking a five-furlong dash on a sloppy track on May 14. Decelerator is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Debutante a record six times.
Other undefeated probables for the Debutante include GTS Racing’s Our Tekela Rose, a one-length winner going 4 ½ furlongs on the Polytrack at Arlington Park on May 24, Mary Bonham’s Phone Marybe, a 9 ½-length winner going 4 ½ furlongs at Calder on May 7, and Katierich Stables and Dan Beaton’s Henry’s Posse, a 7 ½-length winner going 4 ½ furlongs at Pimlico on May 2.
Also considered as probable for the race is Ross Yelverton’s Send Rose Thecheck, a 1 ½-length winner at 4 ½ furlongs in her second start at Evangeline Downs on May 22.
Entries for the Debutante will be taken Wednesday.
MILESTONE WATCH – Greg Foley inched closer to the 300-win mark at Churchill Downs when Oh Charlie Boy rallied late to take Saturday’s fifth race for Foley’s 299th victory beneath the Twin Spires. Foley’s first bid to become the 12th trainer in track history to reach the 300-win mark fell short on Saturday when Cajun Prize finished fifth in the 10th. Foley, who saddled his first winner at Churchill Downs during the 1981 Spring Meet, has two horses entered on Sunday: Q Mac’s Phone in the sixth and Hickory Dee in the 10th.
Churchill Downs-based trainer William Connelly, who has saddled 998 winners in his career, will try to reach 1,000-win milestone north of the Ohio River this week when he sends out four horses on Monday and Tuesday at Indiana Downs. Connelly has Just Memories in the second race and Hard Rock Man in the third race on Monday and It’s a Rap in the second and Megalos in the sixth on Tuesday.
BARN TALK – Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird jogged once around the wrong way early Sunday morning with Charlie Figueroa up and is slated to go back to work on Monday. “He will resume his two-mile gallops on Monday. He is ready to do something,” said trainer Chip Woolley, who gave Mine That Bird two weeks of light activity after his third-place finish in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (Grade I). Mine That Bird’s next start is scheduled to be the West Virginia Derby (Grade II) on Aug. 1.
Ryan Pacheco, a product of Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy in Lexington, Ky., made his riding debut Saturday afternoon, finishing sixth on Tiki Sweet (PER) in the sixth race. Pacheco is a native of Toronto and became the second Academy product to ride at Churchill Downs in the past two weeks. Ben Creed, from Taylorsville, Ky., made his Churchill Downs debut on June 11, finishing fourth on Galaxy Lady in that day’s first race. Creed also rode Saturday, finishing fifth on Dancer’s Secret in the opener. Creed, who has ridden at River Downs and Indiana Downs, has posted one victory in 11 mounts: Iron Id on June 16 at Indiana Downs.
Larry Sterling Jr. posted his first stakes victory on Saturday since breaking his wrist last September at Kentucky Downs. Sterling won aboard Juliet’s Spirit for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Lady Charles Town Stakes at Charles Town, W.Va.
WORK TAB – With owner Lewis Lakin looking on, multi-graded stakes winner Pure Clan worked five furlongs after the renovation break over a fast track in 1:00.60. Second in the Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) in her 2009 debut, Pure Clan is being pointed to the Modesty Handicap (Grade III) at Arlington Park on July 11. … B. Wayne Hughes’ My Pal Charlie worked a half-mile in :49.60 for trainer Al Stall Jr. in preparation for Saturday’s Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders’ Cup Handicap (Grade II) in Iowa. … Team Valor International’s King of the Roxy, a two-time Grade II stakes winner who has not run since April 2008, worked a half-mile in :48, second fastest of 69 at the distance, in his third work since rejoining the Todd Pletcher barn in May.