LIFELONG RACETRACKER FOLEY ON CUSP OF CHURCHILL MILESTONE – The question brought a chuckle from trainer Greg Foley.
“The first time my dad brought me to the race track? I guess I was 3 or 4,” the 51-year-old Foley said. “When I was 5 or 6, I was walking hots.”
The son of trainer Dravo Foley, Greg Foley enters Thursday’s card with 299 career victories beneath the Twin Spires and he has two horses entered on Thursday’s card in his bid to become the 12th trainer to achieve 300 victories at Churchill Downs.
Foley was 23 when he won his first race at Churchill Downs during the 1981 Spring Meet and he won his only training title here in the 1991 Spring Meet when he saddled 17 winners. All of his early hands-on experience was learned in his father’s barn. “Take care of the horse first. He drilled that in me from the word ‘go,’ ” Foley said of the best advice he received from his father. “There are no shortcuts when it comes to taking care of horses. Have them fit before they run and keep them happy.”
The best horse Foley had was Champali, who accounted for three of the four stakes Foley has accrued at Churchill Downs. Champali won the 2002 Iroquois (Grade III), 2003 Northern Dancer and the 2004 Aristides (GIII), the latter in a 4-year-old campaign that took Foley to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Lone Star Park. Champali finished seventh in that race.
In his barn today, Foley cares for six offspring of Champali.
“I have three 2-year-olds and three 3-year-olds by Champali.” Foley said. “They are all sound horses and I have won some races with them. He was like that and a very easy horse to train.”
Foley’s first shot at 300 will come in the fifth race with Izzy Ali, a 3-year-old son of Champali. He also will send out Lil’ Moor Dixie in the seventh.
“I hadn’t really thought much about it (300 wins), but not a lot of guys have done that and it would be pretty neat,” Foley said. “This has been our home track, so it would be special.”
Foley could become the fourth trainer to reach the 300-win milestone this meet, joining Tom Amoss, Lynn Whiting and David Vance.
DEFENDING CHAMPION THORN SONG TOPS LIST OF FIRECRACKER NOMINATIONS – Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song, winner of the 2008 Firecracker Handicap (Grade II), headlines a list of 43 nominees for the 19th running of the $150,000-added one-mile test scheduled for July 4 over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Trained by Dale Romans, who also won the Firecracker in 2005 with Kitten’s Joy, Thorn Song showed a return to top form by getting his second Grade I victory in his most recent start, the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on May 25. In addition to the Firecracker, Thorn Song also won the Shadwell Turf Mile (Grade I) last fall at Keeneland.
Thorn Song worked five furlongs on the firm turf Thursday morning in 1:01.40 around the “dogs.”
The only other Grade I winner among the nominees is Circle E Racing’s Mr. Sidney, who captured the Maker’s Mark Mile this spring at Keeneland for trainer Bill Mott.
Also included among the nominees are three horses who have enjoyed considerable success over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Inca King has won three stakes on the grass here, the Opening Verse in 2008, the Commonwealth Turf and the Grade II Jefferson Cup in 2007; Chrysalis Stables’ Silverfoot, a three-time Louisville Handicap (Grade III) winner who is 5-for-7 over the Matt Winn Turf Course; and, Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, 3-for-3 on the course including victories in the American Turf (Grade III) and Jefferson Cup in 2008.
Weights for the Firecracker will be released on Saturday.
CLOSING-DAY LOCUST GROVE ATTRACTS 33 NOMINATIONS – Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma, winner of the Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) on June 6, tops a list of 33 nominations for the 28th running of the $100,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (Grade III).
The Locust Grove, for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course, serves as the centerpiece of the closing-day program on July 5.
Trained by David Carroll, Acoma added the Mint Julep score to her victory in last fall’s Grade II Mrs. Revere on the turf. Acoma is 4-for-4 overall at Churchill Downs and undefeated in six starts in the state of Kentucky.
Two of the fillies who chased Acoma in the Mint Julep are included in the Locust Grove nominees.
Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena finished third to Acoma, but earlier in the meet won the Grade II Distaff Turf Mile here. Glen Hill Farm’s Closeout was fifth in the Mint Julep in her 2009 debut off a nearly eight-month layoff.
James Barry’s Genuine Devotion (IRE) won the 2008 Locust Grove in the first running of the race at the mile distance on the turf.
Weights for the Locust Grove will be announced Sunday.
TWENTY 2-YEAR-OLDS NOMINATED TO BASHFORD MANOR – Fillies have won the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (Grade III) three times and two 2-year-old fillies have been nominated to this year’s edition, which will be run on July 3.
Fiesty Ex and Kinsolving, both from the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, are among the four nominees for trainer Steve Asmussen to the six-furlong event at on the main track. Asmussen, who has won the Bashford Manor twice, also nominated Grand Slam Andre and Western Smoke, both owned by J. Kirk Robison.
Fiesty Ex broke her maiden at first asking on April 30 and Kinsolving finished sixth the same day in the Kentucky Juvenile (Grade III) after winning her April 17 debut at Keeneland. Kinsolving is entered in Saturday’s Debutante (Grade III) for fillies.
Western Smoke was fourth in the Kentucky Juvenile and recently finished second to fellow Bashford Manor nominee Brassy Boy in a June 11 allowance race here. Grand Slam Andre broke his maiden in his second try in winning by 7 ¾ lengths on June 4.
Other first-time maiden special weight winners nominated to the Bashford Manor are Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Bsharpsonata, and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Satisfied Mind, who is trained by Wesley Ward.
Ward saddled the 1-2 finishers, Aegean and Jealous Again, in the Kentucky Juvenile. He took those fillies to England last week and each scored victories in stakes races at the famed Royal Ascot meet.
Fillies to win the Bashford Manor are Miss Patience (1933), Royal Pam (1938) and Miss Ra He Ra (1993). The race was open to fillies from 1932-38 and reopened to both sexes in 1989.
BARN TALK – Woodford Racing LLC’s Manners became the first offspring of Rock Hard Ten to reach the races when the 2-year-old filly ran 10th in Sunday’s eighth race. Rock Hard Ten, who retired from racing in 2005 with a record of 11-7-1-1 with earnings of $1,870,380, did not have enough graded stakes earnings to make the 2004 Kentucky Derby, a race won by Smarty Jones. Rock Hard Ten ran second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness and concluded his career with five graded stakes victories including Grade I scores in the Malibu and Santa Anita Handicap.
Entering the final eight days of the meet, Julien Leparoux has a 55-51 advantage on Calvin Borel in the chase for leading rider. Leparoux has five mounts and Borel six on Thursday’s card. Leparoux has won four riding titles at Churchill Downs and Borel two. Both riders will be out of town for part of the weekend and miss one program: Leparoux rides Friday night at Prairie Meadows on Nursery Rhyme in the Saylorville Stakes and Moonport in the Iowa Derby, both for trainer Ian Wilkes. Borel, who is named on 10 mounts Friday night, will be at Belmont Park on Saturday to ride Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Preakness (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra in the Grade I Mother Goose. Other Churchill Downs regulars riding Friday night at Prairie Meadows are Robby Albarado, Miguel Mena and Shaun Bridgmohan. Leparoux and Albarado will return to Iowa on Saturday night for stakes engagements after riding at Churchill Downs that afternoon.
MILESTONE WATCH – Churchill Downs-based trainer William Connelly moved closer to the 1,000-victory plateau on Monday night when Just Memories gave him win No. 999. Just Memories, a 3-year-old filly, broke her maiden in a five-furlong turf sprint in the second race at Indiana Downs. Connelly can hit the milestone on Thursday’s card when he sends out Hungry Tigress in the eighth race.