OUR TEKELA ROSE FOLLOWS IN FAMILIAR FOOTSTEPS – A year ago, trainer Hal Wiggins introduced Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Preakness (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra to the racing public with a runner-up effort in the $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (Grade III).
On Saturday, Wiggins and his son Lon will send out GTS Racing’s Our Tekela Rose in the 109th running of the $100,000-added Debutante at six furlongs on the main track. Corey Lanerie has the mount on Our Tekela Rose, who will break from post position four in the field of nine.
Out of the first crop of millionaire sprinter Kela, Our Tekela Rose won at first asking on the Polytrack at Arlington Park on May 24 and soon after was shipped to Wiggins’ barn at Churchill Downs.
“She has been here about three or four weeks and breezed twice,” Hal Wiggins said. “It is hard to tell if she will be better on the dirt. The first time she worked was not that swift (five furlongs in 1:03.20 on June 10) but she went nice on Sunday (:49.60 for a half-mile). She was a lot better the second time.”
Our Tekela Rose was an $11,000 purchase last September at Keeneland and from there she went to Texas to learn her early lessons.
“She was at the same farm in Texas as Rachel Alexandra, the Diamond D Ranch in Lone Oak,” Wiggins said. “Ed and Scooter Dodwell do a great job down there and they said she could run.”
Should Our Tekela Rose prevail on Saturday, look for a crowded winner’s circle.
“There are 27 or 28 people in the syndicate that own her and they are renting a bus to come down here from Chicago,” Wiggins said. “Some of them are driving down early for the Friday night racing. They were all at Keeneland when she was bought and then when she won first time out, there were maybe 60 people in the winner’s circle.”
GALLEGOS ADDS MINE THAT BIRD TO HIS MORNING RESUME – Exercise rider Rudy Gallegos joined some rare company this week when he began a pinch-hit role as the morning partner of Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird.
Regular exercise rider Charlie Figueroa left Wednesday afternoon to return home to New Mexico for the first time since Mine That Bird left Sunland Park for Churchill Downs on April 20. Figueroa returns Monday afternoon and in the interim comes Gallegos, who served as the regular exercise rider for Rachel Alexandra when she was trained by Hal Wiggins.
This makes Gallegos the first exercise rider to be aboard different Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners since Joanne McNamara was the morning partner in 1995 for Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch and Preakness winner Timber Country for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Gallegos took Mine That Bird twice around Thursday morning on a fast track and covered 1 ½ miles on a sloppy track Friday morning.
“He’s awesome, totally focused,” Gallegos said. “He switches leads easily and when he sees another horse ahead of him wants to go get him. Just looking at him, he looks small, but when you are on top of him, he really fills out and is wide. He is all muscle and very confident.”
Gallegos was Rachel Alexandra’s morning rider for nearly a year, being with the filly when she won the Kentucky Oaks. Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness in her next start for new ownership and is scheduled to run Saturday in the Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont Park.
“When I first got on her last summer, I was telling everybody that she’ll win the Oaks, but then everybody talks like that,” he said. “But she went out and proved it.”
So, if the two Classic winners were sitting in an automobile dealer’s showroom, what models would they be?
“Rachel would be a Lamborghini,” Gallegos said. “It would be like when you’d go to shift gears, everything would be so smooth, so precise. Mine That Bird would be a Ferrari, just pure class.”
Trainer Chip Woolley has scheduled a half-mile work for Mine That Bird on Monday morning after the renovation break Jockey Calvin Borel will be up in Mine That Bird in his first work since a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on June 6. Mine That Bird’s next scheduled start is the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (Grade II) on Aug. 1 at Mountaineer.
CASH REFUND SIDELINED UNTIL FALL – Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund, second in the Matt Winn Stakes on May 16, will be sidelined until the fall according to trainer Steve Margolis.
“We took him up to Rood & Riddle in Lexington and there is a minor issue,” said Margolis, who was pointing Cash Refund to the $200,000 Jersey Shore (Grade III) at Monmouth Park on July 5.
“He will be off in July and August and we will start him back the middle of September. He is on the farm now and we will try to make the fall meet here with him.”
Cash Refund has won two of three career starts.
A LITTLE EARLY RAIN CAN’T PUT DAMPER ON “DOWNS AFTER DARK” – The rain came down in buckets overnight and, for a normal race day, things could have been dicey for Churchill Downs Track Superintendent Butch Lehr and his crew.
“We got between two and three inches of rain in some areas of town,” said Lehr of the storms that left parts of the barn area under water when training began at 6 a.m. (all times EDT).
“We had sealed the track last night to keep the moisture in. It was a blast furnace out there yesterday and we watered between every race. This morning there was a little washout, but we fixed it at 5 o’clock and opened for training on schedule.”
By mid-morning, the sun was out with a steady breeze blowing to help dry things out for the second “Downs After Dark” program that was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
“We didn’t have a full crew this morning because of the late start,” Lehr said. “We are going to open the drains on the turf course and roll it. We have a lot of time to work on it.”
“GET IN THE GAME” HANDICAPPING SEMINAR TO FEATURE JON COURT – Popular rider Jon Court will be racing analyst Jill Byrne’s special guest during Saturday’s “Get in the Game” Handicapping Seminar.
The half-hour session, free with general admission, will begin at noon in the paddock area and will feature informative and in-depth analysis of select races and other handicapping topics.
Court, 48, has ridden 22 winners this meet, seventh best in the standings. Court returned to Churchill Downs this spring after riding the past five years in Southern California. Court has ridden 331 winners at Churchill Downs, which ranks 17th all-time under the Twin Spires. He will be riding Tidal Pool for trainer D. Wayne Lukas in Saturday’s $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (Grade III).
MILESTONE WATCH – Greg Foley became the 12th trainer in track history to saddle 300 winners at Churchill Downs when Izzy Ali won Thursday’s fifth race under Shaun Bridgmohan. Foley, 51, won his first race at Churchill Downs when he was 23 during the 1981 Spring Meet. Izzy Ali’s victory was the 15th of the meet for Foley, good for third in the trainer standings.
William Connelly, who has 999 career victories, failed in his bid to reach 1,000 when Hungry Tigress ran fourth in Thursday’s eighth race. Connelly’s next chance to reach 1,000 will come Saturday night when he sends out Bred to Win in the seventh race at Indiana Downs.
BARN TALK – Coach Billy G., named for former University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie, makes his racing debut in Friday night’s 11th race, a six-furlong, maiden special weight test. A son of Storm Cat, Coach Billy G. is owned by Donald Adam’s Courtlandt Farm. “Mr. Adam’s farm is in Bryan, Texas, and he is a friend of Gillispie’s from when Gillispie coached at Texas A&M,” trainer Jim Baker said.
Calvin Borel rode two winners on Thursday’s card and narrowed his deficit to three (56-53) in his bid to overtake Julien Leparoux for the riding title. Borel is named on 10 mounts Friday night and can gain ground as Leparoux will be riding at Prairie Meadows in Iowa. The earnings from Borel’s Thursday mounts pushed his meet total to a record $3,501,524, surpassing Rafael Bejarano’s $3,460,332 total in 2006.
With seven days remaining in the meet, Steve Asmussen holds a 23-16 lead over Mike Maker in the chase for leading trainer. Asmussen has won five Churchill Downs training titles, two spring (2004 and 2007) and three fall (2001, 2004 and 2007). Maker has won one training title, that coming last fall with a record 31 wins.
WORK TAB – Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat worked six furlongs over a sloppy track in 1:14.40 on Friday morning with jockey Calvin Borel up. “He worked good this morning,” trainer William “Buff” Bradley said. “My dad and I are going to talk again today and we’ll make a decision by Sunday on which race we’ll go to.” Winner of the May 23 Louisville Handicap (Grade III) last time out, Brass Hat is being pointed to the $750,000 United Nations Handicap (Grade I) at 1 3/8 miles at Monmouth Park on July 4 or the $200,000 Arlington Handicap (Grade III) at 1 ¼ miles at Arlington Park on July 11.