LUKAS HALFWAY HOME TO DEBUTANTE-BASHFORD MANOR DOUBLE – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has now won the Debutante Stakes (GIII) a record seven times and also holds the Bashford Manor (GIII) record with five wins, but he has never swept Churchill Downs’ marquee Spring Meet juvenile events in the same year.
Lukas took the first step toward that double on Saturday when Westrock Stables’ Decelerator posted a gritty neck victory over Wild Forest Cat in the Debutante.
“They are both good this morning,” Lukas said on Sunday, referring to Decelerator and Tidal Pool, who ran fourth in the Debutante in the Westrock silks. “They will both be going to Saratoga.”
Lukas has won five 2-year-old races with four horses this spring. In addition to the two Debutante fillies, Lukas has won races with Westrock runners Soundman and Westrock Gold. Both colts are being aimed toward Friday’s 108th Bashford Manor.
“They are both doing great and will run,” Lukas said. “Soundman worked Saturday (1:01.80 for five furlongs) and Westrock Gold worked today (half-mile in :48.80).”
Lukas also said that “nothing is on the horizon” for Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private. Sixth in the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) in his most recent start, Flying Private and Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird were the only two horses to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown this spring.
CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN GEARS UP FOR SARATOGA – Away from the hustle and bustle of the Churchill Downs backstretch, Capt. Candyman Can has begun preparations for the second half of 2009 that will open with the $150,000 Amsterdam (Grade II) at 6 ½ furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 3.
Owned by Joseph Rauch and David Zell, Capt. Candyman Can worked a half-mile in :51.40 over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface on Wednesday at the Skylight Training Center in nearby Goshen. It was the Candy Ride gelding’s first work since winning the May 16 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.
“I just wanted to freshen him up and out there I can turn him out in a paddock for a couple of hours a day,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “I will probably let him stay out there unless I see a reason to change. He is doing very well out there, but then he does good here too.”
In addition to the Matt Winn, Capt. Candyman Can won the Iroquois (Grade III) here last fall. This year he has won the Hutcheson (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park and the Bay Shore (Grade III) at Aqueduct. Wilkes plans to ship Capt. Candyman Can to Saratoga on July 19 or 20.
Also headed to Saratoga that day will be Fleur de Lis (Grade II) winner Miss Isella, who is being pointed to the $300,000 Go For Wand Handicap (Grade I) on Aug. 2.
Closer on the radar for Wilkes is Saturday’s $200,000 Dwyer (Grade II) at Belmont Park for Warrior’s Reward, runner-up in the Northern Dancer (Grade III) here on June 13. Warrior’s Reward had his first work since the Northern Dancer last Tuesday, a half-mile in :49.
“He’s doing fine and will work tomorrow morning and fly to Belmont on Tuesday,” Wilkes said of Warrior’s Reward, who also could show up in major Saratoga races in August. “Right now we are just taking it one step at a time.”
DERBY WINNER MINE THAT BIRD SET FOR MONDAY WORK -- Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird is scheduled to work a half-mile Monday morning after the renovation break with jockey Calvin Borel up.
The work will be the first for Mine That Bird since he finished third in the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on June 6. Trainer Chip Woolley plans to ship Mine That Bird to Mountaineer the third weekend of July in time to get in two breezes over the track in preparation for the Aug. 1 West Virginia Derby (Grade II).
Mine That Bird went twice around the main track Sunday with exercise rider Rudy Gallegos up.
DEFENDING CHAMPION THORN SONG ASSIGNED TOP WEIGHT FOR FIRECRACKER – Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song, winner of the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park in his most recent start, was assigned top weight of 123 pounds by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for Saturday’s 19th running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Trained by Dale Romans, Thorn Song won last year’s Firecracker under 118 pounds in defeating four rivals that included the favored Einstein.
Sharing the second high weight of 120 pounds are Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu and Circle E Racing’s Mr. Sidney. Tizdejavu won the American Turf (Grade III) and the Jefferson Cup (Grade II) at Churchill Downs last spring and Mr. Sidney won this spring’s Maker’s Mark Mile (Grade I) at Keeneland. Both runners are considered as possible starters by the Churchill Downs racing office.
Others considered as probable for the Firecracker are Seaspeak (118), Wise River (118), Wicked Style (115), Artic Cry (114) and Veiled Prophet (113).
Entries for the Firecracker will be taken Wednesday.
ACOMA ASSIGNED HIGH WEIGHT OF 122 POUNDS FOR CLOSING-DAY LOCUST GROVE HANDICAP – Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma, winner of the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (Grade III) in her most recent start, was assigned high weight of 122 pounds for the 28th running of the $100,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (Grade III) to be run on the closing day of the Spring Meet, July 5.
Trainer David Carroll said Acoma is not expected to run in the Locust Grove.
As of Sunday, Churchill Downs racing officials had five horses considered as probable for the one-mile test on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Among the probables, the top weights at 116 pounds go Kim and John Glenney’s Gloria Goodbody and James Spence’s Tensas Yucatan. Other probables with their weight assignments are Closeout (115), Flaming Slew (114) and Stealin’ Kisses (112).
Entries for the Locust Grove will be taken Thursday.
BARN TALK – Trainer William “Buff” Bradley said Sunday morning that Brass Hat, owned by his father Fred, would run in Saturday’s $750,000 United Nations Handicap (Grade I) at 1 3/8 miles at Monmouth Park. “He is leaving Tuesday and Stewart Elliott will ride him,” Buff Bradley said. An earner of more than $1.8 million, Brass Hat won the Louisville Handicap (Grade III) in his most recent start on May 23.
A new face in the barn area is apprentice rider Stephanie Slinger. Agent Steve Elzey has lined up three mounts for Slinger when she makes her Churchill Downs debut on the “Downs After Dark” night racing program on Thursday, July 2. Slinger will target Ellis Park and Indiana Downs this summer. “I watched the Kentucky Derby in 1995 with D. Wayne Lukas, Gary Stevens and Thunder Gulch and I decided I wanted to be a jockey,” said Slinger, who was an 8-year-old at the time and living in Detroit. Slinger has galloped horses for trainers such as Lukas, Bobby Frankel, Patrick Biancone and Mike Maker and Sunday morning got on a horse for Tom Bohannan.
Julien Leparoux rode one winner on Saturday’s card to increase his lead over Calvin Borel in the race for leading rider with five days remaining in the meet to four (57-53). Leparoux is named on eight mounts Sunday and Borel seven. After Sunday, Leparoux will ride only the Thursday and Friday cards. On Saturday, he will be at Arlington Park to ride Informed Decision in the Chicago Handicap (Grade III) and on Sunday he will be at Hollywood Park to ride Magical Affair in the American Oaks (Grade I) and Rebellion in the Triple Bend Handicap (Grade I). Borel will be at Belmont Park on Saturday to ride Warrior’s Reward in the Dwyer Stakes (Grade II).
Miguel Mena’s four-win day on Saturday boosted his meet total to 38 to move into a tie for third in the standings with Robby Albarado. Three of the victories were for trainer Dale Romans, who now has 12 wins for the meet and 469 total at Churchill Downs … two fewer than D. Wayne Lukas for second all time. Bill Mott is the career win leader at Churchill Downs with 621 victories.
MILESTONE WATCH -- William Connelly, who has 999 career victories, failed to reach the 1,000 mark Saturday night when Bred to Win finished second in the seventh race at Indiana Downs. Connelly’s next shot at the milestone will come Wednesday night when he sends out Brilliant Bid in the fifth race at Indiana Downs.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Helen Alexander’s Selva, prepping for a run in Saturday’s Grade I Prioress at Belmont Park, worked a half-mile in :49 over a fast track Sunday morning. Team Valor International’s King of the Roxy, away from the races since April 2008, worked a half-mile in :48.20. Mark Stanley’s Swift Temper, runner-up in the Fleur de Lis (Grade II) on June 13, worked a half-mile in :49.40. Don Benge’s Wise River, prepping for Saturday’s Firecracker Handicap, worked a half-mile in :50.60.