Calvin Borel had twice seen Churchill Downs riding titles slip away by the slimmest of margins to Julien Leparoux, but the two-time Kentucky Derby winner turned the tables in the 2009 Fall Meet as he won four races on the meet’s final day to earn a dramatic 27-27 tie for “leading jockey” with his French-born rival as the historic track concluded the 21-day meet on Saturday.
While Borel and Leparoux shared the spotlight in their division, Steve Asmussen edged Dale Romans to collect his sixth “leading trainer” crown and Ken and Sarah Ramsey earned “leading owner” honors for a record 16th time beneath the Twin Spires.
The Fall Meet drew to a close with its “Stars of Tomorrow II” program of 12 races exclusively to 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. Conducted under a sunny November sky with temperatures hovering near 70, the meet’s final day continued with a remarkable run of moderate weather during which only two turf races were lost to wet track conditions.
“Churchill Downs was blessed with great weather for most of the Fall Meet, but our track’s team members are most thankful for the support of our fans who enjoyed our racing on-track, at simulcast centers and in their homes, and to the many horsemen who enthusiastically participated in our racing program throughout those 21 days,” said Kevin Flanery, who completed his first meet as president of Churchill Downs. “These are challenging times for our track and Kentucky’s signature horse industry, but the enthusiasm displayed by on-track patrons and horsemen during the meet proved again that Thoroughbred racing and Churchill Downs are very special parts of life in this region and our industry’s supporters want it to thrive and grow. We sincerely thank everyone who contributed in any way to the success of our Fall Meet, and we look forward to April 24 and the start of Kentucky Derby Week and our 2010 Spring Meet.”
The 43-year-old Borel entered the meet’s final day facing a 27-23 deficit to Leparoux, who missed the meet’s last two days for a journey to Tokyo to ride in the Japan Cup. The Louisiana-born veteran capped his memorable closing day burst with a front-running, stakes record victory aboard WinStar Farm’s Super Saver in the 83rd running of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes that deadlocked Borel and Leparoux with only one race remaining in the meet. Borel had a chance to earn the title outright in that final race and briefly led in the stretch aboard longshot Outlaw Man, but finished second and his horse was ultimately disqualified to fourth because of an erratic stretch run.
Leparoux, a 26-year-old native of Senlis, France, earned his third Fall Meet title and sixth overall crown as he completed his second sweep of Spring and Fall Meet championships in a calendar year at Churchill Downs. The shared title was Borel’s third, following an outright Fall Meet win in 1999 and a tie with Shaun Bridgmohan in 2006.
Bridgmohan finished third in the 2009 jockey race with 17 wins, while Leandro Goncalves compiled 16 victories and Francisco Torres finished with 15. French-born Freddie Lenclud earned nine wins to earn honors as the meet’s leading apprentice jockey.
Asmussen, the runaway win leader among U.S. trainers in 2009, held off eight-time titlist Dale Romans 17-16 to earn his third Fall Meet “leading trainer” title and his seventh overall. Like Leparoux, the 44-year-old Asmussen swept Churchill Downs’ 2009 Spring and Fall Meet crowns, a feat he had earlier accomplished in 2004 and 2007
Horses owned by the Ramseys earned nine victories during the meet to give the Nicholasville, Ky. couple a record eighth Fall Meet “leading owner” title and 16th overall, which is also a record. The Ramseys’ 2009 title allowed them snap a tie with the late John Franks for the most Fall Meet “leading owner” crowns.
WinStar Farm, L.T.B., Inc., Heiligbrodt Racing and Brereton C. Jones each collected five wins and finished in a tie for the runner-up spot.
The meet’s most memorable race might have been Friday’s 135th running of the $400,000-added Clark Handicap (GII) in which Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame held off Misremembered, defending champion Einstein and Giant Oak in a blanket finish in which the four horses were separated by less than a length. Jockey Jamie Theriot and trainer Al Stall, Jr. secured their first victories in the race that is as old as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Other Fall Meet equine stars included Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image, who swept the Golden Rod (GII) and Pocahontas (GIII), the track’s top fall races for 2-year-old fillies, and Kathy and Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Thiskyhasnolimit, the Asmussen-trained winner of the Iroquois (GIII). The 4-year-old Acoma scored her fourth stakes victory at Churchill Downs when she rallied to win the Cardinal (GIII) on turf, Mary’s Follies won the Mrs. Revere (GII) for 3-year-old fillies on grass and Robert Courtney’s Rahystrada scored the upset of the meet with a 56-1 shocker in River City Handicap (GIII).
John and Glen Sikrura’s Canadian invader Seranading won the 94th running of the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap and give trainer Josie Carroll her first stakes victory at Churchill Downs. Get Stormy scored a narrow victory in the Commonwealth Turf (GIII) for 3-year-olds, while Malibu Prayer notched an upset win in the Grade II Chilukki and Amerman Racing’s Demarcation surprised in the Ack Ack (GIII).