GIANT OAK NAMED HIGH WEIGHT FOR STEPHEN FOSTER - Dual Grade I winner Giant Oak has been assigned the high weight of 122 pounds by Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman for next Saturday’s 30th running of the Grade I, $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
The Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s 5-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway recorded his first Grade I victory when he was promoted to first place following the disqualification of Successful Dan in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last November. After a brief break, Giant Oak returned to in February to launch his 2011 campaign for Chicago-based trainer Chris Block with an impressive two-length victory in the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park. After finishing third as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap, Giant Oak would return to Churchill Downs for his most recent start, where he finished fifth, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Grade III Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Crown of Thorns, who won the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park in his most recent start, is rated one pound below Giant Oak at 121 pounds. Trained by Richard Mandella, the 6-year-old son of Repent finished second in four consecutive Grade I events between 2009 and 2010, including the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Santa Anita. Crown of Thorns is confirmed as a starter in the Stephen Foster and is scheduled to fly from Los Angeles to Louisville on Tuesday.
Also scheduled to be on that flight from California on Tuesday is Donald Dizney’s First Dude, the narrow winner of the Alysheba who is third on the list of Foster weight assignments at 119 pounds. Trained by Bob Baffert, First Dude captured the first graded stakes victory of his career in the Alysheba and finishing second in last year’s Preakness (GI) and third in the Belmont Stakes (GI).
The 4-year-old son of Stephen Got Even has a career record of 3-5-4 from 16 starts with $1,142,140.
Other horses under consideration for a run in next Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap include A.U. Miner (trained by Clark Hanna, weighted at 114); Apart (Al Stall Jr., 118); Crown of Thorns (Mandella, 121); Duke of Mischief (David Fawkes, 118); First Dude (Baffert, 119); Giant Oak (Block, 122); Mission Impazible (Todd Pletcher, 118); and Regal Ransom (Saeed bin Suroor, 117).
A.U. MINER PUTS IN SHARP WORK FOR FOSTER BID – Don Benge’s A.U. Miner worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 Saturday morning prior to the renovation break over a “muddy” Churchill Downs track in final major training move prior to a bid for next Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap.
Jockey Calvin Borel, who will ride A.U. Miner in the Foster for trainer Clark Hanna, worked in company with Saintly Tale. A. U Miner covered the distance in fractional splits of :13.20, :25.60, :37.40, and :49.40, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.20.
The work went very well today and I think he galloped out really strong,” Hanna said.
A.U. Miner was third in his most recent start, the Grade III Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs in November, a race in which he crossed the line in fourth-place, but was promoted to third following the disqualification of first-place finisher Prince Will I Am. The Kentucky-bred’s connections had hoped their luck would improve following their rough trip in the Marathon, but Hanna said the run of bad luck continued.
“He’s been battling some minor health issues since the Marathon,” Hanna said. “He had some knee issues and then a couple of foot problems. I think we’ve finally got him back on track though and we’re looking forward to running next Saturday (in the Foster).”
While hoping for a big run by A.U. Miner in the Foster, Hanna’s wish list for his veteran includes a least one more start for his veteran at Churchill Downs before the end of the year.
“The ultimate goal would be to bring him back in November for another run at the Breeders’ Cup Marathon,” Hanna said.
Hanna’s veteran has a career record of 4-2-4 from 21 starts and earnings of $349,350.
STALL SAYS BIND WILL ‘RUN FREELY’ IN MATT WINN – After a pair of disappointing losses that following a spectacular racing debut at Fair Grounds, trainer Al Stall Jr. said Friday there would be a change of tactics for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Bind when he makes his stakes debut in the $125,000-added Matt Winn Stakes Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation (GIII), a race formerly known as the Northern Dancer, on next Saturday’s Stephen Foster Day program.
The son of the Claiborne stallion Pulpit has fought his rider when he was restrained just off the lead in runner-up finishes allowance races at Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs in his last two starts. So Stall said Bind would be allowed to do what he wants to do in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn.
“We’re going to let him run like his old man,” said Stall. “We’re going to let him bounce away from there and let him run freely.”
The most recent loss for Bind was his runner-up finish behind the 4-year-old Worldly in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on Kentucky Derby Day. Worldly is now expected to compete in last week’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), the headline event of four graded stakes events on that program. Along with Bind’s clear resentment of attempted restraint by jockey Rosie Napravnik, Stall’s colt had to wait for running room in the stretch before he launched a bid that fell a half-length short of catching his older and more experienced rival.
“There’s no question in my mind that we were pounds better than him, but you can’t just go run around there with your head stuck straight up in the air,” Stall said. “That’s two races in a row that he’s done the same thing, because we’ve been restraining him and he clearly doesn’t want any part of that.”
Bind will have a new rider for the Matt Winn, but Stall is not sure yet who that will be.
The most recent work for Bind was a five-furlong move in 1:01 over Keeneland’s Polytrack course on June 5. The work was the fastest of seven at the distance on that day.
“He’s something to behold when you watch him train,” Stall said. “He’s an absolute man-child and he’s not quirky to deal with at all. He’s beautiful to deal with and we just don’t know what’s happened in those two races, except maybe it’s from his sire. So we’re not going to take the run away from him. I honestly think this horse can click off ‘twelves’ (12-second furlongs), and I mean keep clicking them off, too.”
Stall said Claiborne and Dilschneider’s 3-year-old filly Might would get some rest after a disappointing fifth-place finish as the favorite in last week’s $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
He said the sister to 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Blame came out of the race well and her poor effort in her stakes debut in the Dogwood could have been a case of asking too much of the filly after back-to-back victories at Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs.
“Might has always had soft ankles,” Stall said. “That’s why we slowed down on her. Maybe in the heat of the battle they pinched her. That’s the only think I could think of. “
Stall is hoping that rest will be the tonic for Might and will allow her to return later on to build on her otherwise successful year.
“I’m just going to try to quiet her down and make a fall run to try and get black-type on her,” Stall said. “We most likely went to the well once too often.”
Other 3-year-olds known to be under consideration for the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn include: Alstom (trained by D. Wayne Lukas); Dominus (Steve Asmussen); Infrattini (Paul McGee); Joe Vann (Todd Pletcher); and Uncle Brent (Lynn Whiting).
BOUQUET BOOTH POINTS TO REGRET FOLLOWING ‘GREAT’ WORK – Trainer Steve Margolis was unsure if Right Time Racing LLC’s Bouquet Booth would start in next Saturday’s Grade III, $125,000-added Regret Presented by Etihad Airways until she completed a five-furlong workout over a firm Matt Winn Turf Course on Thursday in a “bullet” time of 1:01.80.
“It was a really great work and she is definitely going to run (in the Regret) now,” Margolis said.
Shaun Bridgmohan, who is currently second in this meet’s jockey standings behind Corey Lanerie with 24 wins, was aboard for the workout.
“She worked really nicely,” Bridgmohan said. “She was very relaxed and really finished up well. Everything went perfectly.”
Bouquet Booth, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Flower Alley, was fifth, beaten 3 ¼-lengths, in the Kentucky Oaks (GI), last time out. She will enter the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies on the Matt Winn Turf Course record of 3-1-1 in eight career races with earnings of $452,300.
Known horses under consideration the 42nd running of Regret include: Bizzy Caroline (trained by Ken McPeek); Blushandbashful (John Terranova II); Bouquet Booth (Steve Margolis); Diva Ash (Dale Romans); Excited (Todd Pletcher); Gaya (Tom Amoss); Holidaysatthefarm (Tom Proctor); Kathmanblu (McPeek); My Phi Temper (Ronny Werner); and Sassy’s Dream (McPeek).
PROCTOR, BANNED LOOK TO KEEP ROLLING ON TURF IN JEFFERSON - Churchill Downs-based trainer Tom Proctor has already won stakes races on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course during the Spring meet with the history-making mare Keertana, who became the first of her gender to win the Grade III Louisville Handicap, and the impressive 3-year-old Banned in the Grade II American Turf Presented by Ram.
More good fortune on the grass for the 55-year-old Proctor could be just days away when send Banned out in search of another graded stakes triumph in the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup Presented by Abu Dhabi (GIII) on Stephen Foster Day Presented by Abu Dhabi for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Foster was confident Glen Hill Farm’s 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy would run well in the Oaks Day race, and Banned more than justified that optimism.
“I thought he would win, but he really ran big that day,” Proctor said. “Although the race set up for him because they went very fast up-front. That will always make a horse look better.”
Proctor is pleased with Banned’s training since that win. One more pre-Jefferson Cup work lies ahead.
“He’s been doing really well since that race,” Proctor said. “I plan on working him an easy five-eighths on Tuesday.”
Other 3-year-olds under consideration for Saturday’s 36th running of Jefferson Cup include: Coolmore Lexington (GII) winner Derby Kitten (Mike Maker); Dream Warrior (Eddie Kenneally); Redboard (Garry Simms); Swagger Jack (Darrin Miller); and either Close Ally (Neil Howard) or Perregaux (Howard).
NOMINATIONS FOR CHURCHILL DOWNS’ FIRST ARABIAN RACE - Churchill Downs will hold its first Arabian race next Saturday as part of the undercard on Stephen Foster Day Presented by Abu Dhabi.
The Grade I, $50,000-added The President of United Arab Emirates Cup will be run at 1 ¼-miles and its nominees include: A Ladys Man (trained by Lynn Ashby); Another Color (Renee Lafleur); Crownn Royal (Ashby); Dixies Valentine (Tracy Nunley); Full of Fiesta (Greg Ketter); Grilla (Bill Waldron); Ovour the Top (Ashby); T M Fred Texas (Ronald Martino); Vip (Martino); and Wodkka (Lafleur).
Grilla won an earlier stop on the The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup tour at Keeneland.
VALID CITIZEN FIRST THREE-TIME WINNER OF SPRING MEET – Kenneth Dalton’s Valid Citizen is stabled at River Downs with trainer Matt Kordenbrock throughout the year, but he has made a home for himself this spring on the main track at Churchill Downs.
Valid Citizen won Friday’s fourth race to become the first three-time winner of the 2011 Spring Meet.
“That’s pretty cool,” Kordenbrock said. “He’s an honest horse and we’ve really tried to pick our spots with him. He really likes this track and things have worked out.”
The milestone win by the 6-year-old son of Proud Citizen came on day 24 of the 39-day meet. It was Kordenbrock’s fifth career victory at Churchill Downs, and he hopes Valid Citizen gets another chance to run.
“We’ve still got some time left,” he said. “We will try and bring him back to get (win) number four.”
Bred in Kentucky by Oak haven Farm LLC, Valid Citizen has a career record of 9-5-5 from 35 starts with earnings of $120,294.
BARN TALK – The top six leading riders at Churchill Downs all won at least one race beneath the Twin Spires on Friday. Julien Leparoux, currently third in the standings, and Miguel Mena, sitting in fifth position, each won two races on the card, while leading-rider Corey Lanerie won three. …
Nominations for the 111th running of the $100,000-added Debutante (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs close Saturday. The Debutante, which is scheduled to be run on the main track at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 25, was won last year by Eldon Farm Equine, LLC’s Just Louise under Robby Albarado for trainer Dale Romans. …
Saturday’s 11-race program at Churchill Downs will include a Pick 6 carryover of $23,644. The Pick 6 begins with Race 6 at approximately 3:23 p.m. There will also be a Super High 5 carryover of $6,361. The Super High 5 will take place in the final race Saturday: Race 11 at 5:55 p.m. …
Sunday is the last chance of the spring for locals to win a $1,500 first prize and a coveted VIP trip to the Horseplayer World Series at The Orleans Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The cost to enter the final “Who’s the Champ?” Handicapping Contest is $25 (or 25,000 Twin Spires Club points) and it will take place in the Champions Club Lounge. …
WORKTAB – Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu worked five furlongs on a “muddy” Churchill Downs track in 1:01.60 Saturday morning for trainer Ken McPeek. Kathmanblu is scheduled to make her next start in the Grade III, $125,000-added Regret Presented by ETIHAD Airways beneath the Twin Spires on June 18 as part of the Stephen Foster Day undercard.
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (June 3-10) are Julien Leparoux (9-for-32), Corey Lanerie (8-for-32) and Calvin Borel (7-for-24). Ken McPeek (3-for-11) and Steve Asmussen (3-for-14) are the hottest trainers over the same period. The hottest owners are Lothenbach Stables, Inc. (2-for-2), Maggi Moss (2-for-3), Stoneway Farm (2-for-3), and Charles E. Fipke (2-for-5).
WEATHER – Saturday: showers and thunderstorms, 89. Sunday: mostly sunny, 82. Monday: mostly sunny, 81. Tuesday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 85. Wednesday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 88. Thursday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 86. Friday: mostly sunny, 89.