TALENTED ZITO TRIO TOPS LIST OF 25 CLARK NOMINEES - Tracy Farmer's two-time Whitney Handicap (Grade I) winner Commentator, Robert LaPenta's 2008 Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Da' Tara and Four Roses Thoroughbreds' 2007 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner Anak Nakal, all trained by Nick Zito, headline a list 26 horses nominated to the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade II) to be run Friday, Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
Weights for the 134th running of the 1 1/8-mile main track race will be released Friday by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.
Among others nominated to the Clark are 2005 race winner Magna Graduate, owned by Elisabeth Alexander; the Helen Pitts-trained turf standout Einstein, who ran second to 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin in this summer's Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on the main track here; and 2008 Travers (GI) runner-up Mambo in Seattle for trainer Neil Howard.
Kicking off the Thanksgiving Weekend of racing will be the 94th running of the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII), which drew 17 nominations.
Topping the nominees are Pin Oak Stable's Brownie Points, trained by Donnie Von Hemel, and Abergwaun Farm's Model, trained by Neil Drysdale. Both have run second this year to likely Eclipse Award winner Zenyatta; Brownie Points in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park and Model in the Grade II Clement Hirsch at Del Mar.
Weights for the Falls City will be announced Friday.
Two-year-olds will be the focus of the closing-day "Stars of Tomorrow II" card, highlighted by the 83rd running of the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and the 66th running of the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) for fillies, both at 1 1/16 miles.
Joseph Rauch and David Zell's Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the Nov. 1 Iroquois (GIII) in his most recent start for trainer Ian Wilkes, heads a list of 25 nominees for the Kentucky Jockey Club that has had four of its winners come back the following spring and win the Kentucky Derby (GI), most recently 1973 victor Cannonade.
Twenty-one fillies were nominated to the Golden Rod, including the second-, third- and seventh-place finishers in last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Santa Anita. Comprising that trio are runner-up Dream Empress, owned by Livin the Dream Racing, third-place finisher Sky Diva, owned by Puglisi Racing, and William Pacella, George Bonomo and Fred Barbara's C.S. Silk.
Also nominated are the 1-2 finishers from the Nov. 1 Pocahontas (GIII): Eldon Farm Equine's Sara Louise and Dolphus Morrison's Rachel Alexandra.
Marilyn and James Helzer's undefeated Euroears, the Millard Seldin Revocable Trust's Greeley's Conquest, runner-up in the Forego (GI) and Ack Ack (GIII) in his two most recent starts, and Summerplace Farm's Kelly's Landing, winner of the 2007 Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI) top a list of 18 nominees for the $56,000 Bet On Sunshine, an overnight handicap to be run at six furlongs on Saturday. Kelly's Landing was assigned top weight of 123 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman; Greeley's Conquest 121 and Euroears 120.
SELVA GIVES CARROLL ANOTHER RISING STAR - Trainer David Carroll has enjoyed a banner 2008 with Denis of Cork running third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and second in the Belmont Stakes (GI) early in the year, and with Acoma adding the Grade II Mrs. Revere and the Grade III Valley View to her resumé in the past month.
On Saturday at Woodbine, Carroll showed he may have a filly to watch in 2009 as he saddled the undefeated Selva to her third consecutive victory, a two-length score in the Glorious Song at seven furlongs.
"It was a great trip," said Carroll who trains Selva for the same ownership as Acoma, Helen Alexander and Helen Groves. "She ran a super race. She was three- or four-wide all the way around and Emma (Wilson) rode her beautifully."
A homebred daughter of Forest Wildcat out of the Silver Deputy mare Bayou Mist, Selva broke her maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 7 and then stepped into stakes company for her second start and won the six-furlong Sorority at Monmouth Park on Aug. 31.
"I worked her a couple of times at Keeneland and she handled the Polytrack well," Carroll said of the preparations for his first starter at Woodbine. "But then you never know how they are going to do on it until they race on it."
Selva returned to her home base at Churchill Downs immediately after the victory, but Carroll says not to look for her to wheel back in two weeks for the closing-day Golden Rod (GII).
"She won't run back here," Carroll said. "Helen (Alexander) wants to stretch her out one time. I think ultimately she will be a one-turn filly."
EASY GRADES RETURNS TO THE RACES WEDNESDAY - Four horses that ran in the 2002 Kentucky Derby have offspring entered on Wednesday's card. One horse that ran in the 2002 Kentucky Derby is running this afternoon.
Easy Grades ran 13th behind War Emblem on that sun-splashed May afternoon six years ago. Today, he makes his return to the races off an 11-month layoff in the fifth race, a $5,000 claimer going six furlongs.
Owned by TBS Farms LLC, Easy Grades was claimed by trainer Dave Vance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 8, 2007 for $25,000. He made one start for Vance last Dec. 9, running fourth in a $40,000 claimer at Turfway Park.
"The last time he ran was the night Dad had his accident," said Vance's daughter Trisha, who has been running the barn since her father suffered major spine and neck injuries in a traffic accident heading to Turfway that day.
"Easy Grades had a minor ankle injury and we just gave him plenty of time off. He is a neat, old horse and has a lot of class to him."
When Easy Grades came to Churchill Downs for the first time, he was coming off a second-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (GI). In his career, Easy Grades has run 62 times with 11 victories, 14 seconds and five thirds for earnings of $559,159.
"He has had three good works," Trisha Vance said. "I love him. I just hope we don't lose him."
For the record, the 2002 Derby starters that have offspring entered Wednesday are Proud Citizen, Came Home, Harlan's Holiday and Johannesburg.
BARN TALK - Julien Leparoux added to his meet-leading victory total with one triumph Sunday to give him 38 through the first 17 days of the meet. Should Leparoux maintain his average of 2.2 wins a day over the final nine days of the meet, he would conclude with 57 victories and break the 23-year-old standard established by Pat Day with 55 wins in a 30-day meet. ... Nominations close Saturday for two $56,000-added overnight handicaps on the turf for 2-year-olds to be run on closing day, Nov. 29. The Caressing for fillies will be run at a mile and the open Grand Canyon is at 1 1/16 miles. ... A happy 42nd birthday today to jockey E.T. Baird.
WORK TAB - There were no works Tuesday morning because the track was closed to training because of frozen conditions. The cold weather persisted Wednesday morning and no works were recorded. The work tab runneth over on a brisk Monday morning with 137 horses earning times over track labeled as "muddy" before the renovation break and "good" afterward. Bullet works were put in by a couple of runners prepping for anticipated runs on Saturday. Amerman Racing Stables' Demarcation, slated for the Grade III River City Handicap, covered five furlongs on a "good" surface in 1:00.40, the best of 53 at the distance, for trainer Paul McGee. Summerplace Farm's Kelly's Landing worked a half-mile in :47.20 over a "good" surface, the best of 67 at the distance, for trainer Eddie Kenneally in advance of Saturday's Bet On Sunshine overnight handicap. Also working toward the Bet On Sunshine was Marilyn and James Helzer's undefeated Euroears, who covered a half-mile in :50.60 (good) for trainer Bret Calhoun. Other notable works included stakes-winning 2-year-old fillies C.S. Silk (:47.80, good) and Sara Louise (:50.40, good) for trainer Dale Romans, Corlett (1:03.60, muddy) for trainer Darrin Miller and Sugar Mom (1:03.80, good) for trainer Wayne Catalano. Travers (GI) runner-up Mambo in Seattle worked five furlongs in 1:05.60 (muddy) for trainer Neil Howard and Macho Again, winner of the Derby Trial and Jim Dandy (GII) worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 (good) for trainer Dallas Stewart.
MILESTONE WATCH - Trainer Mike Maker needs one victory to establish a new standard for wins by a trainer during a Churchill Downs Fall Meet. He and Dale Romans (2003) currently share the record with 20 winners. Maker, who will begin Week 4 of the five-week Fall Meet with a 20-11 advantage over Ken McPeek, has five horses entered at Churchill Downs on Wednesday . . . Maker led all trainer with six wins from 11 starters last week (Nov. 11-16). Eddie Kenneally went 5-for-11 and Todd Pletcher was 4-for-7 . . . Through Tuesday, trainer Steve Asmussen had 547 winners this year, just eight victories shy of his 2004 North American record of 555 wins in a year. He has four horses entered Wednesday: two at Churchill and two at Aqueduct . . . Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have already won a Fall Meet record 16 races through the first 17 days of the meet, a dozen more than Maggi Moss, Rose Barney's Scarlet Stable and Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm. The record for wins by an owner at any Churchill Downs meet is A.J. Foyt Jr.'s 27 during the 1984 Spring Meet, which was held over 93 dates . . . The Ramseys led all owners with five wins from nine starters last week. Overbrook Farm went 2-for-2.
THIS WEEK'S GUEST ANNOUNCER: LARRY COLLMUS - Veteran racecaller Larry Collmus, the voice of Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park and Suffolk Downs, will describe this week's racing action (Wednesday, Nov. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 23) as Churchill Downs continues its search to replace the late Luke Kruytbosch as the next "Voice of the Kentucky Derby".
There will be a different track announcer each week during the five-week Fall Meet. Calder's Bobby Neuman, Louisiana Downs' Travis Stone and Golden Gate's Michael Wrona made guest appearances in the first three weeks of the meet, respectively. England's Mark Johnson will take his turn behind the mic on closing week (Nov. 26-29).
Churchill Downs officials are seeking input from customers and encouraging comment via email at email@example.com.
TWO CANNED GOODS WILL GET YOU FREE ADMISSION NOV. 21-23 - Churchill Downs will offer free general admission Nov. 21-23 to all patrons who donate two non-perishable canned goods at Gates 10 and 17 in conjunction with the Kentucky Harvest Thanksgiving Food Drive, sponsored by Forcht Bank.
The canned goods can be delivered to Churchill Downs on those dates or any Louisville area Forcht Bank through Nov. 22 in exchange for the complimentary admission pass.
All donations will benefit Kentucky Harvest.
MEET'S FINAL FRIDAY HAPPY HOURS SCHEDULED THIS WEEK - This Friday is the final "Friday Happy Hours" of the 2008 Fall Meet. The New Orleans-themed event features $2 Budweiser Select, $2 hurricanes, $2 Fischer's hot dogs and live jazz music by Hambone in the upper Jockey Club's paddock balcony area from 3-5 p.m.
KENT DESORMEAUX GLASS GIVEAWAY ON SATURDAY - The week's promotional calendar is highlighted by the last of three collectable hurricane glass giveaways that salute popular Cajun jockeys who ride at Churchill Downs. A Kent Desormeaux glass, sponsored by Kentucky Derby Party, will be given away to the first 5,000 paid and pre-paid admissions (includes patrons who bring two canned goods for admission in conjunction with the Kentucky Harvest Thanksgiving Food Drive) on Saturday, Nov. 22.
Fans who receive the glass can come back to Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 23 for an autograph session with Desormeaux on the second floor of the clubhouse.
A glass depicting Calvin Borel, sponsored by Thorntons, was given away Nov. 8. A Robby Albarado glass, presented by GE, was given away Nov. 15.
JUNIOR JOCKEY CLUB WEEKEND ACTIVITIES - Crafts to create a Thanksgiving Banner of Blessings and special tours of the paddock highlight this weekend's activities at Churchill Downs' Junior Jockey Club located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. Coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are available as well, and Churchill Downs' mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand both Saturday and Sunday for photographs between 1-1:30 p.m.
SUNDAY BRUNCH AT THE DOWNS - Sunday Brunch at Churchill Downs returns this Sunday. For $41.50 ($25 for children 12 and under), customers can dine and watch the Nov. 23 races from a reserved seat Millionaires' Row Six, the luxurious 9,000 square-foot room with a four-tier balcony that overlooks the finish line. The brunch, accompanied by live jazz music, is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and features a wide selection of food, including stuffed French toast, eggs, maple smoked bacon, homemade biscuits and gravy, carved roast turkey, fresh salads and plenty of sides. Appetizers and a bountiful desert tray will be available until 5 p.m. Brunch and an official program is included in the admission price. To reserve a spot, call (502) 636-4400.