Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song will attempt to become the first repeat winner of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap when he takes on seven rivals in the Grade II, one-mile turf race on Saturday’s Independence Day program at Churchill Downs.
The Firecracker will go as the 10th race on the 11-race holiday card that opens with a first post of 12:45 p.m. (all times EDT). Post time for the Firecracker is 5:29 p.m.
Trained by Dale Romans, Thorn Song went wire to wire on a yielding Matt Winn Turf Course last year in defeating multiple Grade I winner Einstein and three others. The victory was the second in the Firecracker for Romans, who took the race in 2005 with Kitten’s Joy, the Louisville-born trainer’s Eclipse Award turf champion of 2004.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, Thorn Song will be ridden by Mike Smith and break from post position four in the 19th running of the Firecracker. Thorn Song will be conceding from 3-9 pounds to his seven rivals.
Thorn Song has posted a record of 8-2-2 in 20 races with earnings of $1,093,711 since moving to the turf in the summer of 2007. He has won a pair of Grade I turf events since his upset over Einstein in last year’s Firecracker. He took the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last fall and won the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park in his most recent start on May 25. Smith, who won by the Kentucky Derby (GI) at Churchill Downs aboard Giacomo in 2005, rode Thorn Song for the first time in the Shoemaker.
The second starting high weights at 120 pounds are Circle E Racing’s Mr. Sidney, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, and Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, who is unbeaten on the Churchill Downs grass course for trainer Greg Fox.
In his most recent turf outing, Mr. Sidney won the Maker’s Mark Mile (Grade I) at Keeneland under Kent Desormeaux, who will ride Saturday. Mott, the all-time leader in stakes victories at Churchill Downs, won the Firecracker in 1993 with Cleone.
Tizdejavu returned from a nine-month layoff to win an optional claiming turf test on May 17 and run his record over the Matt Winn Turf Course to 3-for-3. Jon Court has the riding assignment on Tizdejavu who won the American Turf (Grade III) and Jefferson Cup (Grade II) here last spring. The Tiznow colt also won the American Derby (GII) at Arlington Park and was third to Winchester in the Secretariat (GI) at the Chicago track.
The field for the Firecracker, from the hedge out, is as follows: Inca King (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115 pounds), Seaspeak (Robby Albarado, 118), Wise River (Jamie Theriot, 118), Thorn Song (Mike Smith, 123), Mr. Sidney (Kent Desormeaux, 120), Passager (FR) (Jono Jones, 118), Tizdejavu (Jon Court, 120) and Artic Cry (Corey Lanerie, 114).