NEHRO IMPRESSES ASMUSSEN IN SIX-FURLONG PREP FOR BELMONT STAKES – Zayat Stables’ Nehro, runner-up to Animal Kingdom in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) at Churchill Downs on May 7, displayed his readiness for a bid for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI) with a sharp six-furlong work on Monday at Churchill Downs.
Nehro, with regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas in the irons, worked inside of 3-year-old stablemate Dominus, the runner-up to Machen in the April 30 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII) at Churchill Downs, and covered the distance over a fast track in 1:12.20.
The six-furlong move was a sharp effort for Nehro, who has also registered runner-up finishes in the Arkansas Derby (GI) and Louisiana Derby (GII), and it got a busy Memorial Day off to a good start for trainer Steve Asmussen.
“I was very pleased with the move,” Asmussen said. “Obviously we stuck Nehro in company and asked him for a good work. It was the best work I’ve seen him lay down.”
The son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft covered the six furlongs in fractional times of :12, :24.20, :36.20, :48 and 1:00. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25.60 and a mile in 1:39.
After a rainy spring in Kentucky and a seemingly endless run of wet training surfaces, Asmussen was happy to see clear skies and a fast track for Nehro’s move.
“In his defense, it’s probably the first time he’s got to work on a fast track in about two months,” Asmussen said. “I think you saw why we were not wanting a sloppy track for the Derby.”
The work is the final major training move for Nehro at Churchill Downs prior to the 1 ½-mile final jewel of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park. Asmussen has a barn and division at the New York track and he said Nehro would probably depart for Belmont Park on Thursday evening, with a final pre-Belmont Stakes work would come over the track’s sprawling dirt surface early next week.
“That’s been something we’ve talked about that we had to get through this work to decide,” Asmussen said. “You don’t mind that, having the barn there and everything.”
It was a hectic morning for Asmussen, who supervised several works at Churchill Downs on Monday before departing shortly before 9 a.m. (all times EDT) to catch a flight to Texas, where he will saddle four horses competing on Lone Star Million Day at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.
But the planets and stars seemed to be aligned on Memorial Day for Nehro, as perfect late spring weather, a dry and fast training surface and a strong work by the Kentucky Derby runner-up had Asmussen looking toward his colt’s bid for the Belmont Stakes and beyond.
“I feel really good about Nehro and the rest of the year for him,” Asmussen said.
BRIDGMOHAN AND LANERIE LEAD JOCKEY STANDINGS AT HALFWAY POINT – The last eight riding titles at Churchill Downs have been won by either Julien Leparoux, Calvin Borel, or Robby Albarado. But as the 2011 Spring Meet nears the halfway mark, two other riders – Shaun Bridgmohan and Corey Lanerie – sit atop the standings. The journeymen jockeys entered Monday’s Memorial Day program, the 19th day of the 39-day meet, tied for first with 20 victories each.
Bridgmohan, whose 20 victories include a five win day on May 15, is not thinking about the jockey title at this point in the meet. “We still have a long way to go,” Bridgmohan said. “If I’m still at the top with just a couple days to go then I might think about it, but right now I’m just focused on riding every horse the best I can. I’m glad my horses have performed well so far and hopefully that will continue till the end of the meet.”
The 31-year-old native of Jamaica shared the 2006 Fall riding title with Borel, but has not finished better than third in any meet since then. Last spring, Bridgmohan finished fifth in the standings as he guided 31 horses to victory from 180 mounts.
Lanerie, who won four riding titles at Lone Star Park from 1999-2003, is seeking his first Churchill Downs title. The 36-year-old Cajun from Lafayette, La would love to add a riding crown beneath the Twin Spires. “I never even thought I would ride at Churchill Downs and I definitely never thought I could be the leading rider here,” Lanerie said. “It’d be really special to win the title.”
Lanerie, who finished second to Borel last spring with 39 wins from 248 mounts, attributes his early success this meet to work ethic. “I’ve been working hard and my agent has been working hard and things have just seemed to fall into place.”
Bridgmohan, who has eight mounts on Monday, and Lanerie, who rides five, are ahead of Leparoux, who has 14 wins. Borel, Miguel Mena, and Jon Court are tied for fourth in the standings with 12 wins each.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Following Monday’s special 10-race Memorial Day card, Churchill Downs will be dark Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There will be no simulcast wagering on-track Tuesday or Wednesday, but the facility will be open Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., with free general admission, for wagering on Belmont Park, River Downs, Woodbine, Louisiana Downs, Golden Gate, Hollywood Park, Hoosier Park, Presque Isle, Evangeline Downs, Meadowlands and Charles Town.
Live racing will resume Friday with an 11-race twilight program that begins at 2:45 p.m. and includes the popular new Paddock Concert Series. This week’s featured performer is Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons, who have been described as a blend of ‘60s soul, New Orleans swagger and good old rock n’ roll.
The concert will begin shortly after the final race around 8 p.m. ET. General admission will be $3 until 7 p.m. and $10 thereafter. The first 850 people in attendance for the concert will be allowed access into the saddling paddock to watch the concert up close in a VIP viewing area free of charge. Reserved ticket packages, including a $20 ticket to the Budweiser Select Balcony, which features front-row access, a prime undercover balcony overlooking the paddock and stage, extended drink specials throughout the night and a special gift from Budweiser Select, are available for purchase online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
Friday Happy Hours presented by Budweiser Select will take place in the paddock area from 6-8:15 p.m., with $2 Budweiser products, frozen specialty drinks and hot dogs showcased. There will also be a live band to entertain paddock patrons between races from 5-8 p.m. The final Paddock Concert Series show on Friday, June 10 will feature Wax Fang. “Downs After Dark” night racing with a 6 p.m. ET first post will return in earnest for the final three Fridays of the meet on June 17, June 24 and July 1.
Friday’s program also will include the annual YMCA Safe Place Turf Classic, in which approximately 20 Louisville firefighters and corporate representatives, each sponsored by a local corporation, will run seven furlongs on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The event benefits YMCA Safe Place Services, which provides a variety of caring programs and round-the-clock assistance for teens and families in crisis.
A pair of Grade III, $100,000-added stakes on Saturday will highlight the upcoming abbreviated three-day race week: the 23rd running of the Aristides for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs and the 37th running of the Dogwood for 3-year-old fillies at one mile.
Scavenger hunts and crafts involving horse shoes for children aged 3-10 will highlight the weekend’s activities at Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. The Junior Jockey Club is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m. Coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are available as well.
On Sunday, the adults can have their own fun and games in the “Who’s the Champ?” Handicapping Contest. It continues each Sunday through June 12 in the Champions Club Lounge with $4,000 in prize money, including a $1,500 first prize and a coveted VIP trip to compete in the Horseplayer World Series at The Orleans Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The entry fee is $25 (or 25,000 Twin Spires Club points).
The top simulcast races for the week ahead include Saturday’s $150,000 Vagrancy (GII) at Belmont; the $150,000 Californian (GII) at Hollywood Park; the $300,000 Nassau (Canadian GII) at Woodbine; and the $100,000 Ohio Derby (GIII) at Thistledown. On Sunday, Woodbine has a stakes tripleheader, including the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser and the $150,000 Plate Trial.
BARN TALK – Donald Adam’s possible Belmont Stakes (GI) starter Prime Cut will breeze Tuesday or Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. “He’ll work this week and then have one more work before his next start,” said trainer Neil Howard. “He’s possible for the Belmont, but we’re still not sure what we want to do with him.” …
Another horse in the Howard barn that could show up in the Belmont is Gaillardia Racing LLC’s Wilkinson. “I’m considering Wilkinson for the Belmont,” Howard said. “He seems like the
kind of horse that would like going a mile and a half.” Wilkinson won an allowance race at Churchill Downs in his last start May 3. …
Rosemary A. Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 Sunday at Skylight Training Center for trainer Ian Wilkes. A 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride, Capt. Candyman Can is set to run in Saturday’s 23rd running of Churchill Downs’ $100,000-added Aristides (GIII). “The work went very well and he’s ready for this weekend,” said Wilkes. Capt. Candyman Can, a multiple-graded stakes winner who won the King’s Bishop (GI) in 2009, finished fourth beaten a half-length by Aikenite in his last start, the Grade II Churchill Downs. …
Mike Pegram’s homebred C J Russell ran the quickest six-furlong race of the meet when he stopped the clock in 1:08.92 in the ninth race Sunday under Shaun Bridgmohan. Trained by Bob Baffert, C J Russell broke his maiden in his debut on the Kentucky Derby undercard. “He came out of the race great,” said Peter Hutton, Baffert’s assistant at Churchill Downs. “He’ll probably stretch out and run in stakes company next. He may go to New York, but we might keep him here and run him in the Matt Winn.” The 14th running of the $125,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16th miles will be run on the main track at Churchill Downs on June 18. …
Brass Hat, a multiple graded-stakes winner of more than $2 million, jogged around the historic Churchill Downs track for the final time Monday morning. The Fred Bradley homebred, who is trained by the owner’s son, Buff, was retired last week and will travel to the Bradley family’s farm near Frankfort, Ky. Monday afternoon. “It’ll be a lot different being at the track without him,” Buff Bradley said. “Hopefully he’ll pass the baton to one of my other horses, but no one will ever replace him. They’ll never be another like him.”…
Nominations for the four graded-stakes to be run on Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, June 18 will close this Saturday, June 4. Heading the roster is the 30th running of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), a race won last year by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Blame, who returned to Churchill Downs in November to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).
Other horses that completed the Stephen Foster-Breeders’ Cup Classic sweep in the same year include Black Tie Affair (1991), Awesome Again (1998) and Saint Liam (2005).
The other graded stakes races set for Stephen Foster Handicap Day include the $125,000-added Matt Winn (GIII), formerly known as the Northern Dancer, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16th miles on the main track; the $125,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8th miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course; and the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16th miles on turf.
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (May 22-29) are meet leaders Corey Lanerie (8-for-31) and Shaun Bridgmohan (5-for-24). Merril Scherer (3-for-8) and Brad Cox (3-for-7) are the hottest trainers over the same period. The hottest owners are Alex G. Campbell Jr. (2-for-3), Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. (2-for-6) and Ken Sentel and Merrill Scherer (2-for-2).
WEATHER – Monday: sunny and hot, 96; Tuesday: mostly sunny and hot, 95, 20% chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m.; Wednesday: partly sunny, 93, 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms; Thursday: mostly sunny and hot, 94; Friday: mostly sunny and hot, 94; Saturday: mostly sunny and hot, 94; Sunday: mostly sunny, 91.