DUKE OF MISCHIEF GETS ANOTHER SHOT AT GRADE I GLORY – Trainer David Fawkes had four options in mind for Duke of Mischief after the 4-year-old colt won the Oaklawn Handicap (Grade II) on April 3.
“We were looking at the Stephen Foster (GI) for a long time,” said Fawkes, who co-owns Duke of Mischief with Marilyn McMaster and Alex and Joann Lieblong. “We also considered the Lone Star Park Handicap (run May 31), the Cornhusker (Handicap, run June 26 at Prairie Meadows) and the Salvatore Mile (run July 3 at Monmouth Park).
“But with Quality Road running in the Met Mile and Rachel Alexandra maybe not at her best, the Stephen Foster looked like a good opportunity to win a Grade I with him.”
And so it was that Duke of Mischief vanned in to Churchill Downs from his home base at Calder Race Course in Miami. Regular rider Eibar Coa will be aboard Saturday when Duke of Mischief, the fourth choice at 6-1 on the morning line, breaks from post position four under 116 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster.
Churchill Downs will mark the ninth track at which Duke of Mischief has run in what will be his 13th start. Duke of Mischief debuted in July 2008 as a 2-year-old but came out of that race “with just some baby stuff and we gave him some time off after that,” Fawkes said.
Seven months later, Duke of Mischief returned on the turf and broke his maiden.
“I owned his half-brother, Lord Robyn, and he liked the weeds,” Fawkes said of putting Duke of Mischief on the turf. “I ran him next in a stake and he probably should have won. A couple races after that, the race came off the turf and he ran really fast (winning by 11 ¾ lengths) and after that we started thinking about the Iowa Derby.”
A five-length victory in the Iowa Derby propelled Duke of Mischief to the Haskell Invitational (GI) and a fifth-place finish behind Rachel Alexandra.
“He got slammed into the rail early in the race by Summer Bird and lost a shoe,” Fawkes said.
Sub-par efforts in the Pennsylvania Derby (GII) and Oklahoma Derby followed to conclude Duke of Mischief’s 2009 campaign.
“He had an entrapped epiglottis,” Fawkes said. “He had surgery to correct that after the Oklahoma Derby and I know it had to be bothering him in Pennsylvania, too.”
After a three-month break, Duke of Mischief returned with a neck victory in the Fort Lauderdale Handicap (GIII) before hooking Quality Road in the Donn Handicap (GI).
“He always runs better with time off,” Fawkes said. “I am a big believer in the (Ragozin) sheets, and the numbers say he fits well here in this race.”
DISTINCTIVE DIXIE LINES UP TO TRY RACHEL ALEXANDRA AGAIN – If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
And so it is that Bob and Beverly Lewis Trust’s Distinctive Dixie will try again for a graded stakes victory and in the process take on reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra for a second time in Saturday’s 36th running of the $200,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII).
Fifth in the Fleur de Lis behind Miss Isella last year, the Wally Dollase-trained Distinctive Dixie ran fourth in the La Troienne (GII) on April 30, finishing 13 lengths behind Rachel Alexandra, who lost by a head to Unrivaled Belle.
“She has been training really well (since the La Troienne) and she worked gangbusters last week (a bullet :59.20 for five furlongs),” Dollase said. “She is definitely coming into the race better than last year. I would not run her if I didn’t think so.”
Second in the Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park the past two years, Distinctive Dixie has compiled a career mark of 15-4-5-2 for earnings of $231,596.
“She has had an excuse for when she doesn’t run her better races and we have always figured out why,” Dollase said, pointing to a leisurely :48.80 half-mile in the La Troienne as a factor in the 5-year-old Distinctive Dixie’s previous start.
Robby Albarado, who has ridden Distinctive Dixie to one of her two victories at Churchill Downs, will have the mount Saturday.
“Robby has also worked her before and he likes her,” Dollase said. “We think she is a special filly and deserves a chance in here.”
JOHARMONY BRINGS DELACOUR BACK TO CHURCHILL DOWNS ON HER OWN – “I have been in this barn many times, but this is the first time with my own horse,” trainer Leigh Delacour said as she got Joharmony settled into the stakes barn for Saturday’s 41st running of the $125,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies.
A former exercise rider and assistant to Graham Motion, Delacour traveled often with Motion’s horses and one of her regular traveling companions was Film Maker, who closed her career with a runner-up finish to Ouija Board in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) at Churchill Downs.
Delacour was with Motion for a decade before going out on her own with her husband Arnaud in 2007 with a public stable.
“I got my exercise rider’s license when I was 15 before I got my driver’s license and my mom drove me to Laurel to work,” Delacour said.
In Joharmony, Delacour has a filly riding a four-race win streak that includes an allowance score at Keeneland and then a victory in the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico on May 14. A daughter of Johar out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamia, Joharmony debuted last September at Laurel, but then didn’t race again until January at Tampa Bay Downs.
“There was a lot of rain last fall and the turf season (in the Mid-Atlantic region) ended early,” Delacour said. “We shipped to Tampa, and they had a lot of rain there early and her first race was taken off the turf.”
After a turf win, Delacour tabbed Keeneland as the next stop for Joharmony.
“We wanted to go to Keeneland to get her some earnings, plus I thought she fit,” Delacour said. “A lot of times, horses from Tampa Bay get excluded from races as opposed to those who have run at Gulfstream and have more money.”
Joharmony passed her Keeneland test by a neck and then won the Hilltop by 4 ½ lengths, both times under Javier Castellano who will be aboard Saturday.
“Javier has gotten to know her and trusts her,” Delacour said. “She deserves an opportunity against graded company and we are cautiously optimistic.”
The Delacours, married in 2007, traveled many of the same circuits as Arnaud was an assistant to Christophe Clement. When Leigh was traveling with the $2 million earner Film Maker, Arnaud often traveled with Snowdrops (GB), a six-time stakes winner and earner of nearly $600,000.
“Dr. (John) Chandler, who bred Joharmany, owned and bred her dam Dynamia and he sent us a DVD of her races,” Delacour said. “We started playing it and there was she racing against Film Maker and the next race against Snowdrops, which means she ran against some top mares.”
BARN TALK – Stephen Foster Handicap second morning-line choice Blame arrived at Churchill Downs at 10 a.m. Thursday from Keeneland. Also arriving Thursday was No Advantage, runner-up to Blame in the W.D. Schaefer (GIII) at Pimlico on May 15. …
California invader Made for Magic, one of four challengers for Rachel Alexandra in Saturday’s Fleur de Lis Handicap, made her first visit to the main track at Churchill Downs Thursday morning after arriving on Wednesday afternoon. Made for Magic is scheduled to school in the paddock during Thursday’s sixth race.
Newly elected Hall of Famer Randy Romero will be signing copies of his biography, “Randy Romero’s Remarkable Ride,” on Sunday in the Paddock Pavilion. …
Nominations close Saturday for the 110th running of the $100,000-added Debutante (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs on the main track. Last year’s Debutante was won by Decelerator for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. …
Dale Romans, third in the trainer standings with 11 victories this meet, will have four chances Friday to become the second Churchill Downs conditioner with 500 victories at the track. Sitting on 499 wins, second only to Bill Mott’s 630, Romans has no entries Thursday but Friday night will send out Why Us in the third, Ride On Josephine in the fifth, Peruvian Hero in the seventh and Yate’s Black Cat in the 10th. …
Also closing in on a Churchill Downs milestone is Shaun Bridgmohan, currently the second-leading rider at the meet with 23 victories. Bridgmohan has 289 career wins at Churchill Downs and would become the 19th rider to hit the 300-victory plateau.
KENTUCKY DERBY LEGENDS OF THE 1970S TO SHINE ON ALUMNI DAY – Saturday is Kentucky Derby Alumni Day at Churchill Downs, saluting connections of some of the stars from the 1970s.
There will be a commemorative print giveaway sponsored by GE that will be distributed to the first 5,000 guests through the gates that open at 11 a.m. (EDT). From 1-3 p.m. in the Paddock Pavilion, connections of some of the Kentucky Derby winners from the 1970s will be on hand signing the print.
Connections on hand for the autograph session will be:
- 1970 – Dust Commander: Trainer Don Combs and jockey Mike Manganello.
- 1972-73 – Riva Ridge and Secretariat: Owner Penny Chenery and jockey Ron Turcotte.
- 1974 and 1976 -- Cannonade and Bold Forbes: Jockey Angel Cordero Jr.
- 1975 – Foolish Pleasure: Jockey Jacinto Vasquez.
- 1977 – Seattle Slew: Trainer Billy Turner and jockey Jean Cruguet.
- 1978 – Affirmed: Owners Patrice Wolfson and Steve Wolfson Sr. and jockey Steve Cauthen
Also, this year’s winning jockey Calvin Borel, trainer Todd Pletcher and owners/breeders Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt of WinStar Farm will be on hand to collect their Kentucky Derby trophies in a winner’s circle ceremony after the fifth race.
ASHER TO SPECIAL “GET IN THE GAME” TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE -- John Asher will host a special edition Saturday of the “Get in the Game” seminar in which he will talk to the winning connections and discuss their historic journey through their Triple Crown victories and Kentucky Derby wins in the 1970s.
“Get in the Game” will be located in the paddock starting at 11:30 a.m. and will be featured on all in-house monitors.
Fans also will be able to save up to 50 percent on discounted products from the Official Art of the Kentucky Derby Collection starting at 11:30 a.m. and lasting until 6 p.m.
JOCKEY TRADING CARD GIVEAWAY, AUTOGRAPH SESSION SLATED SUNDAY -- The first 2,500 guests to arrive on Sunday, June 13 will receive a free set of jockey trading cards. Gates will open at 11 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday with the trading cards being distributed at Gates 1, 10, and 17.
The cards feature a mixture of current and Hall of Fame jockeys not limited to Churchill Downs’ current jockey colony. Churchill Downs jockeys will be available for an autograph session in the Paddock Pavilion from 11 a.m. to noon.
OFFICIAL LIMITED EDITION RON TURCOTTE BOBBLEHEAD SALES SET SUNDAY -- Official limited edition Ron Turcotte bobbleheads will be on sale between the Churchill Downs store and Gate 17 from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 13.
Turcotte, who won the Triple Crown aboard Secretariat in 1973, will be on site to autograph and sell his limited edition bobbleheads.
Only 1,973 of these bobbleheads were manufactured with 500 being available for purchase at $50 each. A portion of the funds raised from the sale will be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.