IS EIGHT ENOUGH FOR CANELA UNDER THE TWIN SPIRES? - Canela will attempt to become the first horse since 1976 to have won nine races at Churchill Downs when he starts in Saturday's $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII).
According to Equibase Company LLC, horse racing's official statistical database, only six horses have won eight career races under the Twin Spires since 1976, which is the first year detailed information was gathered.
Now trained by Mike Maker, who claimed Canela for $25,000 on May 7 this year for Scarlet Stable (Rose Barney), Canela has made 13 of his 41 starts at Churchill Downs with eight victories, one second, one third and two fourth-place finishes. A 5-year-old son of El Corredor, Canela has won four races on the main track and is a perfect four-for-four on the Matt Winn Turf Course over which the River City will be run.
"I had always been a big fan of his when he was running starter/allowance races," said Maker, who has seen Canela win all three times he has started him at Churchill Downs. "Plus, he is a great-looking horse and he had been running well going a mile and a quarter even though it wasn't against the same level that he'll be facing (Saturday)."
Canela started his career with trainer Paul McGee, who also trained one of Churchill Downs' eight-race winners: Bet On Sunshine, who ran here from 1995-2002 and at age nine in 2001 won the Grade III Aristides to become the oldest graded-stakes winner in track history.
"We bought him as a yearling and as a two-year-old he hadn't shown much in straight maiden races," McGee said of Canela. "He broke his maiden for $7,500 at Turfway. He had started up the ladder and won a non-winners of two for $20,000, but he got claimed off me and then (Tom) Amoss got him."
Wilson Vittur had Canela for one race before Amoss got him for owner Maggi Moss. Canela raced 22 times for Amoss, winning 10 times, before being claimed by Maker for $25,000 on May 7 this year.
"He had a throat obstruction as a two-year-old, but we didn't do the surgery then," McGee said. "That probably affected him early on."
More than two years after losing Canela, did McGee ever think Canela would be mentioned in a same sentence with Bet On Sunshine, a horse he calls one of the top three he has ever trained along with Suave and Honor In War?
"Probably not," McGee said with a laugh. "I didn't like losing him. I had a feeling he was going to go up and he turned out to be a nice horse."
In the race before the River City on Saturday, Churchill Downs will offer the $56,000-added Bet On Sunshine, an overnight handicap for sprinters going six furlongs.
McGee will be represented in that with Success Success, owned by David Holloway, who also owned Bet On Sunshine.
The other local eight-win horses are Athenium (1991-94), Crown Lease (1991-95), Lord Rusty (1993-2000) and Maxxed (1995-98). Eleven others had won seven races.
COMMENTATOR WORKS HALF-MILE IN TUNEUP FOR CLARK HANDICAP - Tracy Farmer's Commentator, who figures to be the favorite for the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII), tuned up for the 1 1/8-mile $400,000-added event by working a half-mile in :48.60 over a fast track with Julien Leparoux up.
"I liked the way he worked this morning," trainer Nick Zito said. "He finished up strong and galloped out strong. Julien is a good horseman and the work went perfect."
It was Commentator's first work at Churchill Downs and fifth since winning the Sept. 20 Massachusetts Handicap in his most recent start. The other works had come at Saratoga. John Velazquez, who has ridden Commentator to four wins and a second in five 2008 starts, is scheduled to ride in the Clark.
Also working Thursday morning for Zito was Four Roses Thoroughbreds' Anak Nakal, who worked a half-mile in :49.80.
"There's an outside chance Anak Nakal could run in the Clark," Zito said. "I have to talk it over with Mr. (Kassem) Masri, but this is a horse that was third in the Belmont (GI), won the Pennsylvania Derby (GII) and was second in the Meadowlands Cup (GII) in his last start. Plus, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) here last fall, so we know he likes this track."
In addition to Commentator and possibly Anak Nakal, the possible field for the Clark also includes Hobeau Farm's Delightful Kiss; The Big Stable's Delosvientos; Silverton Hill Farm's Dominican; Elisabeth Alexander's Magna Graduate; and World Thoroughbred Racing's Wayzata Bay.
Weights for the Clark will be released Friday.
INDYGO MOUNTAIN MAKES WAIT WORTHWHILE FOR THERIOT - One of the most impressive victories by a 2-year-old at the current meet came in Wednesday's 10th race when Clarence Scharbauer's Indygo Mountain romped to a 6 ¼-length score in 1:35.54 going a mile under Jamie Theriot. It was the second start for Indygo Mountain, who had debuted with a second-place effort at Keeneland on Oct. 15 under E.T. Baird.
"I had been working him for about six months and I knew what kind of horse he was," Theriot said. "But the day he ran over there was the day I took off for surgery. He was like 12-1 on the morning line and I knew he was live."
Theriot had been injured in a spill on Oct. 3 and had oral surgery on Oct. 14 and was forced to sit out the day after the procedure to recover. Wednesday's performance undoubtably eased any remaining pain, not to mention help cover the bill.
"He is the total package people are looking for," Theriot said. "His muscle tone, his pedigree (A.P. Indy out of a Mountain Cat mare) and turn of foot. If he stays sound, people will hear from him. He could easily be a (Kentucky) Derby horse."
It has been more than 20 years since Scharbauer has been in the Kentucky Derby picture as his late wife Dorothy and daughter Pam owned 1987 winner Alysheba. Trainer Bret Calhoun never has had a Derby starter.
"Bret was thrilled and the owner was very happy with his race," said Dennis "Peaches" Geier, Calhoun's assistant at Churchill Downs. "That was a good race that he came out of at Keeneland and a lot of those horses have come back and run well."
Indygo Mountain was a $600,000 yearling purchase last year by Scharbauer, who also paid $700,000 for Silver City, a maiden winner last month at Keeneland who is scheduled to run here next weekend.
"We will see what happens with Indygo Mountain," Geier said. "He will go to the Fair Grounds and usually with Bret he likes to look at nonwinners of two lifetime or an AE/other than. I know this one (Indygo Mountain) can run long; I'm not sure yet about Silver City. You've got to make him do it. We are looking at a 6 ½ (furlong) race for him closing day."
BARN TALK - Trainer Ken McPeek was beaming Thursday morning, a day after first-time starter Danger to Society won a mile maiden event for 2-year-olds by 1 ½ lengths in 1:36.13 for owner Lansdon Robbins III. "I'm going to talk it over with the owner," McPeek said of the colt's next start. "I was really happy for Lansdon because he has put a lot of money into the game and he deserves a good horse." Danger to Society, a $300,000 yearling purchase, is a son of 2002 Kentucky Derby favorite Harlan's Holiday, who was trained by McPeek. "The thing I liked is that he is the third Harlan's Holiday to win this meet," McPeek said. "There was Lady On Holiday and The Right Face, and the horse that ran third in the same race (Saratoga Sinner) is a Harlan's Holiday." ... Six horses are considered as "probable" by Churchill Downs racing officials for next Thursday's 94th running of the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII). The sextet includes Pin Oak Stable's Brownie Points; Glencrest Farm's Devil House; Talley Racing's Initforthekandy; Stronach Stable's Spring Waltz; Mark Stanley's Swift Temper and Robert Adams' Unforgotten. Weights for the Falls City will be announced Friday. ... Calvin Borel is one of the five finalists for Santa Anita's 60th George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The award, which is voted on by their fellow riders, honors and recognizes riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Other finalists for the award are Gary Baze, Javier Castellano, David Flores and John Velazquez. The winner will be announced in January. ... Julien Leparoux rode two winners Wednesday to reach 40 for the meet. He is the first rider to reach 40 wins at a Fall Meet since Pat Day rode 41 in the 27-day meet of 2003. With eight racing days left in the 26-day meet, Leparoux remains on pace to break Day's Fall Meet record of 55 set in 1985 over a 30-day meet. Robby Albarado, who won the Spring Meet title, added four victories to his Fall total Wednesday to stand at 31.
WORK TAB - Mark Stanley's Swift Temper, third in the Grade II Chilukki in her most recent start, tuned up for an anticipated run in the Thanksgiving Day Falls City Handicap (GII) by working five furlongs over a fast track in 1:01.80 on Thursday morning for trainer Dale Romans. ... Robert LaPenta's Da' Tara, winner of the 2008 Belmont Stakes (GI), worked a half-mile in :49.80 for trainer Nick Zito. ... Haras Santa Maria de Araras' Scolara, third in the Mrs. Revere (GII) in her most recent start, worked a half-mile in :48.20 for trainer Bill Mott. ... Zayat Stables' Thorn Song, the Romans-trained defending winner and likely favorite for Saturday's River City Handicap (GIII), worked on Wednesday. The half-mile breeze in :48.20 was the only recorded work of the morning and came just before the track closed at 10 a.m. The Wednesday work schedule was limited because the track was frozen through most of the morning.
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.
FINAL FRIDAY HAPPY HOURS OF THE MEET - The final "Friday Happy Hours" of the 2008 Fall Meet are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 21. 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.
JOCKEY TALK ON SATURDAY - Every Saturday during the Fall Meet, members of Churchill Downs jockey colony will be on hand for a meet and greet with the fans in the paddock area between 11:30 a.m. and noon. This Saturday's jockeys for "Jockey Talk" will be announced Friday.
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.