MISS ISELLA COULD START BIG WEEKEND FOR WILKES BARN - Miss Isella was bright and alert in Stall 1 of the Ian Wilkes barn Friday morning, a day after scoring her first stakes victory in the Falls City Handicap (Grade II).[asset|height=12|width=100]
Owned by Domino Stud of Lexington, Inc., Miss Isella is a petite daughter of 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm.
"It's what's inside that counts," Wilkes said of Miss Isella, who came through on the rail under Calvin Borel to score by a length over Skylighter. "It was a test for her, but I knew she was getting better and better. She has really stepped up."
The stakes win was the second for Wilkes at Churchill Downs, but celebration was held to a minimum.
"It was just a quiet night at home with (wife) Tracey and our children Shelby and Brodie," Wilkes said. "Saturday night, however, may be a different story."
On Saturday afternoon, Wilkes will saddle Capt. Candyman Can in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for owners Joseph Rauch and David Zell. Capt. Candyman Can gave Wilkes his initial Churchill Downs stakes win with a victory in the Grade III Iroquois on Nov. 1.
"I am very pleased with how he is doing," said Wilkes, who was not yet ready to look too far down the road to a Triple Crown campaign with the son of Candy Ride. "I just want to get through Saturday first. He will get some time off after this race and we will see how he comes out of it and then decide how best to approach next year."
ROMANS SEEKING SWEEP OF CLOSING DAY STAKES - Trainer Dale Romans had a couple of options with debut winner Jazzandthemagician, entering the Zayat Stables colt in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) and the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct.
"He's running here," Romans said Friday morning. "I only entered him up there in case the Remsen came up light."
A son of 2004 Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Birdstone, Jazzandthemagician debuted with a stylish, 3 ¼-length victory on Nov. 1 and the performance was not a shock to Romans.
"I expected he would run like that, but tomorrow, he is taking a big jump going from maiden to stakes," Romans said.
Romans' other stakes entrant Saturday already has made that jump. Eldon Farm Equine's Sara Louise went from her maiden win straight into the Grade III Pocahontas that she won by 3 ¾ lengths on Nov. 1.
"She's a nice filly and she has been training well since the Pocahontas," Romans said. Robby Albarado, who was aboard in the Pocahontas, has the call Saturday.
The most recent trainer to sweep the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club in the same year is Bob Baffert, who took the races with Silverbulletday and Exploit in 1998.
GIANT OAK GETTING STEADY DIRT DIET AT CHURCHULL DOWNS - Drew Coontz has been on kind of an extended vacation the past two months in Kentucky with the Virginia H. Tarra Trust's Giant Oak for trainer Chris Block.
"Chris said he wanted to stay here and see how Giant Oak handled the dirt," said Koontz of Block, who usually ships horses to Kentucky from his Chicago base and then immediately returns to Illinois. "He has had four works here and the exercise rider has said he is handling the track well."
Giant Oak, a homebred son of Giant's Causeway out of the Crafty Prospector mare Crafty Oak, won his first two starts at Arlington Park, scoring at a mile on the turf and at 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack in a race that was rained off the turf.
Block shipped Giant Oak to Keeneland for the Grade III Bourbon on the turf on Oct. 5.
"He just had a horrible trip that day," Coontz said of the eighth-place finish. "He was stuck down on the inside and blocked the whole way around."
Instead of going back to Chicago after the Bourbon, Giant Oak remained at Keeneland where he had two works on Polytrack before coming to Churchill Downs and a scheduled start in Saturday's Kentucky Jockey Club.
"Every work has gotten better and better here and two of the works have been in the slop and mud," Coontz said. "He's a nice colt to be around and he is handling everything well."
GUEST ANNOUNCER SURVEY LAUNCHED - Churchill Downs officials are seeking input and looking for feedback from customers as they continue their search to replace the late Luke Kruytbosch as the next "Voice of the Kentucky Derby".
There has been a different track announcer each week during the five-week Fall Meet: Calder's Bobby Neuman (Oct. 26-Nov. 2); Louisiana Downs' Travis Stone (Nov. 5-9); Golden Gate's Michael Wrona (Nov. 11-16); Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park's Larry Collmus (Nov. 19-23); and England's Mark Johnson (Nov. 26-29).
Churchill Downs has launched a Guest Announcer Survey on churchilldowns.com and there are audio samples from all five announcers. To participate, click the icon located on the home page just below the "Carryovers" section.
Also, fans may comment further by sending an email to [email protected].
Churchill Downs officials expect to make a final decision by the end of the year.
DERBY TICKET DRAWINGS CONTINUE - Over the final two days of the 2008 Fall Meet, Churchill Downs will continue its public daily drawings for guests to purchase two seats to the 135th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 2. One hundred more names will be drawn Friday and Saturday. Guests age 18 and up may enter each drawing by filling out an entry form at Guest Services stations located inside Gate 17 or outside of Gate 10 in the clubhouse before 1:35 p.m. ET. A new drawing will be held each day. Winners need not be present to win and payment for invoiced tickets will be due Jan. 30. The drawings began last Saturday and, all told, 500 pairs of tickets, or 1,000 in total, will be made available. The seats available include a variety of clubhouse and grandstand seats, ranging from grandstand bleacher seats to clubhouse boxes. The ticket prices per seat range from $88 to $207 ($176 to $414 per pair).
HORSE OF THE YEAR CURLIN TO BE PARADED ON CLOSING DAY - Curlin, North America's reigning Horse of the Year and the continent's richest racehorse of all time with earnings of $10,501,800, will be paraded one final time at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The brilliant winner of seven Grade I events including Churchill Downs' $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap in June, is scheduled to be paraded on the main track between the fifth and sixth races. A special salute in the paddock and/or winner's circle will follow. The fifth race is scheduled for 1:28 p.m. (all times Eastern), and the first of 12 races will be at 11:30 a.m.
BARN TALK - Secret Gypsy ran the fastest seven furlongs of the meet with a 1:22.03 clocking in her 8 ½-length romp in Wednesday's ninth race. Trained by Ronny Werner for owners Richland Hills and John Kuehl, Secret Gypsy won for the third time in seven career starts. Julien Leparoux and Robby Albarado have dominated the jockey standings this meet with 54 and 39 victories, respectively. Leparoux officially can clinch the riding title Friday when he is named on 11 mounts and Albarado 10. Although Albarado does not figure to win the overall riding title, he does own a huge edge in 2-year-old winners (17-12) over Leparoux. Two races for juveniles are slated Friday with the entire 12-race card Saturday devoted to 2-year-olds. With three stakes remaining over the final two days, Leparoux owns a 3-2 edge in stakes wins on Albarado, and in turf races, with five grass events to be run over the final two days, Leparoux holds a 14-10 lead on Albarado in turf winners. ... Saturday's "Stars of Tomorrow II" card will settle the battle for top juvenile trainer between Ken McPeek and Dale Romans. McPeek holds a 9-8 edge in juvenile winners entering Friday's card in which they have one runner each entered in the first race. On Saturday, McPeek has 14 juveniles entered which include three on also-eligible lists; Romans has nine entered, including one also-eligible.
WORK TAB - Robert DeWitt's Taletobetold, winner of the 2007 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs, worked a half-mile in :49.20 over a fast track for trainer Eddie Kenneally. The move was the third fastest of 16 at the distance. Also working for Kenneally was Brian Rose and Ron McCauley's graded stakes-placed Ballymore Lady, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60, third best of 10 at the distance.