FAWKES EXPECTS DUKE OF MISCHIEF BE TROUBLE FOR FOSTER OPPONENTS - A start in Saturday’s Grade I Stephen Foster Presented by Abu Dhabi was not the original plan for Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, Marilyn McMaster and Fawkes Racing, Inc.’s Duke of Mischief, but everything changed following a sharp work at Calder Race Course on June 4.
“The race on our radar was the Cornhusker (Grade III at Prairie Meadows on June 25),” trainer David Fawkes said. “He’s been training extra good though and so we decided to bring him here. The work on June 4 (five furlongs at Calder) was great. He went :59.60 and galloped out in about 1:12. You don’t go 1:12 at Calder unless you can really, really run. If they work good over that track then they usually run good (in the afternoon).”
Duke of Mischief, a 5-year-old son of Graeme Hall, will enter the Stephen Foster off a 2 ¼-length win in the Grade III, $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 16. Fawkes’ veteran defeated a strong field that included runner-up Game on Dude, who would return to finish third in the Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII), and third-place Tizway, who came back to win the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park in his next start.
"I think everyone thought they were going to get an easy field (in the Charles Town Classic), but that’s not what happened,” Fawkes said. “I think every horse in that race was a graded stakes winner. It was a very tough race.”
Duke of Mischief arrived at Churchill Downs on Tuesday afternoon and the Stephen Foster will be his third start over the Louisville track. He was previously eighth in last year’s running of the Stephen Foster won by Blame and was fifth in the Clark Handicap (GI) won by Foster rival Giant Oak.
“He’s doing really well and hopefully he has more success here this time than he’s had in the past,” Fawkes said.
The Stephen Foster field (with jockey, weight and morning line odds) from the rail out includes: Flat Out (Corey Lanerie, 114, 30-1), Crown of Thorns (Tyler Baze, 121, 4-1), Apart (Julien Leparoux, 118, 5-1), Worldly (Manoel Cruz, 113, 30-1), El Caballo (James Graham, 115, 15-1), Regal Ransom (Alan Garcia, 117, 6-1), Equestrio (Jose Lezcano, 116, 12-1), Pool Play (Miguel Mena, 116, 20-1), Duke of Mischief (Joe Bravo, 118, 6-1), Giant Oak (Shaun Bridgmohan, 122, 7-2) and Mission Impazible (Javier Castellano, 118, 9-2).
AFTER BLAME’S FOSTER, THIS YEAR’S MODEL IS DIFFERENT FOR STALL – After winning last year’s $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap with Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame, trainer Al Stall Jr. is back with Dilschneider’s Apart to bid for a second straight triumph in the race.
The two horses have many similarities: both carry Dilschneider’s gray silks with blue cross sashes, both horses came into the Foster off prep wins in the William Donald Schaefer Handicap (GIII) at Pimlico, each earned stakes wins at Churchill Downs the previous fall (Blame in the then Grade II Clark Handicap, Apart in the Grade III Ack Ack), both came into their respective Fosters as 4-year-olds and both are homebred sons of Claiborne stallions (Blame is by Arch, while Flatter is the sire of Apart).
But several things need to occur before a comparison between Blame and Apart can be taken any further. Blame scored a dazzling victory in Foster that established Stall’s colt as one of the top older horses in America, a status that was validated in the fall when he outlasted Horse of the Year Zenyatta in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) over the same track to earn the Eclipse Award for America’s top older horse.
Apart, on the other hand, enters the Foster as a colt with a solid resume highlighted by a Grade II win in the Super Derby and a pair of Grade III victories. But Stall’s 2010 Stephen Foster with Blame was a race of fulfilled expectations, while this year’s run by Apart can be more accurately described as a race of opportunity.
“I’m way more relaxed (than last year),” Stall said Friday as he watched Apart stand in a backstretch starting gate at Churchill Downs. “It’s been like that every time we’ve run him this year. It’s been very comfortable. We just get him in a race, get him over there and run and see what happens. With Blame we were all nervous all the time, thinking of what would be.”
Apart’s victory in the Schaefer snapped a four-race losing streak that began last year at Churchill Downs in an eighth-place behind Giant Oak in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), a roughly run race after which he was elevated to seventh by stewards because of the action within that 11-horse field. All of Apart’s races this year have been good, including three outings at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds: runner-up finishes in the New Orleans (GII) and Louisiana Handicaps and a third in the Mineshaft Handicap (GIII).
While that record is well short of perfect, Stall believes Apart is a better horse than he was last fall, but the Foster will go a long way toward answering the question of just where the bay colt fits in this year’s wide-open division of American older horses.
“There’s no question he’s a better horse (than last year),” Stall said. “His pedigree says he’ll get better with age. It’s nothing we’re doing. We’re just throwing oats at him and letting him develop on his own. We’re spacing his races and trying to keep him going forward.
“This race will dictate where he goes: high road, low road or middle road. He’s a race-to-race horse. We have no plan for him. He’s just got to earn his way to wherever he goes next.”
One encouraging fact for Stall is Apart’s record at Churchill Downs, where he is 2-1-0 in five races that include his Ack Ack win. His lone poor outing at the track was last fall’s Clark, but Stall said the colt had an excuse that day – one he attributes to trainer error.
“He was sick,” Stall said. “He’s legit – he just doesn’t throw a clunker for no reason. He had been sick a little bit before the race, and we thought after two or three days it had run its course. … But he survived it.”
Julien Leparoux will ride Apart, who will break from post three in the 11-horse field for the 1 1/8-mile Foster. The consistent colt’s overall career record stands at 5-3-1 in 12 races with earnings of $640,018.
REGRET A PIVOTAL RACE FOR GAYA – AMOSS’S ‘ZENYATTA’ – When the field of eight 3-year-old fillies breaks from the gate in Saturday’s 42nd running of the $125,000-added Regret Presented by Etihad Airways (GIII) on the Matt Winn Turf Course, trainer Tom Amoss will focus his gaze on the back of the pack.
Amoss exactly where Harris Thoroughbreds LLC’s Gaya, the filly he is most interested in, will be during that first run down the stretch in the 1 1/8-mile race.
“She is a deep closer,” Amoss said. “I kiddingly – kiddingly – refer to her as my Zenyatta, because she closes so exceptionally well. She is so far back she looks hopelessly beat.”
The gray daughter of Quest brings a three-race winning streak into the Regret that includes a maiden win and allowance victory at Fair Grounds, followed by a one-mile allowance win over a yielding course at Indiana Downs on May 21. The Regret will be Gaya’s stakes debut, although that milestone comes later than Amoss had hoped."
She was entered to run in the stake Derby Weekend here at Churchill (the Edgewood), but she got sick,” Amoss said. “That was obviously a huge disappointment to us. But in terms of the Regret, it’s a mile and an eighth and I think that will suit her very well.”
The Regret field is headed by Kathmanblu, a stakes winner on turf and dirt who finished a troubled third to More Than Real in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII) last fall at Churchill Downs. The field also includes Edgewood winner Diva Ash; Bouquet Booth, a stakes winner on dirt in the Delta Princess (GIII) and Silverbulletday; and Excited and Blushandbashful, the 1-3 finishers in the recent Hilltop Stakes on the turf on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico.
With that group of accomplished rivals awaiting her, the race should tell Amoss much about his filly.
“Tomorrow is going to decide if she’s a legitimate horse or not,” Amoss said. “At this point we don’t know if she’s a legitimate horse. Tomorrow’s race has a very good field and we’ll find out if we have just a good allowance horse, or a horse that can maybe be competitive in bigger races throughout the summer.”
Gaya, who will break from post seven under jockey James Graham, has a record of 3-2-0 in six races with earnings of $87,601.
The field for the Regret, from the hedge out (with jockey, weight), includes: Bizzy Caroline (Manoel Cruz, 116), Diva Ash (Robby Albarado, 116), Bouquet Booth (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118), Holidaysatthefarm (Jose Lezcano, 116), Kathmanblu (Julien Leparoux, 122), Excited (Javier Castellano, 116), Gaya (James Graham, 118) and Blushandbashful (Freddie Lenclud, 116).
ARABIAN RACE WILL BE NOTHING NEW FOR RACE-CALLER JOHNSON – To say that Churchill Downs track announcer Mark Johnson has experience calling Arabian races would be an understatement. The 45-year-old native of Lincolnshire, England has definitely called his fair share of Arabians during his years as a track announcer.
“I was the track announcer for all Arabian races in England for about 18 years,” Johnson said. “I was also the Racing Post’s Arabian correspondent for the same length of time.”
Johnson has not called an Arabian race for a couple of years, but will get the opportunity to in Saturday’s Grade I, $50,000-added The President of United Arab Emirates Cup, the first Arabian race in the history Churchill Downs.
“I am immensely excited,” Johnson said. “It will be a great spectacle and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Some people who are more familiar with Thoroughbred racing may overlook The President of United Arab Emirates Cup on a card that features four graded stakes races for Thoroughbreds. But Johnson says the Arabian race, scheduled as the day’s sixth event, is loaded with quality horses.
"It’s a Grade I race and a couple of the best Arabian horses in the country will be running,” Johnson said. “Dixies Valentine is at the top of the distaff division and Grilla is probably the best long-distance Arabian in America.”
Bill Waldron’s Grilla will be ridden by an Arabian-specialist in Bill Hollick, but Calvin Borel, winner of three runnings of the Kentucky Derby, will take the mount aboard Dixies Valentine. In fact, all horses but Grilla and T M Fred Texas will be ridden by riders in the Churchill Downs jockey colony.
"I’ve ridden a few of them and it’s not completely different,” Borel said. “They’re a little bit smaller and go slower (than Thoroughbreds), but at the end of the day it’s still a horse race.”
Leading rider at the meet Corey Lanerie will be aboard Cre Run Enterprises LLC’s Ovour the Top.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Lanerie said. “I think it’s going to be fun. Maybe I’ll win the second Grade I of my career.”
Lanerie’s first and only Grade I win came aboard Hooh Why in the 2009 Ashland at Keeneland.
The field for The President of United Arab Emirates Cup for Arabians, 4-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles on the main track from the rail out (with jockey, weight): T M Fred Texas (Santos Chavez, 118), Dixies Valentine (Borel, 118), Another Color (Constantino Roman, 123), Ovour the Top (Lanerie, 118), Crownn Royal (Brian Hernandez Jr., 123), Vip (Aldo Canchano, 118), Wodkka (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., 123) and Grilla (Hollick, 123).
DREAM WARRIOR MAKES STAKES DEBUT IN JEFFERSON CUP - Anthony Chok’s Dream Warrior, who will make his stakes debut in Saturday’s $100,000-added Jefferson Cup Presented by Abu Dhabi (GIII), has not always shown the signs of being a stakes-caliber horse.
He was purchased at the 2009 Keeneland September Sale for $1,000, which is the minimum price a horse may be sold for at Keeneland, and finished ninth and seventh in his first two career starts.
Dream Warrior was placed on the turf for his third start and his debut on the new surface was a winning one, drawing away by over four lengths in a maiden special at Calder Race Course last October. He followed that win with a disappointing eighth-place finish in a Calder allowance, but rebounded to take an allowance over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course on May 20. It was after that race that the Eddie Kenneally barn began to believe that Dream Warrior was a horse with stakes potential.
“He kind of surprised in his last race with how well he ran,” said Brendan Walsh, assistant trainer and exercise rider for Kenneally. “He really ran a nice race. He’s been training great since then and I expect him to run well Saturday.”
Dream Warrior has had two works over the main track at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in the Jefferson Cup. His most recent work – a half-mile move over a fast track :47.60 on June 10 – was the fastest four furlong effort of 60 at the distance.
The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus has a record of 2-0-0 from five starts with earnings of $49,264. Corey Lanerie, the Spring Meet’s leading rider, will be aboard Dream Warrior in the Jefferson Cup.
The field for the Jefferson Cup, from the hedge out (with jockey, weight), includes: Live In Joy (Manoel Cruz, 117), Redboard (Leandro Goncalves, 117), Dream Warrior (Lanerie, 117), Banned (Jose Lezcano, 121), Swagger Jack (James Graham, 117), Perregaux (Robby Albarado, 117), Benergy (Javier Castellano, 117) and Great Mills (Julien Leparoux, 117).
Note: Live in Joy (5th), Swagger Jack (6th) and Great Mills (10th) competed in Wednesday night’s $200,000 Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs and are unlikely to start Saturday.
ILLINOIS DERBY WINNER EXPECTED TO START IN MATT WINN – Zayat Stables LLC’s Joe Vann, who won the Grade III Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Park prior to finishing fourth in the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park in his most recent start, is expected to run in Saturday’s $125,000 Matt Winn Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Although he was entered Wednesday for the Matt Winn, the Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old son of Silver Deputy was also being considered for the Iowa Derby (GIII) next Saturday at Prairie Meadows.
“As of right now, we are still running (in the Matt Winn),” assistant trainer Michael McCarthy said Friday morning.
Joe Vann shipped in from Belmont last week and had his first work over the Churchill Downs track June 12. He covered five furlongs over a fast track in 1:01.40, which was the eighth fastest of 41 workers at the same distance that morning.
A start with Joe Vann in the Matt Winn (Race 10) would give the Pletcher barn a chance to sweep the late, stakes triple Saturday. Michael Tabor’s Excited will run in the Grade III Regret (Race 11) and Twin Creeks Racing Stable LLC’s Mission Impazible will start in the Grade I Stephen Foster (Race 12).
The Matt Winn field, from the rail out (with jockey, weight), includes: Alstom (Calvin Borel, 116), Infrattini (Corey Lanerie, 116), Wilburn (Mike Smith, 116), Supreme Ruler (Jon Court, 116), Uncle Brent (Manoel Cruz, 120), Chalice (Julien Leparoux, 116), Scotus (Alan Garcia, 116) and Joe Vann (Javier Castellano, 120).
BARN TALK – Nominations for the 110th running of the Grade III, $100,000-added Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds at six furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs will close Saturday. The Bashford Manor, which is scheduled to be run Saturday, July 2, was won last year by Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Kantharos under Robby Albarado for trainer Steve Asmussen. …
Nominations for the 21st running of the Grade II, $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap for 3-year-olds and upward at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course will close Saturday. The Firecracker Handicap, which is scheduled to be run on Monday, July 4, was won last year by Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu under Jesus Castanon for trainer Greg Fox. …
Donegal Racing’s O’Prado Again, a 2-year-old son of El Prado-IRE who was purchased for $350,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling sale, will make his first start in Saturday’s seventh race for trainer Dale Romans. Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing named the colt in honor of the recently retired Paddy O’Prado, a Grade I winner with more than $1.7 million in career earnings. …
To Honor and Serve’s 4-year-old half-brother named Dream Steeler will make his debut in Saturday’s eighth race for trainer Mike Maker and owner Twin Creeks Farm. To Honor and Serve, a 3-year-old son of Bernardini, was a multiple Grade II winner at 2-years-old and was on the 2011 Kentucky Derby trail before being sidelined with a strain to the suspensory ligament of his left foreleg. …
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (June 9-16) are Corey Lanerie (8-for-36), Julien Leparoux (7-for-20) and Manoel Cruz (6-for-27). Tom Amoss (4-for-6) and Mike Maker (3-for-8) are the hottest trainers over the same period. The hottest owners are Brereton C. Jones (2-for-2), A.L. Luedtke (2-for-2), Maggi Moss (2-for-2) and Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey (2-for-5).
WORKTAB – Columbine Stable’s J.B.’s Thunder, who won the Grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland before finishing ninth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in his most recent start, worked four furlongs in :49.60 on a fast main track beneath the Twin Spires on Friday morning for trainer Al Stall Jr.
W.S. Farish and Skara Glen Stables’ Close Ally worked four furlongs in :51.60 Friday morning for trainer Neil Howard. Close Ally finished second to Glen Hill Farm’s Banned in the Grade II American Turf Presented by Ram prior to a second place finish to Thirtyfirststreet in the $200,000 Lone Star Derby on May 30.
WEATHER – Friday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 87. Friday night: mostly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 72. Saturday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 89. Sunday: partly sunny and hot with a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, 91. Monday: mostly sunny and hot, 95. Tuesday: mostly sunny and hot, 94. Wednesday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 92. Thursday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 88.