POOL PLAY WORKS, FLAT OUT POINTS TO BREEDERS CUP AFTER NEW YORK ROMP – William S. Farish Jr.’s Pool Play worked on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs in his first serious training move since his upset victory in the 30th running of the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I).
The 6-year-old son of Silver Deputy breezed five furlongs under regular exercise rider Melanie Giddings in 1:03 over a fast main track for trainer Mark Casse.
“We just wanted him to go nice and easy,” said assistant trainer Norman Casse, the son of the Woodbine-based trainer. “Everything went fine.”
Pool Play, whose Stephen Foster came in his debut over a traditional dirt surface, will likely have one more work beneath the Twin Spires before he heads to New York for the summer.
“We’ll give him another easy one (work) before going to Saratoga,” Casse said. “The plan right now is to ship (to Saratoga) on the tenth (of July) and work him a day before (on July 9). We’ll save the big works for when we get him up there.”
Bred in Canada by Windfields Farm, Pool Play has a career record of 6-6-5 from 28 starts with earnings of $909,556. He will be pointed to the Whitney Handicap (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 6, with the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 being the ultimate year-end goal.
Pool Play defeated an impressive group of older horses in the Stephen Foster that included Preston Stables LLC’s Flat Out, who traveled to New York on Saturday for a 6 ½-length romp in Belmont Park Park’s Suburban Handicap (GII) in his first start since his fifth-place run in the Foster.
"I think it proves how good the Stephen Foster field was this year,” Casse said. “It also further showed just how big Pool Play ran.”
Flat Out, a 5-year-old son of Flatter, received a Beyer Speed Figure of 113 for his demolition of his Suburban rivals. That is the highest Beyer recorded this year for a race on traditional dirt at a mile or farther.
"We are really proud of him,” trainer Scooter Dickey said. “We really thought he would run well, but didn’t know he would whoop ‘em like that.”
Flat Out, who shipped to Dickey’s stable at Monmouth Park following his victory in Saturday’s Suburban, is also being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“We still don’t know just how good he is,” Dickey said. “I talked to the owner and we decided we’ll find out how good he is in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Bred in Florida by Nikolaus Bock, Flat Out has a career record of 4-1-0 from nine starts and earnings of $359,713. No decision has been made regarding his next start. Flat Out has been plagued by quarter cracks that have limited in racing and training over the past two years, but his feet are fine right now.
“There are a lot of options,” Dickey said. “I think we’ll look to run him at either Saratoga or Monmouth, but we really haven’t discussed it much.”
BOREL, LANERIE SIZZLE WITH LEPAROUX OUT OF TOWN AND JOCKEY RACE TIGHTENS – Leading jockey Julien Leparoux traveled to New York on Saturday for a successful raid on Belmont Park and a victory aboard George Bolton and Stonestreet Stable’s The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII) runner-up Dominus in the Grade II Dwyer.
But if Leparoux was keeping track of happenings back home in Louisville, the seven-time leading rider at Churchill Downs witnessed fireworks by Calvin Borel and a flurry of wins by Corey Lanerie, his closest pursuer in the battle for leading rider honors in Churchill Downs’ 38-day Spring Meet.
Borel, the three-time Kentucky Derby winner and three-time leading jockey at its home track, tallied five wins in Saturday’s 13 races. The memorable was capped by a dazzling win aboard Stoneway Farm’s Exfactor in the 110th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds.
“It was an awesome day,” Borel said. “I’m riding some good babies (2-year-olds) this year. Even my brother, Cecil, has a good baby. I think it’s going to be another good year.”
Cecil Borel trains Brown Eyed Jozi, an eight-length winner under Calvin Borel in the colt’s second career start at Churchill Downs on June 18.
Borel’s big day lifted his Spring Meet win total to 32, good for fourth place in the race for leading rider.
As Leparoux returned to Louisville to prepare for Sunday’s races, he should have been able to again feel Lanerie’s breath on his neck. A blistering three-week hot streak by Leparoux had allowed the French-born rider to overcome what had one point had been an 11-win lead by Lanerie and surge to a seemingly comfortable six-win advantage in the race for top jockey. But Lanerie, bidding for his first Churchill Downs riding crown, got out the gate quickly on Saturday with three wins in the day’s first four races. That burst narrowed Leparoux’s lead to 49-46 with head-to-head competition over two days and 23 races remaining in the Spring Meet.
Leparoux was scheduled to ride in 10 of Sunday’s 12 races and has mounts in all 11 races on Monday’s closing day program. Lanerie was set to ride in 11 races on Sunday and all but one of Monday’s races.
MCGEE AND JAY EM ESS STABLE: A WINNING COMBINATION – Louisville-native Paul McGee has enjoyed a long run of success for Mace and Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable since he started training for that California-based operation in the early 1990’s, and the ongoing 2011 Spring Meet has provided more of the same for the owner-trainer team.
McGee, who will celebrate his 49th birthday on July 10, has saddled seven winners during the meet and six were owned by Jay Em Ess Stable. Two Jay Em Ess horses won Saturday when Shameless took Race 7 and Reserved Indian won the ninth. Both winners were ridden by Calvin Borel.
“I’ve trained for the Siegels for a long time and they’re great people to train for,” McGee said.
McGee, who has 294 career wins beneath the Twin Spires, has trained several high-quality horses for the Siegels, including Miss Pickums and Suave. Miss Pickums, the dam of Shameless, won the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in 2000 on her way to $376,809 in career earnings. Suave, a multiple graded stakes winner of over $1.3 million, captured Churchill Downs’ Grade III Northern Dancer (now the Matt Winn) and lost by a narrow head to Magna Graduate in the 2005 Clark Handicap, which was then a Grade II event.
Jay Em Ess Stable is currently second in the owner standings with six wins, two behind Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc., and will have their final starter of the Spring Meet with Ready to Taunt in Sunday’s eighth race, a maiden-special at 1 1/8-miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“He was just second in the same race a few weeks ago (May 22) and so we’re running him right back,” McGee said. “He should have a good shot.”
It will be the fourth start for the 3-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready, who debuted in June of 2010 at Churchill Downs on the main track. Following a 10-month layoff, Ready to Taunt ran third in a $50,000 maiden claiming race on Keeneland’s Polytrack prior to his runner-up effort on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs.
Sunday’s eighth race has a post time of 4:25 p.m. and Ready to Taunt, who will be ridden by Corey Lanerie, is 6-1 on the morning line.
WISE DAN A ‘GO’ FOR TURF DEBUT IN MONDAY’S FIRECRACKER ‘CAP – With just over 24 hours to go before the turf debut of Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan in Monday’s $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap Presented by GE (GII), trainer Charles Lopresti reported that all systems were “go” for what could be a pivotal race for his veteran stakes winner.
Wise Dan tuned up for his turf bow last Tuesday when he worked four furlongs in :48.80 around the dogs on the Matt Winn Turf Course in his first experience on grass. On the same day Preston Stables LLC’s Flat Out, who dominated his foes in Saturday’s Suburban Handicap (GII) on at Belmont Park, breezed a half-mile over the same surface in :50.20.
“He’s doing good,” Lopresti said by telephone from Lexington on Sunday. “He came out of that breeze good and his blood work is good. It just depends on whether he likes the grass or not.
A Firecracker victory by Wise Dan would make him the first horse in its 19 renewals on grass to win the one-mile test for 3-year-olds and up without the benefit of a previous race on grass. The quality of last week’s work over the Matt Winn Turf Course encouraged Lopresti to think that the homebred son of Wiseman’s Ferry possesses the ability to be a major factor in the race.
“Everybody told me that it was really a phenomenal work,” Lopresti said. “I was watching up in the clocker’s stand and down the backside he (Wise Dan) didn’t know what he was doing at first. It was like, ‘What am I supposed to be doing on this thing?’ Then when he hit the half-mile pole and went around the turn, I saw Jon lower down and he said he kicked it for home.
"Jon said he eased him up, because I didn’t want him to do too much with him. I kind of like my outside post, and it wouldn’t bother me if we got a little rain because there was a good cut in the course the other day when he worked.”
Wise Dan has a record of 4-0-0 in nine races, with his biggest win to date coming in last fall’s Phoenix (GIII) at six furlongs over synthetic Polytrack at Keeneland. He followed that effort with a good sixth place finish in which he finished fewer than three lengths behind the victorious Big Drama in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Churchill Downs.
He is 0-for-3 in 2011, but has a pair of good fourth-place finishes in tough races this season. He ran fourth to Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite in the Commonwealth (GII) at Keeneland and that rival returned to win the seven-furlong, $300,000 Churchill Downs (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day in his next outing. After an eighth-place run in his first attempt at a two-turn distance in the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba (GIII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, Wise Dane rebounded with a good fourth-place finish in a seven-furlong allowance race on dirt at the Louisville track. That stakes-quality race was won by multiple stakes winner Native Ruler and the runner-up was two-time Grade I winner General Quarters, the morning line favorite for Monday’s Firecracker.
The change in surface is a bit of a gamble by Lopresti, but a good run by Wise Dan will present new options for the 4-year-old gelding’s future.
“If he likes the grass, that’ll be good,” Lopresti said. “It will be a pivotal race. We’ll just figure out where to go from there.”
The field for the Grade II, $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap Presented by GE in post position order (with jockey, weight, and morning line odds) includes General Quarters (Jamie Theriot, 119, 3-1), Omniscient (Manoel Cruz, 113, 20-1), Mister Marti Gras (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 5-1), El Caballo (Corey Lanerie, 114, 9-2), Mystic (Jesus Castanon, 114, 12-1), Joshua Reynolds (Brian Hernandez Jr., 114, 30-1), Baryshnikov (Julien Leparoux, 117, 4-1), Plutonium (James Lopez, 112, 30-1), Strike Impact (Robby Albarado, 117, 8-1), Wise Dan (Court, 115, 6-1) and Lubash (Kent Desormeaux, 115, 12-1).
Mister Marti Gras is expected to scratch from the race, a move that would move Wise Dan down to post position nine in the Firecracker starting gate.
BARN TALK – Corey Lanerie, who rode Courtlant Farms’ Power World to a runner-up effort in the Grade III Bashford Manor on Saturday at Churchill Downs, hopped on a plane to Louisiana after that race to ride Brittlyn Stables Inc.’s Star Guitar in the $100,000 Louisiana Showcase Classic at Evangeline Downs for trainer Al Stall Jr. Star Guitar won the race by 1 ¾ lengths at odds of 1-5. …
Leading rider Julien Leparoux recorded his 499th Churchill Downs victory aboard Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Raven Hawk in Friday’s eighth race for Steve Asmussen, the leading trainer of the Spring Meet. Leparoux will attempt to become just the tenth jockey to record 500 wins at Churchill Downs with one of his ten mounts Sunday (Races 1-6, 8-11). …
During the final two days of the Spring Meet, Churchill Downs will offer special all-day $1 Budweiser drafts and $1 hot dogs on the bricks of the paddock area to celebrate “Red, White, and Blues Weekend” Presented by GE. Also, there will be live blues music on the paddock stage between races each day from 2-6 p.m. V-Groove will play Sunday and Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons are set to perform on closing day, Monday, July 4. …
The 3rd Annual Horsemen’s Golf Scramble at Glenmary’s Country Club on Monday, Aug. 29. Registration begins at 11 a.m. and the cost is $100 per player with four players to a team. Lunch will also begin at 11 a.m. and the shotgun start is at 12:30 p.m. Those interested may pick up a form from The Backside Learning Center and return it by Friday, Aug. 12.
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockey over the last five racing days (June 25-July 2) is Calvin Borel (10-for-32). Bill Mott (4-for-8), Mike Maker (4-for-11) and Eddie Kenneally (4-for-13) are the hottest trainers over the same period. Mace and Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable (3-for-3) are the hottest owners.
WORKTAB – Ed Few’s Lil Cherokee, who won the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sale Futurity at Lone Star Park in his second career start, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 on a fast track under Brian Hernandez Jr. on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs for trainer Bret Calhoun. Lil Cherokee, a 2-year-old son of Cherokee Run, was scratched from Saturday’s Grade III Bashford Manor after the earlier scratch of Laurie’ Rocket placed him in the number one post for the race. “He’s perfectly healthy,” assistant trainer Dennis Geier said on Saturday. “We just didn’t like the post.”
Dr. Joseph Witek’s homebred Joes Blazing Aaron breezed four furlongs in :51.80 on the main track for trainer Mike Maker on Sunday morning. A 3-year-old gelded son of Graeme Hall, Joes Blazing Aaron, who won the Palm Beach (GIII) at Gulfstream Park in March, was fourth in his most recent start, a 1 1/16-mile allowance race that was taken off the Matt Winn Turf Course because of rain and run over a “good” main track beneath at Churchill Downs on June 19.
WEATHER – Sunday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 91. Monday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 89. Tuesday: mostly sunny, 88. Wednesday: mostly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 88. Thursday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 89. Friday: mostly sunny, 89. Saturday: mostly sunny, 89.