GRADE I WINNER DUBLIN MAKES RETURN IN ALLOWANCE ON SATURDAY – Robert Baker and William Mack’s Dublin will make his long awaited return to competition for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in a 6 ½-furlong allowance race on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

It will be the first start for the 4-year-old son of Afleet Alex since finishing fifth in the 2010 edition of the Grade I Preakness to eventual 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky.

Dublin, winner of the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga in 2009, was taken out of training following the second jewel of the Triple Crown to have a chip removed from his ankle, but Lukas said the colt is fully recovered from the injury.

Dr. (Larry) Bramlage removed the chip from his ankle and also noticed another spot on his cannon bone,” Lukas said. “He (Dr. Bramlage) told us to give the horse as much time off as possible, so we gave him the rest of the year off.”

A $525,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase, Dublin returned to the racetrack in January and began training at Oaklawn Park prior to coming to Churchill Downs at the beginning of the spring meet. The Kentucky-bred has been quite impressive in the mornings over the historic track and has recorded four “bullet” works since May 14, including a four-furlong breeze on May 28 in :46.80, which was the fastest of 69 workers at the distance that morning.

“He’s doing really well and has worked great over the track,” Lukas said.  “He’s also been leaving the gate really well. He used to have some trouble out of the gate, but that’s all gone now.”

Dublin, who was seventh in the 2010 Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands to WinStar Farm’s Super Saver, will be making his fourth start at Churchill Downs and is still searching for his first victory beneath the Twin Spires. Lukas hopes for success on Saturday and that Dublin will return to race at the Louisville track at least once more this fall.

“I don’t think he’s a 6 ½-furlong rocket by any means, but I do think this will give him something to build on and he’ll go on to something bigger,” Lukas said. “The ultimate goal is the (Breeders’ Cup) Dirt Mile in the fall. That’s where we would like to end up.

“This race isn’t a ‘make or break’ deal; it’s just something to get him started,” Lukas said.

Another starter from the 2010 Kentucky Derby is also in the field. Vinery Stables LLC and Mrs. Susan Roy’s Awesome Act, winner of the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct in March of 2010, will look to right the ship after a disappointing fifth-place finish as the even-money favorite in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Churchill Downs on June 12. A 4-year-old ridgling by Awesome Again, Awesome Act finished 19th in the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby and went to the sidelines with an injury after the race.

Also in the field is Mimicry Partnership’s Grand Traverse, a stakes winning earner of $361,499. An 8-year-old gelded son of Pioneering, Grand Traverse was most recently second beaten a nose in a $50,000 claiming event at five furlongs on a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs on May 15 for trainer Tim Glyshaw.

The allowance optional claiming event is scheduled to be run as Race 11 of 13 with a post time of 5:55 p.m. EDT. Neither Dublin nor Awesome Act are entered for a tag; however, Grand Traverse will have a claiming price of $62,500.

NICKS SENDING TWO TO FIRECRACKER, SEEKING FIRST CD STAKES WIN – Last Saturday veteran trainer Garry Simms recorded his first Churchill Downs stakes victory with Barry King’s Flashy Lassie in Churchill Downs’ Debutante (GIII). Now Ralph Nicks, another trainer based at the Louisville track, will attempt to follow Simms’ lead and collect his first stakes win beneath the Twin Spires in Monday’s 21st running of the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) Presented by GE.

The 44-year-old native of Avery, Texas will saddle El Caballo for James Spence and Joshua Reynolds for Dr. John Chandler. Both horses were assigned to carry 114 pounds in the one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.

El Caballo, a 7-year-old son of El Corredor, will enter the Firecracker off a 10th place finish in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) on June 11. It will be the first start on the turf for El Caballo since running sixth in the Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 27, 2010; however, Nicks does not expect the change of surface to be an issue.

"He can run on both surfaces and he’s always run well on the grass,” Nicks said.

The biggest victory of El Caballo’s career came on turf in the Grade III Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds last January. His career record stands at 7-5-0 from 18 starts; including three wins from seven starts on the turf and two victories over the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Joshua Reynolds, a 4-year-old son of Royal Academy, will enter the Firecracker with a three-race win streak and most recently took a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Keeneland on April 13 at odds of 22-1.

“He keeps improving and he’s shown a lot of promise his whole life,” Nicks said. “It’s a big step, but it seems like the right time to make it. It’ll be a good measuring stick of where he needs to go from here.”

Joshua Reynolds has raced exclusively on turf and has a career record of 3-1-0 from seven starts with earnings of $81,185. His record includes one start over the Matt Winn Turf Course, which was his career debut and he finished fourth.

The field for the Firecracker Handicap in post position order from the rail out (with jockey, weight), includes: General Quarters (Jamie Theriot, 119), Omniscient (Manoel Cruz, 113), Mister Marti Gras (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115), El Caballo (Corey Lanerie, 114), Mystic (Jesus Castanon, 114), Joshua Reynolds (Brian Hernandez Jr., 114), Baryshnikov (Julien Leparoux, 117), Plutonium (James Lopez, 112), Strike Impact (Robby Albarado, 117), Wise Dan (Jon Court, 115) and Lubash (Kent Desormeaux, 115).

STRIKE IMPACT ‘NEVER LOOKED BETTER,’ READY FOR FIRECRACKER BID – Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, who for most of his career has been part of a one-horse will not be the only horse representing the hopes of a small operation in Monday’s  Firecracker Handicap Presented by GE (GII).  Trainer and co-owner Pat Dupuy’s Strike Impact will also carry that distinction in Monday’s Grade II, $175,000 event, which is the featured 10th Race on closing day of the 38-day Spring Meet.

General Quarters is one of two horses in the McCarthy stable; however, Strike Impact, a 7-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike, is the lone horse in the barn of the 53-year-old Dupuy, who began training in 1978. Co-owned with Dupuy by Chester Miller, Strike Impact will enter the Firecracker off back-to-back victories in allowance races over the Matt Winn Turf Course this spring.

“He’s had five weeks off, he’s training well and he’s never looked better than he does right now,” said Dupuy, who is the husband of Jennie Rees, turf writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Strike Impact will seek his first stakes victory in the Firecracker, as will Dupuy, who had his first stakes starter in last year’s Claiming Crown Jewel, where Strike Impact finished third. Earlier this year, Strike Impact made his graded stakes debut in the Grade III Shakertown at Keeneland and finished fifth to Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.’s Stratford Hill.

“After Robby (Albarado) rode him at Keeneland, he told me that he belonged with those horses,” Dupuy said. “I know it’s a big step up, but he has a lot of try in him and it’s going to take a good horse to beat him.”

Strike Impact has won 16 races during a career that began in October of 2006 and four of those wins have come over the Matt Winn Turf Course.

“He really loves this course,” Dupuy said. “He’s won four times out of six races and was second once to a really nice horse (Inca King).” Inca King is a graded-stakes winner with $829,646 in career earnings. His biggest win came in the Grade II Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs in 2007.

Strike Impact has a career record of 16-5-8 from 54 starts and earnings of $465,860. He will break from post position nine in the field of 11 for the Firecracker.

BARN TALK – A Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Qualifying Tournament will take place at Churchill Downs on Sunday, July 3. Registration will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Champions Club Lounge. The entry fee is $100 per entry and the tournament is limited to 400 entries with a limit of three per person. The winner will receive entry to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge ($10,000 value) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4-5, 2011. Consolation prize money will be paid to the top eighth finishers.

Mike Tarp’s Tarpy’s Goal will not run in Saturday’s Bashford Manor in favor of the Grade II Futurity at Belmont Park on Sunday. “When you look at the two sets of past performances, it was really a no brainer to ship up there,” trainer Dale Romans said. …

The field for the 110th running of the Bashford Manor from the rail out with jockey and weight includes Laurie’s Rocket (Brian Hernandez Jr., 116), Lil Cherokee (Miguel Mena, 120), Power World (Corey Lanerie, 118), Exfactor (Calvin Borel, 118), Chalybeate Springs (Jesus Castanon, 116), Bonaparte (Jon Court, 118), Sum of the Parts (Leandron Goncalves, 118), Hot Speed (Robby Albarado, 120), Tarpy’s Goal (Kent Desormeaux, 118), Green Mouse (Manoel Cruz, 118) and Friscan (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118). …

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 19-30) is Julien Leparoux (14-for-37). Eddie Kenneally (5-for-12) and Mike Maker (4-for-8) are the hottest trainers over the same period. Windmill Manor Farm (2-for-3), Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey (2-for-5) and Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. (2-for-10) are the hottest owners.

WEATHER – Friday: mostly sunny, 89. Saturday: mostly sunny and hot, 95. Sunday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 92. Monday: partly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 89. Tuesday: mostly sunny, 90. Wednesday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 92. Thursday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 89.

Sign up for race updates, wagering tips, and inside news
Thank you to our sponsor