DOMINICAN EYES FIRST CHURCHILL SCORE IN 134TH CLARK HANDICAP - The last time Dominican ran on the main track at Churchill Downs, he finished a well-beaten 11th behind the victorious Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I).
The Darrin Miller trainee, after a six-race 2008 campaign split between all-weather tracks and the turf, will return to the natural dirt next Friday in the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII).
"We have taken our time with him this year," Miller said of Dominican, who is owned by Silverton Hill Farm. "He bled severely last year in the West Virginia Derby and what I have done this year is have him come out of his races in good order and continue to progress."
Dominican has compiled a 1-2-3 record in six races this year and enters the Clark off a runner-up finish in the Oct. 25 Fayette (GIII) at Keeneland.
"I was real happy with his Fayette," Miller said. "The Clark will be his last race of the year. We will turn him out at the farm and then bring him back in the spring at Keeneland."
Dominican scored his biggest victory in the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) that propelled him into the Kentucky Derby. Finishing fifth behind Street Sense in the Derby was Silverton Hill's Sedgefield, who is heading to India to begin a stallion career in 2009 at Jai Govind Stud in Jaipur.
"His last race was in the spring at Keeneland," Miller said of Sedgefield, full brother to 2007 champion grass horse English Channel. "I had heard he was going to India, but I don't know all the logistics of it. He should be leaving pretty soon."
In addition to the Clark, Miller may have one other starter in the closing weekend stakes: Silverton Hill's Corlett. Idle since winning the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies on Aug. 2, Corlett is nominated to the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) to be run Nov. 29 on the "Stars of Tomorrow II" card featuring all 2-year-olds.
"How she does this weekend will determine which way we go," Miller said of Corlett, who came out of her Mountaineer win with a chip in an ankle. "Everything has to go right. We feel that she is a good enough filly that we can take our time with."
Corlett broke her maiden here in the spring and then ran a troubled fourth in the Grade III Debutante before winning at Mountaineer.
SNOW NO OBSTACLE TO JUST AS WELL GETTING TO LOUISVILLE - With coffee and doughnuts in tow, Barry Wiseman fumbled with the keys to the track room at the Stakes Barn at Churchill Downs on a brisk Friday morning.
"We drove through snow to get here from Pennsylvania," said Wiseman, who serves as an assistant trainer and exercise rider for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
His cargo on the trip to Louisville was Augustin Stable's Just as Well, who will shoot for his first stakes victory in Saturday's $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs. Just as Well will break from post position six under E.T. Baird and carry 113 pounds, nine fewer than defending race winner Thorn Song.
The trip to Louisville marked a quick turnaround for Wiseman.
"I was here last week and we just got beat a head in the Cardinal with Long Approach," Wiseman said. "I think this one is going to run well, too."
Just as Well enters the River City off an allowance win at Keeneland. The 5-year-old horse is a son of A.P. Indy out of the Nureyev mare No Matter What.
"The dam is the mother of the best two-year-old filly in England this year," Wiseman said, referring to the undefeated Group I winner Rainbow View who was sired by Dynaformer.
While Just as Well was at Keeneland, he was in the same barn with Forever Together, whom Wiseman galloped before she was sent to California and a victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
"She is back home training every day at the farm with Informed Decision (winner of the Grade II Raven Run last month at Keeneland)," Wiseman said. "They paraded her at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup a week after the Breeders' Cup when she got back. They walked her over on the road with cars going by and it didn't bother her a bit."
GARCIA DELIVERS SOLID NUMBERS IN FIRST CHURCHILL DOWNS FORAY - Although snow flurries were swirling in the brisk autumn air, if jockey Julio Garcia had any qualms about riding in the fall at Churchill Downs for the first time, he wasn't letting on.
"I really like riding here," said Garcia, who has spent most of his career riding in Southern California and Florida. "The people here are great."
After the Del Mar meet closed in early September, Garcia came east mainly to ride horses for trainer Wesley Ward. He found the winner's circle at Kentucky Downs, annexed two wins at Keeneland that included the closing-day Fayette (GIII) aboard Ball Four, and has added 11 victories at Churchill Downs.
Garcia is winning at a 17 percent clip (11 for 63), which is third best among jockeys with 10 or more victories at the meet.
The 11 victories put him in a tie for seventh with Kent Desormeaux at the meet, which closes Nov. 29 and sends Garcia to warmer climes.
"I am going to California first and then coming back to Florida in the spring," said the 48-year-old Garcia, a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico.
Garcia, who rode his first U.S. winner in 1984 at Santa Anita, had his best year in 1990 when he won 147 races. His victory aboard Grey Line Express in Thursday's first race was career win No. 1,201.
BARN TALK - Trainer Steve Asmussen's far-flung operation picked up three victories Thursday to raise his 2008 total to 551, four short of the record Asmussen established in 2004. Asmussen, who turned 43 on Tuesday, had no horses entered at Churchill Downs on Friday. However, the trainer had 18 runners entered at other six North American venue, which means Asmussen may have the record in hand by the time he sends out Captain Cherokee in Saturday's 10th race at Churchill Downs. ... Dogwood Stable's Blackberry Road, runner-up in last year's Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), returns to the races off a six-month layoff in Sunday's eighth race. "He's been in our barn about six weeks," said trainer Dallas Stewart of Blackberry Road, who was previously trained by David Carroll. "He is doing well and looking forward to getting him started back." ... Trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey continued to build on their record-setting Fall Meet on Thursday. Maker, now owner of the all-time record for victories at a Fall Meet, added three victories Thursday to increase his total to 24 with seven days left in the meet. The Ramseys, with two victories Thursday, now have 19 for the meet, four more than the previous record. Julien Leparoux continued on pace to break Pat Day's 23-year-old mark of 55 victories at a Fall Meet. With three victories Thursday, Leparoux has 43 for the meet and needs to average two wins a day through the close of the meet Nov. 29 to break the record. In Day's record meet, a total of 271 races were run over the 30-day meet. This year's meet will have 270 races.
WORK TAB - Elisabeth Alexander's Magna Graduate, working toward a possible run in next Friday's Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII), worked six furlongs in 1:14 over a fast track for trainer Steve Asmussen. ... Glencrest Farm's Devil House, a probable starter in Thursday's Falls City Handicap (GII), worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 for trainer Rusty Arnold. ... Magdalena Racing's My Baby Baby, runner-up in the Mrs. Revere (GII) in her most recent start, worked a half-mile in :49.20 for trainer Ken McPeek.
TWO CANNED GOODS FOR FREE ADMISSION - Churchill Downs will offer free general admission through Sunday, Nov. 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.
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.