LEPAROUX’S AGENT IN SPOILER ROLE IN THIS TRIPLE CROWN PURSUIT – In 1987, Steve Bass was right in the middle of the Triple Crown storm as the exercise rider for Alysheba. On Saturday, he hopes to be part of a spoiler to history as the agent of jockey Julien Leparoux, who will ride Anak Nakal for trainer Nick Zito.
“He went straight to New York after the Preakness and had three good weeks,” said Bass, who was the exercise rider for Alysheba through the Triple Crown series and the Breeders’ Cup.
“There wasn’t as much press hanging around then, mainly just the people on the backside. There wasn’t any TVG or anything like that back then.”
Jack Van Berg trained Alysheba, who was housed in Barn 32 for his Kentucky Derby run in 1987 and for the Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year.
“We had a good time (at the Belmont). Jack was a hoot,” Bass said. “But, he was dead serious when it came to the horse.”
Leparoux is being reunited with Anak Nakal, whom he rode to victory in last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs. Anak Nakal ran seventh in the Kentucky Derby under Rafael Bejarano.
“I think the mile and a half will be good for him,” Leparoux said of the son of 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop.
So, without giving away the game plan, how does Leparoux hope to derail Big Brown’s bid for the Triple Crown.
“I really don’t know,” Leparoux said with a laugh. “It will be tough. You can only hope he gets a little tired at the end.”
Leparoux will be riding two other horses for Zito on Saturday, including Admirality, who he rode to victory in the race after the Derby on Derby Day. His only other stakes mount Saturday is on Spenditallbaby for trainer Barry Abrams in the Grade I Just A Game.
The only other Churchill Downs-based rider participating in the Belmont Stakes is Robby Albarado, who will ride third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Denis of Cork for trainer David Carroll.
Albarado has mounts in three other stakes. Albarado will ride Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) winner Bayou’s Lassie for trainer Dale Romans in the Just A Game, Ling Ling Qi for trainer Ken McPeek in the Woody Stephens (GII), and, Mac Diarmida Handicap (GII) winner Stream of Gold for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
In addition to Denis of Cork, owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr., one other Churchill Downs-based colt will challenge Big Brown in the Belmont. West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, runner-up in the Preakness for trainer Dallas Stewart, will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.
TRIPLE CROWN DRY SPELL NO SURPRISE TO VEITCH – It has been 30 years since a Triple Crown champion was crowned and a man who was dead center in the epic Affirmed-Alydar duels of the 1978 series is not surprised the drought has stretched that far.
“Historically, there have been some lengthy gaps between Triple Crown winners,” said Chief Steward John Veitch, who trained Alydar. “We became spoiled in the ’70s.”
Affirmed became the third Triple Crown winner of the decade, following on the heels of Seattle Slew in 1977 and Secretariat in 1973. Alydar ran second to Affirmed in all three races in the series, falling a head short in the Belmont.
Since 1978, 10 horses won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but failed to secure the Crown at Belmont Park.
“There were a couple of horses that I thought had real good shots, but in their preparation for the Belmont they worked too fast before the race,” Veitch said. “But that’s my personal opinion.”
After the final race runs at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Veitch plans to stick around to watch Big Brown’s run at history.
“I will watch it, but I have no interest in liking one horse over another,” Veitch said.
MENA ON THE MOVE IN JOCKEYS’ RACE – The two-man race at the top of the Churchill Downs’ riding standings became a three-man chase Thursday when Miguel Mena rode three winners to hike his season total to 33 after 29 days of the 52-day meet.
Mena scored in the third with Burns Up the Track ($3.60), Veiled Prophet ($9.20) in the seventh and Locomotion ($4) in the nightcap. Mena had a five-win day on May 8 and another three-win day on May 26.
Julien Leparoux and Robby Albarado were shut out Thursday and remain tied at the top with 34 victories this spring. With both riders in New York on Saturday, Mena will have a major opportunity to grab the lead in the jockey standings with nine mounts on the Churchill Downs card.
MILLER ON A ROLL WITH JUVENILE RUNNERS – Trainer Darrin Miller is batting a thousand with his two-year-olds this spring at Churchill Downs.
When Corlett won Thursday’s fourth race under Jamie Theriot, it marked Miller’s third juvenile winner from three 2-year-old starters.
“These things come in streaks and we are pretty lucky now,” Miller said.
Miller’s other winners were Cherubini on May 25 and Oculuna on May 18. All three juveniles are owned by Silverton Hill Farm with Cherubini and Oculuna being homebreds who scored in their first outings.
Any more juveniles on the horizon for the final month of the meet?
“That’s all I have for the meet; let’s leave it at 100 percent,” Miller said with a laugh. “We have some others (on the farm) but they won’t run here.”
BARN TALK – Fred Bradley’s millionaire homebred Brass Hat is scheduled to work five furlongs Saturday morning after the renovation break with Calvin Borel up. Trainer Buff Bradley said a decision would be made after the work regarding Brass Hat’s possible participation in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on June 14. … Weights for the Stephen Foster, as well as the Fleur de Lis (GII) and Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) will be announced Saturday. … Trainer John Glenney plans to ship his 2007 Sycamore Stakes (GIII) winner Transduction Gold to Hollywood Park on Monday for the Round Table Handicap at a mile and three-quarters on the turf on June 14.
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Thursday, June 5
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Julien Leparoux 189 34-33-35
Robby Albarado 140 34-15-21
Miguel Mena 188 33-25-25
Calvin Borel 189 28-27-29
Shaun Bridgmohan 128 26-25-15
Jamie Theriot 133 22-21-10
Jesus Castanon 151 20-13-12
Elvis Trujillo 51 10-7-15
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 105 9-15-13
Corey Lanerie 116 8-17-11
John McKee 87 8-13-16
Tracy Hebert 78 7-5-5
Ken McPeek 43 18-7-4
Tom Amoss 45 18-6-7
Steve Asmussen 75 16-14-12
Ian Wilkes 30 10-6-4
Mike Maker 34 9-6-3
Dale Romans 74 7-16-16
Cody Autrey 41 7-8-7
Eddie Kenneally 36 7-7-7
Steve Margolis 27 7-5-5
Wesley Ward 22 7-4-4
Four (4) trainers tied with six (6) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 31 10-4-5
Maggi Moss 18 9-2-3
Zayat Stables, LLC 31 6-6-7
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 26 6-6-3
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 11 5-1-0
Padua Stables 7 4-1-0
Seven (7) owners tied with three (3) wins