MUSKETIER READY FOR TOP EFFORT IN LOUISVILLE HANDICAP – It’s scarce to find a multiple graded stakes-winning, un-gelded horse still competing at age 9, let alone in top company, but Musketier-GER, fresh off back-to-back wins in the Elkhorn (GII) at Keeneland, has been installed as the 122-pound high weight and 9-5 favorite for Saturday’s 74th running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.  

The German-bred horse has been competing on the racetrack for seven years. Heck, he’s been around so long that gas prices averaged $1.87 when he made his Aug. 3, 2004 debut at Deauville in France. One might think that such a veteran would have lost a step; however, trainer Roger Attfield believes his horse is in top form.

“I haven’t had a chance to take a long look at the field yet,” said Attfield, who will also start Simmard in the Louisville Handicap. “But I know my horse (Musketier) is healthy and well and he’s been training very nicely for this race.”

Jesus Castanon, who rode Shackleford to a Preakness (GI) victory last week, will be aboard Musketier for the first time Saturday afternoon.

“His rider from last time (John Velazquez) was unavailable and I needed to find another rider,” Attfield said. “I’ve known Dennis Cooper (Castanon’s agent) for a long time and I know Castanon is a good jockey. We’ve had success together before and so I decided to go with him again.”

Castanon, who has ridden four mounts to victory at the meet, is well aware of Musketier’s class and ability.

“I don’t know a whole lot about the horse, but I know he’s really good,” Castanon said.

Castanon’s agent is also looking forward to Saturday’s race as the Louisville Handicap has been on his radar for some time.

“There aren’t too many races (1 ½ miles on turf) for a horse like that and I thought he might run in this one,” Cooper said. “I called Roger (Attfield) a long time ago and asked about getting this mount. He’s a great horse and we’re ready to roll.”


PADDY O’PRADO’S CONNECTIONS LOOK TO REPEAT SUCCESS WITH O’PRADO AGAIN – Just days after celebrating a win in the Dixie (GII) at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard, the connections of Paddy O’Prado were forced to retire their Grade I-winning colt after x-rays revealed a sesamoid injury. Although Paddy O’Prado’s retirement is a major blow to the barn, the duo of Donegal Racing and Dale Romans has been encouraged by the progress of a pair of promising 2-year-old colts.  

One of the colts, O’Prado Again, is named in honor of Paddy O’Prado. The $350,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase descends from the same family as First Samurai, winner of the Champagne Stakes (GI) and Hopeful Stakes (GI) as a 2-year-old in 2005. Romans is excited about O’Prado Again’s abilities and thinks the colt will make his debut before meet’s end.

“He’s a really nice horse,” Romans said. “I like him a lot.”

The son of El Prado, out of the Pulpit mare Leh She Run, might have a liking for the turf much like his namesake, who recorded all five of his wins on the lawn.

“He’s one that I think will be better on the grass,” Romans said.

The other 2-year-old is Dullahan, a half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing purchased the colt at the Keeneland September sale for $250,000.

Romans, who worked Dullahan five furlongs from the gate Wednesday in 1:02.60 on a fast Churchill Downs track, is looking forward to seeing the colt run in the afternoon.

“He’s a good one,” Romans said. “He’s definitely one to watch.”

RETIRED BRASS HAT TO BE HONORED SATURDAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNSFred Bradley’s homebred Brass Hat – one of the greatest rags-to-riches stars in the history of Kentucky racing – will get a fond farewell from fans and the people closest to him during a Saturday ceremony at Churchill Downs.

            Churchill Downs’ farewell to Brass Hat is scheduled after Saturday’s fifth race, which is set for a post time of 2:55 p.m. (Eastern).  Brass Hat will make the trip to the Churchill Downs paddock with the horses that will run in the fifth, and the veteran star will remain in the paddock while the race is run.  The ceremony honoring Brass Hat and his connections will be conducted in the winner’s circle following the race.

            Trainer Buff Bradley, the owner/breeder’s son, announced this week that the 10-year-old gelded son of Prized would head into retirement.  The younger Bradley described Brass Hat on Friday as a “blue collar horse” who had become a hero and favorite to many racing fans.  Bradley said Brass Hat had been training well for a campaign at 10, but he decided it was time for Brass Hat to head back to the family’s farm near Frankfort.

            “He still really has the want-to,” Bradley said.  “If he was ready to run in the Louisville Handicap tomorrow, he’d be in the starting gate.  But he’s not ready and I thought it would just take too much time to get him ready to compete this year.”

            The Bradleys could never be accused of being overly ambitious with Brass Hat, who started his career as a 3-year-old in a race for $15,000 claiming horses on Jan. 29, 2004 at Turfway Park.  He finished second that day at odds of 32-1, but two starts later scored his first career victory in a 38-1 upset in Turfway’s $100,000 Rushaway Stakes.  By the end of his first racing season Brass Hat had also collected victories in the Ohio Derby (GII) and Indiana Derby (GII).

            He rebounded successfully from two major injuries during his career to compile a record of 10-8-5 in 40 races with earnings of $2,173,561.  Other highlights included victories at five in the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park and the New Orleans Handicap (GII) at Fair Grounds.  Brass Hat also won the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap in 2007 and the 2005 Prairie Bayou at Turfway Park.  He shifted almost exclusively to the grass late in his career and scored emotional victories for the Bradleys in Churchill Downs’ Louisville Handicap (GIII) in 2009 and a major win as a 9-year-old in last year’s Sycamore (GIII) at Keeneland. 

            His numbers would be even more glittering had Brass Hat not been disqualified from a runner-up finish in the 2007 running of the $5 million Dubai World Cup (GI) at Nad Al Sheba.  He was disqualified after that race because of a medication violation on that international journey that the younger Bradley disputes to this day. 

          “It will be an emotional day, but no more emotional than watching him any other day,” Bradley said of his veteran star’s Saturday farewell.  “It has been so special to watch and be around this horse, especially in later years when he won the Louisville Handicap here and won the Sycamore at Keeneland last year at nine.  All my barn crew is going to walk over to the paddock with him, so I’ll get to share the moment with them.”


BARN TALK – Trainer Dale Romans has confirmed that Jerry RomansSassy Image will be entered in Monday’s 8th running of the Winning Colors (GIII). The 4-year-old daughter of Broken Vow captured the Humana Distaff (GI) here in her last start as part of the Kentucky Derby (GI) undercard. …

            Romans galloped Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford on Friday at 9:30 a.m. and said he’d firm the colt’s travel plans to New York on Friday afternoon. “It looks like he’ll leave here for Belmont on Saturday or Sunday and I need to decide if he’ll go by plane or van.” …

Romans couldn’t help but chuckle when he received a text message from a friend that included a picture of a congratulatory sign outside his alma mater, Butler High School, which is located just 3 ½ miles from Churchill Downs in the south end of Louisville. The sign read: Dale Romans: Preakness Winner, Butler Grad. “For four years, all they did was to try and kick me out,” Romans said. “Now that I’ve won the Preakness with Shackleford, they’ve got open arms and they’re showing me love!” …

Robby Albarado won the ninth race Thursday aboard Attractive Ride for trainer Merrill Scherer. The win was Albarado’s 915th at Churchill Downs and moved him past Larry Melancon (914) for fourth place in career victories under the Twin Spires behind Pat Day (2,482), Calvin Borel (1,046) and Don Brumfield (925). …

After today, two Friday twilight programs (2:45 p.m. ET) remain during the Spring Meet and both include live music after the races in conjunction with the new five-week Paddock Concert Series: Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons on June 3 and Wax Fang on June 10. “Downs After Dark” night racing with a 6 p.m. ET first post will return in earnest for the final three Fridays of the meet on June 17, June 24 and July 1. …

Nominations close Saturday for the 35th running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course. Hot Cha Cha won the 2010 Early Times Mint Julep. … 

MEET LEADERS - Shaun Bridgmohan and Corey Lanerie entered Friday’s program tied atop the jockey standings with 15 wins apiece, and were followed by Calvin Borel (12), Julien Leparoux (12), Miguel Mena (11), Jon Court (10) and Kent Desormeaux (10). …

The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (May 19-26) are Lanerie (9-for-33), Mena (8-for-28) and Borel (7-for-33). …

There’s a three-way tie atop the trainer standings with seven wins each between Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen and Romans. They’re followed by Eddie Kenneally (5), Steve Margolis (5), Bob Baffert (4), Jim Baker (4), Greg Foley (4), Tim Glyshaw (4), Wayne Lukas (4), Mike Maker (4), Merrill Scherer (4) and Ian Wilkes (4). … 

Lukas’ clients, Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack, top the owner standings with four winners. They collected win No. 4 in Thursday’s fourth race when Manhattan Man collected his second win of the Spring Meet. The other two-time winning-horses this season are Distorted Love, She’s an Alpha Gam, Shot of Kela and Valid Citizen. …

WORK TAB – Carl R. Moore Management LLC’s Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) at Churchill Downs in November, worked four furlongs over a good Churchill Downs track on Friday morning in :49.80 for trainer Bret Calhoun. …

            Right Time Racing LLC’s two Kentucky Oaks (GI) starters Bouquet Booth and Street Storm both worked four furlongs over a good track for trainer Steve Margolis in :49.20 after the renovation break. …

            Tom McCarthy’s multiple GI-winner General Quarters went to the track shortly after the renovation break. The 5-year-old gray son of Sky Mesa worked five furlongs in 1:03.20 over a good track.

WEATHER - After a tumultuous week of rain and severe weather, the National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for clearing and sunny skies through Memorial Day: Friday, cloudy, 67; Saturday, partly sunny, 83; Sunday, sunny, 90; and Monday, sunny, 91.

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