It’s 900 wins under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs and counting for jockey Larry Melancon, who reached the mark Thursday when he guided A.P. Xcellent to a front-running victory in the eighth race.
“He won like a 3-5 shot should,” said Melancon, who rode A.P. Xcellent for trainer Niall O’Callaghan. “It felt good (to reach 900) and it’s quite an accomplishment and it was nice to do it for people I ride a lot for.”
Only two riders have more victories at Churchill Downs than Melancon; Pat Day with 2,481 and Don Brumfield with 925.
Melancon first began riding at Churchill Downs in the spring of 1974, and two years later found himself in the first four Kentucky Derbys in which he has ridden.
“I was on Amano, and he was third at the head of the stretch,” Melancon said of the James Padgett runner who finished fourth in the field of eight. “The horse that ran third, Elocutionist, I told them they ought to go on to the Preakness because LeRoy (Jolley) was going to send Honest Pleasure after Bold Forbes and that’s what he did and Eloucutionist ran by them both.”
In 1986, Melancon was back in the Kentucky Derby with Blue Grass Stakes winner Bachelor Beau for Phil Hauswald.
“We came out of the tunnel right behind Snow Chief and the crowd roared and he got real rank,” Melancon said. “Groovy was in the Derby that year and I thought he was going to run over the top of Groovy.”
O’Callaghan gave Melancon a leg up on his other two Kentucky Derby mounts with Smilin Singin Sam in 1996 and Keats in 2001. And, it was O’Callaghan who gave Melancon a leg up on what the rider considers his biggest Churchill Downs win.
“I won the Stephen Foster (in 2001) on Guided Tour,” Melancon said. “He beat Captain Steve that day. But it is kind of hard to pick one top horse. I rode a horse named Rapid Gray and I also rode Weekend Surprise (the dam of 1992 “Horse of the Year” A.P. Indy who was the sire of A.P. Xcellent).”
Now 52, the native Breaux Bridge, La., has no plans to hang up the boots in the immediate future.
“As long as I stay healthy and keep my weight, it’s a good thing to keep me getting up in the mornings,” Melancon said.
The quest for 1,000 began Friday afternoon with two mounts, both for trainers for whom he has ridden for years, Steve Penrod and Bill Mott.
RECAPTURETHEGLORY EYES SECOND CHURCHILL DOWNS PAY DAY -- When last seen racing under the Twin Spires, Recapturetheglory ran a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (GI) behind Big Brown, earning a $60,000 check in the process.
On Friday morning, Recapturetheglory was back on the Louisville track, galloping a mile and a half under regular morning exercise partner Lara Van Deren in preparation for Saturday’s $175,000-added Northern Dancer (GIII).
“He really likes it here and he galloped great this morning,” said Van Deren, who was here with the Louie Roussel III trainee all through the run up to the Kentucky Derby.
After the Derby, Recapturetheglory came down with a fever that knocked him out of a run at the Preakness. And, there was another issue.
“He had a bruised foot that didn’t show up until a week after the Derby,” Van Deren said. “The fever he spiked the day after he got it and was OK, but there was no way he could have run in the Preakness. There is no telling how long that would have knocked him out.”
Recapturetheglory, who is co-owned by Roussel and Ronnie Lamarque, returned to Chicago on May 12 but did not return to the track for nearly a week.
“We started jogging him six days after we got back there, and since then he has been doing great,” Van Deren said.
Jockey E.T. Baird, who rode Recapturetheglory to victory in the Grade II Illinois Derby and also in the Kentucky Derby, will have the mount Saturday in the Northern Dancer and break from the rail in the seven-horse field that also includes Kentucky Derby runners Pyro (eighth) and Visionaire (12th).
“JOCKEY TALK” FEATURES LEPAROUX, LANERIE – Jockeys Julien Leparoux and Corey Lanerie will be the featured guests Saturday for “Jockey Talk” – a Churchill Downs program that allows horse racing fans to mingle with their favorite riders.
“Jockey Talk” takes places in the paddock area from 11:30 a.m.-noon (all times Eastern) each Saturday throughout the remainder of the Spring Meet that closes July 6. The program gives fans the chance to meet, visit, receive autographs and take pictures with selected riders.
Entering Friday’s card, Leparoux was third in the rider standings with 37 victories. Lanerie has ridden nine winners.
HRTV ONSITE FOR STEPHEN FOSTER SUPER SATURDAY – HorseRacing TV (HRTV) will be at Churchill Downs on Saturday for “Horse of the Year” Curlin’s return to the races in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI). Host Peter Lurie, who is making his first visit to Churchill Downs, will be joined by Caton Bredar to report on the latest developments surrounding Stephen Foster Super Saturday.
ENTRIES SOUGHT FOR MONDAY HORSEMEN’S POKER TOURNAMENT – Playing spaces are still available for a charity Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament set for Monday, June 16 in the Triple Crown Room of the Jockey Club Suites at Churchill Downs. The tournament, which offers a grand prize of $10,000, is scheduled to feature racing celebrities that include Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas and Hall of Fame jockeys Don Brumfield and Gary Stevens.
Registration is scheduled to begin Monday at 5 p.m. (all times EDT) and the tournament starts at 6 p.m. Cash prizes will be paid to the top 10 finishers and a special prize of a clubhouse box to the 2009 Kentucky Derby is available without playing.
Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the lifestyle and substance abuse programs at Churchill Downs. The event is sponsored by Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and the Churchill Downs Racing Committee.
The tournament is limited to 250 players with a tax-deductible buy-in of $225. Information is available by calling the Kentucky HBPA office at (502) 363-1077 or the Churchill Downs Horsemen’s Lounge at (502) 636-4830.
BARN TALK – Tom Amoss grabbed the advantage in the race for leading trainer at the Spring Meet when Cardinal Stables’ Tovah ($5.40) won the fourth race on Thursday’s card. The victory gave Amoss 22 victories through 34 days of the 52-day meet and one more than Ken McPeek. … Four jockeys posted riding doubles Thursday, including the meet’s top two riders, Robby Albarado and Miguel Mena. Albarado holds a 45-41 lead in victories over Mena. Other riding doubles were completed by Calvin Borel and Jamie Theriot. …Nominations close on Saturday, June 14 for the $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (GIII) at six furlongs for 2-year-old fillies. The Debutante will be run on June 28. Information is available by calling Churchill Downs Racing at (502) 636-4470 or nominations made be made via fax at (502) 636-4479.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – IEAH Stable, Lewis Lakin and Pegasus Holding Group Stables’ Pure Clan breezed an easy three-eighths in :39.60 over a fast track before the renovation break for trainer Bob Holthus in preparation for Saturday’s $200,000-added Regret (GIII). … Gary and Mary West’s Keep the Peace, runner-up in the Forward Gal (GII) and La Troienne (GIII) worked a half-mile in :49, the sixth fastest of 42 at the distance, for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Thursday, June 12
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Robby Albarado 168 45-21-23
Miguel Mena 226 41-30-30
Julien Leparoux 208 37-38-39
Calvin Borel 219 33-33-33
Shaun Bridgmohan 143 29-27-18
Jamie Theriot 161 27-25-13
Jesus Castanon 176 21-15-19
Brian Hernandez Jr. 126 11-20-14
Elvis Trujillo 71 10-10-18
Corey Lanerie 133 9-19-15
Larry Sterling Jr. 71 9-8-9
Tom Amoss 52 22-7-9
Ken McPeek 51 21-7-4
Steve Asmussen 76 16-14-12
Dale Romans 94 11-21-16
Mike Maker 40 11-7-4
Ian Wilkes 34 10-6-5
Eddie Kenneally 41 8-8-8
Greg Foley 51 7-9-7
Cody Autrey 43 7-8-8
Steve Margolis 33 7-6-6
Wesley Ward 26 7-5-5
Paul McGee 33 7-5-2
Nick Zito 19 7-5-1
Three (3) trainers tied with six (6) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 40 12-6-8
Maggi Moss 20 10-3-3
Zayat Stables, LLC 35 7-7-7
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 28 6-7-3
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 11 5-1-0
Padua Stables 7 4-1-0
Eliah and Lisa Kahn 4 4-0-0
Eight (8) owners tied with three (3) wins