REGAL RANSOM RETURNS TO ‘SECOND HOME’ FOR FOSTER BID - Godolphin Racing LLC’s Regal Ransom, a multiple graded stakes winner of more than $1.8 million who will run in Saturday’s $500,000-added Stephen Foster Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I), arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday and has settled into familiar surroundings in Barn 41.
"This is the fourth time he (Regal Ransom)’s been at Churchill Downs and he’s been in Barn 41 every time,” assistant trainer Ian Grant said. “It’s kind of like a second home for him.”
The 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor has been preparing for his start in the 30th running of the Stephen Foster at Belmont Park, but the Saeed bin Suroor trainee not been away from his “second home” for very long. Regal Ransom was last seen beneath the Twin Spires on Kentucky Oaks Day when he was second by a nose to Donald Dizney’s First Dude in the Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GIII).
“I think we got a little unlucky last time with an outside post,” Grant said. “If he wouldn’t have been so wide, I think he would have been able to hold on. Hopefully we will get a good post for the Foster and he’ll win it this time.”
Regal Ransom has recorded three works at Belmont Park in preparation for the Stephen Foster; including an eye-opening four-furlong “bullet” work in 46.60 on May 28.
“He’s really doing well,” Grant said. “I think he’ll run another big race this weekend.”
Regal Ransom handled the trip from New York well and Tuesday morning he visited the Churchill Downs track for the first time since the Alysheba.
"He’s always been a great shipper and has had lots of practice,” Grant said. “We galloped him 1 ½ miles this morning and he looked great. He loves this track.”
Regal Ransom has a record of 4-4-0 from 14 starts, with his biggest victory coming under jockey Alan Garcia in the 2009 Grade II, $2 million UAE Derby. Garcia will be aboard Regal Ransom again on Saturday.
A Stephen Foster contender settling into completely new surroundings at Churchill Downs on Tuesday was Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Crown of Thorns. He arrived at the track at 1:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) following a flight from Ontario, Cal. to Lexington and a van ride to Louisville.
Trained by Richard Mandella, the lightly-raced 6-year-old son of Repent is coming off a victory in the Mervyn Leroy (GII) at Hollywood Park. Crown of Thorns has a record of 3-4-1 in 10 races, with all of the runner-up finishes coming in Grade I races in 2009 and 2010. That string included a nose loss to Dancing in Silks in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI).
The Stephen Foster Handicap will be the first start outside of California for Crown of Thorns, although Mandella has tried to get him to Churchill Downs on two other occasions. He was considered to be a major contender for the Kentucky Derby after he won the 2008 Robert B. Lewis (GII) at Santa Anita, but was injured shortly after that race and went to the sidelines for a year and a half. Mandella also pointed Crown of Thorns to last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs, but a minor knee ailment prompted a late scratch from that race.
Southern California-based Tyler Baze is scheduled to ride Crown of Thorns in the Stephen Foster. He will carry 121 pounds, one fewer than the 122-pound high weight Giant Oak, who won last fall’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) and the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park.
Crown of Thorns is stabled in Barn 47, stall 6.
Set to arrive later in the week for the 2011 Stephen Foster are Alex and Joann Lieblong, Marilyn McMaster and Fawkes Racing’s Duke of Mischief, winner of the $1 million Charles Town Classic (GIII), and Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable’s Equestrio, third in his stakes debut in the Alysheba. Duke of Mischief will settle in stall 6 of Barn 16 for trainer David Fawkes, while the Nick Zito-trained Equestrio will make his home in stall 1 of Barn 36.
With entries for the Stephen Foster due on Wednesday, horses considered likely or possible for the race include (with trainer, assigned weight): A.U. Miner (Clark Hanna, 114); Apart (Al Stall Jr., 118), Crown of Thorns (Mandella, 121), Duke of Mischief (Fawkes, 118), El Caballo (Ralph Nicks, 115), Equestrio (Zito, 116), Flat Out (Scooter Dickey, 114), Giant Oak (Chris Block, 122), Headache (Mike Maker, 114), Mission Impazible (Todd Pletcher, 118), Pool Play (Mark Casse, 116), Regal Ransom (bin Suroor, 117) and Worldly (Paul McGee, 113).
A.U. Miner has been entered in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on Friday’s “Downs After Dark” night racing program and could opt for that race instead of Saturday’s Stephen Foster.
BANNED PREPS FOR JEFFERSON CUP WITH EASY TUESDAY WORK – Glen Hill Farm’s Banned cruised an easy five furlongs a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:04.40 on Tuesday morning in preparation for his run as the likely favorite in Saturday’s $100,000 Jefferson Cup Presented by Abu Dhabi (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
“That was exactly what I wanted,” trainer Tom Proctor said. “We just wanted him to go an easy five-eighths this morning.”
Exercise rider Gabrial Sanchez was in the irons for Tuesday’s breeze. Jose Lezcano, who was aboard the Proctor-trained Keertana when she made history earlier in the meet by becoming the first filly or mare to win the Louisville Handicap (GIII), will ride Banned on Saturday. It will be Lezcano’s first ride on the son of Kitten’s Joy since August, when he was aboard the colt in a sixth-place finish in his career debut at Saratoga.
Banned will be looking to collect his second graded stakes victory of the meet in the Jefferson Cup, a race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. He captured the American Turf Presented by Ram (GIII) over a “good” Matt Winn Turf Course on Kentucky Oaks Day in his most recent start.
The colt’s schedule after the Jefferson Cup is undecided, and will remain that way until after the race.
“I just want to win the next one (Jefferson Cup),” Proctor said. “I don’t look down the road like that. I never have.”Three-year-olds considered likely or possible for the Jefferson Cup (with trainers) include Banned (Proctor). Chalice (Kellyn Gorder), Chinglish (Mark Hennig), Derby Kitten (Mike Maker), Dream Warrior (Eddie Kenneally), Perregaux (Neil Howard), Redboard (Garry Simms), and Swagger Jack (Darrin Miller).
HOLIDAYSATTHEFARM GEARS UP FOR ANOTHER SHOT AT KATHMANBLU – Glen Hill Farm’s homebred Holidaysatthefarm, a contender for the $125,000-added Regret Presented by Etihad Airways (GIII) worked an easy five furlongs Tuesday over the Matt Winn Turf Course in preparation for Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.
The daughter of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones breezed in 1:05.40 around the dogs in preparation for her Regret rematch with Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu.
Holidaysatthefarm last faced Kathmanblu, a multiple stakes winner on turf and dirt, in the Jan. 22 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream Park. She finished third to Kathmanblu, beaten 12 lengths, on yielding turf in that one-mile race.
"She didn’t run any good that day even though she was third,” trainer Tom Proctor said.
Proctor’s filly was then entered in the Edgewood on Kentucky Oaks Day, but was scratched from the race by veterinarians. Proctor then entered the Glen Hill homebred in an allowance race over the Matt Winn Turf Course, but scratched her when the race was moved to the main track because of wet weather.
Proctor believes Holidaysatthefarm has benefited from her longer than expected break between races, but is not sure if that will be enough when it comes to beating a rival as talented as Kathmanblu.
“My filly is doing really well and the layoff has actually helped her a lot,” Proctor said. “But it’s going to be tough to beat Kathmanblu.”
Kathmanblu is one of three Ken McPeek-trained fillies expected to run in the Regret. Catesby Clay’s Bizzy Caroline and Livin the Dream Racing 2009 LLC’s Sassy’s Dream are also probable starters Saturday.
Susan M. Forrester’s Blushandbashful, another probable starter for the Regret, arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday from New York. The 3-year-old daughter of Even The Score handled the trip well and jogged around the historic track for the first time Tuesday morning for trainer John Terranova II.
Likely starters for the 42nd running of the Regret (with trainers) include: Bizzy Caroline (McPeek), Blushandbashful (Terranova II), Bouquet Booth (Steve Margolis), Diva Ash (Dale Romans). Excited (Todd Pletcher), Gaya (Tom Amoss), Holidaysatthefarm (Proctor), Kathmanblu (McPeek), My Phi Temper (Ronny Werner) and Sassy’s Dream (McPeek).
MCGEE’S INFRATTINI SET FOR STAKES DEBUT IN MATT WINN – Trainer Paul McGee believes Z Thoroughbreds LLC’s Infrattini has found his niche in route races and the Louisville-born trainer keep the 3-year-old son of Include running around two turns when he makes his stakes debut in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile $125,000-added Matt Winn Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation (GIII).
“He’s eligible for a one-other than (allowance), but the ones here (at Churchill Downs) were only one-turn races,” McGee said. “I wanted to keep him going two-turns.”
The Winn’s distance is not the only reason Infrattini will step into stakes company on Saturday.
“He’s doing really well and likes it at Churchill Downs.,” McGee said. “We think he’s doing good enough to try (stakes company).”
Infrattini will enter the Matt Winn off a second-place finish to the highly-regarded Wilburn, who is listed as a possible starter in the Matt Winn. Leading rider Corey Lanerie will ride McGee’s colt in the Winn.
Meanwhile, trainer Steve Asmussen continues to monitor a foot issue that has put the Matt Winn participation of George Bolton, Stonestreet Stables LLC and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Dominus in doubt.
Asmussen said Tuesday that the son of Smart Strike, the runner-up to Machen in The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII), is “50-50” to make Saturday’s race.
Entries for the Matt Winn, formerly known as the Northern Dancer, will be taken on Wednesday.
The roster of possible starters in the Matt Winn (with trainers) includes: Alstom (D. Wayne Lukas), Dominus (Asmussen), Infrattini (McGee), Joe Vann (Todd Pletcher), Uncle Brent (Lynn Whiting) and Wilburn (Asmussen).
ARABIANS BEGIN TO ARRIVE FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES CUP - The first race for Arabian horses in the history of Churchill Downs is set for Saturday’s Stephen Foster Day Presented by Abu Dhabi, and some horses pointing to the race were scheduled to arrive at the Louisville track on Tuesday.
Arabians nominated to the first running of Saturday’s $50,000-added The President of United Arab Emirates Cup (GI) for 4-year-olds and at 1 1/4 miles on the main track, include (with trainers): A Ladys Man (Lynn Ashby); Another Color (Renee Lafleur); Crownn Royal (Ashby); Dixies Valentine (Tracy Nunley); Full of Fiesta (Greg Ketter); Grilla (Bill Waldron); Ovour the Top (Ashby); T M Fred Texas (Ronald Martino); Vip (Martino); and Wodkka (Lafleur).
BARN TALK – Nominations for the 111th running of the Grade III, $100,000-added Debutante for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs closed Saturday, June 18 with 18 nominations. The Debutante was won last year by Eldon Farm Equine LLC’s Just Louise under Robby Albarado for trainer Dale Romans. …
Corey Lanerie, the leading rider of the Spring Meet, proved Monday that his talents are not limited to riding horses. Lanerie was victorious in the Inaugural Cowgill-Valvano Wild Eggs Scramble Fore Cancer golf tournament at The Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Ky. The tournament raised money for the American Cancer Society and the V Foundation. …
Calling all poker players – registration is underway for the Blackie Huffman Memorial Scholarship Fund Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament sponsored by the KHBPA, KTA & Churchill Downs Racing Committee. The tournament, which has a buy-in of $125, will take place June 22 at 6 p.m. (Eastern) in Churchill Downs’ Triple Crown Room. The tournament is limited to 250 players and has a first prize is $7,500, with cash prizes being paid to the top five finishers. Contact the KHBPA at (502) 363-1077 to register. …
WORK TAB – Barbara Hunter’s homebred Keertana, winner of the Louisville Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs on May 28, worked four furlongs over a “firm” Matt Winn Turf Course on Tuesday in 50.20 for trainer Tom Proctor. No plans have been made for Keertana’s next start.
Barry Butzow and Westrock Stables LLC’s Hamazing Destiny worked a “bullet” four furlongs in :47.20 over a fast main track Tuesday morning for trainer Wayne Lukas. The 5-year-old son of Salt Lake was second to Big Drama in his most recent start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) in November at Churchill Downs.