SANTIVA SHARP IN WORK FOR BELMONT STAKES – Tom Walters’ probable Belmont starter Santiva worked five furlongs over a fast Churchill Downs track Saturday morning in 1:00.60 under assistant trainer Brendan Walsh.
Santiva was the first horse on the track after the renovation break and worked in company with Golden Gulch. They went the first three furlongs in 36.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.60.
Trainer Eddie Kenneally was very pleased with the work. “He worked really, really well today,” Kenneally said. “He’s very fit. He went the minute and three-fifths nicely and didn’t overexert himself.”
The 3-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway, who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby (Grade I), is being pointed to the Belmont Stakes (GI) for his next start, but Kenneally is hesitant to make final plans just yet.
“We are still playing it by ear in regards to the Belmont, but he will likely end up in the race,” Kenneally said.
Santiva, who broke his maiden in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs last November, has a career record of 7-1-3-1 with earnings of $257,597.
SASSY IMAGE LEADS WINNING COLORS FIELD – There are horses for courses and a good example is Sassy Image at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old daughter of Broken Vow has won four of her five starts at the Louisville racetrack with wins in three graded stakes races, most notably the Humana Distaff (GI) on Kentucky Derby (GI) Day in her last start. Sassy Image will return to action Monday and try to capture her fifth win beneath the Twin Spires when she leads a field of 10 in the $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII).
Following a disappointing performance in the Sabin (GIII) at Gulfstream Park, Sassy Image did not garner much respect at the pari-mutuel windows and went off at 16-1 in the Humana Distaff. The victory was surprising to some, but not to trainer Dale Romans, who said the filly has really blossomed following throat surgery.
“We discovered that she had an entrapped epiglottis after the race at Gulfstream,” Romans said. “She had surgery to correct the problem and she came back from it great.”
Last year’s winner of the Winning Colors, Dubai Majesty, would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs to top off her championship campaign. Sassy Image will also be pointed to a start in the Breeders’ Cup, but it won’t be in the Sprint.
“She hasn’t worked since winning the Humana (Distaff) and we thought this sprint would be a good start back,” Romans said. “We’ll stretch her out after this and the goal is to bring her back to Churchill for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.”
Romans trains Sassy Image for his older brother Jerry.
“It’s very relaxing to train for Jerry because I know he’s not going to fire me,” Romans said.
The Winning Colors will be the ninth race on a special 10-race Memorial Day program at Churchill Downs that begins at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern). Approximate post time for the Winning Colors is 4:59 p.m.
CHURCHILL DOWNS SALUTES RETIRING 40-YEAR EMPLOYEE FRANK ARTIST - Churchill Downs will salute the service of longtime employee Frank Artist (pronounced ar-TEEST) during Saturday’s sixth race, which is named in his honor. Artist, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Kentucky Derby Day, was employed at The Downs for 40 years until his retirement shortly after this year’s Run for the Roses.
“For the past 26 years, Frank has welcomed guests, including many dignitaries, luminaries and racing’s royalty, to the old President’s Room and Director’s Room with open arms and a bright smile,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery. “Such a fine and loyal employee like Frank cannot be replaced. He’ll be greatly missed by the Churchill Downs family and we wish him and his family the very best in a well deserved retirement.”
One of those notable guests was the late Frank Sinatra. Several years ago at Churchill Downs, Sinatra reached for his billfold while looking to impress his gracious host and asked Arist, “Frank, who gave you the biggest tip you ever received?” Artist, as honest a man as they come, answered without skipping a beat: “You did, Frank.”
BARN TALK – Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Shackleford, winner of last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (GI), will leave the Churchill Downs backstretch Sunday at 5 p.m. and be vanned to New York for a run in the Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 11. ...
It looks as if Kentucky Derby runner-up and probable Belmont-starter Nehro will catch a “fast” track for his scheduled six-furlong breeze early Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Since his Churchill Downs arrival in mid-April after a second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, Nehro has caught an “off-track” for each of his breezes, which, like many of trainer Steve Asmussen’s top runners, come on Mondays…
Scat Daddy, winner of the 2007 Florida Derby (GI) who would go on to finish 18th in the Kentucky Derby (GI), was represented by his first winner on Friday when Little Miss Muffet took the ninth race at Churchill Downs. Trained by Tom Amoss, the 2-year-old filly was ridden to victory by Shaun Bridgmohan. ...
Nominations close today (Saturday) at midnight for the 35th running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course. Hot Cha Cha won the 2010 Early Times Mint Julep. …
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (May 20-27) are Corey Lanerie (10-for-33), Calvin Borel (6-for-31), and Miguel Mena (6-for-27). Ken McPeek (4-for-8) and Brad Cox (3-for-9) are the hottest trainers over the same period. The hottest owners are Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. (2-for-8) and Ken Sentel and Merrill Scherer (2-for-2).
WORK TAB – Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 over a fast Churchill Downs track on Saturday morning for trainer Chris Block. Giant Oak, fifth in the Alysheba (GIII) in his last start, is being pointed to the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on Saturday, June 18. …
Dublin, who has not started since last year’s Preakness (GI), breezed four furlongs in :46.80. The Wayne Lukas-trained 4-year-old’s work was the fastest of 68 at the distance. …
Gaillardia Racing LLC’s Wilkinson worked four furlongs in :49.80 for trainer Neil Howard. The 3-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid, who won an off-the-turf allowance race May 3, is being aimed at the $125,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) on the Stephen Foster undercard. …
Kentucky Oaks (GI) sixth-place finisher Kathmanblu worked four furlongs in :48.80 for trainer Ken McPeek. The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Bluegrass Cat has five wins from 10 starts and earnings of $520,731. …
WEATHER – From the National Weather Service: Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. South wind around 8 mph. Sunday: Sunny, 91. Monday (Memorial Day): Sunny, 92.