STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP FIELD INTACT DESPITE HEAVY RAIN – Dark clouds that moved in from the west opened up on Churchill Downs shortly after Saturday’s training hours opened at 6 a.m., but the heavy rain, lightning and thunder that soaked the track over the next few hours had no impact on the field for the 30th running of Saturday’s $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I).
The 1 1/8 mile race for 3-year-olds has attracted a field of 11 that some observers have suggested is the strongest field assembled in the American handicap division this year. And all 11 horses appeared set to compete despite a sloppy track early in the day and the potential for more rain throughout the day.
California-based trainer Richard Mandella reported that all was well with Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Crown of Thorns, the 4-1 second choice in the morning line odds for the Foster who is set to make his first start outside of the state of California. As rain pelted his barn, Mandella said the lightly-raced 6-year-old would run in the Foster, although his lightly raced veteran had no wet track experience in his 10 career races.
“We’re here,” said Mandella. “I have no idea what he’s going to do over it.”
Taking a sunny approach in the Saturday gloom was trainer Al Stall Jr., who won last year’s Foster with Blame and will bid for his second consecutive victory in the race with Adele Dilschneider’s homebred Apart. Stall had uncovered a Youtube video of a 7 1/2 –length romp by the son of Flatter in a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs on May 16, 2010 and had it on his phone. That first career victory for Stall’s colt came over a sloppy track that looked very much like Saturday’s soggy surface.
The video showed Apart quickly widening his advantage on the field of maidens as he galloped out.
“He galloped out 20 lengths ahead of those horses,” Stall said. “He should like this (weather).”
Post time for the Stephen Foster Handicap is scheduled for 6:25 p.m. (EDT).
MCCARTHY, GENERAL QUARTERS POINTING TO FIRECRACKER – All continues to go well for owner/trainer Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters since the dual Grade I stakes winner returned to action on following a nearly 10-month layoff and he continues to be pointed to the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course on July 4.
General Quarters finished second by a neck in his 2011 debut to Maggi Moss’ multiple stakes winner Native Ruler in a seven furlong allowance over a fast main track beneath the Twin Spires – his first race since a run in the Arlingon Million (GI) in August.
Along with the winner, General Quarters faced an accomplished group of horses in that stakes-quality allowance race that also included Morton Fink’s Grade III winner Wise Dan. McCarthy would have preferred a victory, but was happy with the way his horse ran in his first start off the shelf against such a competitive field.
“He really ran a great race,” McCarthy said. “It would have been nice to win and I think he would have had he not been so wide. Sprinting really isn’t his game, but he still almost won it.”
Before his allowance run, General Quarters had competed in seven consecutive stakes races, six of which were graded events. McCarthy is confident that his horse is ready for a return to stakes competition.
“We’re looking forward to running in the Firecracker,” McCarthy said. “I think the one mile on turf will be great for him.”
General Quarters, who McCarthy claimed for $20,000 in 2008, has a record of 4-8-2 from 22 career starts with earnings of $1,178,200.
Nominations for the 21st running of the Firecracker Handicap for 3-year-olds and upward at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course will close at midnight Saturday.. The Firecracker Handicap was won last year by Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu under Jesus Castanon for trainer Greg Fox.
AMOSS TAKES AIM ON MEET-ENDING JUVENILE STAKES – Trainer Tom Amoss remains in the hunt for his second Churchill Downs Spring Meet training title with three weeks remaining in the session, and a strong group of 2-year-olds has helped put the Louisiana-born trainer in that position.
Heading into Saturday’s races, Amoss was tied with Steve Asmussen for the top spot in the battle for leading trainer and, as the meet winds toward its July 4 close he will look for big performances in stakes races from two of his most impressive juveniles to continue his momentum.
Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Sum of the Parts, one of the most impressive juvenile winners of the meet, is set for the 11oth running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), a six furlong race for 2-year-olds on Saturday, July 2. Next Saturday’s 111th running of the $100,000-added Debutante, the Bashford Manor’s six furlong counterpart for juvenile fillies, is expected to have Gold Mark Farm LLC’s Culotte among its field of contenders.
Sum of the Parts, a son of Speightstown, turned in one of the most impressive juvenile performances of the meet when he scored a 2 ¾-length victory in a 4 ½ furlong racing debut on May 14.
“He’s a horse we’re very excited about,” Amoss said. “I thought his race was really good, and the horse that ran second to him, Exfactor, won his next race. Exfactor won a split race and he ran a lot faster than the other division, so that was encouraging.”
Culotte also has an impressive debut under her belt. She rolled by 5 ¼ lengths in her 4 ½ furlong debut on May 13. Her effort, like that of Sum of the Parts, was flattered when the runner-up, Queen Tueta, scored an impressive win her next outing.
“One race doesn’t tell you what you have,” Amoss said. “But both were impressive and we hope they run well.”
Sum of the Parts could provide Amoss with his third victory in the Bashford Manor, following wins by Backtalk in 2009 and Lone Star Sky in 2002. What is down the road with Sum of the Parts remains to be seen, but Amoss is looking forward to running the colt in the Bashford Manor. After that, he’ll assess the steps the colt is capable of taking down the road.
“Neither of those horses turned out to be horses that were two-turn types, and Sum of the Parts doesn’t strike you on pedigree as a two-turn type either,” Amoss said. “So we’ll look to make hay when the sun’s out. We certainly like him in the Bashford Manor, but beyond that I think things get a little dicey when you start thinking about two turns.”
PEDROZA TO MISS REST OF SPRING MEET WITH FRACTURED TIBIA – Leading apprentice jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr. will miss the rest of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet after suffering a fracture to his right tibia during a spill aboard Holy Shazaaam in Friday’s sixth race.
Holy Shazaaam, a 3-year-old gelded son of Holy Bull, stumbled and fell just a few yards out of the gate and unseated Pedroza. The 18-year-old apprentice briefly lost consciousness, but recovered moments later.
He was transported to University of Louisville Hospital for evaluation, and the fracture was discovered.
“He’s going to miss about three weeks,” said Julio Espinoza, Pedroza’s agent. “He has a small fracture to his right tibia, but other than that he’s okay.”
The injury marks the second time this year that Pedroza has been knocked out of action by injury. A hairline fracture in his right knee suffered during a January gate accident at Turfway Park sent him back to his native Panama to recover. Pedroza returned to the saddle in April in the final days of Keeneland’s spring meet.
“It’s unfortunate, but we’re glad it’s nothing serious,” Espinoza said. “He’ll only be out a few weeks and then he will ride at Ellis Park.”
Pedroza had recorded 9 wins during the first 28 days of the 39-day Spring Meet; leading all apprentice riders and putting him in a tie for ninth among all jockeys.
BARN TALK – Nominations for the 110th running of the Grade III, $100,000-added Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds at six furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs will close Saturday. The Bashford Manor, which is scheduled to be run Saturday, July 2, was won last year by Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Kantharos under Robby Albarado for trainer Steve Asmussen. …
Jockey Robby Albarado, who has 922 career wins at Churchill Downs, is just three victories away from tying Don Brumfield for third all-time in wins beneath the Twin Spires. Albarado has four mounts Saturday (Races 7-9, 11). …
Leading rider at the Spring Meet, Corey Lanerie, recorded his 281st career Churchill Downs victory aboard Burr Travis Racing, VI’s Callingahardten in Friday’s ninth race for trainer Garry Simms. Lanerie is now tied for 20th all-time with Tracy Hebert. …
Lady Tak, a multiple Grade I winner and earner of over $1.1 million for Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, will be represented by her daughter Stormy Tak in the seventh race at Churchill Downs on Sunday. It will be the career debut for Mary Grum’s Stormy Tak, a 2-year-old by Stormy Atlantic. …
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockeys over the last five racing days (June 9-16) are Julien Leparoux (11-for-22) and Corey Lanerie (8-for-41). Tom Amoss (4-for-7) and Mike Maker (3-for-7) are the hottest trainers over the same period. The hottest owners are Maggi Moss (2-for-2) and Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey (2-for-4).
WORKTAB – Craig Singer’s Salty Strike, winner of the most recent running of the Grade III Dogwood at Churchill Downs, worked four furlongs in :49.40 Saturday morning prior to the renovation break when the track was listed as “fast.” Salty Strike will be pointed to the Grade I Test at Saratoga on August 6.
Courtlandt Farms’ Machen, who won the Grade III The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial on Opening Night at Churchill Downs on April 30, worked four furlongs prior to the renovation break Saturday in :50.20 for trainer Neil Howard.
Loosen Up Stable’s multiple stakes winning earner of $514,013, Unreachable Star, worked five furlongs Saturday in 1:04.40 for trainer Tim Glyshaw. The 7-year-old gelded son of Unloosened has recorded 14 career victories.
WEATHER – Saturday: mostly cloudy with a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 85. Sunday: partly sunny with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, 91. Monday: mostly sunny and hot, 95. Tuesday: mostly sunny and hot, 95. Wednesday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 91. Thursday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 86. Friday: partly sunny, 83.