SUNDAY’S STAKES WINNERS TARGET CLOSING-DAY STARS OF TOMORROW II CARD – Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image and Cathy and Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Thiskyhasnolimit, winners of the Pocahontas (GIII) and Iroquois (GIII) respectively on Sunday, figure to make return trips in stakes company on Churchill Downs’ closing-day “Stars of Tomorrow II” card.
That Nov. 28 racing card, like Sunday’s meet opener, will be made up exclusively of races for 2-year-olds. “Everything is good here and I am looking forward to running her closing day in the Golden Rod (GII at 1 1/16 miles),” trainer Dale Romans said of Sassy Image, who scored by two lengths over Decelerator.
Sassy Image will be attempting to become the sixth filly to sweep the Poncahontas and Golden Rod, a feat most recently accomplished by Pure Clan in 2007. Others to do it are French Park (2005), At The Half (1993), Flippers (1983) and Weekend Surprise (1982). The latter two won divisions of the Pocahontas.
Romans, who leaves Wednesday for Santa Anita to saddle Frank Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, has another Jones runner aimed for closing day in Romans Reward, who broke his maiden in Sunday’s sixth race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The Grand Canyon, an overnight stake at the same distance on the Matt Winn Turf Course is the next objective for Romans Reward.
Steve Asmussen, trainer of Thiskyhasnolimit, said after Sunday’s victory that the Sky Mesa colt would be pointed to the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Four juveniles have swept the Iroquois and the Kentucky Jockey Club with the Asmussen-trained Tiz Wonderful being the most recent in 2006. Others to do it are The Cliff’s Edge (2003), Exploit (1998) and Ide (1995).
WHITING COULD HAVE RUNNER TO WATCH IN DRYFLY – One of the grittier efforts on Sunday’s “Stars of Tomorrow I” card was turned in by Charles Cella’s Dryfly, an allowance winner going seven furlongs under Calvin Borel.
Dryfly assumed early command but was collared at the head of the stretch by the undefeated Great Attack, who put a head in front at the eighth pole. Dryfly dug back in and had enough to hold off Flatter Than Me, runner-up in this summer’s Bashford Manor (GIII) by 1 ½ lengths and complete the distance in 1:23.55.
“He broke a little flat-footed and I was surprised to see him on the lead. I thought he would be laying third,” said trainer Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby (GI). “That horse that came to him of Merrill Scherer’s (Flatter Than Me) can run a little bit and I thought he had the momentum, but I think my horse will keep on running.”
Dryfly, a son of Jump Start, raced as a first-time gelding on Sunday. Whiting said Dryfly was gelded after his second race because of an undescended testicle.
A winner of two of three starts, Dryfly is done for the year according to Whiting.
“He needs a little break and I am going to keep him in light training, jogging and maybe galloping every third day,” Whiting said. “I am looking at the Smarty Jones on Jan. 18 at Oaklawn Park for him. They have a good series for 3-year-olds there with the Smarty Jones, the Southwest, the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby.
“If you want to make a run at the marbles, you’ve got to have the horse.”
TOUCH FOR A SHOCK JOLTS RIVALS IN ELECTRIFYING DEBUT – “He’s a good colt and he can run a little bit,” trainer Cecil Borel was saying about Touch for a Shock, one of two first-time starters to win on Sunday’s “Stars of Tomorrow I” card exclusively for 2-year-olds.
Ridden by his brother Calvin, Touch for a Shock exploded out of the 11 hole and quickly made his way to the rail. Turning for home, Calvin Borel was looking over his shoulder for competition and then began gearing down at the sixteenth pole as Touch for a Shock won by five lengths in 1:10.93 for six furlongs.
Three other six-furlong sprints were held Sunday for maidens and the fastest time among those races was 1:11.71.
He won a little easier than I thought he should,” Cecil Borel said of the homebred son of Touch Gold who is owned by Clifford Grum. “There were a lot of others in there who thought their horses were pretty good and I was starting to get scared.
“What I would really like to know is what I beat. A lot of times people will tell you a horse can run, but they can’t.”
Borel plans to bring Touch for a Shock back on closing day, Nov. 28 for a shot at allowance competition and then give the colt a break before heading most likely to Oaklawn Park for the winter.
COMMONWEALTH TURF ATTRACTS 21 NOMINATIONS – Darley Stable’s Florentino (JPN), winner of the Jefferson Cup (Grade II) here in June, heads a list of 21 nominations for the sixth running of the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII) to be run on Nov. 15.
The 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, won last year by Nistle’s Crunch, will be run over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Three other graded stakes winners on the turf this year are among the nominees topped by William Stiritz’s Proceed Bee. Winner of the Hawthorne Derby (GIII) in his most recent start, Proceed Bee won the Grand Canyon Handicap here at the Commonwealth Turf distance on the closing day of the 2008 Fall Meet.
Other colts coming out of graded stakes victories on the turf are Sullimar Stables’ Get Stormy, who took the Bryan Station (GIII) on Oct. 18 at Keeneland, and Lewis Schaffel’s Sal the Barber, winner of the Calder Derby (GIII) at Calder on Oct. 17.
BARN TALK – Trainer Scooter Dickey said that Oxbow Racing’s Flat Out is about a week away from rejoining his barn. Winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes in January at Oaklawn Park, Flat Out was knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail in late April by a stress fracture in a shoulder.
Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat will be among a group of 22 horses trainer Buff Bradley will send to Gulfstream Park this winter. Winner of the Louisville Handicap (GIII) here this spring and an earner of more than $2 million, the 8-year-old Brass Hat has not run since finishing second in the Stars and Stripes Handicap (GIII) at Arlington Park on Sept. 5. “He is on the farm now,” Buff Bradley said. “He got an injury to the outside of his cannon bone from being knocked around in the race at Arlington.”
WORK TAB – On Monday, three-time Churchill Downs graded-stakes winner Acoma worked a half-mile in :50.40 over a “fast” track for trainer David Carroll in advance of a possible run in the Nov. 21 Cardinal Handicap (GIII). … Also working a half-mile were two possible runners for Saturday’s Chilukki (GII): Copper State (:49.60) for trainer Steve Asmussen and Be Fair (:50.60) for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. On Tuesday, Lukas’ other possible Chilukki starter, Color Me Up worked three furlongs in :36.40 over a “fast” track. Another Chilukki nominee, Keep the Peace worked the same distance in a bullet :34.80 for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Working on “firm” turf around the dogs was Regret (GIII) winner Keertana, who covered a half-mile in :49.60 for trainer Tom Proctor. Keertana in nominated to the Grade II Mrs. Revere to be run Saturday, Nov. 14.