CONNECTIONS OF ESPOIR CITY MAKE BREEDERS’ CUP SCOUTING TRIP – There is no time limit on advance planning, and so it was on Saturday morning, four months before the Breeders’ Cup World Championships return to Churchill Downs, that the trainer and jockey of Japanese star Espoir City (JPN) did a little scouting at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Akio Adachi and jockey Tetsuzo Sato, accompanied by International Racing Bureau representative Mikki Tsuge and Takashi Toriumi, president and CEO of horse transporter U.S. Equine who served as interpreters, came to Churchill Downs with two horses from trainer Akiko Gothard’s barn at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington.

Sato, who sported a jacket with the inscription “strongest dart hose in Japan, Espoir City, Japan Cup Dart GI, Kashiwa Kinen jpn.I, Mile Champion Nambu Hai jpn.I, jogged one horse before the break and after the break took the second horse to the starting gate before galloping once around.

“It was good to get a feel for things,” said Sato, 39, who visited the jocks’ room and paddock on Friday in his first trip to Churchill Downs and who has room on the jacket to add more victories for Espoir City. 

Adachi, who with Sato flew in to New York on Tuesday and toured Belmont Park before coming to Louisville, recorded most of the morning activity to take back to Japan so the 5-year-old horse’s connections could have an idea of what to expect in the fall.

Espoir City has won six consecutive races and owns a career mark of 19-11-3-1 for earnings of $5,837,885. His first seven races were on turf with only moderate success.

“Tetsuzo started riding him in the morning and observed he was much better on dirt than on grass so we made the switch,” Adachi said.

Since the switch, Espoir City has compiled a record of 12-10-1-0 and at 1 1/8 miles his record is 5-4-1-0. He has yet to race at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance of 1 ¼ miles.

Adachi says the distance is not a concern nor is the setup of any races as Espoir City has won from on the lead, stalking the pace or from far back.

“He is able to handle all situations and he adjusts to the race,” Adachi said.

Espoir City’s most recent race was the $1,080,000 Kashiwa Kinen on May 5, which he won for the second consecutive year. The tentative plan is for Espoir City to follow the same schedule as last year and run next in the Oct. 10 Mile Champion Nambu Hai and then ship to Churchill Downs the middle of October and have two to three weeks to acclimate before the Breeders’ Cup.

EUROEARS FINDS RIGHT SPOT IN SUNDAY’S FIRECRACKER – Trainer Bret Calhoun hopes to finish the 42-day Spring Meet with a bang this weekend, beginning Saturday with Speed Demon in the Bashford Manor (GIII) Presented by Fasig-Tipton and concluding with Euroears in the Firecracker Handicap (GII) Presented by Thorntons.

Euroears, owned by James and Marilyn Helzer, will be attempting two turns on the turf for the first time in his career in Sunday’s one-mile Firecracker on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

There were no good spots for him,” Calhoun said of the 6-year-old son of Langfuhr. “I was going to run him in Iowa (in the Iowa Sprint Handicap) but that came up too tough for the $125,000 they were running for. The next day was the Arlington Sprint Handicap, but we had Chamberlain Bridge for that, which he won.”
That left the Firecracker, which drew an overflow field of 15 that includes 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner Mine That Bird.

"At first, it didn’t look like the race was coming up with a lot of horses, but it filled up fast,” Calhoun said. Euroears will break from post position 11 and carry 115 pounds under Jamie Theriot, who has been aboard for Euroears’ past six starts.

The past two starts have been the first two-turn races of Euroears’ career. He finished second in the Texas Mile (GIII) and third in the Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII) at a mile and a sixteenth.

"I think a mile is about it for him,” Calhoun said. “In the Texas Mile, I feel he could have won with a mile race under his belt and the second time, the Kiaran McLaughlin horse that beat him (Redding Colliery) is a nice horse.”

Euroears has race three times on turf, winning two turf sprints on firm ground at Fair Grounds and finishing eighth on yielding turf at Penn National.

“He handles the turf well,” Calhoun said. “The race in Pennsylvania on the yielding, he couldn’t stand up on it.”

BARN TALK – Ken and Sarah Ramsey, winners of the past five meet-leading owner titles and a record 16 overall (eight Spring and eight Fall), closed the gap on meet leader Maggi Moss when their Grand Stage won Friday’s seventh race. The victory was the sixth of the meet for the Ramseys, who have three horses entered Saturday and six on Sunday.  Moss, who has eight winners at the meet, has an entry in Saturday’s opener for her final starters of the meet. …

Calvin Borel and Steve Asmussen maintained comfortable leads in their bids for leading rider and trainer titles. Borel holds a 47-38 lead over Corey Lanerie after each rider recorded one victory each Friday night. Borel is named on nine mounts Saturday and 10 on Sunday. Lanerie is named on 10 mounts Saturday and eight on Sunday. Asmussen has a 23-18 edge on Dale Romans although Romans trimmed the deficit by one with a double Friday night while Asmussen saddled one winner. Asmussen has two horses entered Saturday and five on Sunday. Romans has three entrants Saturday and seven on Sunday. …

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is traveling a road with Mine That Bird that he did with six years ago with Azeri. The 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner is scheduled to make his 2010 debut in Sunday’s Firecracker Handicap Presented by Thorntons (GII) off an eight-month layoff.  “We did the same thing with Azeri. We trained her up to the Apple Blossom (in 2004),” Lukas said of Azeri, who was coming off a little more than a six-month layoff prior to her third Apple Blossom victory, which was her only one under Lukas’ care. “The anticipation level with this horse and Azeri are the same,” Lukas said of having stars make their debuts in his signature white bridles. “You get to work with Grade I quality horses.” …
Robby Albarado rode two winners on Friday night’s card to boost his career total to 885 and into fifth place all time at Churchill Downs, passing Jim McKnight (883). Sitting immediately ahead of Albarado on the all-time victory list is Don Brumfield with 925. …

Shaun Bridgmohan rode two winners Friday night to increase his career Churchill Downs total to 297. Bridgmohan is named on five mounts Saturday and six Sunday in his bid to become the 19th rider to reach 300 victories at Churchill Downs. …

Lewis Lakin’s Pure Clan jogged a mile early Saturday morning in her first appearance at the track since May 6 when she refused to train. The 5-year-old earner of nearly $2 million returned to trainer Bob Holthus’ barn this week after recovering from a bruised left front foot.

WORK TAB – Colonial Turf Cup (GII) winner Paddy O’Prado, third in the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 before the renovation break over a fast track. After the break, stablemate First Dude, the Preakness (GI) runner-up and third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes (GI), worked five furlongs in 1:01.60. … Two Eddie Kenneally fillies fired bullets: Eight Belles (GIII) winner Buckleupbuttercup worked a half-mile in :47, best of 45 at the distance, and Inside Information (GII) winner Warbling worked five furlongs in 1:00.20, best of 16 at the distance. …Demarcation, winner of the 2009 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), worked five furlongs in 1:02.20.

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