WILKES NOTCHES ‘FIRST' CHURCHILL STAKES VICTORY WITH ‘CANDYMAN' IN IROQUOIS - Trainer Ian Wilkes has made many visits to the Churchill Downs winner's circle since he first arrived at Churchill Downs from Australia nearly 20 years ago - including a couple of stops in the exclusive Kentucky Derby winner's circle with mentor Carl Nafzger. But Saturday's "Stars of Tomorrow I" victory by Capt. Candyman Can in the $100,000-added Iroquois (Grade III) marked a first for Wilkes since he went out on his own a couple of years back.
The three-length victory by the gelded son of Candy Ride was Wilkes' first stakes triumph as a trainer at his home track. It was a nice milestone for the 43-year-old Aussie, but the performance his horse turned in under jockey Julien Leparoux meant much more.
"One of the reasons Carl turned some of his horses over to me was to give me recognition," said Wilkes. "I guess that's a very satisfying aspect of it."
Wilkes said Capt. Candyman Can came out of the race in good shape and would be pointed toward the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 29. That race will mark Capt. Candyman's debut at a two-turn distance after his flashy performance on Saturday over Churchill Downs' demanding one-turn mile.
A strong effort at two turns would allow Wilkes to start thinking about next spring's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on May 2. Capt. Candyman Can will have to prove that two-turn races are within his grasp, but Wilkes says his "gut feeling" on that is positive.
Wilkes also believes that Capt. Candyman Can could improve significantly off of his Iroquois win and in his training leading up to the Kentucky Jockey Club.
"He was fit to run - he was ready to run and needed to run," Wilkes said. "But was he 110 percent? No, I didn't feel he was. I felt he had some more improvement in him. I think he's maturing a little more than you might hope - he's put on some weight and almost done too good. So I was coming into this race and hoping to move forward, and I'd love to win the next race."
Capt. Candyman Can was a colt when he came into Wilkes' care, but the decision to geld him was made early in the year. That move often has an immediate impact on the physical and mental outlook of young horses, and that was the case with Wilkes' star.
"He had a lot of little issues," he said. "Gelding got the weight off of him and it really helped him. I doubt that I would have been in this situation if I didn't geld him."
The Iroquois marked the second victory in three career starts for Capt. Candyman Can, with the other being a dazzling 7 ½-length romp in his career debut at Saratoga. In between he finished a close sixth over Polytrack in Arlington Park's Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII). His earnings now stand at $105,517.
POCAHONTAS ROMP BY SARA LOUISE NO SURPRISE TO ROMANS- Saturday's first "Stars of Tomorrow" program of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet saw plenty of strong performances by promising horses on the card devoted exclusively to 2-year-olds, but the most impressive of the day could have been the romp by Eldon Farm Equine's Sara Louise in the $100,000-added Pocahontas (GIII).
The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Malibu Moon rallied from just off the pace and quickly drew off under Robby Albarado to defeat favored Rachel Alexandra by 3 ¾ lengths. The quality of that dazzling effort was underscored by her stakes record winning time of 1:34.57. It was the first sub-1:35 clocking since the Pocahontas was extended from seven furlongs to a mile in 1981 and the time was nearly three-fifths of a second faster than the winning time turned in by the gelding Capt. Candyman Can against colts in the Iroquois fewer than 30 minutes later.
Romans said all was well on Sunday with a horse that he called "a very special filly." He said she "came out of the race great," and that her dominating effort was no surprise to his stable.
"She had trained that way, and I've thought she was special since the first time I got to breeze her," said Romans. "She's been just the total package. She had the speed when you called on her and she'd relax when you wanted her to, and that's a good horse."
Sara Louise was beaten in her career debut at Saratoga when she broke last in a field of 10. She rallied from 14 lengths back to finish fourth, beaten only 3 ¾ lengths, by the well-regarded Be Smart. She scored a three-quarter length victory at Belmont Park in her next start that was easier than the winning margin would indicate, as the race chart notes that she won under "hand urging" from jockey Edgar Prado.
Romans said a run back in the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) at 1 1/16-miles on Nov. 29 is possible for Sara Louise. A decision on her next target will come after a discussion with Eldon Farm Equine owner John Luke.
"We'll look at it real hard," he said. "I don't like to make those decisions after the emotion of a big win like that. In about a week or so we'll have a conference call with Mr. Luke and all of his people and decide what to do."
Sara Louise is the only horse Romans currently trains for Luke. He has had a handful over the years, with Spin Master, winner of the $100,000 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs in 2007, being the best of those before Sara Louise walked into Romans' barn.
The Pocahontas victory boosted the career earnings for Sara Louise to $101,381.
EINSTEIN BREEZES, POSSIBLE FOR CLARK ‘CAP - Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) winner Einstein is moving closer to his first race since a disappointing run in the Arlington Million (GI), and that race could be a return to the dirt in the 135th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28.
Midnight Cry Stable's 6-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck breezed an easy half-mile over a "fast" track in :52 on Sunday at Churchill Downs. It was the first breeze for Einstein since he finished fifth, beaten only two lengths, by front-running longshot Spirit One in the Million on Aug. 9 at Arlington Park.
Einstein stumbled badly at the start of that race. The veteran turf star was found to have pulled muscles in his back end following his troubled run in the Million.
"He probably did it when he left the gate," said Pitts. "I sent him for a bone scan and you could see where it was just black where he had pulled all those muscles in his back end."
Pitts said Einstein bounced back from the injury well, and his strong recovery has Pitts thinking over a bid for the 1 1/8-mile Clark. Although Einstein's major victories have come on turf, he has run very well over the main track at Churchill Downs. He finished second to reigning "Horse of the Year" Curlin in June in the $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) and notched his first career victory under the Twin Spires in November 2005.
A bid for the Clark Handicap could involve a run against two-time Whitney (GI) winner Commentator, who could be pointed to that race by trainer Nick Zito. A Clark bid has not been completely ruled out for Curlin, who is back on the grounds following a fourth-place finish over the synthetic Cushion Track surface in the Breeders' Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita.
Pitts said Einstein is far from a sure thing to run in the Clark, but it is an attractive option.
"I'm going to kind of let him tell me, but the Clark is in the back of my mind," said Pitts. "I know Commentator is contemplating it, but if I can run second to Curlin I guess I can attempt to beat him. I don't know what Curlin's doing, but I'm kind of going to let him tell me."
"If everything goes well it gives him four works and he didn't lose a whole lot," said Pitts. "He seemed good. He went just nice and easy today and we'll go from there. It's not a necessary thing that he has to run, but if it happens that he's doing good then and it comes up a light spot, then I probably would run in the Clark and then sit on him until Florida."
Pitts said current plans call for Einstein to campaign next year as a 7-year-old, and says the Brazilian-bred is actually younger than that official listing because he was foaled in the Southern Hemisphere.
"He just turned six two months ago," said Pitts. "He's only been six for two months. Everybody thinks he's been six this entire year when he's not."
The ultimate goal for Einstein would be a bid to repeat this year's win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day.
"If we could get a couple of more good races into him next year I'd like to point him toward the Woodford Reserve again," said Pitts. "Then we'll just kind of go from there. There's no reason not to."
Einstein has a record of 3-3-0 in eight races this year and his career slate stands at 8-3-1 in 21 races with earnings of $1,366,431.
MAMBO IN SEATTLE BREEZES, STILL POSSIBLE FOR CLARK - Travers (GI) runner-up Mambo in Seattle turned in an easy half-mile breeze on Sunday at Churchill Downs that kept the 3-year-old in the picture for the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII).
Mambo in Seattle, who is owned by William S. Farish and Mrs. William Kilroy, breezed four furlongs over a "fast" track under exercise rider Dane Noel in :50.40. The work was the first for the 3-year-old son of Kingmambo since his disappointing seventh-place finish behind Ball Four in the $150,000 Fayette (GIII) at Keeneland on Oct. 25.
Trainer Neil Howard believes that Mambo in Seattle failed to handle the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland in that race and he was pleased with what he saw in the colt's return to dirt at Churchill Downs. He caught Mambo in Seattle going a little faster than Churchill Downs clockers, as Howard had the colt going in ":49 and two, or :49 and three" on his stopwatch.
"It was exactly what I was looking for," said Howard. "I was just looking for a little maintenance half-mile in his first work since he ran, and he breezed very nice."
Howard said he and Farish had discussed the prospect of a bid for the Clark, but said there is no rush to make that call.
"We're here, so we figure we can just train along," said Howard. "He's had good year and he's had some tough races, so we're just going to play it by ear just a little bit. We are looking at the race, but we're not making any commitments yet."
Mambo in Seattle's career record stands at 4-3-0 in 10 races with earnings of $400,741.
BARN TALK - Jockey Julien Leparoux and trainer Mike Maker continued to sustain their sizzling pace on Saturday in the battles for top honors in their respective categories in the Fall Meet. Leparoux won four races for the second time in three days to push his meet-leading victory total to 15. Robby Albarado, who won three races on Saturday, is a clear second in that category with nine wins. Maker saddled one winner on Saturday and has scored at least one win on each of the first five days of the 26-day meet. His victory total stands at nine, with Ken McPeek (six wins) and Dale Romans (five) giving closest chase. ... Brant Laue's Gun Salute, winner of the 2005 Secretariat (GI) at Arlington Park, is entered in the 9th race on Thursday, Nov. 9 at Churchill Downs. The son of Military is part of a full field in a 1 1/8-mile allowance optional claiming race on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Gun Salute ran third to Thorn Song in last fall's River City (GIII) at Churchill Downs for trainer Bill Mott, then ran twice earlier this year in Saudi Arabia. He returned to the U.S. to run second in an Ellis Park allowance race in his only effort for new trainer Cody Autrey.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) - Commonwealth Turf (GIII) candidate Amazing Results breezed a sharp five furlongs in :59. The move by Team Block's son of Grand Slam was the fastest of 33 at the distance. ... Dogwood Stable's Blackberry Road, runner-up in the 2007 Kentucky Jockey Club, breezed five furlongs for trainer David Carroll in 1:02.40. ...Isabull, winner of the 2006 WinStar Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 for trainer Tom Amoss.