Florida invader Renda, in town for Saturday’s 108th running of the $100,000-added Debutante Stakes (GIII) for 2-year-old fillies, made her first trip to the Churchill Downs track Friday morning with trainer Juan Arias in the saddle.

Juan Arias? Whoa, that name’s familiar. Wasn’t he the Venezuelan trainer of Canonero II, the “Caracas Cannonball” who won the 1971 Kentucky Derby?

“Different guy. I’m not him,” said Arias, who went out on his own as a trainer in 2003 after riding from 1988-90. “I was here once before as an assistant to Happy Alter. I had five horses here the year Monarchos won the Derby (2001).”

 Renda arrived from Calder on Thursday morning and Arias, who has a string of 30 horses at Calder, had her out early Friday morning on the muddy going.

“I jogged her once around the wrong way and then galloped her once around the right way and took her to the paddock and let her look around,” said Arias, who is from Panama.

 Also looking on was owner Richard Rowan, who said the pronunciation on the filly’s name is “Enda.”

“The R is silent,” Rowan said. “In Portuguese, Renda means wealth.”

Rowan is no stranger to Churchill Downs, having started Puxa Saco, who ran third in the 2005 Humana Distaff for trainer Jenine Sahadi.

“This filly is faster than Puxa Saco,” said Rowan of Renda, who broke her maiden at first asking by five lengths at Calder on May 31. ”She is such a big filly, and with her pedigree (by Medaglia d’Oro), I didn’t expect her to win going five furlongs. I thought it would take until she went seven-eighths or a mile.”

“Wesley (jockey Wesley Henry) just kept looking back for the competition and there was none. Florida is a great place to start a 2-year-old. If you have a good one, you can go anywhere.”

Churchill Downs was the next stop for Renda with the Debutante being the first graded stake for 2-year-old fillies in North America.

“There was an allowance race in New York, but that was only 5 ½ furlongs and this is six,” Rowan said.

CURLIN ASSIGNED 130 POUNDS, EINSTEIN 124 FOR FIRECRACKER – Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin was assigned 130 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for the July 4 Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and winner of the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) in his most recent start, Curlin is not expected to run in the Firecracker.

However, the second high weight for the Firecracker, three-time Grade I turf winner Einstein, is expected to compete for trainer Helen Pitts and tote 124 pounds. Owned by Patricia Cunningham and Melissa Greene, Lessee, Einstein finished second in his most recent start to Curlin in the Stephen Foster.

Team Valor and Gary Barber’s Becrux was assigned third high weight of 120 pounds, but he is entered in Saturday’s American Invitational Handicap (GII) at Hollywood Park. Hickory Tree Stable’s Rebellion, who is two-for-two in graded stakes in 2008, was assigned 119 pounds.

Two horses that have won stakes events over the Matt Winn Turf Course were assigned 118 pounds: Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Inca King winner of the recent Opening Verse, Jefferson Cup (GII) and Commonwealth Turf for trainer Steve Asmussen – and Zayat Stable’s Thorn Song, winner of last fall’s River City Handicap (GIII) for trainer Dale Romans.  Weighted at 117 are a pair of possible starters in Carl Moore Management and Martin Racing Stable’s Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII) victor Mr. Nightlinger and James Tafel’s Coragil Cat, winner of the Hanshin Handicap (GIII) over Polytrack at Arlington Park.

Also weighted at 117 was Tom Walters’ Churchill Downs Stakes (GII) winner Elite Squadron, but the Jim Baker trainee will pass on the Firecracker.

Entries for the Firecracker are set to be drawn on Tuesday.

ASMUSSEN COULD HOLD HOT HAND IN BASHFORD MANOR – Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled the winner of last year’s Bashford Manor in Kodiak Kowboy and it appears he may have the runners to beat in this year’s renewal, set for Saturday, July 5.

As of Friday, six colts were considered as probable for the six-furlong, Grade III event and Asmussen trains two of them.

J. Kirk Robison’s Lyin’ Heart is undefeated in two starts at Lone Star Park.In his most recent start, Lyin’ Heart, a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart, won the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity by 3 ½ lengths.

Asmussen also may be represented by Padua Stables’ Segal. A son of Harlan’s Holiday, Segal broke his maiden at first asking on May 7 at Churchill Downs and most recently ran third in the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine on June 15.

Others considered as probable by Churchill Downs racing officials are three undefeated colts: Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters, Kevin Chessen’s Silver Bayer and Samotowka Stables and Magdalena Racing’s Theregoesjojo; and Paul Giacopelli and Donnie Kelly’s Medaglia D’Onore, who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs on June 19.

Regarded as possible for the race is Richard Ravin and Larry Rivelli’s My Dominick James, a 2 ¾-length maiden winner in his career debut at Arlington Park on June 8. 

Entries will be taken for the Bashford Manor on Wednesday, July 2.    

MELANCON, LANERIE TO BE FEATURED AT “JOCKEY TALK” – Jockeys Larry Melancon and Corey Lanerie will be the featured guests during this Saturday’s “Jockey Talk” – a new program at Churchill Downs that allows horse racing fans to mingle with their favorite race riders.

Each Saturday through the remainder of the Spring Meet fans will get a chance to meet, visit, receive autographs and take pictures with select Churchill Downs jockeys from 11:30 a.m. to noon (all times EDT) in the paddock area.

Melancon, a 52-year-old native of Breaux Bridge, La., is the third-leading rider all-time at Churchill Downs with 901 victories under the Twin Spires.

Lanerie, a 33-year-old native of Lafayette, La., entered Friday’s 11-race program with 17 victories on the meet, good for eighth place in the rider standings. 

ALBARADO, McPEEK AND KLEIN SET FOR SEASON FINALE OF “CHURCHILL DOWNS IN SEASON” ON WAVE3 – Leading jockey Robby Albarado, trainer Ken McPeek and owner-breeder Richard Klein are scheduled as guests on Saturday’s season finale for “Churchill Downs In Season” on WAVE-3 TV.

            The weekly look at Churchill Downs racing is hosted by Churchill Downs’ John Asher and is scheduled to be telecast live from the paddock garden at 9:30 a.m. (EDT).

            Albarado, the leading jockey in the Spring Meet and regular rider of “Horse of the Year” Curlin, is bearing down on his first Churchill Downs riding crown.  McPeek is in a three-way battle with Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen for “leading trainer” honors for the 52-day meet.  Klein is a member of a family team that includes his mother and father, Elaine and Bert, and perennially ranks among the leading owners at Churchill Downs.

            The season finale of the 30-minute “Churchill Downs In Season” will also include a preview of Saturday’s 108th running of the Debutante Stakes (GIII) and a look ahead to the three stakes races scheduled for  meet’s July 4-6 closing weekend: the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII), the $150,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII) and the $150,000-added Locust Grove Handicap (GIII). 

BARN TALK – Well-wishes go out to trainer John Churchman, who is recuperating at home after a stent procedure this week. “I had been feeling pretty sick for a while,” Churchman said Friday morning. “I have been home for a couple days, but I am not doing all that well.” The 73-year-old Louisville native has three horses stabled at Churchill Downs. Churchman saddled two Kentucky Derby starters, Fighting Fantasy in 1990 and Wilder Than Ever in 1991. … The seven double-figure win payoffs on Thursday’s card equaled a high for the meet, matching that of April 26, the opening day of the 52-day Spring Meet. … Robby Albarado recorded his second consecutive three-victory day on Thursday, giving him eight such days on the meet to go with two four-win days. Albarado, seeking his first riding title at Churchill Downs, opened an eight-win lead over second-place Miguel Mena with eight days remaining in the meet that closes July 6. … A victory by Padua Stables’ Hoya in the last race Thursday gave trainer Steve Asmussen his 25th win of the meet and moved him into a tie for second with Ken McPeek, one behind Tom Amoss in the chase for leading trainer. As usual, juvenile runners have been a key to Asmussen’s successful meet as 12 of his winners have come from his strong division of 2-year-olds.  Both Asmussen and Amoss have four horses entered on Friday’s 11-race card; McPeek has one. 

WORK TAB (Track: GOOD) – Phoenix Stakes (GIII) winner Off Duty worked a half-mile in :47.20 over a “good” track for trainer Lynn Whiting. The move was the fastest of 26 at the distance. … Padua Stables’ Segal worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 over a track labeled “muddy” in a probable prep for the Bashford Manor for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was the ninth fastest of 18 at the distance.

Through Thursday, June 26
Jockeys                           Starts   1-2-3

Robby Albarado                  223  59-29-27

Miguel Mena                       298   51-46-43

Julien Leparoux                  267   46-50-46

Jamie Theriot                     232   44-34-30

Calvin Borel                        253  41-35-38

Shaun Bridgmohan             192   39-34-25

Jesus Castanon                   222   26-22-26

Corey Lanerie                    189   17-25-22

Brian Hernandez Jr.            169   15-26-16

John McKee                       132   11-21-20

Elvis Trujillo                        77   10-10-19


Tom Amoss                       67   26-12-12

Steve Asmussen                115   25-18-17

Ken McPeek                        67    25-12-5

Mike Maker                        54    15-11-8

Dale Romans                    121   14-25-20

Ian Wilkes                          45     13-11-6

Eddie Kenneally                  58    12-9-9

Cody Autrey                      52      9-9-11

Greg Foley                         59       9-9-8

Bret Calhoun                       23      9-2-4

Paul J. McGee                     42       8-7-4

Nick Zito                             20       8-5-1

D. Wayne Lukas                  49       8-2-4      


Ken and Sarah Ramsey         52   15-8-12

Maggi Moss                         27     12-6-4

Zayat Stables, LLC                46    8-10-10

Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein   35     7-7-6

Heflin & Driver Racing           26     5-5-6

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable       16     5-1-0

Six (6) owners tied at four (4) wins

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