FIRECRACKER HOPE WISE DAN SHARP IN FIRST GRASS WORK– Trainer Charles Lopresti made the trip west on Interstate 64 from his Lexington base Tuesday morning with Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan Tuesday morning to give the 4-year-old son of Wiseman’s Ferry an important test.
Lopresti traveled to Churchill Downs to see how Wise Dan would handle Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course during half-mile work. If the versatile gelding performed well, he could earn a start in Monday’s 21st running of the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII).
Wise Dan zipped around the “dogs” on the firm course in: 48.80 – the second-fastest time among nine works at the distance on a sunny morning. And, in Lopresti’s view, Wise Dan passed Tuesday’s test and is much closer to making a racing debut on turf on Monday.
“He worked awful good this morning,” Lopresti said. “That was his first time on the grass. He finished up real strong – I think he came home the last quarter in something like :23 (seconds) and change. He really wasn’t sure what to do down the backside because he’d never been on it before.
“I’m going to talk Mr. Fink about it and, if he comes out of this breeze good, we’re seriously considering it.”
Jockey Jon Court was aboard for the work and Lopresti said he would get the call if Wise Dan makes his turf racing debut in the Independence Day race.
“All we wanted to really do is see what he felt like when he kicked it down the lane,” Lopresti said. “Jon eased him up. He said he would have gone a lot further than that, but I told him don’t go too far because I wanted to leave something left in the tank in case we decided to run.”
Wise Dan has a career record of 4-0-0 in nine races, all on synthetic or dirt courses and highlighted by a victory in last fall’s $175,000-added Phoenix (GIII) over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface. He finished sixth, beaten only 2 ½ lengths by Big Drama, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Churchill Downs and closed out his 2010 season with a one-mile allowance win over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
Wise Dan has not won in three starts this year, but two were strong efforts in the forth-place finishes to Aikenite in the Commonwealth (GII) at Keeneland and in a stakes-quality allowance race on the Churchill Downs dirt in which Firecracker contender General Quarters finished second.
GENERAL QUARTERS HAS EASY MAINTENANCE MOVE – Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters took an easy trip around Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course in his final prep for Monday’s Firecracker Handicap.
The 5-year-old son of Sky Mesa cruised four furlongs around the dogs on a firm course in :52.20. The move under jockey Jamie Theriot was the slowest of eight at the distance, and McCarthy could not have been happier with it.
“We went off extra slow and finished a little faster,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t want to take too much out of him. I told Jamie I wanted him to go between :50 and :52, and he went :52.”
General Quarters, a Grade I winner over the Matt Winn Turf Course in the 2010 renewal of the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, looms as the likely starting high weight in the one-mile Firecracker at 119 pounds. He is coming off a runner-up finish to multiple stakes winner Native Ruler at seven furlongs on dirt, a race that was General Quarters’ first since a seventh-place run behind upset winner Debussy and eventual 2010 turf champion Gio Ponti the Arlington Million (GI) in late August.
Theriot was aboard General Quarters for his comeback race and will have the mount on Monday. McCarthy’s star brings a record of 4-8-2 in 22 races and earnings of $1,178,200 into the featured event on Monday’s final program of the 38-day Spring Meet.
FIRERACKER CONTENDERS MISTER MARTI GRAS, BARYSHNIKOV, FLAT OUT WORK – Trainer Chris Block confirmed that Lothenbach Stables LLC’s Mister Marti Gras is “definite” to run in Monday’s Firecracker after a four-furlong work on the grass on Tuesday.
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard as the 4-year-old Belong to Me gelding covered the distance in an easy :51.80. Bridgmohan has the Firecracker mount on Mister Marti Gras, whom he piloted to a one-mile allowance win over the Churchill Downs turf on June 3.
Jeffrey Columbro and Connie Apostelos’ Baryshnikov, runner-up to Paddy O’Prado in Pimlico’s Dixie Handicap (GII), completed his serious training for the Firecracker with a five-furlong move on the six-furlong dirt course at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center. The Mike Maker-trained son of Empire Maker covered the distance over a fast surface in 1:03.20.
Julien Leparoux is scheduled to ride Baryshnikov, who has won five of his last seven races in a string that started with a $15,000 claiming race over Polytrack at Turfway Park on Dec. 12. He won an allowance race on the turf at Keeneland prior to his run in the Dixie, where Baryshnikov had a three-length late in mid-stretch before he was run down by Paddy O’Prado in the final race of that Grade I winner’s career.
Preston Stable LLC’s Flat Out, sixth to Pool Play on dirt in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), tuned up for his possible turf debut in the Firecracker with a four-furlong work in :50.20 over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Jockey Corey Lanerie was in the saddle for the move by the 5-year-old Flatter, who has a career record of 3-1-0 in eight races on traditional dirt surfaces.
BARN TALK –Frank L. Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly, the Dale Romans-trained winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2009, breezed a half-mile in :50.60 under exercise rider Tammy Fox. The daughter of Tapit finished third in the recent Early Times Mint Julep (GIII). … Trainer Neil Howard gave two of his talented 3-year-olds a look on the turf Tuesday morning. Courtlandt Farm’s Prime Cut, 11th in the Belmont Stakes (GI), breezed four furlongs in :48.60. That move was the fastest of eight at the distance. Gallardia Racing LLC’s Wilkinson, winner of the Lecomte (GIII), breezed three furlongs for Howard in :37.30. … Lil Bit O’Fun, winner of the recent Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs for trainer Tom Proctor, breezed four furlongs on turf in :50.80. … Multiple stakes winner Demarcation breezed four furlongs in :53.20 over a fast main track for trainer Paul McGee. … Vinery Stables LLC’s and Mrs. Susan Roy’s 2010 Gotham (GIII) winner Awesome Act, 19th in last year’s Kentucky Derby and a disappointing fifth in a June 12 allowance race at Churchill Downs, breezed four furlongs on dirt in :49 for trainer Steve Asmussen.