MCCARTHY’S GENERAL QUARTERS LEADS FIRECRACKER NOMINATIONS – The winners of the two most recent runnings of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, who won the race in 2010, and Sullimar Stable’s 2011 winner Get Stormy head a list of 55 nominations for the 21st running of Churchill Downs’ $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII).
The one-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward will be run on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Monday, July 4, the closing day of the 38-day Spring Meet.
General Quarters, who injured his left front leg in a training mishap after competing in the Grade I Arlington Million last August, returned from a near 10-month layoff to run second by a neck to Maggi Moss’s Native Ruler in a seven furlong allowance race over the main track at Churchill Downs on June 10.
“He came out of the race well and I think it’s going to set him up nicely for the Firecracker,” McCarthy said. “I think this spot is going to suit him just fine.”
McCarthy sent General Quarters to the fast main track Saturday morning to gallop beneath the Twin Spires. “He’s a picture, isn’t he?” McCarthy said as his earner of over $1.1 million passed the clocker’s stand.
General Quarters is scheduled to breeze over the Matt Winn Turf Course on Tuesday under Jamie Theriot, who will also be in the irons for the Firecracker.
The other multiple Grade I winner nominated for the Firecracker is the Thomas Bush-trained Get Stormy, who captured the Grade I Maker’s Mark Mile and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic prior to a third-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the Monmouth Stakes (GIII) on June 12 at Monmouth Park.
The Turf Classic was the second win at the Louisville track for the 5-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic who also won the Commonwealth Turf (GIII) as a 3-year-old in 2009. Get Stormy has a record of 10-2-3 from 23 starts and earnings of $1,156,197.
Two horses that competed on dirt in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) are also being considered for the Firecracker. James Spence’s El Caballo, who ran 10th to Pool Play in the Stephen Foster, has recorded two allowance victories over the Matt Winn Turf Course and won the only stakes of his career over the grass in the Grade III Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 23, 2010.
Preston Stables LLC’s Flat Out, who finished sixth in the Stephen Foster, could potentially make his turf debut in the Firecracker. Trainer Scooter Dickey plans to work the 5-year-old son of Flatter on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Tuesday before making a final decision.
Horses known to be under consideration for the Firecracker Handicap and their trainers include Bim Bam (Ron Moquett), El Caballo (Ralph Nicks), Flat Out (Dickey), General Quarters (McCarthy), Strike Impact (Pat Dupuy) and Wise Dan (Charlie Lopresti).
Weight assignments for the Firecracker will be announced Sunday.
SUM OF THE PARTS, LIL CHEROKEE POINT TO 110th BASHFORD MANOR – Klaravich Stables Inc. and William Lawrence’s Sum of the Parts and Ed Few’s Lil Cherokee head a list of 25 nominations to the 110th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), a six-furlong race on the main track for 2-year-olds on Saturday, July 2.
Sum of the Parts broke his maiden in impressive fashion in his debut on May 14 at Churchill Downs for trainer Tom Amoss.
“He was training good and I thought he would run well, but I didn’t know he would run that well,” Amoss said. “He’s a horse we’re very excited about.”
The $150,000 Barrett’s Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training sale grad is out of the multiple graded stakes winning mare Enjoy the Moment. He has been working forwardly for the Bashford Manor since his maiden score.
Another Bashford Manor nominee and probable starter in the race is Lil Cherokee, winner of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park on June 11. Trainer Bret Calhoun liked what he saw in Lil Cherokee’s two races in Texas and is hopeful the son of Cherokee Run will continue his winning ways in the Bashford Manor.
“We like him a lot,” Calhoun said. “In his last race it looked like he (Lil Cherokee) might get passed, but he turned that one away and ran a great race to win.”
Calhoun hopes Lil Cherokee will benefit from what he expects to be a hot pace in the Bashford Manor.
“A lot of these young horses just want to go to the lead, but I don’t think my horse has to be on the lead,” Calhoun said. “He looks like he’s very versatile and that will help him.”
Sum of the Parts and Lil Cherokee will likely face two starters from the Bernie Flint barn in Exfactor and Bonaparte; both of which are owned by Stoneway Farm. Exfactor ran second to Sum of the Parts in his debut prior to recording a 4 ½ victory at Churchill Downs on June 9. Bonaparte made his career debut a winning one by taking a maiden special weight at the Louisville track on May 30.
Horses under consideration for the Bashford Manor (with trainers) include Backdoor Kenny (James Divito), Bonaparte (Flint), Exfactor (Flint), Friscan (Al Stall Jr.), Green Mouse (William Denzik Jr.), Hot Speed (Ron Moquett), Lil Cherokee (Calhoun), Power World (Neil Howard), Sum of the Parts (Amoss) and Threanddonedan (John Salzman).
LOPRESTI HAS ‘BEN’ GOING IN RIGHT DIRECTION, NOW LOOKS FOR LUCK WITH HIS ‘DANS’ – After a pair of disappointing efforts against rugged competition in his first two races of the year, Marianne and Brandon Chase’s homebred Here Comes Ben had been sending signals over the past few days that trainer Charles Lopresti was happy to see.
On Friday night the 5-year-old son of Street Cry validated those good vibrations with an emphatic 3 ¼-length victory over Stonestreet Stable’s Captain Cherokee in the $76,445 Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes. It was the second consecutive victory in the race for Here Comes Ben, who completed the seven-furlong distance over a fast track in 1:22.26.
“I was really proud of him,” said Lopresti. “That’s the kind of race I was hoping for to get him back on track.”
Lopresti’s star enjoyed a memorable 2010 during which he followed his Kelly’s Landing win with a victory in the Forego (GI) at seven furlongs at Saratoga – Lopresti’s first Grade I stakes victory. He ended the season with an 11th-place finish as the favorite in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI).
After a winter break Here Comes Ben launched his 5-year-old campaign against a rugged field of 11 rivals on Kentucky Derby Day in the $300,000 Churchill Downs (GII), where he finished seventh to the victorious Aikenite. He then tackled a similar group in the Aristides (GIII) on June 4, where he finished sixth to Noble’s Promise at a six-furlong distance that is a furlong short of his best.
It was not Lopresti’s intention to toss Here Comes Ben into such deep water, but an allowance race at Keeneland he intended to use as a prep for the Churchill Downs failed to fill. He then searched unsuccessfully for an allowance race after the Derby Day race, but ended up in his undesirable spot in the Aristides.
“That’s the trouble with those horses,” Lopresti said, “When they’re talented like that and you get ‘em in, they’ve got to run against buzzsaws.”
The Kelly’s Landing was always part of the 2011 plan for Here Comes Ben and, although his path to the race was less than ideal, the horse had trained so well that Lopresti was convinced a big run was on the way.
“I would have been very disappointed if he didn’t win,” Lopresti said. “I was really glad to see he was that sharp – he usually wants to come from way back. We trained him a little bit different. We tried to sharpen him up a bit and I opened up his blinkers a little bit, and I think all that just kind of added to it. He was fresh and it was cool last night. When he went over there he wanted to run.”
The Kelly’s Landing win improved Here Comes Ben’s career record to 7-1-3 in 16 races – with four of those wins at Churchill Downs – and boosted his earnings to $406,264. With Friday’s victory tucked away, Lopresti is now looking to a seven-furlong overnight stakes race near the end of July at Saratoga for Here Comes Ben’s next start, and if all goes well there will be a bid to repeat in the Forego.
Lopresti is also focused on efforts to get two other stable stars – Morton Fink’s graded stakes winners Wise Dan and Successful Dan – headed in positive directions.
The most immediate concern is Wise Dan, the winner of the 2010 Phoenix (GIII) at Keeneland who ran sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI), where he was beaten by fewer than three lengths by Big Drama.
Wise Dan is winless in three starts in 2011, although two have been strong efforts: a fourth-place run behind Aikenite in the Commonwealth (GII) at Keeneland and a fourth to Native Ruler and dual Grade I winner General Quarters in a seven-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs.
A winner on both traditional dirt and synthetic courses, the son of Wiseman’s Ferry could try a new surface in his next start. The 4-year-old gelding has been nominated to the 21st running of the $175,000 Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course on July 4.
“Wise Dan may come to Churchill on Tuesday and work on the grass,” Lopresti said. “I’ve never put him on the grass and we’re going to let Julien (Leparoux) work him. We’ve got him nominated to the Firecracker and I don’t know that we’ll do that. But we’ll see how he works and go from there.”
Lopresti trains another Firecracker nominee in Four D Stable’s Turallure, an impressive winner of a turf allowance at Churchill Downs on the June 17 “Downs After Dark” program. But he said the 4-year-old son of 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando would probably run next at Saratoga.
Meanwhile, Lopresti is proceeding cautiously with Fink’s Successful Dan, who was disqualified from a victory and placed third in last fall’s $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs. He had scored an impressive win in the Fayette (GIII) at Keeneland prior to the Clark.
Lopresti had hoped the son of Successful Appeal would emerge as one of America’s outstanding older horses in 2011, but a longstanding tendon issue has prompted him to move slowly with the 5-year-old gelding. Successful Dan has had three works at Keeneland over May and June, but the most recent recorded breeze was half-mile move on June 7. Dr. Larry Bramlage is monitoring the progress of Successful Dan, and Lopresti still hopes to see him back in competition sometime down the road.
“Dr. Bramlage has recommended that we give him six more weeks and make an assessment,” Lopresti said. “I don’t think he’ll run this year, though.”
KENTUCKY NATIVE SET FOR DEBUT BENEATH TWIN SPIRES ON SUNDAY – Jockey Natalie Turner grew up just about 90 miles away from historic Churchill Downs and has dreamed of riding beneath the Twin Spires since she climbed aboard her first horse at age 9.
Turner, who recently turned 21, will get to live out her dream in just her 14th career mount in Sunday’s eighth race when she rides Bad Girl Racing Stable’s Gimmeshoktreatment for trainer Matt Frazier.
“Churchill Downs is the most recognizable track in the world,” Turner said. “I want to win a race there more than any other track.”
The native of Burlington, Ky. gained experience with horses by riding show ponies at an early age and then got involved with racehorses when she started galloping in the mornings at Turfway Park. After enrolling at the University of Kentucky, Turner decided to transfer to Kentucky Community and Technical College System in Lexington in order to participate in Hall of Fame jockey and two-time Kentucky Derby winner Chris McCarron’s North American Riding Academy.
“I was attracted to the program because I could learn more about riding racehorses while also getting my degree,” Turner said.
Turner graduated from McCarron’s program in May and made her riding debut on May 29 at Cincinnati’s River Downs, where she finished second. Later in the day, Turner would record her first career victory aboard Princess Langfuhr.
While it is impressive that Turner was able to win on her first day, it is more impressive that she was even healthy enough to ride.
A starting gate accident in March at the Thoroughbred Training Center left her with 10 fractured ribs, a chipped vertebra and a punctured a lung. Those injuries put Turner in a hospital for a week. But she’s fully recovered and excited about the opportunity to ride at Churchill Downs.
“The first thing I did was look at the other jockeys in the race (on Sunday),” Turner said. “I’m a huge Calvin Borel fan and I’m so excited I get to ride in a race with him.”
Even though Turner has only ridden in a handful of races, she is not riding with the weight allowance, or “bug”, given to apprentice jockeys.
“I have elected not to ride with the bug until I can make the weight,” Turner said. “After coming back from the injury, I had to ride at 124 (pounds) and now I am riding at 120. I’m getting there.”
Post time for Turner’s Churchill Downs debut is 4:25 p.m. (all times Eastern).
BARN TALK – Deann Baer, Margaret Woodside and Tim Glyshaw’s Ready’s Rocket will look to capture his tenth victory beneath the Twin Spires in Sunday’s first race. Ready’s Rocket, an 8-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready, made history on May 21 when becoming the first horse to win nine races at Churchill Downs since 1991, which is the first year detailed information was gathered by Equibase.
Jockey Robby Albarado recorded two wins on Friday night’s card (his 924th and 925th career victories at Churchill Downs) and is now tied for third all-time with Don Brumfield on the career jockey standings beneath the Twin Spires. Albarado could take sole position of third place all-time with a win aboard one of his seven mounts Saturday (Races 1-2, 6-10). …
Saturday’s card at Churchill Downs will feature a Pick 6 carryover of $46,741. The Pick 6 will begin with Race 6 at 3:23 p.m. …
Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Afleeting Lady, who is a half-sister to Grade I Preakness winner Shackleford, will start in Saturday’s ninth race. A 4-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex, Afleeting Lady broke her maiden in her first start for trainer Dale Romans at Churchill Downs on June 4.
Churchill Downs will not make up Thursday’s lost day of racing, but additional races will be added to the programs next week, which is the final week of the spring meet. Three races will be added Thursday, two races Friday, two races Saturday (July 2), and one race Sunday (July 3). No races will be added to the Monday, July 4, program. …
The barn of Tom McCarthy, trainer of multiple Grade I winner General Quarters, was not significantly affected by Wednesday’s tornado, but his home did not make it out of the storm unscathed. A large oak tree fell through the roof of McCarthy’s house Wednesday night, but there were no injuries and the veteran trainer and his wife are still able to live in their home while repairs are underway. …
WHO’S HOT – The hottest jockey over the last five racing days (June 16-24) is Julien Leparoux (15-for-31). Ken McPeek (6-for-9) is the hottest trainer over the same period. Martin Cherry (2-for-2) is the hottest owner.
WORKTAB – Courtlandt Farms’ Machen, winner of the Grade III The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 30, worked four furlongs in :48.60 over a fast main track beneath the Twin Spires on Saturday morning for trainer Neil Howard.
Barbara Hunter’s homebred Snow Top Mountain worked five furlongs in 1:03.60 for trainer Tom Proctor on Saturday morning. The 4-year-old daughter of Najran finished fourth in the Grade III Early Times Mint Julep Handicap in her most recent start.
Tom Walters’ Santiva, who finished eighth in the Grade I Belmont Stakes in his most recent start, worked four furlongs in :48.40 for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
WEATHER – Saturday: mostly sunny, 84. Sunday: mostly cloudy with a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 83. Monday: partly sunny with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 92. Tuesday: mostly sunny with a 30% chance of thunderstorms, 90. Wednesday: mostly sunny, 88. Thursday: mostly sunny, 92. Friday: sunny, 93.