Leading into the final day of racing of the 38-day Spring Meet, perennial top rider Corey Lanerie and trainer Steve Asmussen have already clinched meet-leading titles in their respective categories.
Lanerie, 42, notched his 13th leading rider crown at Churchill Downs in the last 15 meets while Asmussen, 51, picked up his record-extending 18th Churchill Downs leading trainer title.
“Going into this week I knew there was an outside chance Brian (Hernandez Jr.) could catch me,” Lanerie said. “We’ve had such a great meet. We have one more day to win a couple more races and then we’ll head to Ellis this summer.”
With one day of racing remaining, Lanerie (56 wins) is 10 victories ahead of second-place Brian Hernandez Jr. (46).
Lanerie surpassed his 2016 Spring Meet total of 52 wins and has earnings of $2,363,499, which exceeded last year’s mark by more than $200,000.
Among the highlights of Lanerie’s Spring Meet were a trio of stakes wins and a runner-up finish aboard Lookin At Lee in the $2,395,800 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
“I really thought I had a shot at winning the Derby,” Lanerie said. “I’ve tasted it now and know what it feels like to have a shot at winning one of the greatest races in the world.”
Lanerie, 42, is seventh in all-time wins at Churchill Downs with 860 – 23 behind sixth-place Jim McKnight.
Hernandez Jr., 31, is currently tied with Florent Geroux for the most stakes wins at the meet. Hernandez recorded stakes victories in the $65,000-added Roxelana Stakes (Finley’sluckycharm), $100,000 Matron (GIII) (Walkabout), $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII) (Finley’sluckycharm), $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) (McCraken), and $100,000 Chicago Handicap (GIII) (Finley’sluckycharm).
“We’ve had such a great meet,” Hernandez said. “Typically with as many wins as we’ve had we would’ve been leading rider. The stakes success we had was very important for my career. We won a lot of big races and rode a lot of nice horses.”
Geroux, who has $956,342 in stakes earnings, logged stakes victories in the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile (Buy Sell Hold), $300,000 La Troienne Presented by Spirited Funds (GI) (Big World), $150,000 Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank (GIII) (La Coronel), $300,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII) (Roca Rojo), and $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by GE Appliances (GI) (Gun Runner).
Asmussen clinched the Churchill Downs training title in Wednesday’s sixth race when Providence scored a three-length victory.
“It’s been a great meet,” Asmussen said. “Title number 18, that’s a lot of wins. We’ll hopefully enjoy the last night of racing and head to Saratoga shortly after.”
Asmussen’s Spring Meet highlights included a dazzling victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap with Gun Runner, a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby with Lookin At Lee, and recording his 600th victory beneath the historic Twin Spires with juvenile filly She’s a Julie.
Asmussen enters the final day of racing with a 23-18 win lead ahead of Ian Wilkes and Tom Amoss.
Among Wilkes’ Spring Meet highlights were three stakes victories in the $400,000 Alysheba Presented by Big Fish Casino (GII) (Bird Song), $100,000 Matron (Walkabout), and $100,000 Matt Winn (McCraken).
Amoss, 55, scored his first Grade I victory at Churchill Downs with Big World’s 1 ¼-length triumph in the La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
The leading owner title will be decided Friday night between Maggi Moss (11 wins) and Ken and Sarah Ramsey (9). Moss has Gingermore entered in Race 3 while the Ramsey’s have a trio of entrants: Bodie’s Valentine (Race 4), Fat Daddy (Race 5), and Kitten’s Solution (Race 7). Moss is seeking her fourth Spring Meet title while the Ramsey’s could add a 29th Churchill Downs title to their already record mark.
CHURCHILL DOWNS-BASKED JOCKEYS, TRAINERS MAKE SUMMER PLANS – Churchill Downs will go dark for 77 days until the fifth-annual September Meet and several locally-based jockeys and trainers will remain in Kentucky for the summer.
“With the purse structure, Ellis Park is a great place to send horses this summer,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It’s a great place to start young horses, too.”
Romans is among several horsemen who will target the Ellis Park meet this summer, located on the border of Kentucky and Evansville, Ind. Among Romans’ rivals at Ellis will be Spring Meet leading trainer Steve Asmussen. The Asmussen camp has a string of horses already based at Ellis Park with assistant trainer Christy Hamilton, several of which have started at Churchill Downs this spring.
Other horsemen keeping strings of horses in Kentucky until the September Meet include J.R. Caldwell, Mark Casse, Brad Cox, D. Wayne Lukas, Mike Maker, Brendan Walsh and Ian Wilkes.
Ellis Park’s jockey colony will mirror Churchill Downs with the exception of Shaun Bridgmohan, Florent Geroux and Julien Leparoux, who will test their hand once again at Saratoga.
Many Churchill Downs horsemen also will ship a string of horses to Saratoga, including Tom Amoss, Asmussen, Casse, Cox, Maker, Lukas, Moquett, Dallas Stewart, Walsh, and Wilkes.
“We have a little more than 50 horses at Saratoga right now,” Asmussen said. “Scott (Blasi) is up there with them now and I’ll be up there shortly after the meet closes at Churchill.”
SINGLE-6 JACKPOT MANDATORY PAYOUT FRIDAY; JACKPOT STANDS AT $146,754 – A highlight of the meet’s final day is the 20-cent minimum Single-6 Jackpot mandatory payout wager. Whatever new money is bet into the pool Friday will be added to the carryover and must be paid out.
The daily six-race sequence has challenged bettors to select the winners of six consecutive races but the Jackpot pool only is paid if there is a single winning ticket. When multiple tickets contain six winners – which has been the case for each of the last 22 race days – 90 percent of that day’s pool is paid out and 10 percent is added to the Jackpot carryover. Takeout on the Single-6 Jackpot is just 15 percent, which is one of the lowest multi-race wager takeout rates in American racing.
Friday night’s Single-6 Jackpot will be paid to ticket holders with the most winners in the six-race series, which covers Races 5-10 starting at approximately 7:57 p.m.
ROMANS CHASES MOTT TO BECOME CHURCHILL DOWNS’ ALL-TIME LEADING TRAINER – South Louisville native Dale Romans is on the verge of surpassing Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott as the all-time leading trainer in races won at historic Churchill Downs. Romans will begin Friday night’s action trailing Mott, 701 wins to 699.
Romans has three horses entered in two races Friday night while Mott does not have any entries.
Romans’ Friday entries:
Race 7 (9:05 p.m.): #11 Iconic (3-1)
Race 11 (11:10 p.m.): #1 Victor Again (10-1)
Race 11 (11:10 p.m.): #5 Laughing Levin (30-1)