Stoneway Farms’ Ahh Chocolate made a successful return to the winner’s circle Saturday night at Churchill Downs with a comfortable four-length victory in a second-level $42,200 allowance optional claiming event – a softer spot than the featured $100,000 Dogwood (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies.
“We were looking to kind of regroup a little bit and that’s why you have condition races,” trainer Neil Howard said. “When certain races have conditions it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of them. Ever since she won her (first-level allowance) at Keeneland (on April 8), every race she had been in was a stakes race. But all of her races have been good.”
Her resume includes a third in the Black-Eyed Susan (GII) at Pimlico, a fourth over sloppy footing in the Indiana Oaks (GII) and a 10th in Arlington’s Pucker Up (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
“I think we learned at Arlington that the turf isn’t something that we’d rush again to do,” Howard said of the daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) out of the Saint Liam mare Ahh. “But in (Saturday) night’s race we wanted to back up a bit, for lack of a better word. The fact that the one-mile allowance was there was a nice way to regroup a little bit. It was nice to see her come from off the pace and see her finish like she did.”
Ahh Chocolate completed the one-turn mile in 1:36.09.
Howard was unsure as to where Ahh Chocolate would start next but said that “obviously you want to get black type on your fillies when you can so we’ll keep her eligible for everything.”
The next dirt stakes race in Kentucky exclusive to 3-year-old fillies is Keeneland’s $250,000 Raven Run (GII) on Oct. 17.
MEMORIAL FOR FORMER TRIPLE CROWN EXEC SEIGENFELD IS MONDAY – A memorial service to remember the live of Ed Seigenfeld, former executive vice president of Triple Crown Productions, will be held at Churchill Downs in the Triple Crown Room on Monday at 11 a.m. Seigenfeld passed away in Louisville at the age of 78 on Wednesday following a brief illness.
Seigenfeld led Triple Crown Productions, a collaborative marketing effort between Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby, Pimlico’s Preakness and the New York Racing Association’s Belmont Stakes, from 1990-2009. Prior to that, he served for nine years as the vice president of marketing for NYRA.
OWNER HEARN, TRAINER LEONARD TEAM FOR TWO VICTORIES SATURDAY – Owner Dave Hearn and trainer George Leonard III enjoyed Saturday night at Churchill Downs with a pair of trips to the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle with Lungs ($6 in Race 1) and Have Faith Sister ($3.60 in Race 5).
“(Saturday) night was a big night for our stable,” said Leonard, who has a stable of 10 horses at Churchill Downs. “These are the kind of nights that a lot of trainers dreams of having. My two winners looked great. It’s great to see our plans work out for us. They both looked like two horses that looked like they had it going their way.”
Leonard improved his record to 16-for-130 on the year as both horse combined to win $16,800.
“I thought we had a chance to run big races,” Leonard said. “Things can always happen, but it’s good to have things come together and go according to plan the way that they did (Saturday) night. It makes my job a whole lot easier and makes it easier to get up in the morning and do this.”
Leonard’s next starter at Churchill Downs is in Thursday’s eighth race with Serdynski.
GROUPIE DOLL WINNER CALL PAT PREPARES FOR NEXT START – Miller Racing LLC’s Call Pat, winner of the $100,000 Groupie Doll (Grade III) at Ellis Park on Aug. 8, breezed five furlongs on the Churchill Downs main track Sunday morning in 1:01.40. After the workout, trainer Brad Cox said he is leaning toward running 5-year-old mare in the $500,000 Spinster (GI) on Oct. 4 at Keeneland.
“(Saturday) morning we were leaning toward the (Sept. 26) Beldame (on Sept. 26) but now I think we’re leaning toward the Spinster,” Cox said. “It’s less of a ship and I think the Beldame may have six or seven. It looks like Wedding Toast is going and I’m sure Todd [Pletcher] will run something. They’ll both be tough races.
“She’s gotten really good lately. Joe Rocco Jr. fits her well, and she’s doing well. I think that the pace up front would help her, she needs a good pace to run at.”
Cox believes that his filly has improved quite a bit since the beginning of her 5-year-old campaign, which began with two off-the-board efforts in the Pippin and Bayakoa (GIII) at Oaklawn Park.
“She’s definitely in the best form of her career,” Cox said. “We tried her in a Grade I this year at Oaklawn [the Apple Blossom] and she didn’t embarrass herself at all. She was fifth but it was a good effort and she didn’t get beat far. I definitely think she’s in a better form now than she was then. When these fillies and mares are going good, you’ve got to run them.”
TWILIGHT THURSDAY RETURNS AT 5 P.M. – Twilight Thursday with an eight-race program that begins at 5 p.m. kicks off the final four days of Churchill Downs’ 11-date September Meet. The racing program will be complemented by plenty of activity in the Plaza from 5-8 p.m. led by draft beer sold for $1; food trucks including Longshot Lobsta, 502 Café, The Traveling Kitchen, Red Top Gourmet Hot Dogs and Tasty Tuxedo; and live music by Rumors. Horse racing newcomers also can stop by the track’s Wagering 101 setup for handicapping tips and get questions answered by expert handicappers and select jockeys and trainers.
FAMILY ADVENTURE DAY SCHEDULED FOR SUNDAY’S SEPTEMBER MEET CLOSER – Presented by Kroger and in partnership with Kosair Children’s Hospital, Family Adventure Day will be held Sunday, Sept. 27 – closing day of Churchill Downs’ 11-date September Meet.
While adults enjoy the final day of racing, the kiddos will relish numerous activities throughout the day including inflatables, a petting zoo and miniature pony rides, a video game truck, stick horse races, face painters, sidewalk chalk, corn hole, a hay maze and more.
There also will be meet and greets with Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie, the Kentucky Derby Museum’s resident miniature pony Winston and track bugler Steve Buttleman, plus a horse racing education station and special activities from Kosair geared toward taking care of your child’s mind, body and spirit. The popular Kona Ice Truck will be present, as well.
Tickets for adults and children age 3 and up are $8 in advance online at ChurchillDowns.com or $10 at the gate on Sept. 27. One dollar of every event ticket will benefit Kosair Children’s Hospital. Family Adventure Day tickets include admission and access to the Courtyard (Section 119) for trackside viewing plus a wristband to access for all activities beneath the Grandstand Terrace.
DOWN THE STRETCH – According to stakes coordinator Dan Bork, an early look at known horses under serious consideration for Saturday’s $175,000 Lukas Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles include Abraham, Geothermal, Golden Lad and Ulanbator. … Possible starters for Saturday’s $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile: Agent Di Nozzo, Midnight Cello, Street Strategy and Viva Majorca. … Possible starters for Saturday’s $100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course: Flashaway, Flashy Chelsey, High Noon Rider, Nun the Less, Saham, Sylven Park, Watchyourownbobber and Wayward Kitten. … Florida-based jockey Eddie Castro came to Churchill Downs on Saturday night to ride Huasca in the $100,000 Dogwood (GIII). The 3-year-old filly finished fifth behind winner Super Majesty as the 3-1 second betting choice, but the 30-year-old rider didn’t come away empty handed. Castro won three races – Posture ($3.80 in Race 2), Impeached ($4.60 in Race 3) and Starship Zeus ($27 in Race 7). “It’s always good to come into a track like Churchill and be lucky enough to win three races,” said Castro’s agent Bryce Soth. “Unfortunately our filly in the stakes didn’t run like we had hoped, but it was still great to do what we did. I have a lot of friends here who are agents and they’ve really been a big help. ‘Jaws’ [Terry Miller], who has [Corey] Lanerie’s book, was responsible for helping put Eddie on those winners so I can’t take all of the credit.” … Trainer Dave Vance was relishing a victory by Carl Pollard’s Kiss Moon in Saturday’s $289,200 Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs. “She’s doing very well right now,” Vance said. “The horse to beat was the horse we beat here [I’m Already Sexy, second in the Old Forester Mint Julep]. The three horses that ran one-two-three were the best in the race. She’s done her job for the year but it’d be nice to race her a couple of more times this year. If not, maybe we’ll race her next year or maybe she’ll end up being a broodmare. I’m not sure what the owner wants to do yet.” … Also on Saturday at Kentucky Downs, Calumet Farm’s Return to Grace captured the $199,429 Dueling Grounds Oaks. “I’m very excited for the connections,” said Norman Casse, assistant trainer to his father Mark, “We’re thrilled to have horses for Calumet so to win a stakes for them is special. She’s a really tricky horse to ride; she runs spotty. I just thought Joe [Rocco, Jr.] rode a brilliant race, it made a big difference. He’ll get to ride her wherever she goes next. We’ll look at some stuff, but (the Grade I, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Oct. 16 at Keeneland) has been talked about. There are some other options so we’ll see how she comes back.”