Spring Meet leading rider Corey Lanerie got a good start to the September Meet on Friday afternoon when he rode two winners on the Opening Day card with Fruit Ludt (Race 1, $3.40) and Jack Tripp (Race 3, $5.60). Lanerie expressed how happy he was to be returning to Churchill Downs after a difficult summer riding at Saratoga where he went 0-for-57.
“It feels great to be back home,” Lanerie said. “The summer was slow and it was a tough meet up at Saratoga. I’m so glad to be back here and glad to get a couple of wins right off the bat. Hopefully I can get things going and continue to win.”
Lanerie discussed how the Saratoga meet made him thankful for the success that he has found at Churchill.
“It really makes you appreciate your success,” he said. “Sometimes you take for granted when you’re doing well and that you’re always going to do well and this is a humbling game. It makes you appreciate when you’re doing well. It makes you kind of think about the guys who don’t get to win a whole lot and just how tough it is for them – both mentally and they aren’t making any money.”
Lanerie is named the rider on 10 mounts for Saturday afternoon’s card, including all four stakes races: Sunset Sands (Race 1), Anythingyoucando (Race 3), LT’s Best Tale (Race 4), Elusive Fate (Race 5, Open Mind), Summer Spice (Race 6), W.B. Smudge (Race 7), Dothraki Queen (Race 8, Pocahontas), Unbridled Outlaw (Race 9, Iroquois), Flashy American (Race 10, Locust Grove) and Stand Guard (Race 11).
Like Lanerie, veteran rider Jon Court pulled off a two-bagger Friday with Fight the Power (Race 2, $10.20) and Quality Council (Race 6, $7.60). In addition to his two wins, Court racked up two second place finishes and three thirds making him 6-for-7 in the money this meet already.
“(Friday) was not bad at all – we were all over the board,” Court said. “I was delighted to have an opening day like that. I’m looking to fire it up and I just hope we can keep that momentum going right on into Keeneland and I want to be as competitive as I can throughout the meet and throughout the year. I’d love to have Churchill as a springboard into 2016. It creates excitement and generates anticipation going into the next day and after opening day with the success that I was able to experience. I’m just hoping that it carries on throughout the meet so I’m just here ready to ride.”
With 3,917 career victories, Court is anticipating scoring his 4,000th career victory and considers it a major long-term goal.
“I’m just almost 80 wins away from hitting 4,000, and my biggest goal is to get there but obviously I won’t be able to do that this meet,” Court said. “Like anything, I’d like to finish this meet safe and go on to the next meet which would most likely be Keeneland and try to be as competitive as the top competitive riders here.”
Court is named the rider on nine mounts for Saturday afternoon’s card: W. Harvey (Race1), Discreetness (Race 2), Secret Stash (Race 3), Battleback John (Race 4), Z Noble (Race 6), Hat of Jacks (Race 7), Condominium (Race 8, Iroquois (GIII)), Frivolous (Race 10, Locust Grove) and Ranger Maxx (Race 11).
CASSE LOOKS AHEAD WITH TWO-YEAR-OLDS, NOBLE BIRD OUT UNTIL NEXT YEAR – On Friday, Norman Casse, assistant trainer to his father Mark, discussed how the September Meet is an opportunity to get some of his 2-year-olds going. That afternoon, the Casse barn sent out Conquest Stables LLC’s Conquest Big E and John C. Oxley’s Gametown in the fifth and seventh races, respectively. While both 2-year-olds could do no better than second, Mark has not lost any confidence in what he believes could be some of the best 2-year-olds in his Churchill stable.
“I thought they both ran real well,” Norman Casse said. “The first horse [Conquest Big E] did everything wrong and still barely got beat so he ran really well. He’s a bit of a troublemaker, that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t run him at Saratoga. He was probably ready to run at Saratoga, but we decided not to, just for what you saw (Friday). The other horse, Gametown, I was a little disappointed in, but he ran one time on the grass and (Friday)’s race was decent.”
Casse said that he felt as if Gametown had a difficult time handling the track, and elaborated a bit on some of the difficulties training Conquest Big E at Saratoga this summer.
“I think that he [Gametown] struggled with the track a little bit – so did Shaun [Bridgmohan],” he said. “As crazy as it may seem, I think that he could be a better horse for the turf. Conquest Big E could be a real good horse, too. We had a real tough time with him at Saratoga. It took us forever to get him okay out of the gate. He rears up and he did that (Friday) so that really wasn’t a huge surprise for us. He was also in the one hole which didn’t help him anymore. We’ll probably go to Keeneland with these two. Spinning them back for another race this meet would be too much on them.”
Mark Casse reiterated some of his son’s statements from Friday morning regarding training their 2-year-olds for the September Meet.
“We find that we’ve used this meet as a good place where they can start stretching out which is nice,” Mark Casse said. “Most of us aim to be here on the first Saturday in May so this is a great place to try and do that.”
Casse also gave an update on this year’s Stephen Foster (GI) winner Noble Bird, stating that he will be out for the year and will resume training at the beginning of next year. Last time out, the son of Birdstone was a well-beaten ninth in the Whitney Handicap (GI) at Saratoga last month.
“He came out of that race pretty banged up,” he said. “We knew when we started backing up at the half-mile pole that something was wrong because that was not like him. We never really could figure out what was bothering him, but when we tried training him again he just wasn’t himself so we sent him to Ocala and they worked on him last week. He did something to his left hip. They can’t really x-ray their hip so it’s hard to say whether it’s just a muscle tear of some sort, but he’ll be fine. I would say our long term goal would be next year’s Stephen Foster. He probably won’t start back training until the beginning of next year.”
ROGER BRUGGEMANN DISCUSSES SEPTEMBER MEET, STABLING AT CHURCHILL – Churchill Downs horsemen will be seeing a new face on the backside this meet as veteran trainer Roger Bruggemann has horses based at Churchill Downs for the first time in his career. Bruggemann, who was primarily based on the Illinois circuit, was based at Churchill Downs Trackside during the Spring Meet.
“We decided to stay here because we feel that our horses fit better here than in Illinois,” Bruggemann said. “I like training here a lot and as far as expectations are concerned, I’ve got a lot of young horses that I’m looking to get going, and I think the meet after September could be the good for us as well.”
The Bruggemann stable has made some noise these past couple of years with last year’s champion sprinter Work All Week and victor of last month’s Arlington Million (GI), The Pizza Man, both of which are bred in Illinois and owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds. Bruggemann says that he hopes to continue adding stars to his stable.
“We’re trying to keep getting better horses and buying better horses instead of just claiming them,” he said. “If everything works out the way we want it to, we should just keep getting better and better horses, that’s the plan anyway.”
It was recently announced that The Pizza Man would make his next start in the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) on Oct. 3 at Keeneland with a long term goal of competing in the $5.4 million Japan Cup at Nakayama Race Course on Nov. 29. He also said Saturday morning that last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Work All Week would likely make his next start in the $300,000 Phoenix (GIII) at Keeneland on Oct. 2 with intentions on defending his Breeders’ Cup title.
SMALL-TIME TRAINER CHARELS KARDOUSH STARTS MEET ON GOOD NOTE – Blue collar trainer Charles Kardoush scored a victory in yesterday’s second race with Michael and Linda Mazoch’s Fight the Power, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding who scored his second career victory in 25 starts. It was only the 10th career victory for Kardoush, who took out his trainer’s license in 2008 as a part-time trainer, but has gotten a lot more serious about training in the past few years.
“It’s always good for the stable when we win races like this,” Kardoush said. “We get real excited to see our horses perform this way. Whenever we win it’s always good for the owners and boosts their morale, so it’s very win-win for us.”
Kardoush, a native of Memphis, Tennessee who went 3-for-11 at the Spring Meet, is based at Churchill Downs Trackside with a string of seven horses and races at Oaklawn Park in the winter and early spring. He has one entrant on Saturday afternoon’s card with Hat of Jacks (Race 7).
NEW BOOK SIGNING BY FORTUS, WEST ON SUNDAY – Award-winning turf writers Bob Fortus and Gary West, who have covered horse racing for a combined 70 years, will be at Churchill Downs on Sunday to sign autographs of their new book “Ride to Win: An Inside Look at the Jockey’s Craft.”
The book will be sold for $20 (cash only) just inside Gate 17 where West and Fortus will sign copies from 11:30 a.m. through the fifth race at 2:45 p.m.
WHO’S THE CHAMP? HANDICAPPING CONTEST RETURNS SUNDAY – The weekly “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” returns Sunday in Churchill Downs’ ITW area on the second floor of the Clubhouse. Bettors can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) and are required to make mythical $2 Win/Place bets on Races 3-8. The highest bankroll will win a $1,000 cash voucher. Second place is a $500 voucher and third is a $250 voucher. Registration takes place Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the top of the Gate 17 escalators.
CHURCHILL DOWNS OPEN FOR SIMULCASTING ON MONDAY WITH FREE ADMISSION – With Saturday’s 10-race Kentucky Downs card cancelled and moved to Monday, Churchill Downs’ second floor ITW will be open Monday at noon and admission is free. In addition to Kentucky Derby (2:35 p.m.), Churchill Downs will import signals from Parx (12:55 p.m.), Thistledown (12:55 p.m.) and Delaware Park (1:15 p.m.).