Klein Racing’s Believe in Bertie, a narrow runner-up in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (GII) on the Kentucky Derby undercard, has her eye on her first graded stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Brad Cox, Believe in Bertie was caught in the late stages of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile but has been training steadily since.
“She’s doing very well,” assistant trainer Jorge Abrego said. “She breezed perfect on the grass Sunday morning. I think this will be a good race for her. She’s always consistent and tries hard for us. What more could you ask for?”
Believe in Bertie’s connections – owner/breeder Richard Klein, Cox and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan – teamed to win last year’s Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap with 5-year-old mare Cash Control. It was the second victory in the race for the Klein family, who also won the affair in 2013 with 4-year-old filly Miz Ida.
Believe in Bertie was named after her late owner/breeder Bertram Klein who passed away in late March. The Louisville-native campaigned numerous graded stakes winners since the late 1980s with wife Elaine. The stable has been run by their son Richard in recent years.
The 4-year-old daughter of Langfuhr has six victories and four runner-up finishes through 12 starts and $393,682 in earnings.
The Cox barn is set for a big weekend that includes a trio of stakes runners at Belmont Park on the undercard of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes including: Benner Island, $700,000 Acorn (GI); Green Mask, $300,000 Jaipur (GIII); and Sassy Little Lila, $700,000 Just a Game (GI).
Cox will join Churchill Downs’ John Asher, Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein on Saturday at 10 a.m. (all times Eastern) on “Inside Churchill Downs” to discuss his stakes entrants throughout the country. The show airs locally on ESPN 680/105.7. Those outside the Louisville area can listen live online at www.espnlouisville.com.
The complete Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weight and morning line odds): Believe in Bertie (Bridgmohan, 122 pounds, 7-5); Majestic Angel (Joe Rocco Jr., 113, 30-1); Sky My Sky (Sophie Doyle, 116, 9-2); Dona Bruja (ARG) (Declan Cannon, 119, 3-1); Lots o’ Lex (Calvin Borel, 114, 15-1); Dynazar (Gabriel Saez, 115, 15-1); and Linda (Brian Hernandez Jr., 121, 5-2).
BIG WORLD GEARING UP FOR FLEUR DE LIS – Maggi Moss’ Big World is riding a four-race win streak into the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (Grade II) at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 17.
“We’re excited to run her in this spot,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “She’s been doing great since the La Troienne. The distance will be a bit of a worry but we’ll see how things shake out with the pace.”
The 4-year-old Louisiana-bred daughter of Custom for Carlos was the 7-1 upset winner in the May 5 La Troienne.
“It was an interesting pace scenario in the La Troienne,” Amoss continued. “No one really wanted to go to the lead. She broke bad and took advantage of no one setting the early pace. I think those tactics helped her a lot.”
Big World is a seven-time winner in 11 starts with four third-place finishes and $608,820 in earnings.
The Fleur de Lis Handicap will be run on the June 17 Downs After Dark 11-race program highlighted by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI). Both races are part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” program. The winner of the Stephen Foster receives an automatic berth to the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Classic while the Fleur de Lis victor receives a starting gate spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 3. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will take place at Del Mar in Southern California.
MILESTONE WATCH – Jockey Julien Leparoux is one win away from 800 career victories at Churchill Downs while trainer “Buff” Bradley is one win away from 100 career victories beneath the Twin Spires. … Trainer Dale Romans (688 victories) is 13 wins behind Churchill Downs’ all-time leading trainer Bill Mott (701).
MEET LEADERS – Twelve-time Churchill Downs champion jockey Corey Lanerie is the leading rider with 41 wins through the first 23 days of the 38-day Spring Meet – a whopping 18 more than his nearest rival Brian Hernandez Jr. … Steve Asmussen, the Hall of Fame horseman who has won a record 17 training titles at Churchill Downs, is tied with Louisville native Brad Cox atop the trainer standings with 12 wins each, one more than Brendan Walsh and Ian Wilkes. … Four owners are tied atop the Churchill Downs owners standings with four wins each: Maggi Moss, Richard Rigney’s Rigney Racing LLC, Janis R. Whitham’s Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC and perennial leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who seek their record-extending 29th local owners’ title.
THE WEEK AHEAD – The simulcast of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is the centerpiece of an action-packed, four-day, Thursday-Sunday racing week at Churchill Downs:
The Twilight Thursday abbreviated eight-race program starts at 5 p.m. and is highlighted by $1 beers, food trucks (Holy Mole, Red Top Gourmet Hot Dogs, Pollo, 502 Café, Mark’s Feed Store and Zoom Zoom Yum), live music on the Plaza stage by ’60’s-inspired funk band Vale and a Wagering 101 tent for betting advice. There also is a $56,000 jackpot carryover for the 20-cent minimum Single-6 Jackpot on Races 3-8.
Teacher Appreciation Day & Senior Day
Thursday also doubles as “Teacher Appreciation Day” at Churchill Downs where teachers can enjoy a reduced menu Chef’s Table Buffet and soft drinks in Millionaires Row 6 for only $24. A similar event is Friday for guests 60 and up but “Senior Day” is already sold out.
Advance Belmont Stakes Wagering
Advance wagering on Saturday’s 149th Belmont Stakes (Grade I) from Belmont Park will be offered all day Friday at Churchill Downs. Admission gates open Friday at 11:30 a.m. and the first of nine races is 12:45 p.m. General admission is $3. Five stakes races are carded Friday at Belmont’s 11-race program, including the $500,000 New York (GII) for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf and $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (GIII) for 4-year-olds and up at two miles on the Widener Turf Course. The two races go as Races 9 and 10 at 5:14 p.m. and 5:46 p.m., respectively, and will be televised on NBCSN’s “Belmont Access” from 5-6 p.m. Similar to Churchill Downs’ popular Oaks/Derby Double, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) will offer a pair of two-day doubles: the New York/Manhattan Double, which has a $100,000 guarantee, and the $300,000 guaranteed Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes Double.
Belmont Stakes Day at Churchill Downs
Saturday’s 13-race program at Belmont is a stakes bonanza with 10 overall, including six Grade I events. The action begins at 11:35 a.m. so Churchill Downs will open its admission gates early at 11:15 a.m. NYRA has four guaranteed wagering pools Saturday: a $500,000 Pick 5 (Races 1-5); $250,000 Pick 3 (Races 3-5); $500,000 Pick 6 (Races 6-11 ending with the Belmont Stakes); and $1.5 million Pick 4 (Races 8-11).
The pomp of the Belmont Park action will be featured prominently at Churchill Downs on Saturday with the simulcast of the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes scheduled for 6:37 p.m. – which comes after the final live race at 5:51 p.m. Video and audio of a majority of the stakes races from Belmont will be shown between races on the track’s massive Big Board when they don’t conflict with live action.
NBCSN will air action from Belmont Park from 3-5 p.m. Belmont Stakes action shifts to NBC from 5-7 p.m.
Guests at Churchill Downs will have an opportunity to enjoy New York-themed food offerings in select dining rooms and concession stands. Also, Levy Restaurants will sell the Belmont Jewel – the official drink of the Belmont Stakes (includes Woodford Reserve, lemonade, pomegranate juice and orange zest) – complete with a commemorative Belmont Stakes glass. Last call for drinks on Saturday will be “Call to the Post” for the Belmont Stakes, and all dining rooms will remain open through the big race.
Free Admission for Super Regional Attendees
Churchill Downs also plans to show on its Big Board and select television monitors throughout the facility choice action from the NCAA Division 1 Baseball Super Regional between instate rivals University of Louisville Cardinals and University of Kentucky Wildcats. The best-of-three series to clinch a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. will be held Friday-Sunday at noon at nearby Jim Patterson Stadium. All ticket-holders to those games will receive free general admission to Churchill Downs on those game days by showing their ticket stubs – perfect for any post-game celebration.
General Admission to Churchill Downs on Saturday is $5, reserved seating is $10 and reserved dining packages are $47. General admission for the racing cards on Thursday (5 p.m. first post), Friday (12:45 p.m.) and Sunday (12:45 p.m.) is $3, with reserved seating at $10 and dining at $38. Churchill Downs has a special Stakes & Eggs brunch in the Stakes Room on Sunday for $45 ($22 for children 12 and under). Tickets can be purchased in advance online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
Who’s The Champ? Handicapping Contest
The “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” returns Sunday. Interested participants can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) for a chance to win the $1,000 cash voucher first prize by placing mythical $2 win and place bets on Races 3-8. Second place receives a $500 voucher and third place is worth a $200 voucher. Registration takes place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the Clubhouse second floor at the top of the Gate 17 escalators.