Jockey Florent Geroux’s bags were packed when he arrived to Churchill Downs on Wednesday for racing as the 31-year-old Frenchman was anticipating his flight to Del Mar to ride Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farm’s Gun Runner in the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“The anticipation has been killing me,” Geroux said. “I can’t wait to get out to California to ride this race.”
Arguably one of the biggest mounts in Geroux’s career, Gun Runner was made the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic as he looks to avenge his loss to 2-1 second choice Arrogate from March’s $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI).
“This could be the ride of my life,” Geroux joked. “The way this horse has been improving in each start this year leads me to believe we are coming into this race with a different type of horse. He’s much bigger and stronger as the year has been progressing. I’ve noticed a lot of maturity in him as well. Before he was like a teenager that had some natural talent but now he’s putting everything together.”
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner arrived in California more than a month ago from his home base at Churchill Downs but Geroux flew to the West Coast for his last two breezes.
“I’ll tell you what, if he runs to the way he’s been training it’s going to be very tough to beat us,” Geroux said. “He’s handled things very well out in California and has been traveling well over the surface. I’m very pleased with the way he’s coming into the race. A large credit has to go to Steve and his team for the job they’ve done training him.”
Geroux has ridden Gun Runner in his last 14 starts that have resulted eight victories, three runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes.
A native of Normandy, France, Geroux grew up with a racing background; his father, Dominique, is a former jockey and trainer. Geroux entered jockey school at age 13 and was the leading apprentice in France by the time he was 19 years old.
Like fellow French-rider Julien Leparoux, Geroux began exercising horses in California for trainer Patrick Biancone. Following a couple of injuries and troubles with his work Visa, Geroux returned to Europe for several months before coming back to the United States.
Geroux teamed with agent Doug Bredar in 2010 and shifted his tack to Churchill Downs in 2015.
“I got introduced to Flo in 2010 at Gulfstream Park,” Bredar said. “I actually ran into Patrick Biancone in an elevator and he told me to stop by the barn one morning and I’ve represented him since.
“I don’t know if I’m more nervous or excited for Gun Runner but it should be a great weekend.”
Churchill Downs will simulcast the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Southern California’s Del Mar on Friday and Saturday. Churchill Downs will run 10 races those days beginning at 2 p.m. (all times Eastern) and 2:15 p.m., respectively. A simulcast of the 10-race Championship Friday card from Del Mar will begin at 2:25 p.m. and the Breeders’ Cup will cover Races 6-9 (5:25-7:35 p.m.). Championship Saturday’s 12-race program at Del Mar will commence at 1:10 p.m., cover Races 4-12 (Breeders’ Cup starts at 3 p.m.) and culminate with the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 8:35 p.m.
In addition to the simulcasts interspersed between live races, Churchill Downs will present a stakes race on Saturday: the 32nd edition of the Grade II, $200,000 Chilukki for fillies and mares at one mile.
When live racing concludes Friday at 7:10 p.m. and Saturday at 8:15 p.m., simulcast wagering on the Breeders’ Cup will continue in the ITW area on the second floor of the Clubhouse, as well as reserved dining spaces and the Horsemen’s Services Center.
Customers who attend Churchill Downs on Friday will be able to advance wager on the entire Championship Saturday program from Del Mar. There is no advance wagering on-track Thursday for the Championship Friday program.
The first 5,000 fans in attendance on Saturday for a simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup receive a free 2018 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar, presented by Humana. The colorful calendar features major event listings and vivid and memorable images from the Kentucky Derby and around the historic racetrack. Admission gates will open at 12:30 p.m. and first race is 2:15 p.m.
OWNER, TRAINER HAWLEY ATTEMPTS ELLUSIVE GRADED STAKES PLACING FOR STEEL CUT IN SATURDAY’S $200,000 CHILUKKI – Owner/trainer Wes Hawley has added pressure for Saturday’s $200,000 Chilukki Stakes (Grade II) as Steel Cut attempts to become graded stakes placed in the final start under his care.
“I’m going to enter her in the Keeneland January Sale following this start,” Hawley said. “This is her last opportunity to get graded stakes placed. She’s been a really good horse to me and could surpass $500,000 in earnings with this start.”
Steel Cut has won multiple stakes for Hawley including the $145,000 Oklahoma City Distaff Stakes in 2016.
“She’s really been training well and I think I’ve got her in a spot that she was prior to winning the Oklahoma City Distaff in 2016,” Hawley said. “Originally the plan was to run her in this year’s Oklahoma City Distaff, then a stake at Delta. Since Delta canceled their stakes program I wasn’t sure if we would run her again before the sale and then she bounced out of the Oklahoma race well so I wanted to give her a shot in the Chilukki.”
Steel Cut, a 6-year-old mare by Cactus Ridge was the runner-up in the 2017 Oklahoma City Distaff and was defeated as the heavy-favorite by 1 ½ lengths to Inagoodway.
Hawley claimed Steel Cut for $10,000 on Jan. 18, 2015 at Oaklawn Park. The Oklahoma-bred recorded her first stakes victory by seven lengths in the Oklahoma Classics Filly and Mare Starter Allowance Stakes on Oct. 16, 2015 at Remington Park.
“Since I own her it would make this so much more special if she was able to get graded stakes placed Saturday,” Hawley said. “She has black-type in her past performances already but her value would jump if she did well in the Chilukki. Sometimes these type of claims work out for the best and I’ve been lucky to have a couple of horses that I’ve won stakes with after I’ve claimed.”
The one-mile Chilukki is the featured ninth race on Saturday’s program of 10 live races at Churchill Downs, which will also offer simulcast wagering on the races of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Del Mar. Post times for Saturday’s racing at Churchill Downs have been adjusted to accommodate the Pacific time zone schedule for the Breeders’ Cup, and the first live race at the Louisville track is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. EDT.
In an over-subscribed field of 16, Money’soncharlotte was made the 4-1 morning line favorite. Owned by George and Lori Hall and trained by Kelly Breen, Money’soncharlotte has run one time at Churchill Downs, finishing 13th in the 2015 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). The 5-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast’s 2017 campaign began swiftly with a 5 ½-length victory at Parx in an allowance race. Successive victories at Monmouth Park in the $75,000 Lady Secret Stakes and $100,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes (GIII) led Money’soncharlotte to a run at Thistledown in the $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes, which resulted in a 1 ¼-length victory. The only blemish on bay mare’s résumé this year is a runner-up effort behind Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) contender Elate in Belmont Park’s Beldame.
The field for the Chilukki from the rail out (with jockey and morning line odds): Alpine Sky (Shaun Bridgmohan 20-1); Julerette (Alex Canchari 20-1); Money’soncharlotte (Corey Lanerie 4-1); Rattataptap (Jack Gilligan 12-1); Tiger Moth (Manny Cruz 8-1); Mo D’amour (James Graham 10-1); Farrell (Channing Hill 6-1); Motown Lady (Gabriel Saez 8-1); Lake Ponchatrain (Calvin Borel 20-1); Show Stealer (Miguel Mena 15-1); Shenandoah Queen (Chris Landeros 5-1); Fuhriously Kissed (Joe Rocco Jr. 20-1); Steel Cut (Jon Court 20-1); and Kathballu (Ricardo Santana Jr. 5-1). Moiety (Alonso Quinonez 30-1) and Sweet Legacy (Francisco Torres 30-1) are on the also eligible-list and may run if any late scratches occur.
The Chilukki is named in honor of Stonerside Stable’s champion 2-year-old filly of 1999. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Cherokee Run set a pair of track records at Churchill Downs during her career. She lowered the standard for 4 ½ furlongs in her racing debut over the track at two and returned at three to set a stakes record in the race that now bears her name, but was then known as the Churchill Downs Distaff. Chilukki completed her racing career with a record of 11-3-0 in 17 races with career earnings of $1,201,828.
FREE BRISNET PAST PERFORMANCES FOR CHURCHILL DOWNS – Brisnet.com is offering horseplayers complimentary past performances for the entire Fall Meet at Churchill Downs. To download the free past performances, guests can visit: https://www.brisnet.com/product/past-performances/FPP.
ROMANS VS. MOTT – Dale Romans, a 51-year-old native of South Louisville, is just one win away from surpassing Hall of Famer Bill Mott as the all-time leading trainer in races won at Churchill Downs – a record that 64-year-old Mott has held for 31 years. Mott and Romans are tied 701 wins at Churchill Downs.
Romans Entries: Finished (Thursday, Race 8); Singing Bullet (Thursday, Race 9); Leanne N Susan (Friday, Race 10); Prado Vision (Saturday, Race 2); Tenkoz (Saturday, Race 7); Rare Form (Saturday, Race 7); Watch Me Whip (Saturday, Race 8); Iconic (Saturday, Race 8); and Kay Two (Saturday, Race 10).
Mott Entries: The Money Monster (Friday, Race 1); Morocco (Saturday, Race 8); and Rattataptap (Saturday, Race 9).
Romans and Mott will not be at Churchill Downs this weekend as both are at Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup.
MILESTONE WATCH – Along with the heated-battle between Dale Romans and Bill Mott for the all-time leading trainer honors at Churchill Downs (701-700 wins), trainer Greg Foley (398) is two wins away from 400 career-victories beneath the historic Twin Spires while trainer Ian Wilkes is targeting 200 career victories at Churchill Downs (195 wins). … Jockey Corey Lanerie is just six victories away from 900 wins at Churchill Downs. Lanerie is sixth in all-time wins at Churchill Downs, only 20 wins behind Larry Melancon (914) and 31 victories behind Don Brumfield (925).
CHURCHILL DOWNS RACING CLUB – The Churchill Downs Racing Club will be back in action during the Fall Meet, and there’s a new opportunity to join with an unraced 2-year-old colt trained by Dale Romans. Rare Form is a juvenile sired by The Factor out the Empire Maker dam Bayou Tortuga, who was purchased by Spendthrift Farm at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The gray or roan colt – a half-brother to 2016 UAE Oaks (GIII) winner and UAE Derby (GII) runner-up Polar River – is entered on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Spendthrift Farm, owned by B. Wayne Hughes, has made the promising colt available to Churchill Downs Racing Club members. The Churchill Downs Racing Club, which was inaugurated in the spring of 2016, again will give up to 200 people a low-cost pathway to introduce and experience the excitement of Thoroughbred racehorse ownership for one-time membership dues of $500.
All proceeds above the expenses of Rare Form will be donated by the Churchill Downs Racing Club to the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The Churchill Downs Racing Club is a 501(c)(7) not-for-profit social club organized for pleasure, recreational and other non-profitable purposes. Members should not join with any profit motive or expectation of profit.
Gary Palmisano will represent the club’s interest and serve as a liaison for the club’s members. Benefits will include regular e-mail updates on the horse, visits to the track in the early mornings – and breakfast on select days – to watch the horse train, trips to the paddock, watching the race in a group setting and hopefully experiencing the thrill of visiting the G.H. MUMM Winners’ Circle. Each member will receive free general admission for two to Churchill Downs in 2017-18, and invitations to exclusive Churchill Downs Racing Club events at the track.
The $500 annual membership dues are used to purchase a Thoroughbred and pay for its training fees and expenses, which will be disclosed regularly to the members. Interested parties are invited to register online at ChurchillDowns.com/RacingClub. Questions may be emailed to RacingClub@KyDerby.com.
DOWN THE STRETCH – The 50/50 charitable gaming raffle is back for the Fall Meet. Proceeds from the raffle will go towards charitable organizations that benefit from the Churchill Downs Incorporated Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that helps support the critical work of nonprofits in our industry, make a difference in important public health programs and provide meaningful opportunities in art and education. Visit www.derbygives.com to purchase tickets and for more information. … For more information about Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet visit: https://www.churchilldowns.com/racing-wagering/news/40-things-to-know-about-churchill-downs-fall-meet.