The new Churchill Downs Stable Gate was bustling with activity Thursday morning as trainers continue to fill the backstretch of Churchill Downs. As of 11 a.m., there were more than 720 horses on the grounds with trainers such as Chad Brown, Norm Casse and Ian Wilkes all expected to nearly fill their stalls by the end of the day.
Training continued Thursday at Churchill Downs including the first published workouts over the track since late December. Five horses donned the work tab including a swift :47.80 half-mile move for the Larry Jones-trained Istan Council with jockey Gabriel Saez aboard.
“I never realized how much I missed Churchill,” Saez said. “The track feels great and I’m so happy to be back home. It’s going to be a good meet. It’ll be competitive but I’m ready to go.”
Jockey James Graham made his first spin around the Churchill Downs oval in nearly six months as he worked a horse out of the gate for trainer Tom Amoss. Graham and Saez are two of 49 different jockeys expected to ride on opening weekend of the Spring Meet.
Three-time Churchill Downs leading trainer Brad Cox’s Barn 22 continues to fill with nearly all of his horses arriving on the grounds including champion Monomoy Girl. The Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) winner trained at 7:30 a.m. Thursday alongside of Monnie Goetz aboard arguably the most famous racetrack pony in the world, Harley.
“This is one of the many reasons why it is so great everyone is home,” Goetz said.
Brown, one of the nation’s top training outfits, will be based in Barn 25 with a string of 24 horses under the watch of assistant trainer Whit Beckman, a Louisville native who graduated St. Xavier High School in 2000.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was originally scheduled to have a small string of horses at Churchill Downs but plans to stay in California and ship entrants to fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas as need be, according to senior director of the stable area Steve Hargrave.
Training will resume Friday at 5:30 a.m.
TRAINERS CONTINUE TO MAKE PLANS FOR NEXT SATURDAY’S STEPHEN FOSTER PREVIEW DAY – Stephen Foster Preview Day on Saturday, May 23 at Churchill Downs is highlighted by five stakes including the $150,000 Matt Winn (Grade III) worth 50-20-10-5 points to the Top 4 finishers on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Other stakes on the card are the $100,000 Blame (4-year-olds and up at one-mile); $100,000 Shawnee (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles); $100,000 War Chant (3-year-olds at one-mile on turf) and $100,000 Tepin (3-year-old fillies at one-mile on turf).
Here are some of the early probable entrants, according to Churchill Downs’ assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Dan Bork (with trainers):
$150,000 Matt Winn (GIII): Crypto Cash (Kenny McPeek); Major Fed (Greg Foley); Max Player (Linda Rice); Maxfield (Brendan Walsh); Necker Island (Stanley Hough); and Shake Some Action (Brad Cox).
$100,000 Blame: Alwaysmining (Kelly Rubley); Backyard Heaven (Mike Maker); Bourbon Resolution (Ian Wilkes); Global Campaign (Hough); Long Range Toddy (Dallas Stewart); Mr. Money (Bret Calhoun); Owendale (Cox); and Wind of Change (Efren Loza Jr.).
$100,000 Shawnee: Awe Emma (Stewart); Dunbar Road (Chad Brown); and Motion Emotion (Richard Baltas).
$100,000 War Chant: Fenwick Station (Kenneally); Field Pass (Maker); Hieronymus (Cox); Shared Sense (Cox); Street Ready (Wilkes); and Turned Aside (Rice).
$100,000 Tepin: Abscond (Eddie Kenneally); Dominga (Cox); Heir of Light (Norm Casse); Jezebel’s Kitten (Cox); Outburst (Kenneally); Pass the Plate (Paul McGee); Queen of God (Maker); and Sharing (Graham Motion).
Several of these horses are expected to put in their final works this weekend, including Godolphin’s $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner Maxfield who will remain at Keeneland for his final breeze prior to shipping to Churchill for the Matt Winn, according to trainer Brendan Walsh. Maxfield recorded a five-furlong bullet move in :59.20 out of the gate on May 10 at Keeneland with Jose Ortiz aboard.
For a full list of nominations, visit: https://www.churchilldowns.com/horsemen/stakes/nominations/
ASMUSSEN POISED FOR ALL-TIME TRAINING TITLE; ONLY SEVEN WINS BEHIND ROMANS – Dale Romans’ all-time leading trainer reign at Churchill Downs could be up for grabs in the Spring Meet as Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trails by only seven-wins (737-730).
Asmussen has nine entries on Opening Weekend while Romans has three. For a full list of entries visit www.churchilldowns.com/horsemen.
FREE BRISNET PAST PERFORMANCES THROUGHOUT SPRING MEET – Churchill Downs will offer handicappers free Brisnet past performances courtesy of Ford each day of the 25-day Spring Meet.
Horseplayers can visit www.churchilldowns.com/racing-handicapping/handicapping/expert-picks for complementary Brisnet past performances along with daily expert selections from Ed DeRosa, Joe Kristufek and Scott Shapiro of TwinSpires.com and several other handicapping tips including workouts of the day from expert clocker Bruno DeJulio.
JOCKEY, TRAINER, OWNER RACE EXPECTED TO BE MOST COMPETITIVE IN RECENT YEARS – The Spring Meet Leading Jockey, Trainer and Owner races have typically included the same names over the last decade. That could change this meet as each of the races are expected to be as competitive as ever with many new faces gunning for titles.
Here are the Spring Meet leading jockey, trainer and owners over the last 10 years:
Jockeys: 2019 – Corey Lanerie; 2018 – Brian Hernandez Jr.; 2017 – Lanerie; 2016 – Lanerie; 2015 – Lanerie; 2014 – Lanerie; 2013 – Shaun Bridgmohan; 2012 – Lanerie; 2011 – Julien Leparoux; 2010 – Calvin Borel.
Trainers: 2019 – Steve Asmussen; 2018 – Asmussen; 2017 – Asmussen; 2016 – Mark Casse; 2015 – Mike Maker; 2014 – Asmussen; 2013 – Asmussen, Maker; 2012 – Dale Romans; 2011 – Asmussen; 2010 – Asmussen.
Owners: 2019 – Calumet Farm, Maggi Moss, Ken and Sara Ramsey; 2018 – Ramsey; 2017 – Moss; 2016 – Ramsey; 2015 – Ramsey; 2014 – Moss; 2013 Ramsey; 2012 – Midwest Throughbreds; 2011 – Midwest Thoroughbreds; 2010 – Moss.
For a complete list of Churchill Downs’ leading connections, visit www.kentuckyderby.com/media.
INSIDE CHURCHILL DOWNS RETURNS FRIDAY ON ESPN LOUISVILLE – “Inside Churchill Downs” will make its long-awaited return to the airwaves on Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN 680/105.7.
Churchill Downs’ Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein along with BetAmerica and TwinSpires.com’s Scott Shapiro will host the one-hour program that features interviews and handicapping information with jockeys, trainers and industry experts. Those outside the Louisville area can listen live on www.espnlouisville.com.