Stoneway Farm’s Ahh Chocolate, winner of Pimlico’s $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff (Grade III) on May 20, recorded her final breeze Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs for Saturday night’s $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), a 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old daughter of Candy Ride went a half-mile in :49.60 under exercise rider Joel Dominguez.
“She went good,” Howard said of the work. “It was just a nice and easy half. She’s holding her form well and doing well.”
In three starts over the Churchill Downs main track, Ahh Chocolate has never been worse than second with a four-length allowance victory on Sept. 19 and a 1 ½-length triumph in the Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day. Her lone defeat at Churchill came in the Chilukki (GII) where she was second beaten 4 ½ lengths behind Spelling Again.
“When she won here last fall she was pretty much on the lead, but we’re not looking for that,” Howard said. “She usually falls into a tracking position and doesn’t get too far back and she doesn’t have to be in one set way. She gets in a comfortable position and if it’s a short field you have to be careful just in case it’s slow and there’s no company up front but she usually gets in a good and favorable position.”
Howard also will start Eagle in Saturday’s feature race, the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) for 3-year-old and up at 1 1/8 miles.
“These Grade I and Grade II races can be tough to win and shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Howard said. “But I’m confident that both horses are doing real well.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount aboard Ahh Chocolate and Eagle on Saturday.
DOTHRAKI QUEEN LOOKS TO RETURN TO THE WINNER’S CIRCLE IN REGRET – Magdalena Racing’s Dothraki Queen is in search for her first victory since a triumph in last September’s Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs, and she’ll get that chance Saturday night in the $100,000 Regret (GIII), a 1 1/8-mile turf event for 3-year-old fillies on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The daughter of Pure Prize was last seen finishing a late-closing fourth in the Black Eyed Susan (GII) beaten 2 ¾ lengths behind Go Maggie Go.
“She ran a good race that day,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who won the Regret with Bizzy Caroline (2011) and Sister Star (2004). “She was making up a lot of ground and it seems like she’s finally coming into form. We had a rough winter with her. She had a bacterial infection on her coat and the timing didn’t work out well with her for the Kentucky Oaks, but she’s definitely on the improve. She looks fit and it’s the best we’ve seen her so far.”
The Regret will be Dothraki Queen’s third start on turf. As a 2-year-old she made her career debut a winning one on the Ellis Park turf breaking her maiden by seven lengths. Her first start as a 3-year-old was on turf in the April 14 Appalachian (GIII) at Keeneland where she was a well-beaten eighth finishing 9 ¼ lengths behind Catch a Glimpse.
“She broke bad in that race,” McPeek said. “At the start of the race her front right shoe got pulled off but she’s bounced back from it real well so we’re excited for this spot.”
Jockey Corey Lanerie, the pilot in all but two of Dothraki Queen’s seven career starts, has the mount Saturday.
STEWART HAS EYES SET ON SARATOGA FOR BELMONT CONTENDERS – Trainer Dallas Stewart is looking ahead to the summer meet at Saratoga with the contingent of four horses he sent to Belmont Park last weekend.
Stewart’s pair of Belmont Stakes (GI) contenders Seeking the Soul and Forever d’Oro, who finished a respective 12th and 13th, exited the third jewel of the Triple Crown in good shape according to their trainer and will likely take a significant drop in class against allowance company for their next start.
Meanwhile, Stewart plans on sending Tom’s Ready, a deep-closing winner of the Woody Stephens (GII), to the $500,000 King’s Bishop (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 27. Forever Unbridled, a runner-up in the Ogden Phipps (GI) behind Cavorting, will target the $750,000 Personal Ensign (GI) on the same day.
“It could have been golden but we just got a bad trip,” Stewart said of Forever Unbridled’s effort on Saturday. “She was taken back, put inside and she got in trouble the whole way around. She could have won the race if she would have got a better trip, but that’s horse racing so we’ll just have to accept that and get her ready for Saratoga. (Tom’s Ready) ran an unbelievable race though, he just mowed them down.”
POSSIBLE STARTERS IN SATURDAY NIGHT’S STAKES – Known possible starters for Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, according to stakes coordinator Dan Bork (with assigned weights): Effinex (122 pounds), Majestic Harbor (118), Eagle (117), International Star (116) and El Kabeir (115). … Possible starters for the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares (with assigned weights): Untapable (120 pounds), Ahh Chocolate (118), Brooklynsway (117), Big Book (115) and Paid Up Subscriber (114). … Possible starters for the $200,000 Wise Dan (GII), a 1 1/16-mile grass event formerly known as the Firecracker: Behesht (Fr), Conquest Typhoon, Flatlined, Kasaqui (ARG), Pleuven (Fr), Thatcher Street, The Pizza Man, Trace Creek and Za Approval. … Possible starters for the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII), a 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds: Conquest Windycity, Gun Runner, Texas Chrome and Yo Carm. … Possible starters for the $100,000 Regret (GIII), a 1 1/16-mile grass event for 3-year-old fillies: Auntie Joy, Dothraki Queen, Fuhriously Kissed, Gone Away, La Piba and Try Your Luck. … Entries will be taken and post positions will be drawn Wednesday morning.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Hearty congratulations to North America’s reigning Champion Female Turf Horse Tepin, the Churchill Downs-based 5-year-old mare who won Tuesday’s $842,304 Queen Anne (GI) over one mile on “soft” turf in 1:43.98 to beat Belardo (IRE) by a half-length to kick-off the Royal Ascot meeting in England. Tepin is owned by Robert Masterson, trained by Mark Casse and was ridden by Julien Leparoux. … The theme for Saturday night’s “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and El Jimador” is the sixth annual “White Party” in which guests are encouraged to wear their best summer whites. …Musical entertainment on the Plaza Stage on Saturday night will be provided by The Bishops (www.thebishopslive.com). … The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (“KMAC”) and Churchill Downs have partnered to bring the only public showing of the 2016 KMAC Couture Collection on Saturday night. KMAC Couture Fashion Shows will be held between races in the Aristides Garden and Plaza Stage to showcase the wearable runway art that features and supports emerging and established regional artists, costumers, designers and milliners. … Bet or No Bet Presented by Thorntons returns Saturday night for Races 6-9. The promotion will give four lucky fans the chance to wager $1,000 to win on the horse of their choice in their respective race or walk away with a $100 Thorntons gift card. … Saturday night’s specialty cocktail served at select locations around the facility is the Blanco Margarita. … General admission to Churchill Downs is $10 on Saturday night. Box seats are $25 and reserved dining packages are $70. They can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets. … Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill will be on hand Saturday night to accept the engraved Kentucky Derby 142 trophies for Team Nyquist, which includes owners Paul and Zillah Reddam and jockey Mario Gutierrez. The Reddams and Gutierrez are unable to attend because of a stakes engagement at Santa Anita on Saturday. … Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who compiled a remarkable lifetime record of 31-23-2-0—$7,7552,920 from 2010-14, will return to Churchill Downs on Saturday night for the stakes race named in his honor. The former Firecracker was renamed the Wise Dan this year to honor Mort Fink’s seven-time Churchill Downs winner that won the Firecracker in 2011 and ’13 for trainer Charlie LoPresti. Wise Dan will parade to the paddock with horses for the race and remain there while the race is being run. … Churchill Downs also will pay homage to its longtime morning line odds maker and former track announcer and television analyst Mike Battaglia on Saturday night. Battaglia, who is in the midst of his 42nd year as Churchill Downs odds maker, stepped down as Turfway Park’s track announcer in March to assume the role as the track’s associate vice president. The longtime northern Kentucky resident called races at Turfway from 1973-2016. Battaglia also described the racing action at Churchill Downs from 1977-97 and served as the simulcast host from 1997-2007. … The official event logos for the 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks will be unveiled between races on Saturday night. …The Stephen Foster Handicap and Fleur de Lis Handicap are Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” stakes events which means the winners will be guaranteed berths in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI), respectively. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held Nov. 4-5 at Santa Anita. … Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will air live coverage of the Churchill Downs stakes action Saturday night from 8-10 p.m. ET. Mike Penna, Jude Feld, Ellis Star and Jennie Rees will anchor the broadcast that will air on Sirius 92, online at www.horseracingradio.net and either ESPN 680/105.7 and/or 93.9 The Ville in Louisville. … The racing week at Churchill Downs kicks off Thursday at 5 p.m. (all times Eastern) with an eight-race Twilight Thursday program that features a 21-day carryover in the Single 6 Jackpot of $560,991. The sequence covers Races 3-8 starting at 5:58 p.m. Racing on Friday starts at 12:45 p.m. Saturday night’s action begins at 6 p.m. Sunday’s Father’s Day program starts at 12:45 p.m. …Saturday night’s special post times: Race 1 (6 p.m.), Race 2 (6:28 p.m.), Race 3 (6:56 p.m.), Race 4 (7:26 p.m.), Race 5 (7:57 p.m.), Race 6 (8:30 p.m.), Race 7 (9:05 p.m.), Race 8 (9:39 p.m.), Race 9 (10:11 p.m.), Race 10 (10:42 p.m.) and Race 11 (11:10 p.m.). … Ten-time Churchill Downs champion jockey Corey Lanerie rode seven winners last week to extend his lead over night-time local leader Julien Leparoux to 44-33. Robby Albarado rode five winners last week to jump ahead of Florent Geroux, 26-23, for third and fourth, respectively. … Mark Casse, attempting to land his first Churchill Downs training title since the 1988 Spring Meet, has a 18-16 lead over five-time Churchill Downs leading trainer Mike Maker in the trainer standings. “Buff” Bradley led all trainers with four victories last week and has 10 overall, which is good for a third-place tie with two-time Churchill Downs training champion Kenny McPeek and 13-time local leader Dale Romans. … Churchill Downs’ all-time leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey remain in their familiar position atop the owner’s standings with an 11-7 lead over John C. Oxley. The Nicholasville, Ky. residents are in pursuit of their record-extending 26th local title.