Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will attempt to win the $100,000 Bashford Manor Presented by GE Appliances (Grade III) for an impressive fifth time when he saddles eye-catching eight-length maiden winner Copper Bullet against five others, including well-meant juveniles Mo Diddley and Ten City, in Friday night’s 116th renewal of the six-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds – the first of three stakes events on closing night of Churchill Downs’ 38-day Spring Meet.
The Bashford Manor is the first of three stakes events on a deep 11-race nighttime card billed as “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka.” Admission gates open Friday at 5 p.m. (all times Eastern), the first race is 6 p.m. and the “Downs After Dark” theme is “Downs Does the Decades” in which guests are encouraged to dress in their favorite attire from the 1950s to the ’90s.
The Bashford Manor – one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races – kick-starts the stakes tripleheader in Race 6 at approximately 8:30 p.m. The $100,000 Debutante, a listed six-furlong event for 2-year-old fillies, goes as Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. The $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, is scheduled as Race 10 at 10:42 p.m.
Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing’s Copper Bullet, a Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready that was purchased for $200,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, recorded one of the nation’s top speed figures for juveniles when he won the second race of his career, a five-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs on May 25, by a widening eight lengths in :57.76. There have been 188 juvenile winners in North America to date this year, and Copper Bullet’s performance was one of only seven that were given a Beyer Speed Figure of 75 or better (note: the others are He Hate Me, 78; Mel’s Gone Wild, 78; Gold Label, 77; Earth, 76; Psychoanalyze, 76; and Gorgeous Ginny, 75.
“He actually looks like a 3-year-old,” said Churchill Downs’ official clocker John Nichols, who observes and records all workouts between 6-10 a.m. daily. “He’s just a big, good-looking, strapping colt. He’s got a lot of size to him. He’s one I think that might kind of like the grass down the line but the way he won his second start here … he cleared that easy and the rider (Florent Geroux) just really never asked him.
“He’s come back and trained well since. He’s been working head-and-head the last three weeks with She’s a Julie, who Asmussen is putting in the Debutante; she’s a nice filly – probably his best at this time of the year right now.”
Asmussen, who has won six 2-year-old races at the Spring Meet, has won the Bashford Manor four times – Lunarpal (2004), Kodiak Kowboy (2007), Kantharos (2010) and Cinco Charlie (2014) – and another victory would equal Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ record for the race.
Chief among Copper Bullet’s rivals will be Gary Barber and Cheyenne Stable LLC’s Mo Diddley and Tommie M. Lewis’ Ten City.
Mo Diddley, an Uncle Mo colt purchased for $450,000 as a yearling at the Saratoga August sale, overcame a troubled start to win at first-asking by a head over 4 ½ furlongs in :52.59 on May 18 at Churchill Downs for trainer Mark Casse, who won last year’s Bashford Manor with eventual 2-year-old champion and recent Preakness (GI) runner-up Classic Empire.
“Mo Diddley was kind of workman-like first-time out,” Nichols said. “He broke a step slow first time out in the outside hole which is one place I kind of don’t like to be with 2-year-olds because they can break to the daylight. But he broke slow that day and rushed up on them, was wide and kind of grinded it out.
“He’s come back and worked great three times since then. They worked him with Summer Luck on June 2 and he held his own with her; she’s a stakes-type filly. On June 11 and June 22, he was heads up with Conquest Typhoon, who is an older stakes horse. The horse seems like he’s coming into the Bashford Manor well.”
Ten City, a bargain $12,000 yearling purchase by Run Away and Hide, was a dominant debut winner at Keeneland for trainer Kenny McPeek when he won his 4 ½-furlong debut on April 19 by seven lengths in :51.34.
“I had a chance to watch Ten City (at Keeneland this spring) and he showed talented on Day One,” Nichols said. “He was better than his company from the gate up there; he went (four furlongs in) :47 or something from the gate in hand and looked like a freak the way he won that day at Keeneland. He was on the outside and he just drew off. Robby (Albarado) just took him in hand late. He seems like a pretty nice colt, really.”
The field also includes a pair of winners over Presque Isle Downs’ synthetic surface – I’m Corfu and Fig Jelly – and Texas invader Hardworkcleanlivin.
The Bashford Manor field from the rail out (with jockeys): I’m Corfu (Arienne Cox); Hardworkcleanlivin (Channing Hill); Mo Diddley (Corey Lanerie); Fig Jelly (Mario Pino); Copper Bullet (Geroux); and Ten City (Albarado).
I’m Corfu and Fig Jelly will carry 122 pounds, while all others tote 120.
First run in 1902, the Bashford Manor is named for the former Louisville Thoroughbred breeding and racing farm that dominated the American racing scene in the early 1900s. George J. Long, a wealthy foundry owner, purchased Bashford Manor Farm in 1887 and developed his Thoroughbred operation that provided him two Derby wins as an owner, 1892 (Azra) and 1906 (Sir Huon), and three as a breeder, 1892 (Azra), 1899 (Manuel) and 1906 (Sir Huon). In addition, Bashford Manor also won the Kentucky Oaks in 1894 (Selika) and 1915 (Kathleen). The original Wilder family owned Bashford Manor. The Wilders were direct descendants of Lord Baltimore, whose English home was also called Bashford Manor. Long died in 1930 and the farm was eventually sold in 1973 to make way for the development of a mall complex, fittingly named Bashford Manor, that formally closed in 2003.
General admission to Churchill Downs is $10 on Friday night. Box seats are $25 and reserved dining packages are $70. They can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets. New this year is the Guest Chef Series @ Millionaire’s Row, which will showcase Chef Patrick Roney of Harvest. The $149 tickets include a specially-designed menu by Roney and a full-bar package featuring specialty cocktails by Finlandia Vodka. All ticket options can be purchased online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
The evening’s entertainment includes music on the Plaza Stage courtesy of The Wannabeatles from 6-7:30 p.m., Tony & The Tan Lines from 7:30-11 p.m. and DJ Matt Anthony from 11 p.m. until midnight. There also will be a decades-inspired fashion contest, disco and cocktail demonstrations, Kentucky’s largest disco ball, the Magbooth Retro Bus Photo Booth and “Bet or No Bet” where four lucky fans can take $100 in cash or place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in Races 6-9.
Because it’s closing night, there is a mandatory payout in Churchill Downs’ 20-cent minimum Single-6 Jackpot, which began Sunday with a $126,075 carryover. The daily six-race sequence has challenged bettors to select the winners of six consecutive races but the Jackpot pool only is paid if there is a single winning ticket. When multiple tickets contain six winners – which has been the case for each of the last 19 race days – 90 percent of that day’s pool is paid out and 10 percent is added to the Jackpot carryover. Takeout on the Single-6 Jackpot is just 15 percent, which is one of the lowest multi-race wager takeout rates in American racing.
Friday night’s Single-6 Jackpot, including any added money in the carryover, will be paid to ticket holders with the most winners in the six-race series, which covers Races 5-10 starting at approximately 7:57 p.m.