Joseph Sutton’s Bradester, upset winner of the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) in June, will be looking for another victory over the Churchill Downs main track when he makes his next start in the $175,000 Lukas Classic (listed) on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The 6-year-old son of Lion Heart, who breezed a half-mile in :48.67 at Saratoga on Friday morning, will be making his first Churchill Downs start since his Stephen Foster triumph, where he earned an automatic berth into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 5 as a part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In Classic Division” Challenge. Whether or not he takes advantage of said berth depends on his performance on Oct. 1, says trainer Eddie Kenneally.
“We may do that but we’re not sure yet,” Kenneally said. “We’ll just see how he runs. He came out of the race at Saratoga real good and he’s been doing great up there so we went ahead and kept him up there.”
Bradester will come into the Lukas Classic off a well-beaten eighth behind Shaman Ghost in the $600,000 Woodward (GI) at Saratoga on Sept. 3. However, he’s found the winner’s circle in his three other starts this year. Aside from his Stephen Foster triumph, he scored a pair of stakes wins at Monmouth Park in May’s $77,500 Majestic Light Stakes and July’s $200,000 Monmouth Cup (GII).
ASMUSSEN PRAISES 2-YEAR-OLD FILLIES – Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen sent out Golden Mischief and Vertical Oak in Thursday’s first-level allowance at Churchill Downs for 2-year-old fillies and ended up running a respective one-two.
Both fillies entered the six-furlong race with eye-opening maiden wins under their belt. Golden Mischief, a daughter of Into Mischief, emphatically won at Ellis Park on Aug. 26 by eight lengths in her fourth attempt to break her maiden. Stable mate Vertical Oak, a daughter of Giant Oak, won in her second start at Saratoga on Aug. 21 in similarly impressive fashion by 6 ¾ lengths.
“I felt good about both of the fillies,” Asmussen said. “I was disappointed that I had to run them against each other but I think they’re obviously stakes-caliber and would benefit from a race from a timing standpoint. I have a couple of races in mind but I haven’t spoken with the owners yet on what direction that they’ll go.”
According to Asmussen, a simple change in running style made a big difference for winner Golden Mischief, who showed vast improvement when running well off the pace in her last start.
“She’s a new filly since we started taking her off the pace,” Asmussen said. “She broke sharply in her first races and it didn’t work out. We felt that she was a better filly than those results showed. (Jockey) Didiel (Osorio) did a wonderful job with her at Ellis so he deserved to ride her back after doing the right thing by her and obviously she responds for him.”
CLASSIC EMPIRE BREEZES FOR KEENELAND’S BREEDERS’ FUTURITY – John C. Oxley’s promising 2-year-old Classic Empire worked from the starting gate over the Churchill Downs main track Friday morning and clocked five furlongs in :59.40 under Julien Leparoux in preparation for the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 8.
“He breezed awesome,” said trainer Mark Casse’s assistant David Carroll. “We put him in the middle of two other horses. He left there a tad slow like he normally does and then he just went on about his business, very professional. It couldn’t have gone any better. We’re very excited about the work.”
The son of Pioneerof the Nile broke his maiden first time out at Churchill Downs on May 4 before scoring a win in the Bashford Manor (GIII) on closing day of the Spring Meet. He was not quite as fortunate his last start in Saratoga’s Hopeful (GI) where he dumped rider Irad Ortiz Jr. in the beginning stages of the race.
Meanwhile, stable mate Pretty City Dancer, winner of the Debutante Stakes on closing day of the Spring Meet, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.50 at Saratoga and will target the $400,000 Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 7, which will be her first start since a dead-heat victory with Sweet Loretta in Saratoga’s Spinaway (GI).
HERNANDEZ ENJOYING SUCCESSFUL SEPTEMBER MEET – Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. had a prosperous meet at Kentucky Downs finishing second behind Florent Geroux with seven victories, and has carried such success into the September Meet, leading all other riders with six wins through the first four days of the 11-day stand at Churchill Downs.
“I guess that helped get me going,” Hernandez said of his Kentucky Downs success. “We’re just fortunate that our horses fit in the right races. I’m just fortunate to be riding the right horses at the right time right now. Without them we wouldn’t be anywhere so we’re riding for the right people and fast horses help.”
Hernandez, who secured his 400th win beneath the Twin Spires last Saturday aboard Society Beau, spoke of the possibility of scoring his first riding title for the September Meet
“Of course you always want to win a title,” Hernandez said “But I never really think about it too much because when you start thinking about it, it just adds extra worrying. I just go out there and try to get on the right horses and doing the best I can and that’s what I’ve been doing lately.”
DOWNS AFTER DARK SET FOR SATURDAY NIGHT; BEN SOLLEE, LINKIN’ BRIDGE TO PERFORM – Bourbon, Bets and Bow Ties is the theme for Saturday night’s Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Woodford Reserve – the final nighttime racing event of the year at Churchill Downs.
The evening is an opportunity to celebrate the best of the south including bourbon, Thoroughbred racing and fashion. Track officials plan to infuse a contemporary, yet timeless Southern style into everything from food to music and décor.
An outstanding doubleheader of musical entertainment on the Plaza stage will be provided by Kentucky-born cellist and composer Ben Sollee (7:15-9 p.m.) and the incredibly-popular Louisville group Linkin’ Bridge (9:30-10:45 p.m.), who recently was a Top 10 finalist on the hit television series America’s Got Talent.
Other event highlights include special bourbon-infused dishes from local food trucks and craft cocktails from the pop-up Plaza Bourbon Bar, and interaction with famous prohibition-era Kentuckians courtesy of the Frazier History Museum.
Trouble with bow ties? Have your bow tie tied for you at the vineyard vines pop-up shop with bow tie tying stations in the Plaza. Guests can bring their own or shop for the latest vineyard vines bow tie designs and purchase one on-site.
Attendees also can get personalized wagering advice at the Wagering 101 tent near the Plaza and enter Bet or No Bet presented by Thorntons for the chance to place a $1,000 win bet on Races 6-9.
Admission gates open at 5 p.m. and the first of 11 races is 6 p.m. General admission is $10 and reserved seat packages start at $25. The final race of the evening is scheduled for 11:10 p.m. but the party continues until midnight.
Party For A Purpose will be held in the Grandstand Area to benefit the Forecastle Foundation. Attendees will be able to enjoy the sounds of local DJ Matt Anthony and internationally acclaimed Red Bull Thre3style World Champion DJ Hedspin, craft cocktails and a dance floor that overlooks the track. VIP Cabanna Access includes a full premium bar at $59 and General Party Access is $15.
Also available is the Original Makers Club Courtyard Lounge, where guests can enjoy the Sport of Kings trackside from the Section 119 Courtyard, live music, regionally-inspired small-plate style fare, beer, wine and Woodford Reserve cocktails. The ticket price is $150 and is limited to 275 guests.
DOWN THE STRETCH – The fields for three stakes races on Oct. 1 are beginning to take shape. Known probable starters for the $175,000 Lukas Classic, a 1 1/8 mile event for 3-year-olds and upward, according to track stakes coordinator Dan Bork: Bradester, Breaking Lucky, Bullards Alley, Hawaakom, and Honorable Duty. Probables for the $100,000 Jefferson Cup (listed), a one mile event for 3-year-olds on the Matt Winn Turf Course include Baharona and Surgical Strike. The $100,000 Ack Ack (GIII), a one mile event on the main track for 3-year-olds an upward will likely attract reigning Champion Sprinter Runhappy and Schivarelli.