Through the first nine days of the 2019 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs, jockey Gabriel Saez is proving “grit and determination” can lead to success after scoring nine victories, including a three-bagger on Saturday’s 11-race card, to vault him into a tie atop the rider standings.
“We had a good winter down at Fair Grounds and we just need to keep riding the momentum into meet here at Churchill,” Saez, 31, said. “If I keep showing the same grit and determination each race, we can prove successful at any level.”
Saez’s three-win Saturday came after a successful Derby Week with a victory aboard Mr. Money in the $400,000 Pat Day Mile presented by LG&E and KU (Grade III).
“It’s always enjoyable to ride at the highest level in this game and that’s what you see Derby Week,” Saez said. “I’ve been lucky to be put on some very live horses that made my job much easier.”
Saez began his flurry of victories Saturday in Race 7 aboard Brilliant Racing’s Eskenforit. The Panama-native returned to the winner’s circle in Race 8 aboard Frazza Cassimeris Racing’s Cause I’m Edgy and completed his trifecta in Race 10 aboard 35-1 longshot Change of Control in the first running of the $100,000 Mamzelle Overnight Stakes.
“Gabe just gave a perfect ride on (Change of Control),” trainer Michelle Lovell said. “He was so patient and waited for exactly the right moment to ask her to run. He’s been riding great lately.”
Saez, who is represented by veteran agent Derek Ducoing, began Sunday’s 10-race card tied with James Graham and Ricardo Santana Jr. in the jockey standings.
HALF-SISTER TO MULTIPLE GRADED STAKES-WINNING McCRAKEN WINS ON DEBUT AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Whitham Thoroughbreds’ With Dignity, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning McCraken, lit up the toteboard at odds of 17-1 to win Saturday’s finale under jockey Julien Leparoux.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, With Dignity rallied from seven lengths off of the early pace in the 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight contest for 3-year-old fillies to win her career debut.
“I had an idea this filly was talented all along but to win like that, on debut, was very impressive,” Wilkes said. “She started training over the winter at Palm Meadows and I had an idea to get her ready for the start of the meet at Churchill. Julien rode a great race and it was great to have the Whithams in town to watch her win.”
McCraken, who was owned and bred by Janis Whitham’s Whitham Thoroughbreds, won his career debut at odds of 5-2 before winning his next three starts that included a trio of stakes: the Street Sense, Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and Sam F. Davis (GIII).
“That was a really strong effort for a debut,” Leparoux said. “She really dug in and had to try very hard to get by the horse on the lead (Dos Vinos). She showed a lot of determination and talent to do that.”
With Dignity is a daughter of Declaration of War out of Whitham’s mare Ivory Empress. Declaration of War’s offspring have 82 victories on the turf and only 14 on the dirt.
“She has the turf in her pedigree but she really doesn’t run like a turf horse,” Wilkes said.
LOVELL CELEBRATES FIRST CHURCHILL DOWNS STAKES VICTORY WITH LONGSHOT CHANGE OF CONTROL – Trainer Michelle Lovell remained jubilant Sunday morning at Churchill Downs following her first stakes victory beneath the Twin Spires Saturday with 35-1 longshot Change of Control in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Mamzelle Overnight Stakes.
“It was such a thrilling race and such a relief to finally get this filly on turf,” Lovell said. “We’ve tried and tried to get her to run on the grass but the rain kept washing off the races. She really proved herself Saturday and it was such a fun way to get our first stakes victory in our backyard at Churchill Downs.”
Lovell, a former jockey, has been based at Churchill Downs since 2011 and one of six female trainers stabled at Churchill Downs. The others are Chelsey Coady, Vickie Foley, Monnie Goetz, Genevieve Londono and Helen Pitts.
“In an industry dominated by males, it goes to show women are just as capable of doing the job,” Lovell said.
Lovell is a native of West Palm Beach, Fla. and became a jockey in 1988. Following an eight-year stint in the saddle, Lovell began training horses in 2003 in Texas and Louisiana before shifting her stable to Kentucky.
“I still get the luxury of riding everyday getting aboard my horse (stable pony) Elwood,” Lovell said. “I enjoyed my time riding races but I also love training and seeing horses develop.”
$245,821 SINGLE 6 JACKPOT CARRYOVER, $98,666 LATE PICK 5 CARRYOVER FOR SUNDAY – A series of longshots on Saturday at Churchill Downs triggered a trio of significant carryovers for Sunday’s 10-race Mother’s Day program beneath the Twin Spires.
There is a $245,821 carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot, which will cover Races 5-10 on Sunday; a $98,666 carryover in the 50-cent Late Pick 5, which covers Races 6-10; and a $16,095 carryover in the $1 Super Hi-5, which will be held in the finale.
The Single 6 Jackpot challenges 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 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.
The Pick 5, arguably the fastest growing wager in the U.S., also features a low 15 percent takeout.
There was a $153,128 Single 6 Jackpot carryover for Saturday’s last six races but there were no tickets with six winners. Winning horses in the sequence were 3-2 favorite One Last Strike ($5); 9-5 favorite Eskenforit ($5.80), Cause I’m Edgy ($21), Han Sense ($75.60), Change of Control ($73.80) and With Dignity ($36.20). Also, there were no tickets with five in the Late Pick 5.
Sunday’s card at Churchill Downs begins at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern). The start of the Single 6 Jackpot will be 3 p.m., the Late Pick 5 starts at 3:35 p.m. and the Super Hi-5 in the finale is 5:45 p.m.
STAKES PROBABLES – Next Saturday’s 11-race program at Churchill Downs will feature the $100,000 Louisville (GIII) at 1 ½ miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The following horses are likely to enter, according to Assistant Racing Secretary and Stakes Coordinator Dan Bork: Hot Springs (trainer Steve Asmussen), Nessy (Ian Wilkes), Soglio (Mike Maker), Strike the Flag (Neil Howard), and Vettori Kin (Brz) (Kenny McPeek).
Entries for Saturday’s card take place Wednesday.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Sunday evening and be on the backstretch Monday morning to watch his Preakness Stakes (GI) contender Improbable train. … Through the first 95 races of the Spring Meet here are the tracks where the winners made their last start: Keeneland (27 or 28.4%), Oaklawn Park (24 or 25.3%), Fair Grounds (15 or 15.8%), Gulfstream Park (7 or 7.4%), first-time starters (5 or 5.3%), Churchill Downs (2 or 2.1%), Del Mar (2 or 2.1%), Laurel (2 or 2.1%), Santa Anita (2 or 2.1%), Tampa Bay Downs (2 or 2.1%), Aqueduct (1 or 1.1%), Ellis Park (1 or 1.1%), Hawthorne (1 or 1.1%), Indiana Grand (1 or 1.1%), Mahoning Valley (1 or 1.1%), Prairie Meadows (1 or 1.1%) and Woodbine (1 or 1.1%).