Archive for November, 2013

Will Take Charge picture perfect in Clark Handicap triumph

Those chromed-out chestnut legs just kept coming. They determinedly churned the way they have all during one of the great second-half blooming sprees in recent seasons, but never as impressively as when they came upon one of the nation’s leading older horses in the Churchill Downs stretch Friday evening.

 
Twenty seven days earlier, Will Take Charge’s limbs brought him within a nose of victory in the country’s richest race. In Friday’s Grade I, $550,700 Clark Handicap, the eleventh start of his sophomore campaign, they defined the son of Unbridled’s Song as the likely champion of his celebrated division.

 
It doesn’t quite make up for his narrow loss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic earlier this month. Still, watching Will Take Charge wear down multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude to nip that one by a head in the 1 1/8-miles Clark produced as satisfying a smile as Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has flashed in years.

 
Where more than one of his peers have already been retired to the breeding shed, Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge has awed his connections with the way he has gone from being unplaced in all three Triple Crown races to a virtual lock to earn the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old male.

 
The progression that has allowed the splashy chestnut to win the Grade I Travers, Grade II Pennsylvania Derby and bring his white nose within an inch of Mucho Macho Man in the Classic was capsulated in his surge beneath the Twin Spires. After rolling up alongside Jaguar Paw off the final turn, jockey Luis Saez went to the left-handed whip on Will Take Charge with Game On Dude about two lengths clear in the stretch and got a slow-burn response, catching the seven-time Grade I winner with a steady outside kick.

 
“I thought this was maybe his best race of the year even though the Breeders’ Cup was sensational,” said Lukas, who stands to have his first Eclipse Award winner since Folklore in 2005. “But on this particular day going an eighth of a mile shorter, I think he showed his versatility pretty good today.

 
“He’s gotten the idea now. He’s a classy horse and he’s gotten the idea of getting up and he seems to know where the wire. The last four strides you could see…they were long those strides.”

 
Even had Will Take Charge gotten his blaze-face down first in the Classic, Lukas said he and Horton might still have led the colt over against the eight other challengers in the Clark.
Back in May, Will Take Charge was a much less handy version of himself. Though he was making what appeared to be a winning move in the Kentucky Derby, he lost all momentum when he ran up on a tiring Verrazano and ended up eighth.

 
Once the Triple Crown was in the books, Lukas took the blinkers off the colt and saw the gangly kid start becoming a man. Following a second place effort in the Jim Dandy, Will Take Charge edged Moreno by a nose in the Travers and has been able to build upon his form where the grind took down others.

 
“I’ll go to my grave believing we could have won the Kentucky Derby,” Lukas said. “After that set him back a little bit, it didn’t play very good for the Preakness and the Belmont but then we had a little time get him right again.”

 
Game On Dude likely lost his Horse of the Year aspirations when he finished ninth as the favorite in the Classic. Still the 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding put in a bang-up effort in the Clark, sitting just off Our Double Play through a half in :47.29 before taking command coming off the far turn.

 
“He had to work at it that first half a little, but turning for home I really thought that it was ours,” said Bob Baffert, trainer of Game On Dude. “But that other horse, he just found a way to get up there and get us. If you’re a racing fan, it was a great race to watch.”

 
Will Take Charge, who rated not far off the leaders in fourth, hit the wire in 1:49.39 over a fast track with even-money favorite Game On Dude two lengths ahead of Easter Gift in third.

 
With end of the year honors now seemingly moot, Horton must make the call on whether to bring Will Take Charge back for a 4-year-old campaign or bend to the stud farms burning up his phone.

 
“I made a decision this week that next week was going to be the end of it – I can’t sleep at night with this deal going on,” Horton said. “I’m either going to sell him or run him next year. I hope I could keep part of him and get to run him next year.

 
“This is a lifelong dream. This is what I’ve been waiting on and I’ve finally got it.”

 

Champion Groupie Doll signals readiness in final Cigar Mile breeze

There are few opinions trainer Buff Bradley trusts more than that of his exercise rider Jada Schlenk. In the aftermath of working champion Groupie Doll four furlongs in 48.55 at Belmont Park Monday in preparation for Saturday’s Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, Schlenk declared that the two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner may be sitting on her best career effort yet.

“Jada told me that she (Groupie Doll) has never worked better than she did today,” Bradley said. “She got over the track good, her ears were pricked all the way down the lane and galloping out. Jada, she really had to work hard to even get her pulled up, she was wanting to do more.”

Groupie Doll will be facing males for the second consecutive year in the Cigar Mile, having finished second by a scant nose in last year’s edition to Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty. As was the case in 2012, the daughter of Bowman’s Band is coming off a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park on November 2 but should be a fresher horse in this engagement as she has only had four prior starts this season.

“That’s what I think,” said Bradley, who co-bred Groupie Doll and campaigned her along with his father Fred Bradley and partners before selling her to Mandy Pope for $3.1 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale earlier this month. “We had her where we needed to be on Breeders’ Cup day but I think now she’s really good where she is. The timing is right and she’s just doing that good.”

Monday’s move was the second work for Groupie Doll since selling to Pope at the November sale, having worked four furlongs in 48.61 on November 16.  A field of nine is expected for the Cigar Mile including Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents and fellow Grade I winners Verrazano, Private Zone, Flat Out and Capo Bastone.

“All others” deemed 2-to-5 favorite as earliest KDFW gets set to open

 Edited release:
Thanksgiving Weekend racing fans looking for great deals on contenders for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby have  opportunities this week to do their earliest shopping ever as Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) opens a four-day run on Wednesday, Nov. 27. The first Thanksgiving weekend KDFW pool will close Saturday, Nov. 30, just before the renewals of a pair of major early prep races for the big event on the first Saturday in May.
Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia has installed the “All Others” wagering interest (#24) as the odds-on 2-to-5 favorite at this early stage on the journey to the 2014 Derby but the support for the anticipated favorite should provide Derby fans with opportunities to secure attractive odds on the remaining 23 individual stars included among the pool’s 24 betting interests.
The special four-day Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool – the first ever offered before Derby contenders enter their 3-year-old seasons on New Year’s Day – will open Wednesday at noon (all times Eastern) and closes Saturday, Nov. 30 prior to post time of either the Grade II, $400,000 Remsen  at Aqueduct or Churchill Downs’ Grade II, $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club – which ever race comes first.
Both events for 2-year-olds are part of the “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” that offer points – 10 to first, 4 to second, 2 to third and 1 to fourth – that will ultimately determine the 20 participants for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 3, 2014.
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager, launched by Churchill Downs in 1999, is a pari-mutuel wager that allows racing fans the opportunity to wager on potential Derby contenders well in advance of the race at odds that could be significantly more attractive than those available on the day the classic race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds is run..
For example, Orb paid $12.80 to win on race day of the 2013 Kentucky Derby but returned $26.20 in Pool 2 and $29.60 for a $2 bet in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.
 
With the mutuel field, or “All Others,” expected to attract overwhelming fan support in this week’s four-day betting pool, very attractive odds could be available on highly-regarded young stars that include:
  • Honor Code (#10 and 15-1 in Battaglia’s morning line), the anticipated favorite in Saturday’s Remsen for trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the 2013 Derby with Orb;
  • New Year’s Day (#15, 20-1), winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Tap It Rich (#23, 30-1), a pair of colts trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert;
  • Trainer Pat Byrne’s probable Kentucky Jockey Club favorite Almost Famous (#1, 20-1);
  • Strong Mandate (#21, 30-1), the top hope to provide legendary Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas with his fifth-Kentucky Derby victory;
  • Unbeaten Cairo Prince (#4, 30-1), the exciting winner of the Nashua Stakes (GII) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin;
  • Shared Belief (#20, 30-1) and Tamarando (#22, 50-1), a pair of young stars with potential to provide Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer with his first Kentucky Derby triumph;
  • And trainer Todd Pletcher’s trio of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana (#9, 30-1), Commissioner (#6, 50-1) and Misconnect (#14, 50-1), any of which could earn a second Derby win for their champion conditioner.
 
 
Both wagers offer $2-minimum win betting and exacta wagering, which is available in the form of $2 minimum straight exacta bets or $1-minimum exacta boxes and part-wheels. No scratches or betting refunds are permitted in either wager, but wagering on a Derby or Oaks Future Wager horse will be suspended immediately if Churchill Downs determines that injury, illness or other circumstance revealed during a pool would prevent a horse from competing in their respective race.
All winning payouts are determined by the odds in place at the end of each respective betting pool.
More than $1.4 million was wagered on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager in 2012 and 2013, respectively – the highest totals since 2006 when the wager was offered in a three-pool, four-day format.
KDFW Pool 2, Pool 3 and Pool 4 – along with a single Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (“KOFW”) pool which will coincide with KDFW Pool 3 – will be three-day pools that open at noon on Thursday. But in a change this year, each pool will close on Saturday afternoon prior to post time of a designated race on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” or “Road to the Kentucky Oaks.” Previously, the KDFW pools opened on a Friday and closed on Sunday at 6 p.m.
The dates for the four Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools leading up to Derby 140 are:
  • KDFW Pool 1: Wednesday, Nov. 27-Saturday, Nov. 30 (4 days)
  • KDFW Pool 2: Thursday, Feb. 6-Saturday, Feb. 8 (3 days)
  • KDFW Pool 3: Thursday, Feb. 27-Saturday, March 1 (3 days)
  • KDFW Pool 4: Thursday, March 27-Saturday, March 29 (3 days)
 
The date for the only Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool is:
  • KOFW Pool 1: Thursday, Feb. 27-Saturday, March 1 (3 days)
 
Wagering on the Kentucky Derby and Oaks Future Wager will be offered at Churchill Downs and racetracks throughout North America; viaTwinSpires.com, the official online wagering site of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs Incorporated; other advance deposit wagering sites; and simulcast centers and off-track wagering sites.
Wagering interests for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool were selected by a panel consisting of veteran turf writer Gary West; Daily Racing Form West Coast Correspondent and HRTV analyst Brad Free, Brisnet Director of Marketing Ed DeRosa, and Churchill Downs’ John Asher.
Real-time odds and other information on the KDFW are available at the official event Web site at www.KentuckyDerby.com, and information on the KOFW is available at www.KentuckyOaks.com.
KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGER POOL 1
    Morning Line odds by Mike Battaglia
       #    Wagering Interest         ML odds
  1. Almost Famous            20-1
  2. Bobby’s Kitten                   50-1
  3. Bondholder                      50-1
  4. Cairo Prince                    30-1
  5. Cleburne                        50-1
  6. Commissioner            50-1
  7. Coup de Grace           50-1
  8. Financial Mogul         50-1
  9. Havana                  30-1
  10. Honor Code                      15-1
  11. In Trouble                      50-1
  12. Kobe’s Back                     50-1
  13. Mexikoma                        50-1
  14. Misconnect                      50-1
  15. New Year’s Day          20-1
  16. Noble Moon                      50-1
  17. Pablo Del Monte         50-1
  18. Ride On Curlin          50-1
  19. Rise Up                 50-1
  20. Shared Belief                   30-1
  21. Strong Mandate          30-1
  22. Tamarando                       50-1
  23. Tap It Rich                     30-1
  24. ALL OTHER 3YOS          2-5

Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can retired

Brereton Jones’ homebred Believe You Can, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks, has been retired to Airdrie Stud to begin her career as a broodmare, her connections confirmed Friday.

Believe You Can was being pointed toward a start in the Grade II Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day. However, trainer Larry Jones was not happy with the way the daughter of Proud Citizen bounced out of her five furlong work in 1:00.80 on November 16 and said Thursday she would not be entered in that contest.

The 4-year-old filly was sent to Airdrie Stud for an evaluation on Thursday and, after some discussion, the decision was made that the dark bay distaffer had done enough in her 14-race career.

“She has just been so wonderful to us and quite frankly I think she’s going to make a great broodmare,” said Brereton Jones, owner of Airdrie. “I started thinking that if I get her wound up and go back and try for another big year, I would feel awful if she got hurt in the process. She’s done so much for us.”

Brereton Jones also confirmed that Airdrie had recently sold champion Proud Spell, its homebred 2008 Kentucky Oaks winner, to an undisclosed buyer overseas.

Proud Spell is also a daughter of Airdrie stallion Proud Citizen.

“I have Proud Spell’s first foal … and then I’ve got her second and third foal so we’re not without the family,” Jones said. “It is a business but sometimes  you make decisions your pocketbook tells you to make but your heart flutters a few times in the process. ”

Believe You Can’s three-quarter length triumph over Broadway’s Alibi in the 2012 Kentucky Oaks was a historic one as it made her jockey Rosie Napravnik the first female rider to capture the filly classic. Believe You Can would make one more start that year, finishing third in the Grade I Mother Goose Stakes, before being freshened for a 4-year-old campaign.

“Two win two Kentucky Oaks, both of them being Proud Citizen fillies and both for the same owner, people don’t realize how special that was,” Larry Jones said. “She  (Believe You Can) is going out 100 percent physically sound. She has done enough. And they will start getting her ready for her next job.”

Believe You Can opened 2013 with back-to-back wins in the Tiffany Lass and New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds before finishing third in the Grade II La Troienne Stakes  at Churchill in May and sixth in the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park on May 27.

Out of the El Prado mare, El Fasto, Believe You Can retires with eight wins from 14 career starts and $1,280,324 in earnings.

Will Take Charge pleases Lukas in final pre-Clark move

Grade 1 winner Will Take Charge was put through his final serious paces in preparation for next week’s Grade 1  Clark Handicap, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 flat beneath the drizzle at Churchill Downs Friday morning.

The damp conditions were of little concern for the son of  Unbridled’s Song as he clocked splits of 12.40, 24, 35.40 with a six furlong gallop out  in 1:16.40. The move was the second for Will Take Charge since his runner-up finish by a nose to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’  Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 2.

“There isn’t a lot you want to do coming off a tough race so I’ve been trying got hold him in a real solid pattern,” trainer D.  Wayne Lukas said after the breeze. “He’s responded very, very well. I’m totally comfortable we’re he is at. He’s not only holding his form, I think he’s moving forward.”

Owned  by Willis Horton, Will Take Charge would be making his 11th start of the year in the 1 1/8-miles Clark next Friday. The rangy chestnut is already favored to be named champion 3-year- old male off his wins in the Grade 1 Travers and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby combined with his strong Breeders’ Cup showing, but Lukas said cementing hardware was at best a mild factor in the decision to run in the Clark.

“It (winning the Eclipse Award) is probably a little on the back burner but not too much,”  the Hall of Famer said. “I think I’d rather address the Clark as a Grade 1 race with a good purse with a horse that is doing well.”

Among the challengers Will Take Charge is slated to face in the Clark are multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude, fellow Grade 1 winner Golden Ticket and graded stakes winner Bourbon Courage. Game On Dude, who had his six-race winning streak snapped when he ran ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was assigned the highweight of 126 pounds for the $500,000-added Clark Handicap, three more pounds than Will Take Charge.

Lukas was set to head to Calumet Farm Friday where he was going to check on graded stakes winner Optimizer, who has not run since being  eased in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga on August  17.

Grade 1 winner Golden Ticket joins loaded cast for Clark Handicap

Courtesy of Churchill Downs publicity team:

 The prospective field for the Grade I, $500,000-added Clark Handicap next Friday now includes another Grade I winner following trainer Kenny McPeek’s decision to run Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket in the Nov. 29 race.
The 4-year-old son of Speightstown joins Game On Dude, winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic, and the 3-year-old Will Take Charge, runner-up to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic  and winner of the Grade I Travers, among the Grade I winners being pointed to the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up.
Golden Ticket finished in a dead-heat for first with Alpha in the 2012 Travers at Saratoga and has run very well in Grade I company this year.  His best outings of 2013 include a runner-up finish to Goldencents in the recent Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile  and a runner-up finished to Fort Larned in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
McPeek had been weighing options for Golden Ticket that included a possible run in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct before he settled on staying home at Churchill Downs for a Clark bid.
“A couple of his better speed figures are here at Churchill, plus he doesn’t have to ship,” McPeek said. “That race in New York looked like it was coming up pretty deep with a big field. The Clark looks like it will have a shorter field.”
The 2013 campaign for Golden Ticket has been strong. He has compiled a record of 3-2-1 in eight races with earnings of $442,988. His career slate stands at 5-6-3 in 20 starts with $1,091,323 in lifetime earnings.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the final pre-Clark Handicap work for Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge has been moved up to Friday because of concerns about a soggy weather forecast for Louisville over the weekend.

 

Lukas said Will Take Charge is most likely to work in his first set when the track opens at 6 a.m. (all times Eastern), but would not rule out waiting until after the mid-session break for the grooming of the track. The latter option would put the work at around 8:20 or 8:30 a.m.

“He’s really having a good week,” Lukas said. “It’s not one of those works that we’re looking for anything more than just to open his lungs a little bit.”
With the addition of Golden Ticket to the Clark, the roster of known probable starters for the race includes (with trainers): Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder),Easter Gift (Chad Brown), Finnegans Wake (Romans), Game On Dude (Bob Baffert), Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek), Prayer for Relief (Steve Asmussen) and Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas). Possible: Jaguar Paw (Stephen Lyster).
Trainer Pat Byrne took a look at weather forecasts over the next few days and decided that Thursday was the best shot at good conditions for the final pre-race work for Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s Almost Famous, a contender for the Grade II, $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club on Saturday, Nov. 30.
The 2-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song headed to the fast main track at Churchill Downs just after the morning maintenance break and breezed three furlongs in :36.40 under jockey Corey Lanerie.
“The weather looked like it was going to be a little rough for the weekend and our track was in super shape this morning, so I took advantage of it,” Byrne said. “We had a good morning and we got all we wanted. He’s all set for next Saturday.”
Almost Famous will enter the Kentucky Jockey Club off an impressive six-length victory in a Nov. 9 Churchill Downs allowance race at the Kentucky Jockey Club distance of 1 1/16 miles. All three of his career races have come at Churchill Downs and include a maiden victory in September followed by a disappointing fourth-place run behind Coastline in the $60,000-added Street Sense overnight stakes on Oct. 27.
Also working toward a possible Kentucky Jockey Club bid on Thursday was Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Ichiban Warrior, who breezed a bullet four furlongs in :47.80. The move was the fastest of 26 at the distance.
Known probable starters for the 87th running of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes: Almost Famous (Pat Byrne), Awesome Sky (Mark Casse), Dobra Historia (Bill Mott) and Laddie Boy (Chuck Peery). Possible: Culprit (Romans), Financial Mogul (Rick Violette Jr.), and Ichiban Warrior (Todd Pletcher). Sheikinator (McPeek) is listed as “possible.”
Churchill Downs’ 98th running of the Grade II Falls City Handicap, the annual centerpiece of the popular Thanksgiving Day racing program, lost some of its pre-race glamour with news that Believe You Can, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks, will not run in next week’s race.

Trainer Larry Jones confirmed via text that the homebred daughter of Proud Citizen would not run in the Falls City, but provided no other information.

 Believe You Can last competed in the Ogden Phipps Handicap  on May 27 at Belmont Park, where she ran sixth to Tiz Miz Sue. She has a career record of 14-8-0-2 and has earned $1,280,324.
With the defection of Believe You Can from the Falls City, known starters for the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares on Thursday, Nov. 28 (with trainers) include: Don’t Tell Sophia (Philip Sims), Flashy American (Kenny McPeek), Ice Cream Silence (Rusty Arnold), and Magic Hour (Ian Wilkes). Possible: My Option (Chris Block), Street Girl (Eddie Kenneally), Molly Morgan (Dale Romans), Owl Moon (Romans) and Wine Princess (Steve Margolis).
 

Champion Royal Delta to be bred to leading sire Galileo

Two-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta has been retired from racing and is slated to be bred to leading international sire Galileo in 2014, her connections announced in a release Wednesday night.

The 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker amassed a record of 12 wins, six times placed, from 22 starts, earning over $4.8 million. A winner of 10 graded stakes, Royal Delta won six Grade I races, including back-to-back victories in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.  She concluded her career by finishing fourth in this year’s Distaff to champion Beholder.

“I’ve had many great moments in my life but the joy and pleasure that Royal Delta has brought to me and my family is indescribable,” said owner Ben Leon, who purchased Royal Delta for $8.5 million at the 2011 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale. “She offered us the opportunity to enjoy wonderful places, people and experiences. She was a gift that allowed us many thrilling moments and we will be forever grateful. Retiring her was a tough decision especially given the fact that she looks as good as she does but we believe in doing what’s in her best interest. I would like to give special thanks to her Hall of Fame trainer and my friend Bill Mott who has guided her through such a successful racing career and also to my friend, Mike Smith, her Hall of Fame rider. I am looking forward to our future and the new chapter in her life.”

Royal Delta will be in quarantine at Leon’s Besilu Farm in Ocala, Florida before heading to Coolmore Ireland.

Royal Delta, began her career owned by her breeder, Prince Saud bin Khaled.   Not long after his death in 2011, she captured  won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs and was then offered in Mr. Khaled’s dispersal at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale where Leon purchased her. Leon campaigned the champion for two additional seasons, garnering a second Eclipse championship.

“It’s a credit to Mr. Leon to run her not only after such a big purchase price, but again this year for a second season,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who conditioned Royal Delta through her entire career. “Royal Delta will always have a warm spot in my heart as I trained her grandmother and her mother before her. It was special to get her back after the sale and it meant a great deal to all of us.”

Out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, Royal Delta did lose four of seven starts this year but earned wins in the Grade I Delaware Handicap and Grade I Personal Ensign before being beaten by Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar in the Grade I Beldame. Royal Delta twice faced males in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, finishing ninth in the 2012 edition of the race and tenth this year.

“She didn’t race exclusively in her back yard, and after both trips to Dubai, she came back to win Grade 1 stakes,” Mott said.

Added jockey Mike Smith, “When she brought her A game she could beat any horse in training.”

 

Churchill Downs cuts two overnight races, purse reductions for KY Jockey Club, Golden Rod

Churchill Downs announced Wednesday a reduction in purses that will affect four races scheduled during the final eight days of the Fall Meet, including the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Grade II Golden Rod on closing day November 30.
A purse reduction of $25,000 each for the Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod will go into effect meaning the two races will now carry a purse of $150,000-added, respectively. Both races are co-featured events on the second of the Fall Meet’s popular “Stars of Tomorrow” programs devoted to racing among 2-year-olds.
Rather than reduce purses for all overnight races offered during the remaining days of the meet, Churchill Downs officials have opted to eliminate one race each on two of the remaining racing days. The races will be dropped from the programs scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 24, and Wednesday, Nov. 27.  Each of those racing cards will now consist of nine races.
In a release, Churchill cited expanded competition from other tracks within the market that have purses enhanced by expanded gaming revenue saying “as regional casino competition has grown and matured, Churchill Downs’ competitive challenges expanded to include racetracks in its border states and throughout North America that benefit from race purses bolstered by gaming revenues. Those tracks and their enhanced purses have lured horses and stables from Churchill Downs and Kentucky racing, resulting in declines in the track’s purses and average horses-per-race.”

Game On Dude on go for G1 Clark Handicap

Courtesy of Churchill Downs publicity team:
Multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude is reported to be doing well following his disappointing run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and trainer Bob Baffert said Wednesday that it was “all systems go” for a journey by his veteran to Churchill Downs for the Grade I, $500,000-added Clark Handicap on Friday, Nov. 29.
 Baffert said the only issue that could derail plans for Game On Dude’s cross-country journey would be a disagreeable Clark Handicap weight assignment for the 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding. Weight assignments the 19 3-year-olds and up that were nominated to the 140th running of the Clark are scheduled to be announced on Friday, Nov. 22.

“The weight is a factor,” Baffert said. “He’s coming off a loss, so I guess he’ll get some consideration.”

 

Game On Dude finished ninth as the favorite behind Mucho Macho Man and expected Clark rival Will Take Charge, who were separated by a nose in the Nov. 2 race at Santa Anita. Prior to that performance he had reeled off six consecutive wins dating to a seventh-place finish to Fort Larned in the 2012 Classic, which was also run at Santa Anita.  The winning streak included Grade I triumphs in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic.

 

Game on Dude carried a career-high 127 pounds in the Gold Cup.
Owned by Diamond Pride LLC, the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernard Schiappa, Game On Dude’s career record stands at 28-15-5-1 with earnings of $5,602,138 heading into the Clark.
Baffort’s star has run twice at Churchill Downs. He was runner-up to Drosselmeyer in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic and ran fifth to Hurricane Ike as a 3-year-old in the 2010 renewal of Derby Trial.
Game on Dude returned to serious training following the Breeders’ Cup on Sunday, Nov. 17. He worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Santa Anita, move that was the fastest of nine on the day.
“He’s doing really well,” Baffert said. “Right now all systems are go.”
Baffert indicated that Game On Dude would have one more pre-Clark work this weekend. He will ship to Kentucky next Wednesday.

Churchill also announced Wednesday that reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, a leading contender to repeat that honor after a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, will be paraded in the paddock  on closing day, Saturday, Nov. 30.

 Trainer Charlie LoPresti will van Wise Dan from his Keeneland barn in Lexington to Churchill Downs so that area fans can show their appreciation to the 6-year-old gelding. The special appearance is likely to occur between Races 3 and 4 around 1:15-1:45 p.m. ET.
Wise Dan, owned and bred by Morton Fink, won six of his seven starts this year, including a pair of stakes at Churchill Downs: the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day and the Grade II Firecracker Handicap in late June.
His three-quarters of a length victory over Za Approval in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 improved his overall record to 19 wins in 27 starts.

Live racing returns to Turfway Park on December 1

Edited release:

 

Following an eight-month hiatus, live Thoroughbred racing returns to Turfway Park on Sun., Dec. 1 with the opening of the Florence track’s 38th consecutive holiday meet.

 

The track will present nine races daily on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December, as well as on the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas day.

 

Races on Thursdays, Fridays, and Tues., Dec. 31, start at the new time of 6:15 p.m., with the exception of Dec. 26.  Races start at 1:10 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Thurs., Dec. 26, and Mon., Dec. 30.  All times are Eastern.

 

Two stakes highlight the racing schedule, each offering a $50,000 purse: the 28th running of the Holiday Inaugural Stakes on Dec. 7, six furlongs for fillies and mares 3 years old and up; and the 19th running of the Prairie Bayou Stakes on Dec. 21, 1-1/16 miles for ages 3 and up.

 

In preparation for the winter racing season, Turfway’s Polytrack surface has been upgraded by the first phase of a three-year, $500,000 renovation. The first synthetic racing surface in North America, Turfway’s Polytrack has been in near-continuous use for racing or training since its installation in September 2005.

 

“After an eight-month hiatus, we’re very excited to bring Thoroughbred racing back to Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati,” said Turfway Park general manager Chip Bach.  “We’re adding some new elements, like craft beer, new food items, and education for new fans.  But we’re also getting back to the basics of what—besides live racing—makes coming to Turfway so much fun: friendly service, good value on Dollar Friday with dollar bets and larger dollar drafts, high-energy local bands, and a New Year’s Eve party that’s again truly a party, where the fans get involved instead of just watch the entertainment.  We’re looking forward to a great meet.”

 

The annual New Year’s Eve Track Bash is themed Club Inferno and the party offers options from free admission to reserved seating as well as a free dance-worthy concert by classic rockers Doghouse.  Between races, DJ Toad will get the party started.  For the free admission crowd, beer and drink specials are available throughout the night.  Those who prefer reservations have two options.  A $150 reservation includes a table for six on the mezzanine above the Willis Music Stage, party favors, a champagne toast, and admittance to the Club Inferno bar.  Reservations in the Top of the Park and Homestretch dining rooms are $75 per person and include buffet, beer, wine, mixed drinks, party favors, and a champagne toast.  Reservations are available by calling (859) 371-0200 or online at www.turfway.com.

 

Turfway’s Dollar Fridays return as well, with dollar draft beer, dollar hot dogs, dollar bets, games, prizes, and live music.  On the Willis Music Stage this meet are Doghouse (Dec. 6),  party band Naked Karate Girls (Dec. 13), country rockers the Cef Michael band (Dec. 20), and Zack Attack (Dec. 27), covering party tunes from the ‘90s.

 

New on Friday nights is a concentrated effort to teach new fans how to play the races and, more important, how to play to win.  Turfway staffers will use games and one-on-one instruction to turn novices into knowledgeable handicappers.

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