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141st Consecutive Clark Handicap Runs Friday at Churchill Downs

Nov 24, 2015 -- 5:48pm

This Friday’s 141st Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs is truly one of America’s great, storied races & the last major event for older horses annually. No less than 14 Kentucky Derby winners have also won the Clark, although many occurred in the Clark's early years when it was run for three-year-olds in the spring (like the Derby). The Clark moved to Churchill’s Fall Stakes Calendar in 1953. Silver Charm in 1998 is the last Derby winner to also win the Clark.

2011 Preakness winner Shackleford ended his career with a popular Clark Handicap win in the ‘12 Clark Handicap. The '13 Clark was a riveting win by Wayne Lukas & his Will Take Charge over Bob Baffert & his ultra tough gelding Game On Dude, another in a series of Clark Classics. Last year, the future Triple Crown winning trainer Baffert won the Clark with his three-year-old Hoppertunity. Hoppertunity will be defending his Clark honors Friday evening.

The 2011 Clark witness soon-to-be two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan win. His half-brother Successful Dan had won the Clark the year prior (2010), only to have his victory taken away in a most controversial DQ. And in 2009, Blame won a stellar Clark renewal. He’d return to Churchill the following year to win the Stephen Foster Handicap in the spring & dethrone Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that autumn.

Silver Charm carried (by today’s standards) a hefty 124 lbs. in winning that ’98 Clark. Swoon’s Son carried 128 lbs. to his Clark win in 1956. Only the legendary Exterminator ever won w/more. He carried 133 lbs. in his 1922 Clark Handicap win (as a 7-year-old). Whirlaway, the famed ’41 Derby winner carried 127 lbs. the following spring when winning the ’42 Clark.

Along with the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks, the Clark has been run at Churchill Downs every year since 1875. The Falls City Handicap (held on Thanksgiving Day) was also held that first meet in 1875, however, it’s not been renewed consecutively over the years. Having said that, 100 cheers for the Falls City Handicap as its 100th running highlights Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs.

The Clark originally was a two mile test (1875-1880) which followed the Derby, then moved to 1 ¼ miles from 1881-1895. Sturdier steeds in the those days!

The Clark Handicap moved to Churchill’s Fall Meet in 1953 & to its current 1 1/8thmile distance in 1955. The race was self-named for the track’s founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark.

The 1875 Clark & the Times that Were

When Voltigeur won the first Clark on May 22, 1875, U. S. Grant was nearing the end of his second term as America’s 18th President. Alexander Graham Bell was days away from his first successful voice transmission (precursor to today’s I-Phone 6). Jesse James was still robbing trains in Missouri.

Locally, Preston Leslie was governor of Kentucky. UK fans might recall a QB named Tim Couch hailing from Leslie County, named in honor of Governor Leslie. Leslie had defeated John Marshall Harlan for governor, calling Harlan a “political weathercock!" Weathercock (or weather vane) in those days referred to someone who’s politics went w/whatever direction the wind blew.

Harlan didn’t take it too personal though. After his defeat, he went on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice & recommended Leslie to become Territorial Governor of Montana in 1887. The U.S. was comprised of 37 states when the first Clark field went to post in 1875. Colorado would become #38 the following year. Harlan too would also get a Kentucky county named after himself.

Clark Memories

One of my earliest Clark Handicap memories is of the great gelding Warbucks winning the 1975 Clark as a five-year-old. He’d finished last two years earlier in Secretariat’s '73 Derby.

Two years later, Bob’s Dusty won the first of his two consecutive Clarks in 1977. His stablemate, Lot ‘o Gold made it a stable three-peat in 1979. Both had been off-the-board in earlier Kentucky Derbies. Smiley Adams trained the pair (along w/Run Dusty Run). Adams still remains tied with the legendary Ben Jones as the only trainers to win three Clark Handicaps. The Hall of Famers Isaac Murphy & Pat Day are the only riders to win the Clark four times.

Hodge (1915-16) & Bold Favorite (1968-69) share honors w/Bob’s Dusty as the only horses to win the Clark twice. Bob still holds the all-time largest victory margin w/his emphatic 11-length romp in 1978 under Richard DePass (his rider in his '77 Clark as well).

Jim McKnight, a longtime Louisville favorite, rode his only Clark Handicap winner in 1983 aboard Jack Slade. Just turned exercise rider-to-trainer Paul McGee upset the Clark in 1988 with a recent claim, Balthazar B.

Alphabet Soup ran 3rd in the ’95 Clark & would win the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

And a decade before Rachel Alexander became the first three-year-old filly to beat older horses in a Grade 1, it was the three-year-old filly Surfside winning the 2000 Clark to cap her three-year-old season for Wayne Lukas. Pat Johnson won the 1986 Clark Handicap aboard Come Summer for Rusty Arnold. Johnson still rides (though somewhat sparingly in Louisiana & occasionally Kentucky) these days. 

Cardinal Handicap Goes for 42nd Time Saturday at Churchill Downs

Nov 16, 2015 -- 5:30pm

Several hours after the University of Louisville Basketball Cards dispatch its first directional school of the 2015-16 non-conference season & while the Football Cardinals try to complete a 6-2 ACC campaign, Churchill Downs will run its Cardinal Handicap for the 42nd consecutive year. Race is 1 1/8 miles on the turf course for fillies & mares, three-years-old & upward.

Note since 1989, EVERY winner of the Cardinal Handicap has been a four-year-old filly with the exception of the oh-so-senior five-year-old mare, Sabellina, in 2006.

Biggest bomber in Cardinal Stakes history was River Ball ($53) in 1993 with Mrs. Revere ($3) the lowest priced winner for her tally in the first division of the ’85 Cardinal Handicap. Mrs. Revere is honored each fall with a Grade 3 stake of her own now at Churchill Downs.

For its first two runnings, the then-named Kentucky Cardinal Handicap was open to three-year-olds only (of either sex) going 1 1/16 miles. The inaugural running, for a $25,000 purse in 1974, attracted none other than Holding Pattern who had earlier that year won no less than the Travers Stakes.

That would prove to be the high water mark for Holding Pattern in his 71-race career. Four years after his Travers score & previous 2nd to Cut the Talk in the inaugural Kentucky Cardinal Stakes, Holding Pattern would turn up again in Louisville running 4th in the 1978 (non-defunct) Kentucky Handicap at Churchill’s Spring Meet & 7th in the ’78 Clark Handicap won for the second straight year by Bob’s Dusty at the Fall Meet. Next Saturday, Hoppertunity will seek his second consecutive Clark Handicap score for Bob Baffert.

As to the world as it existed for that first-ever Kentucky Cardinal Stakes on November 23, 1974…earlier that year, the centennial running of the Kentucky Derby was held & Cannonade rallied to win in the largest field ever assembled for the race, 23 starters. Angel Cordero rode Cannonade for the legendary Woodman…Woody Stephens.

The previous autumn, Cannonade had won Churchill’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes under Pete Anderson, defeating Satan’s Hills & Don’t Be Late Jim. Cannonade also won Churchill’s Stepping Stone Purse on opening day of Churchill’s 1974 Spring Meet, one week prior to his win in the legendary 100thDerby.

Did you know…do you remember…1974 as the year that Tricky Dick Nixon resigned as 38th President of the United States? Gerald Ford became the first…and only…president to never have been elected president or vice president to then serve as president.

How was it possible that Billy Swan and “I Can Help” had knocked off John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” as America’s #1 song on that November 23, 1974?

“Murder on the Orient Express” hit movie theatres the day prior to that first Kentucky Cardinal. “The Godfather II” would be released two weeks later. Debate rages on today as to whether the Godfather trilogy indeed does or does not “insist upon itself.”

Archie Bunker and “All in the Family” ruled the small screen, but “Sanford and Son” and “Chico and the Man” completed a United Colors of Benneton trifecta as America’s top 3 TV shows.

And but one month prior to that inaugural Kentucky Cardinal, Louisville’s own lip, Muhammad Ali ended a seven-year itch without the heavyweight title as he “Rope a Doped” George Foreman in eight rounds to regain his title belt in Zaire.

Enjoy a great renewal of the Cardinal Handicap this Saturday at Churchill Downs!!  

Mrs. Revere Stakes on Saturday at Churchill Downs & Mrs. Revere Herself!

Nov 10, 2015 -- 5:45pm

Mrs. Revere Stakes goes for 25th time Saturday at Churchill Downs. Race has developed into very solid Grade 2 event & sports $200,000 purse this year. Three-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Let’s Flashback to the Namesake Heroine of Saturday’s Feature at the Downs…

Mrs. Revere began her 28 race career as a three-year-old in 1984. Locally, she made 12 of those starts in Louisville, winning six times.

It was the last of the two-year, summer racing experiment at Churchill Downs & Mrs. Revere took full advantage of the extended season winning the Regret Stakes in May, ran 2nd in the Pleasant Hill Stakes in June (only run during the short-lived summer racing experiment), won the Edgewood Stakes in July & the Dogwood Stakes in August.

The following year of 1985, she won a division of the Kentucky Cardinal Handicap on November 2, took an allowance race two weeks later & then ran 2nd in a division of the Falls City Handicap on Thanksgiving weekend. Ah the era of when owners & trainers weren’t afraid to run their horses. Sadly missed.

As a five-year, 1986 wasn’t a banner campaign for Mrs. Revere. She ran 4th in the Blue Delight Handicap (since discontinued, but basically today’s Winning Colors Stakes), 6th in the Locust Grove & finally called it a 28-race career with a 3rd in the Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup (renewed again last Saturday as the Chilukki Stakes).

Five years after her final race in Louisville, Churchill honored her with the Mrs. Revere Stakes. It debuted on the third Saturday of November 1991 when 10 three-year-old fillies took to the soft Churchill Downs turf. The day would see the merciful end to the Louisville Cardinals 1991 football season as the Cards lost that day 40-0 at Tulsa. It was the Cards 7th consecutive loss as the season collapsed after Jeff Brohm’s broken leg against Tennessee in September. Under quarterback Eric “Cowboy” Watts, the Cardinals would fail to score more than 15 points in any of their final seven games. They never gave up fewer than 30. Yikes. The year that had begun with a Fiesta Bowl win over Alabama on New Years Day, would conclude 2-9.

Football gloom, despair & agony was home down the road in Lexington as well (has it ever left?) As that first Mrs. Revere Stakes was running, the Cats were losing in Gainesville to Florida in a season that would end 3-8 and produce zero wins in the Southeastern Conference. Yes, UK has lost to Florida EVERY YEAR SINCE too.

Denny Crum’s basketball Cards would start their 1991-92 season a week following Spanish Parade’s victory in the inaugural Mrs. Revere Stakes. They’d cruise past Howard (the university, not the football coach) en route to starting the new season 6-0. Downhill from there to a 19-11 season that featured an NCAA opening round win over Wake Forest before being retired by UCLA.

Things were looking better in the Bluegrass region. Rick Pitino’s first probation-free UK team had just beaten the Soviet Union in an exhibition on Thursday, November 14 by 112-92. Six days later…four days following the Mrs. Revere...they’d light up West Virginia 106-80 in the Pre-Season N.I.T. in Rupp Arena. Pitino’s bunch was destined to face Duke in a classic Elite 8 game, falling just short of the Final Four.

The year of 1991...the first Mrs. Revere Stakes...began with Pete Rose being banned by baseball, Operation Desert Storm launching to remove Iraq from Kuwait & the debut of “Seinfeld.” It would also see the New York Football Giants beat in-state Buffalo Bills 20-19 to win the Super Bowl. Several months later, Duke would defeat Kansas 72-65 to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

It was most helpful to be at a sporting event in November 1991 (and away from pop radio) as Michael Bolton’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” was climbing the radio charts, forever soiling the American music scene. In addition to staying away from pop radio, those in attendance for that first Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs hopefully turned in early as well, thus missing the Saturday Night Live debuts of new cast members Ellen Cleghorne, Melanie Hutsell & Beth Cahill. Yeah, that really happened.

Cape Fear was just out & topped the Box Office for its only week. On the small screen, 60 Minutes ruled the airwaves that mid-November of 1991, followed by Roseanne, Murphy Brown & Cheers.

And of that first Mrs. Revere Stakes, Spanish Parade would rally from last to score a half-length win with Pat Day in the saddle. The 4-5 favorite held off Liz Cee with Larry Melancon & Canadian invader Savethelastdance with Jim McKnight aboard. Marvelously bred, being by Roberto out of a Nijinsky II mare, the Mrs. Revere would be Spanish Parade’s only stakes victory & her final ever victory. She retired the following year with 6 wins in 15 starts, with her Mrs. Revere win paired with a maiden win, three allowance wins at Arlington Park & another allowance score at Keeneland.

But on that 16th Day of November 1991, she etched her name forever into the storied history book of Churchill Downs. AND, she did so again six years later, as her daughter Parade Queen would win the 1997 Mrs. Revere Stakes. Pat Day was aboard that day as well for trainer Neil Howard & owners Will Farish and E.J. Hudson, who were also the connections for Spanish Parade as all double dipped their Mrs. Revere chip.

Enjoy a great edition of the Mrs. Revere Stakes Saturday! 

Chilukki Stakes on Saturday at Churchill Downs

Nov 04, 2015 -- 6:13pm
Chilukki Stakes goes as 10th race Saturday on a wonderful card featuring lots of full fields. Ah, the November meet. And w/Cards-Syracuse ending around 3:30/4:00p, nice afternoon to double dip your sports chip!
Race is for fillies & mares, three-year-old & up going the one-turn mille for $200,000 & Grade 2 recognition.
Inaugurated at the Churchill Downs Distaff Stakes in 1986, early days featured a who's who of impressive winners including '86 Lazer Show, '87 Bound, '88 Darien Miss, '90 Oh My Jessica Pie, '91 Fit For a Queen, '92 Wilderness Song, '93 Miss Indy Anna, '94 Educated & Risk & '95 Lakeway. That's some serious filly & mare horse flesh.
Newly retired from U of L basketball, '01 saw Denny Crum's Nasty Storm take first prize.
Recently, the hard knockin' Don't Tell Sophia ('13) & Molly Morgan ('14) took editions of the Chilukki Stakes.
Chilukki was a Bob Baffert-trained filly who made her debut at Churchill Downs on Wednesday of 1999 Derby week. She won by more than nine lengths on April 28 & set a new track record for 4 1/2 furlongs. Two days later, Silverbulletday would dominate the Kentucky Oaks for Baffert & the following afternoon saw Charismatic win the Kentucky Derby for Wayne Lukas.
The Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes was next for Chilukki & she beat the boys easily on May 31, traveling 5 1/2 furlongs in 1.04.01. As two-year-old racing has declined in the spring season, this race hasn't been run for number of years.
Churchill's historic Debutante Stakes was win number three for Chilukki on June 26 as she again won easily, going 5 1/2 furlongs in 1.03.66.
Sent home to Baffert's California stable, Chilukki stretched her career winning streak to six with wins in Del Mar's Sorrento & Debutante Stakes, followed by Santa Anita's Oak Leaf Stakes.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies would be next & Chilukki would taste defeat for her first & only time as a two-year-old, finishing second while favored against Cash Run & Wayne Lukas. Nevertheless, Chilukki would be honored as Two-Year-Old Champion Filly.
Her success was spotty after that and she didn't return to Churchill Downs until two years later when she made her 17th & final career start. She began her career at Churchill Downs with track record brilliance & she ended it the same way, winning the Churchill Downs Distaff Stakes going a mile in 1.33.57. Her career record ended with 11 wins & more than $1.2 million in earnings. Shortly thereafter, Churchill Downs honored this record-setting filly by renaming its Distaff Stakes in her honor. 

Breeders' Cup Saturday Plays o'Day

Oct 31, 2015 -- 8:51am
Breeders' Cup Saturday boxes...
Race 3: Juvenile Fillies
8. Dothraki Queen (10-1 w/Corey Lanerie)...always coming, Lanerie's been lighting Keeneland up this month & Kenny McPeek has 'em ready to run when the price is right.
9. Rachel's Valentina (7-2 w/John Velazquez)...perhaps best bred filly on the planet & she's run like it too.  Rooting for Rachel Alexandra's daughter here, just looking for better price.
10. Songbird (7-5 w/Mike Smith)...three romping wire-to-wire wins in California.  Mike Smith wins his share too.  A lot of 'em struggle outside the left coast though.
Race 4: Turf Sprint
7. Green Mask (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)...Wesley Ward is the emerging mad genius, enough to like her at the price.
2. Bobby's Kitten (15-1 w/Javier Castellanos)...won this race last year & two starts this year have him ready to roll.  Generous morning line on colt sitting' on big effort.
3. Undrafted (4-1 w/Lanfranco Dettori)...Wes Welker's boy always comes flying & like the Wright Brothers, took Europe by storm.
Race 5: Filly & Mare Sprint
4. La Verdad (6-1 w/Jose Ortiz)...six straight wins, five at odds-on.  6-1 morning line...okay.  Plus Jose Ortiz is the longshot rider in the family.
14. Cavorting (3-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...gettin' better every race, should have clean shot from outside post to complete Ortiz exacta.
6. Super Majesty (10-1 w/Alex Solis)...no, it's not the Super Terrific Happy Hour, but she's nose away from 4-for-4, all at low odds & in here, she's 10-1.  Every chance.
Race 6: Filly & Mare Turf
12. Secret Gesture (8-1 w/Florent Geroux)...rider switch to the white-hot Geroux helps get this Euro mare home.
11. Stephanie's Kitten (10-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...what a marvelous 6-year-old mare.  Just shows up & runs.  Some think she's lost a step, but she's always knockin'.
3. Legatissimo (8-5 w/Ryan Moore)...two noses away from winning five straight Grade One's in Europe.  That's special.  Would like to try & beat her, but these Breeders' Cup exotics still pay okay w/favorites.
Race 7: Sprint
2. Kobe's Back (15-1 w/Gary Stevens)...expecting rocket pace up front & he can occasionally come flying.  Won over track too.  Takin' a shot.
6. Ivan Fallunovalot (30-1 w/Calvin Borel)...yes, Calvin hasn't been Calvin since that Breeders' Cup fight w/Castellanos four, 5 years ago.  Somewhere, sometime, he's
going to use those last few magic beans.  Maybe here.
8. Wild Dude (10-1 w/Rafael Bejarano)...California closer, like Kobe.  Like one, gotta like the other.  Plus, Bejarano is due.
Note:  #5 Runhappy (3-1_ is an absolute freak of nature fast.  And a great story.  #13 Private Zone (5-2) established as America's best sprinter.  They both go to the front & don't show much patience to rate.  Ding dong battle cooks 'em both.  Riders race, my hunch is they battle it out & race falls apart late.
Race 8: Mile
9. Esoterique (7-2 w/Pierre Boudot)...conceding defeat on knowing anything about rider, other than he's won some big ones w/this mare.  She's no problem beating boys & ladies have won this turf mile number of times.
6. Tourist (15-1 w/Jose Lezcano)...flopped when 13th at 25-1 in this race last year. Came off the bench impressively at Kentucky Downs & backed it up at Keeneland. Ready, ready, ready.
11. Karakonte (12-1 w/Stephane Pasquier)...okay, know nothing of this rider & the dude is Japanese bred.  Why?  Well, did win this race last year at 30-1 & his two races this year should have him peaked from another upset bid.
Race 9: Juvenile
9. Exaggerator (6-1 w/Kent Desormeaux)...went back to the past w/Karakonte in race 8, so let's do the same w/'14 Juvenile team here.  Always like to bet form that took over at 1/8th pole & got caught.  Son of Curlin should get the trip fine too.
8. Tale of S'avall (30-1 w/Cornelio Velasquez)...to my final breath, I'm going to nail on of these Tale of Ekati offspring at massive price.  Same combination as sire.  Throw out sloppy track last time & why not.
7. Brody's Cause (7-2 w/Corey Lanerie)...two dirt starts produced graded stakes wins at 33-1 & 11-1.  Knocked down to 3 1/2-1 in here.  From the clouds style not situated for Keeneland's short 1 1/16 mile stretch run.
Race 10:  Turf
10. The Pizza Man (15-1 w/Florent Geroux)...best story of the Breeders' Cup.  This six-year-old Illinois bred is the Papa John of the ponies, he just keeps delivering.  Slice 'em up old man.
9. Found (8-1 w/Ryan Moore)...three-year-old filly going 1 1/2 miles against the boys.  Aidan O'Brien does what he does, think you'll get better price too.
1. Golden Horn (4-5 w/Lanfranco Dettori)...Arc winner is obvious play & best on paper.  Neck shy of 8-for-8 lifetime with $6 million bankrolled this year.  Arc winners have not fared well in this race though.
Race 11: Classic
3. Frosted (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)...well, Keen Ice turned the tables on American Pharaoh at Saratoga.  Frosted has been chosen' 'em pretty good too.  It's a horse race & they do run 'em on the track.
1. American Pharaoh (6-5 w/Victor Espinoza)...perserved really well despite questionable ride when Triple Crown winner was outrun late in Travers.  Working' great, but as he rides off to sunset, his peak form might be left in summer sun & he's second best in race that's light on paper w/Beholder scratched.  
2. Keen Ice (12-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...no, he won't catch lightning twice, but he's in really good form, improving & have to believe he'll catch a piece of this $5 million pot.

Breeders' Cup Friday...Box 'em Up!!

Oct 29, 2015 -- 8:14pm
Hot town, Breeders' Cup in the city, back of my program gettin' me dirty & gritty, Storm Cats looking for a kitty (or Kitten's Joy), gonna look in every corner of the Lexington city...
Okay.  Breeders' Cup Friday!!
Race 6 - Juvenile Turf:
7. Ray's The Bar (20-1 w/Javier Castellanos)...it's Chad Brown's world & Castellanos always wins a couple.
14. Hit It A Bomb (9-2 w/Ryan Moore)...clean trip from wide post, Euros rule the turf.
11. Hollywood Don (10-1 w/Joel Roasrio)...tossing dirt try last out, Tapit leading sire for a reason.
Race 7 - Dirt Mile:
9. Tapiture (10-1 w/Ricardo Santana)...just don't have heart to play odds-on ponies, taking shot that he's coming back to form.
3. Liam's Map (1-1 w/Javier Castellanos)...much the best on paper, but they'll run it on Keeneland dirt.  No glory in picking odds-on horses.
6. Street Strategy (50-1 w/Robby Albarado)...hmmmmn, intriguing!  By Street Sense, Robby on a bomber at BC, win over track.  Let's light 'em boys.
Race 8 - Juvenile Filly Turf'
10. Illuminate (9-2 w/Lanfranco Dettori)...leaping dismounts for everyone!  Has winner winner chicken dinner written all over her bay self.
4. Catch A Glimpse (5-1 w/Florent Geroux)...hottest rider on the planet will make a statement somewhere Friday or Saturday, plus Mark Casse too.
11. Priced To Perfection (20-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...'dem Ortiz brothers rule NY, think they'll too make statement somewhere in Lexington.  Plus Chad Brown here.
Race 9 - Distaff
12. Got Lucky (6-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...ah, again with Irad.  Bold win last out & might just run even better here.
1. I'm A Chatterbox (8-1 w/Florent Geroux)...3rd in Kentucky Oaks, don't like the rail, do like the rider to give her shot.
9. Stellar Wind (12-1 w/Victor Espinoza)...4th as favorite in Oaks, pops was Curlin & she oodles talent.
Race 10 - Marathon
1. For Greater Glory (6-1 w/Joe Rocco)...hit on big-time bomber in Marathon at CD w/another son of Afleet Alex, plus Rocco is really solid, under-the-radar rider.
3. Northeast Bound (15-1 w/Robby Albarado)...woke up big time on dirt, Robby good for a longshot somewhere.  Dale Romans wins big races too.
12. Dynabeaver (20-1 w/Ricardo Santana)...c'mon, give it up for The Coach (Wayne Lukas).  In August, Wayne was running this Oregon-bred for maiden $5k claiming at Ellis Park.  10 weeks later...Breeders' Cup Marathon!!  If it can be done...shocked he's not higher than 20-1, but rooting' for Mr. Lukas.

Raven Run Preview as we're TWO WEEKS from Breeders' Cup at Keeneland

Oct 16, 2015 -- 12:54pm
Reminder, you can catch ALL the Breeders' Cup races from Keeneland on 93.9 the Ville this year!!
Quarter million US dollars on the line for three-year-old fillies as Keeneland hosts Raven Run Stakes Saturday. Seven furlongs & nice field of eleven scheduled to load into race 9's starting gate around 5:30p.
1. Paid Up Subscriber (6-1 w/Corey Lanerie)...Saratoga allowance win followed by fourth place effort in Grade 2 at 15-1. Lightly raced but pedigree screams for this seven furlongs. Inside post for deep closer makes this play tricky.
2. Bar of Gold (5-2 w/Jose Lezcano)...couple of nice, high odds runner-up finishes against the best of the best at Saratoga. New York lass bred through the ying yang. Will have to overcome inside trip though. Inclined to play against this favorite though.  Lack of any real pace should give her clear shot turning for home.
3. Irish Jasper (5-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)...six wins on resume look nice, but she's also proven to be step slower than the best of this edition of the Raven Run offers. Inside post, Bridgmohan, low price, tossing her out of serious contention.
4. Wind Chill Factor (30-1 w/Danny Velazquez)...queen of all things Louisiana bred until her last couple. She's in deep end of this pool lacking water wings. Love longshots, just don't see any angle.
5. Miss Ella (8-1 w/Tim McCarthy)...only start in Lexington produced $20 winner in Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes coming off maiden score at Gulfstream. She went to the Apple afterward & found the buildings bit too tall. Last was off-the-turf stakes score, so can't credit too much there. Hard to discount that Beaumont win, just believe others are better in here.
6. Ah Chocolate (15-1 w/Brian Hernandez)...never have to think twice about Mr. Hernandez on longshots. Is he the same bomber at Keeneland though? Maybe, maybe not. I'm going with yes, unwrap this tasty longshot who won her only Keeneland start at 6-1 this spring.
7. Forever Unbridled (8-1 w/Calvin Borel)...mom shocked the Kentucky Oaks at almost 50-1, so she's got the long-shot pedigree. First try since finishing 11th (of 14) in this year's Oaks at 27-1. She does have talent, alot to ask off the shelf though & Calvin's best efforts are usually at Churchill & Oaklawn (v. Lexington). Trying to find a way to sneak her into this.
8. Sarah Sis (15-1 w/Florent Geroux)...rider has been movin' 'em up like crazy & she won her only try at Keeneland last autumn at 7-2 odds. Was eased in Kentucky Oaks & crushed as 3-2 favorite in $350,000 race at Charles Town last month. Bred to be quick & race lacks prominent early speed. Believe she'll give this run for the money, hard to see her holding off the calvary charge late though,.
9. Kathballu (10-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...two starts at Keeneland haven't moved her up like some others. She's been solid against this kind, but never contending late. Kenny McPeek is the master of the upset play, but with Leparoux aboard, will look elsewhere.
10. Chide (5-1 w/Miggy Mena)...nice runner-up finish in similar stakes race at Churchill last month. All three of her Kentucky races have been good, but first run over Keeneland's new track. Price seems whisker low on her too.
11. I'm a Looker (15-1 w/John Court)...her only run at Keeneland, like Ah Chocolate, was also 6-1 winner this spring. Three starts since were pedestrian against lesser company than many others have tried this summer. Bred to be quick & she can uncork a good one. Jon Court can move her into contention.
And the ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville Play o'the Day...
6. Ah Chocolate (15-1)...change in tactics to hard-chargin' late sprinter might just be her game. Have to give her a try at the price.
11. I'ma Looker (15-1)...call this 1 & 1A with Ah Chocolate. Will try 'em both at big price & hope to get lucky.
7. Forever Unbridled (8-1)...oodles of talent, if she's ready to roll. Doubt Dallas drops her in here just for fun, could be rolling late.
8. Sarah Sis (15-1)...would've loved to give her shot on top, just can't see her getting that last sixteenth of a mile. Think she'll take 'em deep though. 

Keeneland Opens with 163rd Phoenix Stakes

Oct 02, 2015 -- 1:47pm

America’s oldest stakes race…The Phoenix…goes for the 163rd time on a drizzly Friday afternoon at Keeneland.  The Kentucky Derby is the oldest CONSECUTIVELY run stakes in the U.S. (141 & counting).

First run in 1831, the Phoenix began at the Kentucky Association track in Lexington. Named after Lexington's Phoenix Hotel, it was run there up to 1930, although the race was not run from 1914-16, 1906-10 or 1898-1904.  From 1937-42, the newly opened Keeneland Race Track hosted the Phoenix, followed by a three-year run at Churchill Downs during World War II (1943-45).  It returned to Keeneland in 1946 & has remained there since.

Perhaps the modern era's greatest sprint filly, Xtra Heat, defeated her male counterparts in the 2002 Phoenix.  She entered racing's Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Zuppardo’s Prince was the last horse to win the Phoenix in back-to-back years (1980-81).  Both times with Julio Espinoza aboard.  Espinoza also double dipped that chip in 1972-73 with Honey Jay.

Recent iron horse Bet On Sunshine, won the Phoenix in 1997 & again in 2001 (as a nine-year-old).  He also finished 3rd in 1996, 2nd in 1999 & 3rd again in 2000.  All told, Bet On Sunshine visited the winner's circle 22 times in 47 career starts, bankrolling nearly $1.5 million dollars.

Derby winner Hill Gail won the Phoenix in 1952, then took the Derby Trial too before his winning Run for the Roses.  The great Coaltown, stablemate to the immortal Citation, won the Phoenix in 1948. 19thcentury Derby winners Halma (1895), Chant (1894) & Kingman (1891) also list a Phoenix Stakes win on their resume, all prior to their winning Derby runs.  And one of the greatest of all the 19thcentury runners, Ten Broeck, also won in 1875. 

Looking for a bomber today...War Eagle's Return in the nightcap (10th race).  The 11 pony in 12-horse field.  20-to-1 on your US dollar.  Just sayin'...

Tupolev Track Record at Churchill Downs Still Stands 32 Years Later!

Jul 15, 2015 -- 2:35pm

Thursday, July 23 marks the 32nd anniversary for one of Churchill Downs more obscure track record holders…1 5/8th miles on ‘das dirt.  And THIS is the story of an Argentine iron horse named Tupolev.

Temps were triple digits, around 102 degrees.  The sandy loam surface was fast that Saturday afternoon, the 23rd day of July 1983 as the field for the 3rd race went postward off Central Avenue.  

Martina Navratilova had easily beaten Andrea Jaeger (6-0, 6-3) to win Wimbledon a fortnight earlier.  Johnny McEnroe had dispatched the long forgotten Chris Lewis (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) to win the Gentlemen’s Title.  Two weeks prior to Tupolev’s race to history, the California Angel’s Freddy Lynn hit the first-ever MLB All-Star Game grand slam, leading the junior circuit to an easy 13-3 win.  

As Tom Watson was winning the '83 British Open, Tupolev was running 3rd at Churchill Downs just the week prior to what would be his historic follow-up performance in Louisville.  Watson would have his own follow-up historic run through Louisville a couple years ago, winning the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Just two days after Watson’s win across the pond, the first-place Philadelphia Phillies fired manager Pat Corrales.  Didn’t hurt much, they cruised by 6 games over Pittsburgh w/Paul Owens in the managerial saddle, routing the Dodgers for the NL pennant before losing the World Series to Baltimore in five games.

The Saturday card at Mr. Churchill’s place that July 23, 1983 witnessed an “LM” double with Larry Melancon taking the opener at 15-1 for Bill Mott aboard Heir Fancy and Leroy Moyers winning the second half of the double for Greg Foley aboard Aurilla Miller at 5-2 odds.  Daily Double paid $120.80.  Recall these were the days where Churchill only offered a Daily Double along with 5th & last race exactas.

Pat Day was running away w/the rider’s race in July ‘83, doubling second place Keith Allen 120-60 in the first-ever Summer Meet at Churchill Downs.  Leroy Moyers (57 wins), Jim McKnight (55) & Don Brumfield (38) were rounding out the top five, followed by Julio Espinoza (33), Charlie Woods (32), Mark Sellers (21), double bug apprentice Steve Cuffari (19) & Phil Rubbicco (18).

Bill Mott topped all trainers with 33 wins, followed by Jack Van Berg (24), Jinks Fires (18), Lynn Whiting (17), Shug McGuaghey (16), Mark Casse (15), Rusty Arnold (14), Larry Edwards (13), Steve Penrod (13), Del Carroll (12) & Ray Lawrence (12).

Churchill’s card featured couple cracklin’ good allowance races with Gemini Dreamer upsetting favored Sitzmark while winning the $15,000 Catholic Alumni Club allowance in the 7th race.  The great Ohio gelding Silahis won the 8th race, the $13,000 Hoop Jr. allowance w/his fellow Ohioian Dave Borden in the saddle.  Silahis upset Ronny Turcotte (the hard-knockin’ horse, not the Triple Crown winning jockey).

Featured that July 23, 1983 Saturday was the first running of the long-gone Shawnee Stakes for fillies & mares going one mile for a purse of $30,000-added.  Leader Miss was but 5-1 in the morning line before upsetting the race at final odds of 12-1 under Keith Allen.  Kitchen & Kenny Knapp were also long odds while second and the good racemare, Queen of Song, finished 3rd.  Favored Header Card never fired for Jimmy McKnight or trainer Bill Helmbrecht.

Now the story of the fastest 13 furlong runner in Churchill Downs history, Tupolev.  The 3rd race was part of the Ten Broeck distance series (long gone, not forgotten & much missed), honoring perhaps the greatest distance horse of the 19th century.  The series would include not only a 2 mile race, but also a never since run 3 mile finale.  Now that was a fan friendly racing secretary.

Rajo Royale had set the track record of 2.53 3/5 in June of 1982.  Tupolev would better it by more than 4 seconds, winning in 2.49 2/5.  His mark stands today.

Tupolev, owned by Farid Sefa & trained by Larry Edwards, won as expected, paying $4.40.  Whitehouse Cat & Julio Espinoza came 2nd with Luck Blow & Leroy Moyers 3rd. Purse for the $5k starter allowance was $6,000.

Tupolev had arrived at Churchill Downs in June of '83 after making five starts in Chicago (at Sportsmans Park & Arlington Park).  He had wintered with five earlier starts at Gulfstream.  He quickly found the path to Churchill’s entry box & ran 9th in his Louisville debut on June 7, 1983.  Then ran an improved 5th on June 28 and 3rd on July 16 before making his mark on Churchill’s record book the following week.

Tupolev would make 72 starts after his track record setting performance at Churchill Downs, including a second win at Churchill Downs on August 20.  After leaving Churchill Downs forever (after being eased in the three mile Ten Broeck Championship on September 3, 1983), Tupolev headed north to Hazel Park in Michigan.  

The year after Tupolev set his track mark in Louisville, he found his final home in Louisiana, making his last 53 starts there, all but one at Jefferson Downs, Delta Downs or Evangeline Downs.

For his career, Tupolev made 113 trips to the post, winning 15 times.  For his efforts, he bankrolled just over $100,000.  As with many gallant claimers, it ended for Tupolev when he was eased in his 10th and final start of his 9-year-old season of 1987 at Jefferson Downs.  Tupolev, the best there ever was at running 13 furlongs at America’s most storied race track, had won but one of his last 33 starts.  His name however, remains etched in the history book at historic Churchill Downs.


Bashford Manor Stakes Celebrates 114th Running Saturday Night

Jun 26, 2015 -- 12:40pm

This Saturday evening (June 27) marks the final Saturday of Churchill Downs 2015 Spring Meet.  For the 114th consecutive year, the Louisville track will offer its Bashford Manor Stakes.  This stakes race trails only the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks & Clark Handicap on the Churchill stakes schedule for most consecutive running.  Grand, grand ole race.

Saturday also marks the successful conclusion for the first season of "Inside Churchill Downs" w/Darren Rogers & John Asher.  Cracklin' good show every Saturday at 10:00a. 

First run on May 13, 1902, the race has always been for two-year-olds & always held during Churchill's Spring Meet.  Julio Espinoza & Pat Day, each with four wins, lead all riders in Bashford Manor victories.  (King) Wayne Lukas, who else, leads all trainers with five wins.

Favorite Trick won in 1997 en route to being named that campaign’s Horse of the Year.  Summer Squall won in 1989 & would win the following year's Preakness, after running second in the Derby to Unbridled.  Grindstone (1995), Clyde Van Dusen (1928), Black Gold (1923), Old Rosebud (1913), Worth (1911) & Donau (1909) all won the Derby in the year following their Bashford Manor appearances.  Worth & Black Gold are the only to win both events though.

Bashford Manor Stakes has been six furlongs since 1986.  Between 1982-85, it was 5 1/2 furlongs. It held sway at 5 furlongs from 1926-81 & originated at 4 1/2 furlongs through 1925.  Up until the mid-70s, it was always held in May.  As Churchill's Spring Meet lengthened, the race has subsequently been held in May, June & July.

As that first Bashford Manor field went to post in 1902, rough ridin’ Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, having succeeded Bill McKinley following his assassination (Roosevelt that year became the first president to ride in a car).  Jimmy Winkfield rode Von Rouse to the inaugural Bashford Manor Stakes winner’s circle.

The first MLB World Series wouldn't be played until the year following that inaugural Bashford Manor Stakes (1903).  The established National League & newly formed American League were battling over player contracts.  The Pittsburgh Pirates were 1902 National League champs & the cross-state upstart Philadelphia Athletics won the American League pennant.

Louisville was beginning its 3rd summer w/out Major League Baseball as that first Bashford Manor field went to post, the Louisville Colonels had shut down after the 1899 season after eight losing seasons in the National League.  The Colonels never climbed higher than 9th in any season’s standings.  Many of the Colonels, including 1899 Colonels MVP Honus Wagner, made their way to Pittsburgh, where the Alleghenys (later renamed Pirates) would win two World Series & six National League pennants, including the 1902 season.

Speaking of baseball, Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance first appeared in a game together that 1902 baseball season.  And, can you believe, Jimmy Collins left the NL's Boston Beaneaters to manage the new Boston Somersets (AL)?  Really.

Michigan had earlier that 1902 year won the first-ever Rose Bowl, pounding Stanford 49-0.  Doug James is smiling.  Oh, by the way, 111 years later, University of Louisville whipped up on Michigan to win its 3rd NCAA National Basketball Championship.

Bashford Manor Stable owned & bred two (2) Derby winners during its heyday at the turn of the 19thcentury.  Azra won a three horse Derby in 1892, defeating an entry that comprised the other two horses.  In 1906, the Derby field had doubled to six when Sir Huon came home first. Bashford Manor Stable also bred 1899 Derby winner Manuel.  It was Manuel’s only win of his three-year-old season, he beat four others in his Derby.

Bashford Manor Stable (& farm) would close by the 1920s but remain relatively undeveloped until Bashford Manor Mall was built in the 1970s.  The mall met the wrecking ball in 2003.

Since we’re talking Louisville landmarks, east Louisville residents will note Copperfield was 2nd in the Bashford Manor Stakes of 1903.

Phar Mon w/Steve Brooks & Spy Charger w/Gary Mahon both carried a crushing 127 lbs. in their Bashford Manor Stakes wins.

It’s the last Saturday of Churchill’s Spring Meet and a grand, old race will be contested for the 114th consecutive spring in Louisville.  Party on! 

Flashback to Inaugural Debutante Stakes & the year that was 1895

Jun 17, 2015 -- 11:02am

Next Saturday evening, Churchill Downs Spring Meet concludes & offers up the 77th consecutive…and 115th overall…running of the $100,000 Debutante Stakes.  Tune in this Saturday...and next...for "Inside Churchill Downs" w/Darren Rogers & John Asher.  You DID hear their EXTENDED live chat w/Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert last week, right??  Who else had Bob talking about the feeling of "getting kicked in the junk" during Triple Crowns past...ONLY on ESPN 680/105.7.

The Debutante Stakes debuted during 1895 Spring Meet & has been run at distances ranging from four to six furlongs through the generations.  It’s been at its current six furlongs since Richwoman won for Shaun Bridgmohan & Steve Asmussen in 2006.  It was also six furlongs from 1986-90.  Race was not held during Great Depression years of 1932-37.

Only the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Clark Handicap & Falls City Handicap are older on the Churchill Downs stakes schedule.  Several generations past will remember the Debutante Stakes being the traditional undercard feature on Kentucky Derby Day from 1950-81.  Those were still the days prior to tracks loading up stakes races on one or two big days.

That first Debutante Stakes was held on Tuesday, May 7…the day AFTER the 21st Kentucky Derby which, if math holds, was run on a Monday, May 6.

It was a memorable 21st Derby that year of 1895 as it was the last ever run at the Derby’s original 1 ½ miles.  Soup Perkins & Halma took the final 12 furlong Derby.  Halma would also win the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs that year (when contested in the spring).  He would also win the prestigious Latonia Derby during his three-year-old season.

While the Debutante Stakes has lacked much depth & quality in its past few years (as early two-year-old racing has fallen out of fashion), it was as recent as ’08 that Kentucky Oaks & Preakness heroine, Rachel Alexandra, contested the race.  Rachel ran 2nd to Garden District & Robby Albarado that year.

Ten years earlier in 1998, the great Silverbulletday took the Debutante under Willie Martinez & remains the last of six fillies to take both the Debutante & Kentucky Oaks (Rachel Alexandra was 2nd in her Debutante Stakes try).

Flashing back again to the inaugural Debutante Stakes of 1895, Grover Cleveland was in the second of his two, non-consecutive terms as President.  Grover actually won the popular vote three elections in a row 1884, 1888 & 1892.  Benjamin Harrison took the Electoral College vote in ’88 though.

History Channel “Pawn Stars” fans will remember the episode where a Grover Cleveland signed document was in play (alas, turned out to be an early version of auto pen).  Also learned that Grover married a 21-year-old daughter of a friend when he was president.  That remains America’s youngest first lady.

That first Debutante Stakes year of 1895 was yet another miserable season for the Louisville Colonels, then a Major League team in the 12-team National League.  The Colonels would finish last with a 35-96 record, more than 50 games back of the Baltimore Orioles.  In its defense, the Colonels only played 57 home games v. 74 on the dusty road.

Churchill’s Debutante Stakes is a bit of who’s who…for Keeneland stakes races.  Alcibiades won Debutante in 1929 & she titles Keeneland’s premiere two-year-old stakes race for fillies each autumn.  Bewitch won her Debutante in 1947 & she titles a Keeneland stakes for older fillies & mares in the spring.

Blue Grass won the 1946 Debutante, but, well, Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes was run before Blue Grass (the filly) won her Debutante.  Nice historical quirk nonetheless.

Enjoy these old Churchill Downs classic stakes races!!  Shame there aren’t more that have stood the test of time over Churchill's 140 year history.  And for Louisville's best racing show, it's "Inside Churchill Downs" this Saturday from 10-11a! 

American Pharoah, Steve Foster & Flag Day Weekend!!

Jun 12, 2015 -- 2:49pm

Oh! Susanna Don't You Cry For Me…it's a Flag Day Eve Saturday Night card at Churchill Downs highlighted by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap AND the victory lap by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.  What a night it'll be on Central Avenue.  Tune into ESPN 680/105.7 for "Inside Churchill Downs" with Darren Rogers & John Asher on Saturday (10a-11a) & to 93.9 the Ville for LIVE race coverage of the Stephen Foster Handicap & the parading of American Pharoah (8p-10p).

The Stephen Foster Handicap for older horses will go for its 34th consecutive year.  Since its inception in 1982, it’s always been 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill dirt.  Despite rumor to the contrary, it has never been held at Camptown Races, nor run at five miles long.  Do da.  Do da.

Race has always been held during June of the Spring Meets with the exception of 1984, when it was held in August (during the second of Churchill's two years of summertime racing).  Popular local favorites Mythical Ruler & Jimmy McKnight teamed up to win that one.  No reports though whether either were Dreaming of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.

For the Beautiful Dreamer who created this race, congrats...it's evolved into a championship caliber event.

From '07-'09 though, Robby Albarado was unbeatable in the Foster winning with Flashy Bull (’07), Curlin (’08) & Macho Again (’09).  Albarado teams up with Paganol (20-1) Saturday night.

Blame used his Foster win in 2010 as springboard toward his upset of Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic later that year.  In 1998, Awesome Again defeated Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm in both his Foster & Breeders' Cup Classic wins.  Two years ago, the winner (Fort Larned) had won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in '12, but earlier he had been unplaced in that year’s Stephen Foster Handicap.

Recoup the Cash ('94-'95) & Vodika Collins ('82-'83) are the only repeat winners.

Flashing back to a time when it was morning in America, let’s visit with the world as the first Stephen Foster Handicap field went to post that June day of 1982…

Ronald Reagan had awoken the slumbering American economy & the Reagan Revolution was on.  An era of peace & prosperity would follow for more than 15 years.

Not everything was wine & roses yet though, America was trudging through the 6th week of "Ebony & Ivory" being the #1 song.  Yeah, it really was.  Diabetes anyone?

"Dallas" was in its heyday as America's most popular TV show.  Ironically, "Dallas" returned to the airwaves three years ago w/new original episodes appearing on TNT.  RIP J.R.  New series isn’t awful.  Nice to see Bobby getting work again.

Just out in June of '82 were a couple of movies you might have heard of..."E.T." & "Poltergeist."  It wasn't all milk & honey for Hollywood though..."Grease 2" was fresh in the theatres too.

The Lakers had just wrapped up the NBA title in six games over the '76'ers.  Denny Crum's Cardinals had made the Final Four earlier that spring, losing to Patrick Ewing & Georgetown in New Orleans.  Joe B. Hall's Wildcats had suffered a much crueler fate, losing to Middle Tennessee State (thus avoiding an NCAA showdown w/Louisville; the first dream game would take place the next season).

Joe Montana & the San Francisco 49'ers were reigning as Super Bowl champs.  They'd rallied late to beat Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI in Detroit.

And, politically in that mid-June of 1982, somehow, 12 people masquerading as jurors of Ronald Reagan’s peer found John Hinckley "Not Guilty" of shooting President Reagan.  They must've missed the visual replay of the shooting shown a ga'zillion times on TV.  The only insanity in that courtroom was in the jury box & perhaps later in "The Alex" movie theatre when Kramer ate that hot dog to prove Lloyd Braun wasn't insane.  It was not, however, a perfectly sane food.

Here's to you a Great Flag Day weekend!!  Until then, My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night. 

Belmont Stakes is HERE!!

Jun 04, 2015 -- 1:39pm

It’s week five of “Inside Churchill Downs” with Darren Rogers & John Asher this Saturday (June 6).  Darren & John will preview Saturday’s Belmont Stakes & also look at full field of twelve (12) that'll gather around 6:17p Saturday evening for the grassy Mint Julep Handicap, Saturday’s headliner at Churchill Downs.

93.9 the Ville is broadcasting HRRN “Countdown the Triple Crown” from Belmont Park. Wednesday-Friday from 10:00a-12:00n you’ll get market-best coverage.  And, of course, ESPN 680/105.7 will have full coverage of The Belmont Stakes next Saturday from 5:00-7:30p.  Big Game…Big Race…only one place…ESPN 680/105.7 .

And so as Churchill Downs honors its flavorful Kentucky Derby beverage of choice on Saturday, let’s flashback to the first-ever running of New York’s legendary Belmont Stakes…it was June 19, 1867 when the first Belmont field went postward at Jerome Park. Built by Leonard Jerome with financing from August Belmont and so, for his financial wizardry, Augie received the honor of what would become the third leg of the American Triple Crown named in his honor.

That first Belmont Stakes in late spring 1867 saw America in its post-Civil War reconstruction era. Andrew Johnson was in his third year as president, taking over following Abe Lincoln’s assassination two years earlier.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Cincinnati Reds) were in their second season of professional baseball. AND YOU KNOW...the Reds are on the Radio…and heard EXCLUSIVELY throughout Louisville on ESPN 680/105.7 .

Earlier in that first Belmont Stakes year of 1867, Nebraska was admitted as the 37th of the ever-growing United States. The summer prior to the first Belmont saw President Johnson officially ending the Civil War and re-admitting Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia. In retrospect, maybe the south shouldn't have asked back & the Southeastern Conference today could have been its own country.

Shortly after the first Belmont Stakes, Congress would grow weary of President Andrew Johnson's lenient treatment of southern states & voted to impeach him (and there wasn’t even a blue dress involved). Johnson’s Senate conviction would fail by a single vote of removing him from office. No record of whether the deciding vote turned on what the definition of the word "is" is (or was). And, unlike modern times, Johnson couldn’t even turn the IRS loose on his opponents. There was no IRS. Heck there was no income tax. Simpler times. Simpler times.

America plunked down 2 cents an acre & purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. Ridiculed at the time as “Seward’s Folly”, looks like a pretty good land deal these days. William Seward, then Secretary of State, had survived his own assassination attempt on the night Lincoln was shot, being stabbed repeatedly in his home.

Long-gone Jerome Park would host the Belmont Stakes through 1889. Nearby (also long-gone) Morris Park hosted from 1890-1904.

Belmont Park took the reigns in 1905 & has hosted every year except 1911-12 (when gambling was outlawed in New York) and 1963-67 when Belmont Park was being rebuilt & Aqueduct hosted.

The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926. When Man o' War won in 1920, the race was 1 3/8th miles & run clockwise (English style) versus today's American standard counter-clockwise running.

Jim McLaughlin & Eddie Arcaro each rode six (6) Belmont winners. No current jockey is close to this record. McLaughlin won the race six times in 7 years (1882-1888). James G. Rowe. Sr. trained eight Belmont winners between 1883-1913 AND previously had ridden two Belmont winners (1872-73).

Julie Krone, aboard Colonial Affair in 1993, remains the only female jockey to win the Belmont, or any Triple Crown race. And, says here, no...no there will not be a Triple Crown in 2015. Oh that Big Sandy. 

Inside Churchill Downs, Aristides Stakes & the first-ever Belmont Stakes

May 28, 2015 -- 2:36pm

It’s week four of “Inside Churchill Downs” with Darren Rogers & John Asher this Saturday (May 30).  Darren & John will preview next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes & also look at likely the toughest renewal in the history of the Aristides Stakes, Saturday’s headliner at Churchill Downs.

Next week, 93.9 the Ville will broadcast HRRN “Countdown the Triple Crown” from Belmont Park.  Wednesday-Friday from 10:00a-12:00n you’ll get market-best coverage.  Drew Deener will also broadcast his show live on ESPN 680/105.7 and 93.9 the Ville from New York on Belmont Stakes Eve (June 5) from 7:00a-10:00a

And, of course, ESPN 680/105.7  will have full coverage of The Belmont Stakes next Saturday from 5:00-7:30p.  Big game…big race…only one place…ESPN 680/105.7 .

And so as Churchill Downs honors its first-ever Kentucky Derby winner on Saturday, let’s flashback to the first-ever running of New York’s legendary Belmont Stakes…it was June 19, 1867 when the first Belmont field went postward at Jerome Park.  Built by Leonard Jerome with financing from August Belmont and so, for his financial wizardry, Augie received the honor of what would become the third leg of the American Triple Crown named in his honor.

That first Belmont Stakes in late spring 1867 saw America in its post-Civil War reconstruction era.  Andrew Johnson was in his third year as president, taking over following Abe Lincoln’s assassination two years earlier.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Cincinnati Reds) were in their second season of professional baseball.  AND YOU KNOW...the Reds are on the Radio…and heard EXCLUSIVELY throughout Louisville on ESPN 680/105.7 .

Earlier in that first Belmont Stakes year of 1867, Nebraska was admitted as the 37th of the ever-growing United States.  The summer prior to the first Belmont saw President Johnson officially ending the Civil War and re-admitting Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia.  In retrospect, maybe the south shouldn't have asked back & the Southeastern Conference today could have been its own country.

Shortly after the first Belmont Stakes, Congress would grow weary of President Andrew Johnson's lenient treatment of southern states & voted to impeach him (and there wasn’t even a blue dress involved).  Johnson’s Senate conviction would fail by a single vote of removing him from office.  No record of whether the deciding vote turned on what the definition of the word "is" is (or was).  And, unlike modern times, Johnson couldn’t even turn the IRS loose on his opponents.  There was no IRS.  Heck there was no income tax.  Simpler times.  Simpler times.

America plunked down 2 cents an acre & purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.  Ridiculed at the time as “Seward’s Folly”, looks like a pretty good land deal these days.  William Seward, then Secretary of State, had survived his own assassination attempt on the night Lincoln was shot, being stabbed repeatedly in his home.

Long-gone Jerome Park would host the Belmont Stakes through 1889.  Nearby (also long-gone) Morris Park hosted from 1890-1904. 

Belmont Park took the reigns in 1905 & has hosted every year except 1911-12 (when gambling was outlawed in New York) and 1963-67 when Belmont Park was being rebuilt & Aqueduct hosted.

The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926.  When Man o' War won in 1920, the race was 1 3/8th miles & run clockwise (English style) versus today's American standard counter-clockwise running.

Jim McLaughlin & Eddie Arcaro each rode six (6) Belmont winners.  No current jockey is close to this record.  McLaughlin won the race six times in 7 years (1882-1888).  James G. Rowe. Sr. trained eight Belmont winners between 1883-1913 AND previously had ridden two Belmont winners (1872-73).

Julie Krone, aboard Colonial Affair in 1993, remains the only female jockey to win the Belmont, or any Triple Crown race.  And, says here, no...no there will not be a Triple Crown in 2015.  Oh that Big Sandy.


American Pharoah One Race from Destiny...and you'll hear it LIVE on ESPN 680/105.7

May 18, 2015 -- 1:01pm

American Pharoah was simply brilliant at Pimlico, singing through the rain & advance one race from becoming thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown winner since 1978.  As the Woodman (Woody Stephens) was fond of saying, the buildings get bigger in New York & for all his success at Pimlico, Belmont Park has owned Bob Baffert.

Big Brown was a lock...and was eased.  I'll Have Another, heavy favorite, never made race day.  Tougher medication rules in New York, ya' know.  California Chrome...simply not good enough & racing gods didn't favor the boisterous owner.  Will the racing gods reward American Pharoah owner who bankrupted his racing business just a few years ago? 

What it is...and will be...is a great three weeks of broadcast on ESPN 680/105.7 as we look to June 6 in Elmont, New York.  (And yes, why is Belmont in Elmont?)

Fun begins this Saturday at 8:00a with HRRN Equine Forum & then week three of "Inside Churchill Downs" with Darren Rogers & John Asher at 10:00a.  They'll recap Preakness Stakes & look at one of Churchill's historically great races, this Saturday's 1 1/2 mile Louisville Handicap on the turf.

Preakness Stakes on ESPN 680/105.7 & 93.9 the Ville

May 12, 2015 -- 1:44pm

American Pharoah attempts to claim the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown Saturday in Baltimore.  ESPN 680/105.7 live coverage begins at 8:00a w/HRRN Equine Forum live from Pimlico Race Course.  Darren Rogers takes over at 10:00a for the second installment of "Inside Churchill Downs Racing" with his view of the Preakness Stakes & Preakness Day festivities at Churchill Downs (including Saturday's 1 3/8th mile Keertana Stakes on the grass).

Beginning at 4:00p, ESPN 680/105.7 will be joined by 93.9 the Ville for exclusive, live coverage of Preakness Stakes 140

Big game...BIG RACE...ONLY ONE PLACE!!  ESPN 680/105.7  and now 93.9 the Ville.

"Inside Churchill Downs" Debuts Saturday, May 9

May 08, 2015 -- 8:07pm

Fresh off the worst Kentucky Derby beatdown in my young, tender life, it's time to tuck tail, head back to Barn 33 & turn this racing bid'nes over to those who see it best from the inside...Darren Rogers & John Asher.  And so, ON...YOUR...FEET...let's greet the inaugural broadcast of "Inside Churchill Downs Racing w/Darren Rogers & John Asher."

Maiden broadcast starts at 10:00a on Saturday, May 9 following HRRN Equine Forum (8:00a-10:00a).  America's best racing town deserves its best-ever broadcast lineup.

In support of Darren & John, we'll also be debuting the ESPN 680 Orchestra & the 105.7 Dancers...THIS will be something EVERYONE can enjoy!!

We hope you tune in Saturday & every Saturday during Churchill's already record-shattering 2015 Spring Meet.

Upstart Upsets 141st Kentucky Derby...

May 01, 2015 -- 8:49am

For the fifth consecutive year, ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville will be your broadcast home for Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks race broadcasts.  THE REAL…and OFFICIAL DERBY STATION!!  Don’t let anybody else kid ya’…

Kentucky Derby 141 goes at 6:44p ET Saturday with full field of twenty (20).  Purse $2,000,000+ over one mile & one quarter.  Derby has been run at the historical 1 ¼ miles every year since Ben Brush won the 22nd running in 1896.  Previously, the Derby had been run at 1 ½ miles since its inception in 1875 through 1895.

In both 2013 & 2014, Dallas Stewart finished second with long-shot plodders keying some wonderful exactas & trifectas.  Dallas has one bullet on the also-eligible list, Tale of Verve, a maiden winner at Keeneland on April 23.  Rooting for Dallas to get in…need him.

Let’s roll damn tide…

1. Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1 w/Elvis Trujillo)…Trujillo was a winner in his first-ever Churchill Downs mount on Preakness Day 2008 w/Casey’s Jet @ 20-1.  Elvis can ride, alas he can’t also do the running.  Ocho 3x improved in his second (& final) start of 2015 when 3rd in Blue Grass Stakes on April 4.  Dad won the Derby in ’07 (Street Sense) & gramps (Horse Chestnut) was world class too.  He’s being asked to do too much, too soon from a very unforgiving post.  

2. Carpe Diem (8-1 w/John Velazquez)…was likely to be my pick until drawing deep on the inside.  He might be the best horse in the race, but will need a golden trip.  Velazquez is good, when he’s on the best horse.  He’ll have to earn his money from that 2 post though & don’t see him being able to negotiate w/success.  If he goes early, others are faster.  He sits back, he’s likely to have ultra rough trip.  $1.6 million dollar yearling is good…just think he drew a losing hand with all the money on the table.  Trainer Todd Pletcher is only 1-for-40 in Derby too.

3. Materiality (12-1 w/Javier Castellano)…it was May 16, 1882 when Apollo won the 8th Kentucky Derby, running the 1 ½ miles in 2.40 ¼.  Winning betters secured $169 for every $5 win wager.  And that friends is the last…and only…Kentucky Derby winner who did not race at age two.  Materiality went postward for the first time on January 11.  Yes, times & training methods have changed, but that angle remains consistent.  He’s three-for-three & all in impressive fashion.  His Florida Derby win was visually brilliant but historically slow, painfully slow.  He’ll be stalking from the inside of 17 horses to his right.  With lack of seasoning, he drew poorly.  Pops (Afleet Alex) was tough son of a gun, but gramps was sprinter.  Can’t play ‘em all, he’s tossed.  Oh, same as the deuce, trainer Todd Pletcher 1-for-40 in the Derby.  On the other hand, Javier Castellanos is riding in world-class form.  Scares me that he has the Danza (from last year) look about him to mess things up.

4. Tencendur (30-1 w/Manny Franco)…gyrocopting beneath Derby radar.  Louisville-born trainer (based in New York) brings this New York bred into Derby sporting but a single New York-bred win.  Hacked around couple Grade 3 winter stakes at Aqueduct before uncorking career best in Wood Memorial.  Took lead mid-stretch at 21-1 before finishing second to Frosted.  Wood form has been atrocious over more than a decade.  Wanting to make the case for him, can’t.  Having said that, on a personal level, he’ll get some of my action in support of Jenna!!  (Look-alike jack russell to my Pebbles.  Missed seeing her last summer against the big tree by the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.)

5. Danzig Moon (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…Leparoux has given some of the single worst Derby rides in recent years.  Not that he can’t ride, he’s just shrunk badly on the biggest day.  Danzing Moon sports only a maiden win at Gulfstream in February when heavily backed.  In his prior start, he’d finished second on October 26 at Churchill.  Well beaten 4th to Carpe Diem in Tampa Bay Derby then rebounded to run 2nd to that same horse in Blue Grass Stakes.  Other than Carpe Diem, Blue Grass Stakes was an entry-level allowance race.  Big fan of trainer Mark Casse, not feelin’ it with this $160k yearling.  Pass.

6. Mubtaahu (20-1 w/Christophe Soumillon)…only a head away from being five-for-five on Dubai dirt.  His last two wins, both at 1 3/16 miles were impressive.  Long-winded European breeding, so his love of dirt, or Dubai dirt, is interesting.  World renown trainer in Mike DeKock, none better.  He’s here to win.  Ruling family of Dubai has invested hundreds of millions, more likely into the billions trying to win the Derby.  He’s legit, but becoming bit too much of the “it” horse.  Much like the 1882 two-year-old jinx, I’ll make the Dubai shipper prove that three-year-old coming from the desert can win the world’s toughest race.

7. El Kabeir (30-1 w/Calvin Borel)…well seasoned as the Derby will be his 10th start.  Has won three graded stakes, including last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs (at 7-1).  It was Borel’s only ride aboard this $250k yearling.  Nobody rides Churchill better than Borel & his style says keep an eye on him cutting the corner into the stretch.  30-1 is legit price & pretty solid value.  Only question is, how much will Calvin knock his price down?  Was poorly ridden in his recent Wood Memorial flop, but did finish up nicely.  Give him every chance to shock the world.

8. Dortmund (3-1 w/Martin Garcia)…simply brilliant resume with six wins in six starts.  He’s also proven plenty tough in two epic stretch duels (& wins) against Firing Line.  Shipped to Churchill on Thanksgiving Saturday just to get race over the track in Louisville…they were thinking Derby from the get-go.  His Santa Anita Derby win was brilliant.  Pops (Big Brown) won the Derby (on steroids), but don’t put the sins of the father on this guy.  He’s big…he’s tough…says here he’ll be galloping into the first turn & in with every chance with quarter mile to go.  Heckuva buy for $140k.  Only question is rider Garcia.  Has to give him clean trip in 20-horse field.

9. Bolo (30-1 w/Rafael Bejarano)…well thought of & high class rider.  Breeding looks iffy.  Hasn’t set foot outside of California in almost ever, including training up to Derby from Santa Anita.  In five career starts, he’s easily been at his best on the grass.  Took shot in Santa Anita Derby & he was lit up by Dortmund.  He’s fast in the mornings & on the weeds, California Dreamin’ will become a well beaten reality.

10. Firing Line (12-1 w/Gary Stevens)…mystery horse coming into Derby as he’s only run once in almost three months.  That, though, was brilliant 14 length romp in Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico.  Same race, same place that produced Mine That Bird in ’09.  $240k yearling is okay on the breeding side, not lovin’ it though.  He’s another fast, stalker type in race brimming with speed, especially from the inside.  He’s eye-balled Dortmund twice & just missed.  Dortmund is 3-1 and Firing Line 12-1 & only a head has separated them twice.  Easy to find a head in 20 horse race.  Ageless Gary Stevens needs to uncorck a blast from the past, but he’s legit and so is price.

11. Stanford…Scratched.

12. International Star (20-1 w/Miggy Mena)…since Derby went to point system in 2013, points leader in Derby has won both years (Orb ’13 & California Chrome ’14).  Guess who this year’s point leader was…the unheralded International Star.  He’s three-for-three in ’15, sweeping the major Derby preps at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.  He’s a closer that’s come up the rail in all three wins this year.  Dream trip much harder this time & Miggy Mena hasn’t proven himself at this level.  Pops (Fusaichi Pegasus) won the Derby, but breeding on this New York bred also screams a bit sprintish too.  Ran 4th in his only start at Churchill when 4th to El Kabeir in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (@ 15-1).  Owner Ken Ramsey keeps lining ‘em up & this is his best shot (e.g. it’s not a Kitten’s Joy trying to run on dirt).  I like him.

13. Itsaknockout (30-1 w/Luis Saez)…claim to fame was very controversial DQ upward to win Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.  Upstart was clearly the best horse in decision widely panned.  Still counts.  Followed that up by getting run off his feet by Materiality & Upstart in Florida Derby when beaten more than 20 lengths.  Bred long on top & short on the bottom, he looks more the part of Ohio Derby winner than Kentucky Derby.  Local owners hoping to end century long dry spell for Louisville folks.  $350k yearling is in it, so he’s got a shot to win it.  From around 12,000 three-year-old colts in the foal crop, he’s one of 20 that’ll get his shot.

14. Keen Ice (50-1 w/Kent Desormeaux)…Desormeaux…Dale Romans…Donegal Racing…50-1…oh yeah.  On paper, he looks just like the hopeless Golden Soul did in ’13 & Commanding Curve last year.  Hopeless plodders coming up from New Orleans who, oh-by-the-way, both ran 2nd in the Derby in career best races.  Only win came at Churchill Downs last September & he hasn’t been closer than two lengths since, in fact, he’s only been as close as six lengths beaten once.  We’re not reading a financial chart, it’s a horse race & we’re handicapping…and he’s a price & team that has me written all over it.  Pops was the long-winded Curlin & gramps (Awesome Again) won Stephen Foster & Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.  No, I can’t see him wearing roses, I can see him sending me to the IRS winners line to cash though (& that’s the name of the game).

15. Frosted (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)…Joltin’ Joel won Derby in ’13 w/Orb.  Arab Sheiks send their second runner forward here.  Has done his best running at Aqueduct & beat very little in Wood Memorial (easily the weakest of the major Derby preps this year).  Wood winners have been awful in Derby recently.  Sire Tapit is hottest on the planet & he’s solid on the bottom too.  He’s certainly top tier, but Upstart has crushed him twice & that’s concerning.  Have to take a stand somewhere so leaving him out.

16. War Story (50-1 w/Joe Talamo)…suppose you could make the case for War Story (& not Keen Ice) being this year’s Golden Soul & Commanding Curve.  Been nice run for this $51k yearling.  Talamo got him beat almost five lengths at 2-1 in Louisiana Derby but returns for Derby mount.  Broke his maiden first out at 14-1 w/Corey Lanerie aboard at Churchill Downs on November 1.  Lanerie is best Churchill rider now, he would’ve moved War Story up considerably.  Tom Amoss is great trainer, but this ain’t the horse or the rider to make much headway here.

17. Mr. Z (50-1 w/Roman Vasquez)…let’s hear it for King Wayne Lukas.  By gawd, he runs ‘em.  Mr. Z. makes his 13th career start in Derby.  Been long time since that maiden win though, did just miss by nose in $1 million Delta Jackpot though.  Before you laugh off this $135k yearling as hopeless, he has uncorcked some high-end runs.  Yes, he’s been beaten 28 lengths in the last two, but what I’ve always respected about Wayne is he know you can’t win ‘em unless you’re in ‘em.  Hoping he has great day & finishes in upper half.  He can run, can see his name being added to Last Place Finish cups too though.

18. American Pharoah (5-2 w/Victor Espinoza)…before he’s etched into Hall of Fame, he did finish 5th beaten nine lengths in career debut.  Last four starts & romps have been spectacular.  Did miss Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with injury & he was rushed into this race with abbreviated schedule through Oaklawn Park.  Post is perfect for him, rider has won two Derbies including last year’s aboard California Chrome.  Is Victor Espinoza really going to win three Derbies?  This marvelous $300k yearling bargain was eyeballed in first start & shut ‘er down.  He may go Big Brown on us & gallop around from the outside.  Belief here is should the question be asked down the stretch, he’ll lack the answer.  Anyone good enough to ask the question…is the question.  Pops was beaten by Mine That Bird in Derby & gramps was pure sprinter.  

19. Upstart (15-1 w/Jose Ortiz)…another New York bred, this one $130k yearling.  Breeding is fine, especially that Belmont Stakes winner on the bottom.  Has crossed the wire in front four times in his seven starts, but was victimized by three blind Florida stewards in Fountain of Youth DQ.  Shameful.  Dueled into slight submission by Materiality in Florida Derby last out, but…Upstart coming from post 19 is helpful where Materiality from post 3 is troubling.  Jose Ortiz can ride & he wins at a price…a lot.  Hmnnn…am I seeing red roses??  Wish he’d trained over the Churchill track instead of hiding out in Florida, only negative (& it’s small one).  Price is right…post is fine…rider scores at a price…

20. Far Right (30-1 w/Mike Smith)…so, $2,500 can buy a Derby horse??  How ‘bout that!  Has run three times at Churchill with win (at 9-1) with second & third (in Street Sense Stakes last October).  He’s honest closer that will need the sea to part, but outside post should give him relatively clean trip.  Mike Smith rides the big races well still.  Was torched last time by American Pharoah, but others will soften that one up on Saturday.  He’ll put in his run & can see #20 lighting the tote board somewhere.

21, Frammento (50-1 w/Corey Nakatani)…$260k yearling is saddled with rider who’s lost the most Derbies without ever winning (or coming close).  Had solid chance with Dance With Fate last year, but couldn’t get it done.  Only win was maiden score at Keeneland last October & ran 4th in solid allowance event at Churchill on November 8.  He’s not improved much since then, best finish being well beaten 3rd at 63-1 in Fountain of Youth Stakes.  He’s outclassed, nice though to see Nick Zito have another run & he could pick off some ponies late.

22. Tale of Verve (50-1 w/Brian Hernandez)…trained by the king of Derby longshot (Dallas Stewart), ridden by the best longshot rider on the ground (Brian Hernandez).  Gramps won the most memorable of Derbies (Unbridled).  Same style as Golden Soul & Commanding Curve.  Why the hell not…if someone else scratches & he draws in, toss him in.  How could you not??

And at the wire…

19. Upstart (15-1) upsets Derby 141 as “what happened to American Pharoah” rings out across racing world.  It’s a horse race with 20 in it, get yourself paid.

8. Dortmund (3-1) runs his eye balls out, he always does.  Gets his reward Saturday.  Damn fine horse.

14. Keen Ice (50-1) say it with me “Golden Soul”, “Commanding Curve”, “Keen Ice”.  The forgettables that you’ll never forget (if you played ‘em).

2. Carpe Diem (8-1) better post, better ride & might be better story; he’ll find his run late after bouncing around.

Blue Grass Features Carpe Diem & Seven Horses Named Harry

Apr 03, 2015 -- 11:47am
Blue Grass Stakes returns to God's own dirt (or mud) as polyturf era is over & Keeneland again hosts meaningful Kentucky Derby prep.  Blue Grass Stakes along with Wood Memorial & Santa Anita Derby will all broadcast on 93.9 the Ville (from 4-7p).
New for Blue Grass Stakes this year is placement four weeks prior to Derby (v. traditional three weeks).  Before that, into the '80s, it was still being contested on a Thursday, but nine days out from Churchill's big race.  Dem were da' days...horses ran...preps were preps...trainers got 'em ready by running 'em into shape...
$1,000,000 US. Tasty. 1 1/8 miles. Field of eight.
1. Ocho Ocho Ocho (6-1 w/Sally Gonzalez)...perfect 3-for-3 last year including win in Delta Jackpot (heard on ESPN 680/105.7). Came off the shelf & never picked up his feet when 8th of 10 beaten 15 lengths at Santa Anita last month.  Mike Smith replaced & while he doesn't appear the part of legit Derby horse, he has to better than his last & if you get decent price (better than 6-1), he's okay.  Pops (Street Sense) won '07 Derby.
2. Gorgeous Bird (8-1 w/Brian Hernandez)...did pair up couple of 4-1 wins at Churchill Downs last November & Gulfstream in January.  Then, plodded along 5th in Fountain of Youth.  Can't see him threatening to win, someone has to be second & third though, so there's Carpe Diem & seven horses named Harry.
3. Pepper Roani (12-1 w/Miggy Mena)...spent all winter at Turfway trying to break maiden.  Yikes.  Finally did & then ran far-back 2nd to runaway winner in John Battaglia Stakes.  Race fell apart & he picked up pieces (in fine effort though).  He'll run his race & if Carpe Diem gets horse-napped or jumps the outer rail...12-1 odds tell you how little else is in this Blue Grass Stakes.  He'd likely not be less than 5-1 or 6-1 in entry level allowance.
4. Unrivaled (12-1 w/Robby Albarado)...claimed in his third start for $30k at Keeneland last October.  Lost by nose at even money.  Sent to Parx (Philly Park) he then ran second, broke maiden (by 15 lengths) & scored in entry level allowance (by 5 lengths).  Dad won Derby (Super Saver), gramps won Derby (Unbridled) & Robby rides Keeneland well (though I'm still not over his bad beat on Twinspired in '11 Blue Grass...grrrrrrrrrr....); I'd give him every chance to believe his improvement is real.
5. Carpe Diem (1-1 w/John Velazquez)...certainly towers over field on paper.  Three wins & fast closing second in Breeders' Cup Juvenile out west.  Return race in Tampa Bay Derby was more than fine.  Has been favored every time out & Velazquez did get him beat once, so...always trying to beat Velazquez when heavily favored...this pony's upper-end Derby legit though.
6. Frammento (8-1 w/Gary Stevens)...Nick Zito hasn't been Nick Zito in a loooong time & this seems like another close your eyes & swing hard entry.  Only win in six starts did come at Keeneland though, so of course, you try.  Was blistered in Holy Bull Stakes & ran a little when 3rd in Fountain of Youth.  He passed tired ponies that day.  Sunshine boys, can't see it.
7. Classy Class (6-1 w/Junior Alvarado)...nothing outstanding on paper.  Broke maiden first out at Belmont last October.  Very good.  Running 3rd & 4th in next three at lower Graded Stakes level, never threatening to win.  Dad was sprinter & he doesn't seem to have settled into preferred running style.  Not looking for Alvarado to move him up on strange track for both, could see him running decent enough second though, just nothing else in here.
8. Danzig Moon (8-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...needs to find 12 lengths on Carpe Diem from last out.  Worked his way up to break maiden in 3rd start, at Gulfstream.  Seems out of his league, 'cept other than favorite, nobody else stands out & second place pays $200k & guarantees starting spot in gate on Derby Day.  No way I'd take 8-1 on him to beat Carpe Diem, demand much better.
And the Bluejie for Most Outstanding Three-Year-Old on Saturday goes to:
5. Carpe Diem (1-1)...if he doesn't light this field up, what a disappointment.  You cannot possibly find weaker bunch of three-year-olds for $1,000,000.
4. Unrivaled (12-1)...they don't run 'em on paper, but he's the only one who looks like he could possibly jump up & give Carpe Diem a chase.
6. Ocho Ocho Ocho (6-1)...anyone can throw in a clunker, happens.  Give him another shot at square price.
3. Pepper Roani (8-1)...wow, Turfway winter maiden plodder will pick up a piece of Blue Grass Stakes & $1,000,000 purse.  What a country! 

44th - 50th Spiral Stakes Goes Saturday in norther Kentucky

Mar 20, 2015 -- 1:08pm

Field of eleven (was twelve before 4-1 second choice Imperia bowed out), head postward in the 44th running (actually 50th) running of the Spiral Stakes from Turfway Park.  While the 44th consecutive year for Turfway's marquee race, between 1973-80 the race was split into two divisions no less than six times.  Race goes Saturday as entry with Kentucky Wildcats (tipping off at 2:40p in Louisville).  UK 1-9 favorite to advance to NCAA Sweet Sixteen & its game will be over about an hour before Turfway's big event.  It'll actually be over once they tip it off, but Cincinnati is expected to stay on the court for the full 40 minutes.

While Woody Stephens was Mr. Belmont with his impressive five consecutive Belmont wins, Turfway has its Mr. Spiral…W. E. (Smiley) Adams…the great trainer for Golden Chance Farm during its impressive run in the ‘70s.  Smiley won seven consecutive runnings of the Spiral Stakes beginning in 1977 & concluding in 1980.  In 1977-78 & 1980, the race was split into two divisions with Smiley winning both divisions in each year.  Some lost legends mark those early runnings, including winners Ambassador’s Image (’75), Inca Roca (’76), Bob’s Dusty (’77), Lot o’Gold (’79) & Spruce Needles (’80).

The Spiral…then morphed into the Jim Beam…then the GalleryFurniture.com…then eventually winding its way back to the Spiral.  It’s first significant Derby contender was At The Threshold who won in 1984 under Pat Day.  They’d finish 3rd in that year’s Kentucky Derby.  Kingpost, the ’88 winner for Eugene Sipus, ran 2nd to Risen Star in that year’s Belmont Stakes and the roll was on…

Summer Squall won for Pat Day in ’90 & would win the Preakness following his runner-up finish to Unbridled in the Kentucky Derby.  Hansel, the ’91 winner under Jerry Bailey would bomb in the Derby but then take the Preakness & Belmont. 

And then came Lil E. Tee, again with Pat Day aboard, winning in ’92.  He would upset Arazi en route to Derby glory.  Prairie Bayou would win the following year (’93) & run second while favored in the Derby.  He’d win the Preakness two weeks later before an ill-fated run in the Belmont ended his career (& life).

The great Serena’s Song won in ’95 marking the beginning of the end to Spiral glory.  It wasn’t until 2011 when Animal Kingdom upset the Spiral Stakes under Alan Garcia that another Derby winner (or significant contender) graced the Spiral Stakes.  Since moving to polyturf nearly 10 years ago, the Spiral has mostly been a big money race for turf horses & synthetic wannabes.  And now, the 2015 Spiral Stakes…

1.  Royal Son (7-2 w/Rodney Prescott)…Prescott & Todd Pletcher went 2-for-2on the card including this guy on February 28 at Turfway.  Royal Son was 9-1 that day & crossed the wire first for his only time in 5 career starts.  He began his career running second three consecutive starts while always favored at less than 2-1.  Ran monster race three weeks ago, bred to run all day…would be nice to see journeyman rider cash a big one.  Sniffin’ an upset as he went wire-to-wire with virtually no pressure last time.  He likes to burn cash when favored.

2. Big Family (30-1 w/Albin Jiminez)…has been drilled three straight at high odds after breaking maiden at Gulfstream West (Calder).  Breeding says dirt & his first try on the snow ties.  Gotta let this longshot pass.

3.  Watchyourownbobber (20-1 Rajiv Maragh)…quite the longshot to bring high-end rider to town.  Ken Ramsey claimed two back out of winning $50k maiden claimer on Gulfstream turf, then won entry level allowance on the Hallandale grass.  Front runner figures to give Royal Son company & price is nice, don’t think race sets up for him though.

4.  Wireless Future (12-1 w/Florent Geroux)…broke maiden & won allowance on Fair Grounds turf, neither while favored.  Bred to like the polyturf, but Tom Amoss isn’t known for his snow tire prowess.  Will be stalking the pace & he was $250k yearling purchase, legit.  Looking elsewhere again though for winner.

5.  Another Lemon Drop (6-1 w/Drayden Van Dyke)…career has been up & down in six starts.  Broke maiden on Keeneland turf, that’s good (was favored though).  Last was nice runner-up in Fair Grounds turf stakes (but was even money favorite).  Interesting call for midwest trainer to bring in young, west coast rider w/no Turfway experience.  Inclined to like him, but not crazy about but 6-1 odds.

6.  Imperia…no show.

7.  Magic of Believing (20-1 w/Shane Laviolette)…only turf/polyturf start was second to Another Lemon Drop last autumn in Lexington.  Has banked nearly $90k in last two starts at Oaklawn, both winnings runs on dirt.  Nobody better at a price than Kenny McPeek.  Not bred for surface, but clearly has quality if he’s winning against tough bunch in Hot Springs.  Pace sets up for him, McPeek on live horse at long odds, how can you not take the leap.

8.  Task Force Glory (30-1 w/Rafael Hernandez)…Ken Ramsey runner #2.  Ran awful in his Turfway debut, beaten 22 lengths by Royal Son.  He’s better than that & deserve another try.  Has been competitive on the turf, but he’d be shocker.

9.  Conquest Typhoon (5-1 w/Mike Smith)…lots of polyturf experience & did win Grade 3 stakes on the stuff (along with another Grade 3 score on turf at Woodbine).  Has showed up with solid tries in all seven career starts, usually running to his odds.  Flexible in his style.  Smith probably got him beat while favored last out & he figures to sit off the pace this time.  Never been Smith fan & price is low, probably gets me beat but will try & run him out.

10.  Firespike (20-1 w/Miggy Mena)…Skychai’s best shot didn’t get in, so Firespike will try & make up 21 lengths on Royal Son off previous race February 28.  Does sport three wins on turf & polyturf & has $185k bankrolled.  Wish my lesser stock rolled like that.  He’s better than his last, price is right & no worries putting him into exotic mix.

11.  Metaboss (4-1 w/Alex Solis)…two-for-two in ’15 with maiden turf score at Santa Anita & polyturf win in Grade 3 in San Francisco, where he beat Conquest Typhoon by nearly three lengths.  Certainly on the improve, but don’t like the price.  Running style is fine, not crazy about Solis though either.

12.  Dubai Sky (8-1 w/Jose Lezcano)…take away this 12 post & I’d be singing his song at 8-1.  Enters off three straight turf wins at Gulfstream Park & Belmont Park, the last two while not favored.  Hasn’t seen the post in 2 months, but trainer Bill Mott has ‘em ready to run when purse is north of half million.  Flexible in his style, not certain he’s ready to overcome wide trip.

And your 44th…or 50th…Spiral Stakes looks like…5-7-10-8 box

  5.  Another Lemon Drop (6-1)…young master Drayden has been winning some big races at big prices this month.  Why not here too.

  7. Magic of Believing (20-1)…Kenny McPeek longshots are always worth the money.  Big field, 20-1, doesn’t take much to watch the greenbacks fly. 

10.  Firespike (20-1)…horses can toss in clunkers, he’s been fine before that last stinker.  At 20-1, why not see what he’s made of, price is tasty.

  8.  Task Force Glory (30-1)…another who ran stinker last out to favored Royal Son.  Tossing that race out & checking where to cash my IRS tickets!


FLASHBACK: Omaha...Steaks, CWS, Peyton Manning & One Great Pony

Mar 01, 2015 -- 12:49pm

For the fifth consecutive year, ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville will be your broadcast home for Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks race broadcasts.  THE REAL DERBY STATION!!  You’ll enjoy our coverage throughout the spring with our partners at HRRN as we bring you major Derby preps across America (& from Dubai too!)

ESPN Louisville (680/105.7 and now 93.9 the ‘Ville) continue our countdown to Derby 141 as we flashback 80 years & find another, less remembered Kentucky Derby legend…the Hall of Famer, Omaha.  As the 21st Century clicks along, we know well Omaha Steaks, the College World Series home being Omaha & Peyton Manning, another kind of horse guy (Bronco) replacing “hut, hut” with OMAHA!!  But what of the only son of a Triple Crown winner to himself win the Triple Crown.

And now…the amazing story of Omaha…the winner of the 61st running of the Kentucky Derby.

Born just days after Franklin Roosevelt had begun his presidency in 1932, Omaha began his racing career in June of his two-year-old season (1934).  That year of 1934 began with the first-ever Orange & Sugar Bowls being played on New Years Day.  The following month, Babe Ruth was released by the New York Yankees, soon to land with the Boston Braves in his final MLB season.  He homered in his first game with the Braves on April 16.

March saw German Chancellor Adolf Hitler begin re-arming his nation, effectively ended the Versailles Treaty that concluded World War One.

Omaha broke his maiden in his second start, but would then go on to lose his next seven starts of his juvenile campaign.  Not a train wreck season at all though.  He finished second in the Sanford, Champagne (beaten a neck) & Junior Champion Stakes (by a nose in stakes record time), third in the Hopeful & fourth best in the Saratoga Special, United States Hotel Stakes & Futurity Stakes.

Omaha was just beginning to roll.  After beginning his sophomore campaign with an allowance score at Aqueduct, he was moving best of all late when 3rd in the Wood Memorial, good enough to propel him to second favorite for the Kentucky Derby (behind the filly Nellie Flag).

Louisville was a cold & rainy place the first Saturday in May 1935.  And Omaha loved it, taking over down the backstretch & scoring an easy win.  Nellie Flag was 4th.  Just one week later, Omaha scored in the Preakness by six lengths.

Now comes Omaha’s quirk in history.  As 1935 was still the iron horse era, Omaha next ran two weeks following the Preakness in the Withers Stakes…and was beaten.  His Triple Crown bid though remained alive…and he won the Belmont on June 8 by one & one-half lengths, securing the Triple Crown (despite having lost during it!)

Omaha was the third ever Triple Crown winner, following in his father’s footsteps as Gallant Fox had won the crown five years earlier in 1930.  Sir Barton, recognized as the first-ever Triple Crown winner in 1919, ran through the series of races prior to their acknowledgement as racing’s Triple Crown.

Iron horse that he was, just two weeks after winning the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes, Omaha took on older boys in the Brooklyn Handicap, finishing a non-threatening 3rd to Discovery.  Iron horse, he we go again as just one week later, Omaha would take the Dwyer Stakes.  Then onto Chicago to win the prestigious American Derby in track record time.  An undisclosed injury then ended the remarkable three-year-old campaign of Omaha.

During his Triple Crown campaign, Ernie Lombardi of the Cincinnati Reds (heard exclusively on ESPN 680/105.7) pulled off the amazing hitting feat of doubling against the Phillies in the 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th innings of a 15-4 Reds win on May 18.  The day following, the fledgling NFL would announce the creation of its first-ever draft to be held the following season.  The NFL draft, of course, is now heard exclusively on ESPN 680/105.7.

And of local interest, FDR would announce in late June 1935 that a vault was to be constructed in Fort Knox, Kentucky to house the nation’s gold.

Sent to Europe for his four-year-old season of 1936, Omaha won in his British debut on May 9, 1936 in the Victor Wild Stakes over 1 ½ miles at Kempton Park.  Four week later, Omaha won the two mile Queen’s Plate & then on June 18 he contested the 2 ½ mile Ascot Gold Cup.  In a thrilling finish, he fell a short head short of winning, losing to the non-thoroughbred Quashed in a race regarded in its era as one of the greatest of all-time.  (Quashed’s mom was a half-breed & not recognized by England’s bloodstock agency, although it did not prevent her from running.)

Omaha’s 4-year-old season..and career…would end a neck shy of victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Newmarket.  He carried 138 lbs. to the winner’s 120.

Kept in training for his five-year-old season in England, Omaha again came up lame & was retired.

While not successful at stud, Omaha does trace back in the heritage of three Kentucky Derby winners & the legendary Nijinsky II.  At age 18, after failed stud stops in Kentucky & New York, Omaha was sent to Nebraska to live out his remaining years in Nebraska City, about 45 miles south of the city of Omaha.  He’d pass nine years later in 1959 at age 27 & would be buried at Ak-Sar-Ben racecourse in Omaha.  Racing would vote him into its Hall of Fame in 1965.

Sadly, unable to compete in the age of racino & supplemented purses, Ak-Sar-Ben would close in the mid-1990’s.  Soon thereafter, it would be razed to build a research park & the grave of the great Triple Crown winner Omaha would not be located.

But oh for a couple of seasons during the world’s great depression, Omaha was a champion amongst champions & he’ll always be remembered as the 1935 Kentucky Derby winner & Triple Crown Champion.


The Great War Looks to Pillage Again at Turfway in Battaglia Memorial Saturday Night

Feb 26, 2015 -- 5:02pm

Johnny Battaglia Stakes goes for 33rd consecutive year Saturday night at Turfway Park.  Race 6 at approximately 8:40p.  Three-year-old Derby wannabes going 1 1/16 miles for a very worthwhile $125,000 purse.  Great money for any race at Turfway in February.

Race inaugurated in 1982 as 6 ½ furlong event won by Terry Warner aboard Baraco.  The following year, it moved to one mile as Runs Like a Prince scored under Josiah Hampshire.  It took its current form as 1 1/16 mile prep for the Spiral Stakes (formerly Jim Beam Stakes, GalleryFurniture.com Stakes, Lanes End Stakes, etc.)  More than a decade later, it’s still the Jim Beam Stakes to me.

Stakes record was set by Mahagony Hall in 1994.  The Jim Baker-trained, Willie Martinez-ridden colt blitzed the 1 1/16 miles in 1.42 1/5.  Mahogany Hall, modern day iron horse, would run back in both the Blue Grass Stakes & Kentucky Derby.

Much the same as the January 31 running of 96 Rock Stakes at Turfway, The Great War has this edition of the John Battaglia at his leisure.  He went to post at 1-10 in the 96 Rock & made it look like easy money.  He’ll  likely be less than .50 on the dollar Saturday night against a tougher bunch.  Tougher, yes, not that tough though.

The Great War was a million dollar Keeneland yearling in 2013 who made his first four starts in England & Ireland.  His U.S. debut was 4th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (on the dirt).  He skipped across Turfway’s polyturf last out in his easy 2015 debut.  Albin Jiminez returns to the saddle & he won this race aboard General Election in 2013.

Firespike (4-1) brings Edgar Prado with him.  Prado at Turfway in February,...ells you he’s promising & the pot is large enough.  He’s won three of his last 5, all on turf & last out on polyturf at Ocala.  His style mimics The Great War, but he’s also been beaten in four of his seven starts & looks clearly second best.

Chasing some kind of value, Milwaukee Mist (30-1) ran okay in 96 Rocks Stakes in his second start & first against winners.  He’s been 20-1 both times out, but his breeding gives me hope he’ll improve on the snow tires Saturday night.  Rider Dean Sarvis won this race in 2005 with Magna Graduate.

Rounding out our top four is our buddy Jeff Radosevich & Ekati Told Me.  We touted him at 50-1 for the 96 Rock Stakes & he ran 4th at 92-1.  Again posted at 50-1, he looked like a well-beaten pony on the turn of the 96 Rock, yet ran on to secure 4th.  Let’s give him another shot.  Jeffrey Skerrett comes down w/Jeff from Cleveland to try, try again.  This is decent horse, give him a chance.

Todd Pletcher ships up Royal Son (5-1).  He ran second in his first three starts, all favored at less than 2-1, posting a win via DQ in his third start.  He was outrun in Tampa’s Sam Davis Stakes on the sand.  Playing against him in his first turf/polyturf start.  Rodney Prescott rides, he won this race aboard Proceed Bee in 2009.

Task Force Glory (8-1) marks the return of Dylan Davis to Kentucky on full-time basis.  Four times favored, he has one win (at even money) in a turf start last November at Churchill Downs.  Certainly has solid shot, but would want more than 8-1 if trying to beat The Great War. 

Alrighty then…11-9-7-5.  Won’t get rich on the exacta, but might be enough to juice tri & super, especially if The Great War stumbles.  It is a horse race, but…he looks as solid as it gets though.


Derby Countdown: Flashback 100 Years to 1915 Derby & the great Regret

Feb 11, 2015 -- 1:43pm

ESPN Louisville (680/105.7 and now 93.9 the ‘Ville) begin our Countdown to Derby 141 as we flashback 100 years & find one of the Kentucky Derby legends…the great filly Regret.  Until 1980, Regret was the ONLY filly ever to wear roses following America’s greatest race. 

For the fifth consecutive year, ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville will be your broadcast home for Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks race broadcasts.  THE REAL DERBY STATIONS!!  You’ll enjoy our coverage throughout the spring with our partners at HRRN as we bring you major Derby preps across America (& from Dubai too!)

And now…the story of Regret.

It was NOT the first Saturday of May, in 1915 it was the SECOND Saturday in May when Regret made her three-year-old debut in the Kentucky Derby.  Two days early, Thursday, May 6, 1915, George (Babe) Ruth hit the first of his 714 career home runs.  The following day, Friday, May 7 (Derby Eve), a German U-Boat would sink the Lusitania, killing nearly 1,200 people.  President Wilson, an extreme pacifist, would take no action, keeping the U.S. out of a world at war until safely winning re-election the following year with his “He Kept Us Out of War” platform.  Within months of winning re-election, Wilson asked for declaration of war and the U.S. entered what would later become World War One.

And so it was the following day…that 8th day of May, 1915…as the Churchill Downs racing surface was rated fast for the 16 three-year-olds who would contest the 41st running of the Kentucky Derby.

Regret came in with a big reputation as she had swept Saratoga’s major two-year-old stakes the previous summer, all while facing mostly male rivals.  In winning the Saratoga Special, Sanford Stakes & Hopeful Stakes in a 14-day period, Regret had stamped herself as America’s best two-year-old.  In fact, her first ever start was in the Saratoga Special Stakes where she defeated the top two-year-old Pebbles.  Off those three wins, Regret called it a year and set course for her sophomore campaign of 2015.

Her reputation preceding her, Regret went postwar in the 1915 Derby as the 5-2 favorite.  She had no preps & would lead flag fall to finish in winning under Joe Notter.  Her time was 2:05 2/5.  Pebbles, her Saratoga Special nemesis would chase her around the Churchill Downs course throughout the 1 ¼ mile journey, coming up two lengths shy.  Regret would make her second & final start of her three-year-old season in the Saranac Handicap, where she’d defeat that year’s Belmont Stakes winner.

At four, Regret would again only pony up twice to the starting post.  After a winning prep, she tasted defeat for the first time in her seventh career starts when unplaced in the Saratoga Handicap.  Her blistering pace had done her in & this marked the only time Regret would be off the board.

Her final season of 1917, the now five-year-old mare Regret would race four times with three wins & the narrowest of defeats in the Brooklyn Handicap.  That Brooklyn field of 1917 included two other Kentucky Derby winners, Old Rosebud & Omar Khayyam.  Regret would beat her fellow Derby winners, but fall a nose shy of stablemate Borrow, while conceding five pounds.

Her career concluded with two more wins following her nose loss in the Brooklyn.  She claimed the Gazelle Handicap in her penultimate start, then finished with a track record performance at Aqueduct Race Course.  She retired a legend of the turf, never once defeated by another filly or mare & has been an honored member of the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame for more than 50 years.

Regret lived to 22 years of age, passing in 1934.  Buried in Lexington, Kentucky, this New Jersey-bred filly had only moderate success as a broodmare, but remains one of the greatest performers in the history of the Kentucky Derby, even 100 years later.  In 1970, Churchill Downs honored this racing legend with the Regret Stakes.  It’s been contested every year since in Louisville & renews this year on Saturday, June 13 as part of the Stephen Foster Handicap super card. 

Your 1915 Derby winning legend of the turf…Regret!

Next up, we’ll flashback 80 years to the Triple Crown winning, Omaha, Derby winner of the '35 Kentucky Derby contested in the heart of the great Depression.


96Rock Stakes...Kentucky's First '15 Derby Prep (Well, Kinda...)

Jan 29, 2015 -- 4:18pm

96Rock Stakes goes for 32nd time Saturday evening at Turfway Park.  Race began as the Presidents Stakes in 1983, morphed into WEBN Stakes for a number of years before rockin' on over last year as the 96Rock Stakes.  It’s been run every year since ’83 with the exception of 1995.

Derby prep, if you will.  Three-year-olds anyway.  $75,000 US dollars up for grabs over 6 1/2 furlongs of the ground up snow tires (polyturf).  Field of twelve(12) will tee it up.  Alot to like about that.

Michael Maker has trained the winner in four of the last 5 runnings (2010-12, 14) including Derby entrant & near-miss Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Twinspired in 2011.  He sends #4 Serious Talk (3-1) & #12 Two Step Temper (10-1) out in quest for his “one for the thumb.”  The other 10 trainers will all be seeking their first 96Rock / WEBN / Presidents Stakes victory.

Five of Saturday night’s 12 riders have annexed an edition of this early Derby prep.  Rodney Prescott teamed up w/Maker last year to score with Harry’s Holiday.  Harry would finish waaaaay back in the ’14 Kentucky Derby, but, he was in it!  Counts.  #4 Serious Talk reunites this rider/trainer combo.

Johnny McKee won w/Mr. Prankster in 2012 for, of course, Mike Maker.  McKee rides #12 Two Step Temper this year.

Thomas Pompell in 2010 won w/Kera’s Kitten for…wait for it…Mike Maker.  Pompell teams up with Jeff Radosevich this time w/the inside pony Ekati Told Me (50-1).  Radosevich can train the hair off a horse, I’ll 50-1 on him all day long.  Keep an eye on the Ohio-based stalwart.

Dean Sarvis won this race in 2006 with Warrior Within.  He saddles ups with #3 Milwaukee Mist (12-1) this time.  BEWARE of any Milwaukee Brew offspring on the polyturf.  They love Woodbine, no reason they wouldn’t like Turfway too.

Eddie Zuniga goes back 15 years for his win atop Miami Blasé in 2000.  He handles #10 Fujita (30-1) Saturday night.

High water mark for this event was easily 2002 when Request For Parole & Perfect Drift ran 1-2.  Both went on to enjoy long, fruitful racing careers.  Request for Parole, would run 5th in the ’02 Derby & amass more than $1.3 million dollars off 10 wins in 51 starts comprising seven racing years.  Perfect Drift, while second best that winter’s day in ’02, went on to finish 3rd in the ’02 Derby & then amassed nearly $5 million in career earnings over a remarkable 50 race career that spanned eight years & featured 10 wins.  While he lost his final 19 career starts, he continued to compete at the highest level.

And, perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment for the modern-day iron horse, Perfect Drift ran in five consecutive Breeders’ Cup Classics between ’02-’06.  His best finishes were 3rd in ’05 (to Saint Liam) & 4th in ’04 (to Ghostzapper).

Alrighty then...the 96Rock / WEBN / Presidents Stakes inaugurated in 1983...morning in America...Cards en route to second consecutive Final Four appearance…Ronald Wilson Reagan's steady hand at the wheel...What Would Ronnie the Popular Do…

6. The Great War (Albin Jimenez @ 6-5)...chalky, chalk.  My apologies.  Clearly best horse for this race & surface.  Won't try to beat him, just get the value up with exotocs.

3. Milwaukee Mist (Dean Sarvis @ 12-1)...only one career start, those Milwaukee Brew offspring love the chewed up snow tires.  Race is short for his best, but he fits.

1. Ekati Told Me (Tommy Pompell @ 50-1)...comes in off maiden debut score in Cleveland, so he's ignored & 50-1.  Jeff Radosevich can train ponies, he'll give fine account of himself & can get you paid.

So, we box up 1-3-6 in exacta ($2 box for $12) & $1 tri box ($6).  And for the super, let's add...

2. Candy Charger (Perry Oops @ 6-1)...trainer Larry Holt is hot, can never discount hot barn.

4. Serious Talk (Rodney Prescott @ 3-1)...trainer Mike Maker has won this race four of the last 5 years.  Can't discount that either.

If you want box all five in $1 exacta box ($20).  $0.50 tri box ($24), $0.10 super box ($12).

Derby Fever this 31st Day of January 2015!!  Well, as close as we're going to get for awhile...


Churchill's "Other" Mile & a Quarter Legend

Jan 27, 2015 -- 9:08pm

Flashback:  As we wind down January 2015 & Derby fever begins anew, a moment to pause & remember another 10 furlong legend from Mr. Churchill's place...this is the story of Woodtrap, the last horse to break Churchill Downs 1 ¼ Mile track record NOT in the Kentucky Derby.

World War I had ended a couple years earlier & Warren G. Harding had entered the White House a couple months earlier, replacing a stroke-riddled Woodrow Wilson.  The Roaring ‘20s had begun, along with Prohibition inspired by an earlier version of folks claiming to be progressive.

Since 1900, there have only been three (3) horses to break Churchill Downs most storied track record…1 ¼ miles…that did not do so while winning the Kentucky Derby.  Belleview was the first in 1909 (as a 6-year-old) lowering the mark to 2.06 1/5 while just edging 1900 Derby winner Lieut. Gibson’s mark of 2.06 ¼ from nine years earlier.

Royal Report was next to do so late in his three-year-old campaign of 1907.  His 2.05 bettered Belleview’s mark by more than a second.  This is the story of the 3rd and final horse  to claim Churchill Downs gold standard…seven-year-old Woodtrap who would capture history at odds of better than 20-1 on May 21, 1921.

Old Rosebud had lowered Churchill’s track record to 2.03 2/5 in winning the 1914 Kentucky Derby & there the mark stood until that remarkable Saturday in Louisville.  On the seven race card of May 21, 1921, Churchill Downs first race saw Mished the Time break the seven furlong track mark by almost 2 seconds, running 1.23 1/5 in a $1,300 selling race.  Three races later, the new mark was equaled by Distinction in winning the Fountain Ferry Park Purse.  Up next would be the featured $10,000 Kentucky Handicap, going the Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles.

Immediately following the Kentucky Handicap, Miss Joy would break the 4 ½ furlong track mark in a time of .52 3/5.  Four track records on a seven race card.  Miss Joy would run second shortly thereafter in the Clipsetta Stakes at Latonia.  The Clipsetta, first run in 1883, was one of Latonia’s most storied stakes races until being recast as the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1994.  With Latonia (now Turfway Park) succumbing to casinos, the race has been discontinued & one of Kentucky’s legendary races gathers dust.  Just 11 days prior to Miss Joy setting the 4 1/2 furong mark, she equaled Churchill Downs 4 furlong track mark of 46 3/5.  The mark still stands today.  Fair Phantom had set the mark on May 7, 1921, Casey equaled it two days later, then Miss Joy the following afternoon.

Woodtrap, the then seven-year-old veteran campaigner, was no stranger to Churchill Downs, having won the 1920 Falls City Handicap along with a $1,200 allowance in May, paying $26.  He would face 12 others in the Kentucky Handicap.  Included in the field were Behave Yourself, who just two weeks earlier had won the 47th Kentucky Derby at odds of 8-1.  Also in the field was Upset, who two years earlier had beaten Man O’ War.  The only loss Man O’ War ever experienced.

As that stellar field for the 1921 Kentucky Handicap went postward, the New York Yankees had recently purchased 20 acres in the Bronx to build its new ballpark, Yankee Stadium.  Progressives hadn’t stopped at just Prohibition, new taxes were en vogue too as in May, West (by gawd) Virginia became the first state to enact a sales tax.  Yes, you may have guessed, others then followed.  Kentucky is now kind enough to relieve you of an additional 6% of your hard earned cash when you make most purchases within its borders these days.  The city of Louisville would like even more..."the local option" the tax & spenders of today call it.  Ah, progress.

Six days after what would be Woodtrap’s run to history, Great Britain turned loose of part of its empire…Afghanistan.  Hasn’t exactly been a magic carpet ride since either. 

And, oh that Babe Ruth.  On June 8, the Babe was picked up & jailed for speeding.  After paying a $100 fine, Babe would two days later sock his 120th home run, breaking the Major League mark previously held by Gavvy Cravath.  Yes, Gavvy Cravath.

1921 would make other marks on sports, it was to be the year of the Chicago Black Sox scandal.  And, on the reverse, a spunky bunch from Centre College upset Harvard 6-0 in football, ending Harvard’s 5-year winning streak in what was recalled as the upset of the century for many generations.

And poor ole Al Gore was 85 years late to the global warming dance.  Turns out 1921 was the hottest year of the 20th century.  But Al’s sitting on a wad of cash after selling his failing cable network to oil rich Arab investors & he still has his self-proclaimed invention of the internet to hold dear.

The New York Times reports Woodtrap ran his 1 ¼ miles in 2.03 1/5 & lit the toteboard at $45.20.  Upset had checked early & never got rolling while finishing 6th.  Behave Yourself, also had traffic issues early, made a run to the quarter pole & no more.  The reigning Derby champ was 7th

Woodtrap would run second two weeks later in the $5,000 Inaugural Handicap at Latonia, then six weeks later also second to Hall of Famer, Exterminator, in the $15,000 Independence Handicap going 1 ½ mile at Latonia. 

Just three days prior, Woodtrap had run second to Jake Field in a nine-horse prep race which saw four riders fall.  Jake Field paid $230.20 for the upset.

Woodtrap’s 1 1/4 mile mark would stand for 10 years at Churchill Downs, until Twenty Grand lowered the mark to 2.01 4/5 in 1931 while winning the 57th Kentucky Derby.

Exterminator, winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby & 1922 Clark Handicap, raced 99 times in his legendary career and, with 33 stakes victories, remains alone as the horse with the most stakes wins ever in America.

And of the beaten Derby favorite, Behave Yourself…he was a crooked legged sort & his owner, the noted E. R. Bradley gave him to the U. S. Army after a short stud career.  He would breed calvary horses until his death in 1931 in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he’s buried today.

Woodtrap…while now lost to history, remains the last horse ever to break Churchill Downs famed 1 ¼ mile track record without doing so in the Kentucky Derby. 

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