Blue Grass Stakes rolls out for the 90th time Saturday. As a Derby prep, its prestige has declined marketedly since the snow tires were put on the main track (polyturf). Having said that, by becoming a de facto turf race, it’s $750,000 purse & grade 1 status has brought big fields to the bettors. Like that.
Interesting note, that since its move to Keeneland in 1937, NO FAVORITE has ever won the Blue Grass Stakes at odds higher than 9-5. Yep, no favorite at 2-1 or higher since 1937 (or longer) has brought central Kentucky’s biggest prize home. Also note, the Blue Grass Stakes was run at Churchill Downs during the World War II years of 1943-45.
Race shapes up as Bobby’s Kitten v. 13 horses named Harry (w/nod of the cap to Rick Pitino). Actually, it’s Bobby v. one horse named Harry & twelve others, but it’s Bobby’s to lose.
1. Asserting Bear (15-1 w/Emma-Jayne Wilson)…polyturf races are crap shoots. He’s been a bit more crap than shoot outside of Canada but he could light this tote board if that price jumps up. Demand that bigger price though.
2. Extrasexyhippzster (15-1 w/Julien Pimintel)…never been on polyturf but his dad would’ve taken to it. That helps. Too much pace for him. Sinister Minister won the last Blue Grass on the conveyor belt (dirt), maybe this sadly named fella will book-end the poly era w/ equally bizarre win.
3. Pablo Del Monte (12-1 w/Victor Espinoza)…two-for-two at Keeneland last year & very impressive both times. Hasn’t been close to same form on turf or dirt. Not certain he’s in shape to do the 1 1/8 mile but worth a long, long look if his odds stay up.
4. Harry’s Holiday (10-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)…still trying to figure out how he almost won Spiral Stakes & still trying to figure out how he lost that photo. Race doesn’t set up well for him, but neither did Spiral. Big fanof his dad (Harlan’s Holiday). His big half brother Twinspired almost shocked this thing 3 years ago. Just don’t see the class upside enough. Think Spiral was more fluke than him.
5. Bobby’s Kitten (3-1 w/Javier Castellano)…deserving favorite by folks that have made a living on polyturf. Winner is written all over this guy. Lousy ride by Castellano cost him Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf & he beat last week’s Transylvania Stakes winner Global View in his only start this year. Higher priced favorite angle works against him. Will try & beat him, but he’s lengths the best horse.
6. Coltimus Prime (20-1 w/Alan Garcia)…good grief this is a weak bunch. Sports a Canadian-bred maiden win on resume. Not wastin’ time.
7. Casiguapo (30-1 w/Rajiv Maragh)…these Derby horse names not ringing any bells? These ain’t Derby horses. Turfers taking a shot at big money on a “who knows” surface. Maiden win at Calder, sprint pedigree, no turf breeding. Easy pass here.
8. Dance With Fate (12-1 w/Corey Nakatani)…comes in racing shape & on the improve. Hard to see him staying 12-1 against this bunch, great value play if you can get it. Quite a bit of upside here & for Louisville.
9. Big Bazinga (20-1 w/Brian Hernandez)…definitely better on the snow tires, but only neck away from being maiden. He does fire sometimes at tasty odds & he has Kentucky’s best long-shot rider up. Strictly a Hernandez on a long-shot play.
10. So Lonesome (50-1 w/Joltin’ Joe Rocco)…he’s not the second coming, but no worse than many others of these. That 50-1 isn’t right, he’ll get played off that. Breeding is fine, has won on the turf, closer style fits, good rider…first try on polyturf…I’ll take that 50-1 against this bunch. You bet.
11. Coastline (8-1 w/Stewart Elliott)…rider’s been hot at his inaugural Keeneland meeting & high end trainer knows the polyturf route. Two of his three best races have been on polyturf. Sprinter top to bottom. Don’t see him liking the last 25 seconds of this race.
12. Vinceremos (8-1 w/Edgar Prado)…great Keeneland stakes rider up. Solid on the dirt, but only his dam sire sneaks a bit of hope on polyturf. Todd Pletcher wins w/these all the time & price isn’t bad, but gonna look elsewhere. No problems w/him though.
13. Medal Count (9-2 w/Robby Albarado)…my second pick at 12-1 in last week’s Transylvania went on to win the thing. Wheels back like an old-school horsey. Like that. Derby fever ablaze. Pace scenario is on his side, certainly in good form & bred to do what he’s being ask. Price is pretty short coming from that 13 hole. I’d like to see 6-1 or better at least.
14. Gala Award (5-1 w/John Velazquez)…all good on the weeds, breeding is fine, very lightly raced & his stalking style will get tested from the 14 post. Again w/Pletcher wins w/this kind every Derby season.
15. Divine Oath (12-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…Pletcher pony #3 is two-for-two on the grass & that’s all there is. Good enough to beat this bunch if he gets in, but 12-1 isn’t all that enticing w/everything he’s up against.
Your 90th Blue Grass Stakes winner is:
8. Dance With Fate (12-1)…beyond Bobby’s Kitten, it’s anyone’s race. That price has to hold though as the lower it goes, the less tempting he gets.
5. Bobby’s Kitten (3-1)…head & shoulders above this crowd, but big field & low odds to navigate.
10. So Lonesome (50-1)…he’s going to get hammered at the opening price. He’s no worse than most of these & it’s a horse race. Get yourself paid.
13. Medal Count (9-2)…feelin’ good about life & pickin’ up another chunk of Keeneland cash.
Alrighty then…real racing returns to the commonwealth this week as Mr. Keene’s place down the highway 64 opens. The ponies head home from Florida & Louisiana and life is good. Sign up for TwinSpires.com! Furlong Fridays w/Bob Valvano returns to ESPN 680 / 105.7 on Friday April 11!!
CHECK OUT ESPN LOUISVILLE on 105.7 FM on YOUR TRIP TO KEENELAND!! It ROCKS!!
Keeneland presents 26th Running of the Transylvania Stakes to lead off its 2014 Spring Meet (last ever w/polyturf main track!). Three-year-old grassers teeing it up over 1 1/16 miles (or 8 ½ furlongs if you’re so inclined as are our friends in Lexington).
Not exactly a robust bunch in this year’s Transy, almost half sport but a maiden win to their credit. Opening day card isn’t exactly stellar either, smallish fields. It’ll get better. Gotta start somewhere. Let ‘em run.
1. Medal Count (12-1 w/Robby Albarado)…won his only turf try, but was favored so not certain how good that effort was. Also tried Fountain of Youth & wasn’t an awful 5th. He’s been shooting for the moon so he should be fine w/Friday’s company. Live look at 12-1 & Robby’s won this race twice.
2. Ry’s the Man (30-1 w/Florent Geroux)…two-for-two on the grass, both at Fair Grounds, both at 5-1 odds or higher. Zero turf breeding, so, go figure. Couldn’t win twice at maiden claiming level, including once on Keeneland’s polyturf. Inclined to look away from the Fair Grounds grass scores, but that 30-1 sure is appealing to pony that’s unbeaten on the weeds. And, having said that, trainer Neil Pessin won this race with Chin High in 2006 paying…$139 for the win.
3. Woodfield Springs (12-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…repeat after me…never, never, never fail to give G. Watts Humphrey horses a looooooong look at Keeneland. They are prepped for the meet, they tend to win at the meet & they tend to pay nice prices at the meet. Only broke his maiden last out & not much to recommend, but he’s in the mix for the owner/trainer angle. They LOVE to win at Keeneland. So does Leparoux, who’s won this race twice himself.
4. Hesinfront (20-1 w/Corey Lanerie)…got whipped like butter in Fountain of Youth Stakes on dirt. Buh-bye Derby dreams. Wasn’t exactly an accomplished turfer either though prior to his Derby prep.
5. Kody With a K (30-1 w/Chris Rosier)…never closer than 3 lengths in four turf tries & took additional three races after that to break maiden at Delta Downs on dirt. Virginia-bred, so that’s turfy somehow, but that’s all there is. Nope..
6. Red River Rising (30-1 w/Joltin’ Joe Rocco)…Red River (Shootout)…that’s Texas…and now Charlie Strong. Is Red River Rising cut like Charlie? Will he leave the track w/out saying goodbye? What kind of horse would he be? Unless Bobby Petrino can make the weight & jump in the saddle, lettin’ Red River pass and Boomer Sooners!!
7. Laddy Boy (20-1 w/Jesus Castanon)…finished second in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (on dirt) at 19-1. Only try this year was stinker on the polyturf at Turfway. First actual grass try Friday. Castanon rarely moves ‘em up w/his patented “just-how-wide-can-I-possibly-go” trips.
8. Pleuven (4-1 w/Alan Garcia)…couple of wins in France before crossing the pond. Tried two graded grass stakes at Gulfstream w/out really having a say. Soft turf will help him a lot as Florida turf was hard. Check the odds & turf condition…higher odds than that 4-1, softer turf…much more playable.
9. Global View (4-1 w/Jose Lezcano)…first turf try was tripindicular stakes score at now-shuttered Hollyweird Park on Thanksgiving weekend. Winged on over to Tampa last month & caught Bobby’s Kitten in probably the toughest allowance ever at Tampa Bay Downs. Pappa was from the old country, so he’s fine w/any condition Friday’s turf offers. He’s the play if value holds at 4-1.
10. Storming Inti (5-2 w/Javier Castellano)…easily the most accomplished runner w/four wins in 6 starts, including three on the weeds at Belmont & Gulfstream. Has yet to see soft turf though & he sports no inherent grass breeding. Speed like his tends to hold on softer turf but gonna try & beat him at that 5-2 morning line.
11. Picozza (9-2 w/John Velazquez)…took him three tries as favorite to break his maiden on turf at Gulfstream. Figures to have a say down the stretch, but stablemate to Intense Holiday (The Deener Show house horse) will need to step his game up. Task gets even tougher as turf gets softer.
12. Can’thelpbelieving (8-1 w/Joel Rosario)…like the rider, outside post will only help the price. Couldn’t beat but five other turf maidens last autumn at Keeneland & his two starts at Gulfstream this winter don’t scream at me either. Euro-bred moves way up if turf comes up soft/yielding.
For best performance in a Keeneland Opening Day Stakes in Spring 2014…the Slazy goes to…
9. Global View (4-1)…tanned, rested & ready to ask Mike Battaglia where he got that jacket before wingin on over to London to jam w/The Stones.
1. Medal Count (12-1)…Robby has him rollin’ wide through the lane.
8. Pleuven (4-1)…soft turf hardens him up like Body Shapes Medical.
3. Woodfield Springs (12-1)…why play the super if you aren’t gonna get paid, juices the race up.
No winter blues here...after the scratch of our top pick (Kids Rule) in yesterday's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway, our next three picks ran 1-2-3 w/trifecta coming in at $579.60. Exacta paid $78.40. And, note the counsel to play Solitary Ranger if his odds snuck north of his 5-1 morning line. They did...he paid $21.60 for his easy win at 9-1. The blind squirrel finds another acorn! Ah the pleasures of TwinSpires.com.
Wintergreen Stakes goes for 28th time Saturday, January 4th at Turfway Park. Full field goes postward for the $60,000 purse open to fillies & mares, four-years-old & upward going the polyturf one mile. Let’s saddle up & flashback to see the namesake of this race…Derby winner...Wintergreen.
It was the 3rd day of May, 1909. Bill (William Howard) Taft had been president for less than two (2) months, taking over for his popular bud, rough ridin’ Teddy Roosevelt. Taft, Secretary of War for Roosevelt, was the hand-picked successor and easily beat William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 presidential election, Bryan’s 3rd such electoral beat down.
Four (4) weeks prior to this 35th running of the Kentucky Derby, Admiral Robert Edwin Peary became the first man to reach the North Pole. The North Pole, apparently, comes to Louisville on Monday when temps will top out around minus 2 degrees.
Wintergreen, would face nine other rivals on his Derby Day of '09, the largest field for the race since Ben Ali beat a similar sized field in 1886.
Raised at the Oakley race track in Cincinnati and prepped for the Derby in Memphis, Wintergreen remains the only Ohio-bred to capture America’s most storied race.
A colt on that 3rd day of May in 1909, he was later gelded during his 61-race career. Guessing that Orb, I’ll Have Another, Animal Kingdom, Super Saver & other recent Derby winners…now at stud…aren’t pining for the olden days. Breed on boys.
Coming into the Derby, Wintergreen had started 10 times during his two-year-old campaign, winning half of 'em but only sporting a 3rd in the Hurricane Stakes on his stakes resume. He remained without a stakes win coming into his Derby, yet started...favored...at less than 2-1 odds. The minimum win bet that year, $5.
Leading throughout and never in front by less than a length, Wintergreen won the 1909 Derby by an easy 4 lengths. The Derby chart says he “won in a canter.” And yet…and yet…the Derby would be his one and only stakes win over his 61-race career spanning ages 2-through-7. No failure at all though, Wintergreen eventually won 16 races & placed another 22 times over his 61 career starts.
While stabled at Latonia Race Course in northern Kentucky, at age 8 on April 10, 1914, Wintergreen was killed in a barn fire. His legacy lives on Saturday as Turfway honors this grandest of all Ohio-bred colts/geldings with the 28th running of the Wintergreen Stakes.
The inaugural Wintergreen Stakes was held in 1983 & run each winter at Latonia/Turfway through 2001. Since '01, the race has been run sporadically, not being contested in 2002, 2008, or 2012-13 for a variety of weather & financial reasons.
Wintergreen himself likely would put his $5 straight wager on #3, Agressive Elegance. She’s the only Ohio-bred in the field & is ridden by the king of all Ohio riders, Perry Ouzts. Wintergreen only won one stake in his 61 starts, Agressive Elegance already has two, winning a couple of Ohio-bred stakes in her three-year-old campaign of 2012. Wintergreen will have a souvenir ticket; Agressive Elegance won’t be wearing Wintergreen roses Saturday.
Dreamin Big (#1) was my upset winner of the Holiday Inaugural at 17-1 on December 7. Morning line gives me another 6-1 here. She rarely uncorks that good one back-to-back & she’s been beaten the last three times she went favored. Oh, but those 10 wins & 10 seconds in but 26 starts still looks tasty
Coup (#2) is your 5-2 morning line favorite, but was last of three in her Turway debut on December 8, beaten at 50 cents on the dollar. She’s an open stakes winner at Pimlico in 2012 & came off 1 ½ year layoff to win at Keeneland on October 25. In only seven career starts, she’s twice been beaten at odds of 3-5 or lower.
Truly Marie (#6) is 5-1 & polyturf specialist from Arlington Park. She was most impressive in winning her Turfway debut on December 19. She was claimed two starts back for $50k at Keeneland & hasn’t missed a beat.
La Malaguena (#8) is bred top-to-bottom for turf (which is good for polyturf). Did lose pair of recent $25k claimers at Churchill Downs & Keeneland at 10-1 & higher before running 2nd in her last, beating Coup. Don’t know why, she’s way short on class, but picks up leading rider Albin Jiminez & rates a long look if the 15-1 morning line holds.
Make a Toast (#14) has been running well on the dirt at Mountaineer, which is meaningless here, other than to offer that she’s in good racing shape. She knocked heads with Fortune Play & Lotta Lovin around Turfway last winter & that’s pretty salty company. At 12-1, worth a look.
Trying to knock another one over the monuments in centerfield:
La Malaguena upsets the 28th Wintergeen Stakes w/Coup second & Make a Toast up for third. Adding in Dreamin Big, then Truly Marie if any scratches.
Prairie Bayou Stakes goes for its 18th time Saturday at Turfway Park. Usual $50,000 pot for a Turfway stake. Older boys going 1 1/16 miles on the polyturf.
Speaking of which…conspiracies take one’s mind this evening…no matter if it snows, ices, rains, biblical heat or cold, polyturf is ALWAYS listed as fast. Really? Really?? Gimme a break. Be honest. The ground up snow tires that were sold as the future of racing…until they weren’t…and the perpetual “fast” track are just part of the conspiracy. Would the world end if Saturday saw a couple of inches of rain & the silly polyturf people admitted that the surface might be classified as "wet?"
Then…riddle me this…why must anyone who orders a hamburger be subject to madatory mustard and pickles? Why? Why?? It’s cheaper not to put those items on it. Ya’ just have to take ‘em off & get your fingers all gooed up. And then…and then…God’s own Chick Fil-A. Deeelicious chicken…until you bite in & there’s that pickle. Why? Damn pickle lobby.
Do you think the mustard & pickle conglomerates have joined together to force that muck upon us? If I want it…I’LL ASK FOR IT. All I want for Christmas is to stop puttin’ crap on the food that you don’t advertise is on it and that I didn’t order. That and another 15-1 shot (see below).
Now the Prairie Bayou. Last time we gathered…someone (me) gave someone (you) the $37.40 winner of the Inaugural Handicap (Dreamin’ Big…indeed). Don’t mention it.
Full field…track should have couple inches of water on it…but, fear not…we all know it’ll be fast. Let’s narrow this down & see where the value may show itself:
#1 Present Course (30-1) is the first of some really nice claims in here. Present owners took him off Ken & Sarah Ramsey in $25k maiden claimer at Saratoga. Since, he’s won four straight at Mountaineer Park. He’s bred through the ying-yang, but maybe not for the snow tires, plus that inside post. Having said that…if you get 30-1 on a Jeff Radosevich horse, you better take it someway, somehow. If not in the Prairie Bayou, get on that train soon.
#3 Occasional View (4-1) was claimed two back for $100,000 at Mr. Keene's place. That’s a claim. Almost got it all back in last, leading all but the last couple jumps in $150,000 stake in Toronto. Kenny McPeek trains. Not lovin’ 4-1 though.
#5 Dreams Cut Short (15-1)…hmmnn…another “Dream” horse. Solid enough allowance sort, race sets up for him. 15-1. Should be chargin’ late.
#6 Knights Nation (6-1) looks really tasty at 6-1, especially with Roberto Morales up. Gotta believe that price is gonna get knocked down. If not, how do ya’ not tee this one up?
#8 Burn the Mortgage (8-1) was claimed last out for $62.5k & anything by Kitten’s Joy & trained by Mike Maker has to get a long look. 8-1 morning line is pretty good too.
Okay, on top…let's keep dreamin’. Track surface…yes. Style…yes. Price…yes. Rider…not awful for Turfway (Ben Creed). Dreams (Not) Cut Short flying widest & fastest of all at the wire in the Prairie Bayou. Box up 3-5-6-8. For the price of a beer, buy a wee bit of insurance on the #1 across the board. Don't think he'll care for the surface, but it's only one less beer.
As the snows falls to give today’s ice a nice blanket, it must be Turfway Park & the winter (of our discontent) meet. I’ve always liked Turfway Park (and Latonia when it raced under that name). Having said that, Turfway Park is on the clock.
With no gaming coming & northern Kentucky/Cincinnati undergoing a rapid expansion in gaming in that metro market, the writing is on the wall. Soon, much like Hollywood Park, the land the track sits on will outweigh any benefits of being a thoroughbred track.
Illinois racing takes the winter off, so too now does West Virginia. The racing world won’t end if Kentucky goes dark in January & February. It almost is already.
What does tend to happen at Turfway though is some crackerjack good (and large) field tends to gather for the $50,000 Saturday stakes…this Saturday that means the 28thHoliday Inaugural Stakes with fourteen (14) entered. Twelve (12) can start.
(King) Wayne Lukas has won this event three (3) times (1989, 1995 & 2007). Riders Dean Kutz (1990, 1997) & James Lopez have each won twice (2001-02).
Jon Court won this event in 2000 & he might just ring the trifecta to a similar number on 20-1 shot Dreamin Big. While she’s 0-for-2 at Turfway, running 5th in this event last year, then being vanned off from the Likely Exchange Stakes six weeks later, her style on this track demands one more chance, especially at the price.
Ire (4-1), Purely Hot (5-2) & Soft Whisper (5-1) certainly rate better on paper, but this is Turfway. Demand a price, especially in a big field. Dreamin Big has been first or second in 19 of her 25 starts. That’s a racehorse. Go get yourself paid.
Clark Handicap Bio
This Friday’s 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 last year’s race.
The year prior, soon-to-be two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan won the 2011 Clark Handicap. His half-brother Successful Dan had won the year prior (2010), only to have his victory taken away in what’s become a slew of controversial DQs from Churchill Downs stewards in recent years. And in 2009, Blame won a stellar Clark. 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 heavy 124 lbs. in winning that ’98 Clark. Swoon’s Son carried 128 lbs. in 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. Friday, Game on Dude will try & write his name into the Clark annuls under a post of 126 lbs.
Along with the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks, the Clark has been run at Churchill Downs every year since 1875. T he 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.
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 1/8th mile distance in 1955. The race was self-named for the track’s founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark. It was a young Clark who went to live with his aunt & her sons (John & Henry Churchill) after his mother passed. Clark later leased 80 acres of land that became Churchill Downs from the Churchill family. The track opened that first season as the Louisville Jockey Club & Driving Park Association. Its first reference as Churchill Downs doesn’t appear until circa 1883.
According to legend, a stock market crash in 1893 hit Clark deeply & it’s reported that his fear of poverty led him to commit pistol suicide in the Gaston Hotel in Memphis in the spring of 1899.
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). 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 fromLeslie 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 went to post in 1875. Colorado would become #38 the following year. Harlan too would also get a Kentucky county named after himself.
One of my earliest Clark Handicap memories is of the great gelding Warbucks winning the 1975 Clark as a five-year-old. He’d run last two years earlier in Secretariat’s Derby.
Two year’s 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.
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. Lukas returns this year w/near-miss Breeders’ Cup runner-up Will Take Charge.
Pat Johnson won the 1986 Clark Handicap aboard Come Summer for Rusty Arnold. Johnson still rides (although sparingly) these days.
Somewhere around the time University of Louisville is putting the wood (do they ever anymore?) to Houston, a city block away, one of Churchill Downs newest stakes will run for its 11th time. It’s the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf for three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the lawn.
This race debuted Sunday, November 14, 2004 & was created as a companion race to the popular Mrs. Revere Stakes for three-year-old fillies going the same 1 1/16 miles on the lawn. Saturday, both races will highlight the only official night card of Churchill’s Fall Meet.
Flashback to the inaugural Commonwealth Turf Stakes…
Twelve days earlier, George W. Bush had routed John Kerry to win re-election as President of the United States. Bush tallied a 59-55 million vote win. Bush wouldn’t have many good days to follow.
Bobby Petrino, in his second legendary year in the ‘ville, had his #12 Cards routing TCU 55-28 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium the Wednesday night prior to that first Commonwealth Turf. Cards would run the table from there en route to an 11-1 record & win over top 10 & unbeaten Boise State in a classic Liberty Bowl.
Rich Brooks was suffering through a 2-9 season in Lexington, but did give Vandy “what for” 14-13 the day prior to the Commonwealth Turf. Things would be a bit better coming up for Orlando Smith as six days later his ’04-’05 Cats would defeat always juggernaut Coppin State en route to an Elite 8 finish (losing to Michigan State).
Rick Pitino & his 4th U of L Cardinal team would fare one notch better. Opening its season also six days after the first Commonwealth Turf (beating BYU-Hawaii), the Cards would make that season’s Final Four before being easily handled by #1 Illinois.
Usher & Alicia Keys “My Boo” ruled the radio. American Idol was beginning its 8-year run as the scourge of men across America & “The Polar Express” was just out in theatres.
And of that first Commonwealth Turf, Broadway View won for rider Johnny McKee & trainer Nick Zito. Rallying eight-wide from, 10th and last turning for home, Broadway View prevailed by a nose over America Alive at a tasty 18-1. McKee benefitted most that meet from a riders boycott against Churchill Downs (over health insurance) where the top riders choose not to ride. McKee would go on to claim his only Churchill Downs riding title that ’04 Fall Meet too.
And what of Broadway View…he won the inaugural Commonwealth Turf in the 17th start of his career which began with eight starts at Calder Race Course in Miami. The Commonwealth Turf would be his only stakes score & the final win of his eventual 27-race career. As a four-year-old, he went 0-for-6, then as a five-year-old added another 0-for-4 to his record, only once finishing as high as 3rd in those last 10 starts. He had come into the Commonwealth Turf off a disappointing 4th as the favorite in a six-horse allowance field on the then-Keeneland dirt.
But oh, on that Sunday, the 14th day of November in 2004, he keyed a $5,143 trifecta w/America Alive (11-1) & Capo (25-1) becoming the inaugural Commonwealth Turf victor. And so it was...
Several hours after the University of Louisville’s Cardinal dispatches College of Charleston at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, Churchill Downs will run its Cardinal Handicap for the 40th consecutive year. Race is 1 1/8 miles on the oh-so-tender turf course in Louisville. Ten (10) fillies & mares, three-years-old & older will race in the Grade 3 event.
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 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 for three-year-olds only 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.
While Royal Delta failed in her attempt to three-peat in last Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, her mom (Delta Princess) has Cardinal history. In the 30th& final start of her career, she was 2nd in the’05 edition. It was her only loss in three tries at Churchill Downs, where she had earlier that year won the Mint Julep & Locust Grove Handicaps during the Spring Meet.
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 “insists 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.
And so it was.
Breeders' Cup LIVE from flagfall to finish ONLY on ESPN 680 today (3:00-9:00p)
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
10 – She’s a Tiger (6-1 w/Steven)…named after Prince Fielder & his epic post-season efforts? She broke her maiden at, gulp, Pleasanton (where even Prince might be able to scratch out a blooper w/money on the line).
7 – Untapable (5-1 w/Napravnik)…shame the Breeders’ Cup will only set up shop in meaningless LA these day. Takes riders like Napravnik largely out of the game w/so many west coast runners filling entry box. No super horse, but should be live here.
9 – Sweet Reason (5-2 w/Solis)…daughter of Street Sense might not like the Santa Anita dirt, but anything that can win by 5+ in back-to-back Saratoga starts has talent.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
1 – Dank (5-2 w/Moore)…could not have been more impressive in her US debut on Arlington Million day. Santa Anita course can be like asphalt though, so she’s no cinch.
10 – Kitten’s Dumplings (10-1 w/Rosario)…she packs a big heart & big late kick.
2 – Romantica (6-1 w/Guyon)…was she really 294-1 in her last start coming off grade 1 win in France? Euros are miles better than the Americans, even on Santa Anita’s green pavement.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
5 – Teddy’s Promise (6-1 w/Espinoza)…does her best running on this track, so with Breeders’ Cup stacking the deck against midwest/east coast horses again (and again), why fight it.
9 – Judy the Beauty (6-1 w/Velazquez)…can absolutely see gods giving Wesley Ward his long-deserved first Grade 1 win in a Breeders’ Cup event
8 – Dance to Bristol (5-1 w/Perez)…had seven race win streak stopped by another unbeatable monster in last. Unknown rider juices the odds too.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
4 – Reneesgotzip (5-1 w/Maldonaldo)…will be wingin’ on over to London to jam w/the Stones after this.
6 – Boat Trip (8-1 w/Bejarano)…lands roundhouse punch late & is right there at the wire.
12 – Mizdirection (4-1 w/Smith)…hard to knock 5-for-5 record on the Santa Anita weeds. Co-owner Jim Rome broadcasts on lesser station in Louisville so…
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
11 – Medal Count (20-1 w/Albarado)…racing gods complete Robby’s comeback year…2ndin Derby on plodder…today...biggest upset in Juvenile history.
14 – Strong Mandate (6-1 w/Rosario)…any horse related to Likely Exchange on the bottom is good enough for me. King Wayne looks ahead to ’14 Derby after this.
6 – Tap It Rich (6-1 w/Smith)…super impressive debut over same surface.
Breeders’ Cup Turf
11 – Magician (8-1 w/Moore)…grade 1 winner in Ireland, good enough for me.
7 – The Fogue (3-1 w/Buick)…three time grade 1 winner in England & Ireland should put him on top, Buick can get him beat though.
9 – Indy Point (9-2 w/Stevens)…three time grade 1 winner on dirt in Argentina, yet he’s found a home on the southern California turf.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
3 – Gentlemen’s Bet (8-1 w/Castellano)…look for that price to get even tastier & this boy can uncrank a monster effort.
9 – Secret Circle (4-1 w/Garcia)…second start off 1 ½ year layoff, first start back was stellar. Boing?
12 – Laugh Track (20-1 w/Smith)…trying to re-start career as sprinter, his Phoenix runer-up at Keeneland puts him right there if race comes apart.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
5 – Olympic Glory (4-1 w/Hughes)…if he’s best of the Euros, that should be enough.
8 – Wise Dan (1-1 w/Velazquez)…been a loooooong time since anyone came close to knockin’ this guy out on the weeds. How can you not root for him?
1 – No Jet Lag (8-1 w/Smith) he’s been a changed pony since comin’ over from England as a chronic under-achiever.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
10 – Will Take Charge (12-1 w/Saez)…so, he let me down in Derby & Preakness, King Wayne caps the comeback year of his Hall of Career at, what else, a price.
6 - Mucho Macho Man (5-1 w/Stevens)…brings $2.5mm bankroll & great local form to the dance. Will it be Hall of Famer Stevens capping his remarkable comeback year?
5 – Declaration of War (10-1 w/O’Brien)…sooooo much early pace in this race, there will be tasty pieces to pick up late.
Breeders’ Cup Marathon
10 – Worldly (6-1 w/Flores)…despite 3-for-27 career mark & no wins in more than two years, becomes "all world" w/the upset!
9 – Pool Play (8-1 w/DaSilva)…dude can crank out a big one every once in while on God’s own dirt, will be ploddin’ toward the leaders late.
5 – Suns Out Guns Out (10-1 w/Leparoux)…another cronic under achiever gets a piece for a heatin’ up Dale Romans.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
5- Bobby’s Kitten (5-2 w/Castellano)…it’s Ken Ramsey’s world & we're just here for the ride. That Kitten’s Joy puts out turf runners like no other.
8 – Bon Accord (20-1 w/Rosario)…anything Rosario rides w/talent at 20-1 is playable.
2 – Giovanni Boldini (7-2 w/Moore)…hard-pressed to keep all the Euros out of any turf race, even at Santa Anita.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
2 – Golden Ticket (12-1 w/Rosario)…McPeek & Rosario on live bomber…cha’ching!
7 – Alpha (8-1 w/Bravo)…Jersey Joe Bravo goes stylin’ L.A. on hit or miss horse bred for this trip.
12 – Goldencents (4-1 w/Bejarano)…back in his element around the one turn mile, low price though on California favorite on his home track.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
14 – My Conquestadory (9-2 w/DaSilva)…you bet’cha, there are some tough Euros in here, this filly is special though & priced right.
6- Vorda (4-1 w/Pesslier)…she was pretty special in England & France, that usually bodes well on this side of the ocean, experienced too.
10 – Clenor (8-1 w/Bejarano)…has won three straight in southern Cal, all at odds-on and now you get 8-1 & Bejarano, that’s tasty.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff
4 – Royal Delta (8-5 w/Smith)…she proves it every year when it matters most, three-peater.
2 – Authenticity (8-1 w/Velazquez)…she uncorks a great effort, comes up just shy.
6 – Princess of Sylmar (9-5 w/Castellano)…she’s been amazing all year, but normally when they plan to shut ‘em down & then tee up one more…think she’ll be fairly well beaten.
Fayette Stakes goes for its 56th time at Mr. Keene’s place on closing day of 2013 in Lexington. One of Keeneland’s more storied races, it’s been won by some of the greats including reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan in 2011. Wise Dan’s older half brother Successful Dan took honors in 2010.
One year prior to upsetting Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, Blame won the Fayette.
Heading back into time, 1990 Preakness winner & Derby runner-up, Summer Squall won the ’91 Fayette defeating none other than Unbridled, his Derby nemesis of the previous year.
Star Choice gave one of Kentucky’s most storied riders, Jim McKnight his only (amazingly) stakes win at Keeneland. McKnight remains 12th all-time in Keeneland wins despite leaving the Kentucky circuit about 20 years ago.
Silver Series (’78), Bob’s Dusty (’77) & Warbucks (’75) were other notables of the last great era in thoroughbred racing. Royal Harmony took the Fayette in three consecutive years (1969-71), all under different riders. His middle Fayette saw him defeat Derby winner Dust Commander. Chou Croute (’72) & Old Hat (’65), are the only fillies or mares to win the Fayette.
As the first Fayette field went to post, it was the end of the ‘50s & American hero Dwight Eisenhower was in his 7thyear as President. “Gunsmoke” ruled the small screen with a rating of 40.3. It was the era of only three channels. Three weeks before the first Fayette, “The Twilight Zone” debuted.
What a month for movie releases, that October of 1959…”North by Northwest” with Cary Grant, “Some Like It Hot” w/Marilyn Monroe & “Ben Hur” w/Charlton Heston all debuted.
Two weeks prior to the inaugural Fayette, the Dodgers (still new to Los Angeles) won the World Series in six games over Chicago White Sox. Bert Bell, commissioner of the NFL died while in attendance at Steelers-Eagles game in Philadelphia. Also being called home was screen legend Errol Flynn, dead at 50.
So it was a rainy closing day that 24th day October, 1959. Keeneland’s Fall Meet & thoroughbred season would conclude with its 1st running of the $17,00 Fayette Handicap. The popular winner that day was Terra Firma.
As a two-year-old, Terra Firma had taken honors in the Hawthorne Juvenile. His three-year-old season featured scores in the Ohio Derby along with the Stars & Stripes Handicap at Washington Park in Chicago. His rider that day when upsetting the Stars & Stripes to the tune of $17 was Lois Cook, father of Jason Cook (currently training in Louisville).
Terra Firm would retire with 17 wins in 37 starts across three seasons of racing. And while Terra Firma got the Fayette history started w/an odds-on win, it's Wop Wop who would make history several ways in 1985 when he won the Fayette under Darrell Foster for trainer John Ward. Not only was it the only Fayette ever run on the grass, Wop Wop paid a tasty stakes record $143.20 for his 2 1/2 length win in track record time. It would be Wop Wop's only win at Keeneland in 12 starts.
Dowager Stakes goes for 22nd time at Keeneland this afternoon. Race begin in 1992 at 1 1/8th miles before settling at its current 1 ½ miles. Since inception, it’s always been run over the lawn.
Angel Terrace (5-1) seems to be the play, especially if you can hold that price. Leading rider Rosie Napravnik takes the mount. Trainer Jonathon Sheppard won this race with Omeya in 2007. Sheppard also has Sheppard’s Pie in this rendition of the Dowager.
Bill Mott, who saddles Preferential, won this race in ’05 with Briviesca.
In the older filly & mare tradition of Keeneland (see its Spinster Stakes from a couple weeks ago), the Dowager offers tribute to a widow who holds a title or property, or dower, derived from her deceased husband. As an adjective, "dowager" usually appears in association with monarchical and aristocratic titles.
In loose popular usage, dowager as a stand-alone noun may be used to refer to any elderly widow, especially one who is wealthy or behaves with dignity.
No matter your lot in life...gorgeous day to head out to Mr. Keene's place.
Hope you enjoyed the tasty $11 winner provided for Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Johnny Horse Racing certainly did!
Stakes action returns Thursday to Mr. Keene’s place w/the 1 ½ mile Sycamore Stakes. Love, love, love long distance races. Where have they gone Joe Dimaggio…
This marks the 19th renewal of the Sycamore which began as an even longer 1 5/8th mile test in 1995. Lindon Lime won that first edition under Hall of Famer Craig Perret. Gleaming Key would win the next two in 1996-97, then Royal Strand would double dip his chip in 1998-99.
Tops of all was Rochester, who won three (3) Sycamores (2001-02, 2005), he also finished 3rd in 2004. Last year was Ken & Sarah Ramsey (who else) with Kindergarten Kid.
So let’s Flashback to that first Sycamore in 1995…
Earlier in April of that year, Newt Gingrich & his republican colleagues created their “Contract with America” setting the stage for the Clinton years to boom. Unlike today, the southern democrat Bill Clinton worked w/republicans & went on to achieve easily the most successful democratic presidency since FDR.
Just a few days later though, the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, homegrown terror was front page.
Nine days prior to the first Sycamore, somehow, someway 12 people ruled O.J. Simpson not guilty of slaughtering his wife. American “justice” was never the same.
Three days after Lindon Lime won the inaugural Sycamore, Carolina Panthers won its first-ever NFL game beating New York Jets at Clemson Stadium. And of all teams, Atlanta Braves for once…and only once…proved to be the best team in baseball by beating long downtrodden Cleveland Indians 4 games to two in the World Series.
Mariah Carey still ruled the music world, topping the charts that October day w/”Fantasy.” “ER” was nosing out “Seinfeld” for tops on the small screen. Not much was happening at the box office w/forgettable films named “Jade”, “The Scarlet Letter” & “Strange Days” in new release.
Gas was just $1.09 per gallon…it’d be another generation until Americans would elect a president (yes, the current one out on the golf course) who’d boast of wanting gas to be $4-5 per gallon.
And what of Lindon Lime? The 5-year-old gelding, the first winner of the Sycamore…he ended his 29 race career that 12th day of October 1995 in Lexington. It marked his 11th win in 29 starts for a career that began with two years of modest success racing in England.
And while Keeneland proved his final win & start, perhaps Lindon Lime’s heart rested 60 miles west at the Churchill brothers place. Lindon Lime was a perfect 5-for-5 in Louisville winning the Louisville Handicap in 1995, River City Handicap in 1994 along w/three allowance races.
Thirty years ago this month, it was morning in America as the Reagan Revolution was beginning to bloom. In less than a month, Reagan would be re-elected by winning 49 of the 50 states. Minnesota just missed what would’ve been the only clean sweep in US history.
The Detroit Tigers were pretty close to a Major League Baseball sweep of its own. The Tigers started the ’84 season 35-5 & never looked back. They swept the ALCS & then easily handled San Diego Padres in five games to win its last World Series.
That year of 1984 would be Keeneland’s final fall meet without a turf course when the first Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup was run. Sintra & rising star Keith Allen would annex the inaugural by a scant nose over Pat Day & Solar Halo. Carl Nafzger’s Mr. T.’s Tune would finish third w/Jim McKnight aboard.
Field of nine (9) go to post today over a grassy nine (9) furlongs for a purses of $400,000 US.
1. Sarach (10-1 w/Marty Garcia)…first start east of the Rockies for this Grade 2 winner. All or nothing type has 4 wins w/no seconds or thirds in 10 lifetime starts. Appears just below this level.
2. Say (10-1 2/Jimmy Graham Crackers)…made her US debut last week in at Keeneland after 11 starts in Europe. Grade 3 winner just last month in Ireland but hated Keeneland’s polyturf track in last weekend’s First Lady Stakes. Not a world beater overseas but she’s certainly bred to be one. Running back on short rest a good sign & her mom (Riskaverse) won this race in ’02.
3. Caroline Thomas (12-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)…only stakes win came via DQ at Saratoga while 11-1. Wasn’t able to repeat that effort last out though. Her mom (Bit of Whimsy) won this race in ’07 so she’s got that working for her. Don’t see her catching fire today.
4. Alterite (9-5 w/Johnny Velazquez)…after nine starts overseas to stormed US shores w/Grade 1 win last out at Belmont Park. Sat off slow pace & finished well that day. Not close to Grade 1 in Europe but certainly looks the part here.
5. Emotional Kitten (6-1 w/Garrett Gomez)…it won’t be Go-Go Gomez as personal issues again send the up & down rider back to the sidelines. She won her only start by a nose at Keeneland last April at 6-1. Followed that up w/another nose tally in Pimlico Stakes race. Her two Grade 1 tries in southern California were pretty good. In fact, good enough to give her big chance. And never bet against Kitten’s Joy offspring on the turf. They just win.
6. Concise (12-1 w/Edgar Prado)…fourth start in US after first 6 in Europe. Still looking for her first American photo. Didn’t run bad at Saratoga or Belmont, just didn’t posses enough to win. Her style mimicks most of the field. Don’t see her out-kicking enough of ‘em.
7. Kitten’s Dumplings (3-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…got good in winning Edgewood & Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs, then Lake George at Saratoga. Shipped west and was beaten favorite at Del Mar. “Grass” at Del Mar is nothing like Keeneland. Has disappointed twice in Lexington, but both were on the polyturf track in Alcibiades & Ashland Stakes. She was a monster in Louisville & should have big say in this outcome.
8. Leigh Court (10-1 w/Gary Boulanger)…comes in w/three race Canadian win streak, all wire-to-wire. Distinct lack of pace speaks well for her in this QE II. She’s only made one turf start though & her breeding doesn’t scream grass. Should make all the pace to top of stretch but don’t see her near the wire.
9. I’m Already Sexy (6-1 w/Florent Geroux)…won three straight on the grass at Arlington Park, last two in stakes. Figures to sit off Leigh Court for about six furlongs then put it in gear. Won only start in Lexington at 12-1 last fall, but on the polyturf main track. Bargain buy at $20k can upset this field.
At the finish…
1st- Kitten’s Dumpling…you can’t even hope to contain the Ramseys or Kitten’s Joy.
2nd– I’m Already Sexy…gives it a ride at tasty price.
3rd– Alterite…bounces a bit in second US start.
4th– Emotional Kitten…those Kitten’s Joys can flat run on the weeds.
America’s oldest stakes race…The Phoenix…goes for the 161st time Friday afternoon at Keeneland. The Kentucky Derby is the oldest CONSECUTIVELY run stakes in the U.S. (139 & counting). "The Deener Show" w/ESPN 680 morning host Drew Deener will originate from Keeneland from 7:00a-10:00a on opening day Friday (October 4). That the makes Friday...a Furlong Friday on ESPN 680!!
Defending champion Sum of the Parts returns as does 2011 long-shot winner Hoofit. They are part of fifteen (15) entered in the $200,000 Grade 3 event going six (6) furlongs on polyturf. Up to fourteen (14) can start. Post time is 4:49p for the scheduled 8thrace. Looking for a bomber…keep an eye on Global Power for Scott Spieth & Jeff Radosevich. They win races by the bushel in Ohio & Pennsylvania.
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.
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan won the Phoenix in 2010. He returns to Keeneland on Saturday to defend his Shadwell Turf Mile title as prelude to another run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (which he won last year). Perhaps the modern era's greatest sprint filly, Xtra Heat, defeated her male counterparts in the 2002 Phoenix.
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.
‘twas Labor Day Saturday, September 3, 1983, the looooong first-ever Churchill Downs Summer Meet neared its end. Featured on the 10 race card was the first running of the Perryville Stakes offering a $30,000 purse for two-year-olds going seven furlongs. And while the long-forgotten Perryville offered a couple of really nice runners in Taylor’s Special & Biloxi Indian, the 10th & final race was easily the most memorable race.
The "Ten Broeck Championship Two" offered a field of eight going…wait for it…THREE MILES (out the chute, of course). Race offered a solid $15,000 purse for starter allowance horses that had qualified over the summer during a series of marathon events.
Little can be readily found of this 24 furlong classic other than morning line favorite Talk About Spade won. Julio Espinoza rode for Clarence Breedlove. Second choice Tupolev, winner of the 2 mile “prep” a couple weeks earlier didn’t finish, nor did third choice Black Bullet w/Jimmy McKnight riding for Gary Sanders.
Some program notes from yesteryear of September 3, 1983 saw the legend that would become Pat Day winning the riders race w/169 wins, Keith Allen was closest w/98, followed by Leroy Moyers (79), Jim McKnight (76) & Don Brumfield (65). Bill Mott had a 50-41 lead in the trainers race over Jack Van Berg, followed by Jinx Fires (25), Lynn Whiting (25) & Shug McGaughey (23).
The "Duke of Louisville" Bill Bailey had gone country on WCII every morning from 6-10a & Don Draper (a.k.a. Dick Whitman) would note that KOOL cigarettes had the back cover…”There’s only one way to play it. Wherever the music is hot, the taste is KOOL. Because there’s only one sensation this refreshing.”
Churchill Downs rarely cards marathon distance races anymore, save for an occasional 1 3/8thmile race on the turf. Shame. Racing could use far fewer 5 ½ & 6 furlong cheap claiming events & more adventurous races like the Ten Broeck Series to generate…or at least ATTEMPT…to generate some excitement. Think it’ll happen this September…don’t bet on it.
In the long-forgotten Perryville Stakes…5-2 morning line favorite Biloxi Indian prevailed for rider Leroy Moyers & trainer Dianne Carpenter. He’d win 10 of 30 starts lifetime & nearly $400k in earnings. He’d run 12th to Swale in the ’84 Derby after a runner-up finish in the Derby Trial a week earlier.
Taylor’s Special, the 3-1 second choice in the morning line, would run to those odds & finish second under Jim McKnight. Overall though, he came out far ahead. Taylor’s Special & his up ‘n coming trainer Bill Mott, would win 21 of 41 lifetime starts & more than a million dollars. He’d finish just back of Biloxi Indian in the Derby too, finishing 13 thbut would return to run 4th in the Preakness two weeks later. He also sported a Blue Grass Stakes & Louisiana Derby win on his impressive resume.
And of Talk About Spade, his three mile win would be the last of his 11 earned his 60 start career which featured 21 of those starts at Churchill Downs. He run five more times in '83-'84 before fading in history. But during that summer meet of 1983...which saw him start 10 times in Louisville...NEVER once out of the trifecta w/three wins, 4 seconds & 3 thirds, no one since perhaps the legendary 19th century champion Ten Broeck himself has ever won a longer race at the most historic track in America.
Over the next two (2) weekends, your Big Game station…is also your Big Race station as ESPN 680 broadcasts both this weekend’s Arlington Million & next weekend’s mid-summer Derby, the Travers Stakes from Saratoga.
Beginning in November 2010, ESPN 680 formed an alliance w/Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN). Just weeks after assuming control of then Radio Disney, the newly minted ESPN 680 broadcast the 2010 Breeders’ Cup from Churchill Downs. Later this autumn, we’ll broadcast our fourth consecutive Breeders’ Cup hosted by HRRN’s Mike Penna and his broadcast team.
In April 2011, Furlong Friday at Keeneland debuted and we’ve only missed one Friday in the Spring at Mr. Keene’s place over the past three (3) years. Forgive us that trespass as our entire broadcast team was in Atlanta on Opening Friday this year, covering U of L’s final run to its 3rdNCAA National Championship.
May 2011 marked our first year covering Kentucky Oaks & Kentucky Derby. ESPN 680 remains the ONLY station in Louisville to bring you, not only Derby & Oaks, but the entire Triple Crown series.
And, with our acquisition of Drew Deener in April, one of the first places we debuted our stellar morning host was the backstretch of Churchill Downs for our weeklong coverage of Derby Week live from the backside.
Next month, ESPN 680 will travel 65-south for ESPN 680 Day at Kentucky Downs on Wednesday, September 11, hosted by Bob Valvano. Average daily purses for the Franklin, Kentucky track will average $900,000, a North American record. Big race…only one place…ESPN 680.
Each Wednesday in September will feature a special “V. Stakes” from Kentucky Downs on the Bob Valvano Show. And, to celebrate Churchill Downs new September meet, we’ll host our inaugural “D. Stakes” on The Deeener Show each Friday morning. Our special stakes races are presented by our great friends at TwinSpires.com.
It’s summer and the country’s two (2) biggest races…the Arlington Millions & the Travers…are live AGAIN on ESPN 680!