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142nd Running of the Clark Handicap Friday at Churchill Downs

Nov 23, 2016 -- 11:30am

This Friday’s 142nd 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

Shackleford (2011 Preakness winner) 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. The 2014 Clark saw the future Triple Crown winning trainer Baffert win the Clark with his three-year-old Hoppertunity. Hoppertunity, second last year in his defense of his Clark title, will return this Friday again seeking Clark honors.  Last out, Hoppertunity was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.  Last year's Clark winner, Effinex, also returns for Friday evening's race.

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, 101 cheers for the Falls City Handicap as its 101st 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 1/8th mile 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 7). 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. Both Hoppertunity & Effinex are seeking to join their ranks in this year's Clark.  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. Pat Johnson won the 1986 Clark Handicap aboard Come Summer for Rusty Arnold.  

Clark Handicap #142 under the early Friday evening lights at Churchill Downs.  Enjoy one of America's truly great races!!

Breeders' Cup 2016 Saturday Plays

Nov 05, 2016 -- 8:40am
Tune into 93.9 the Ville for LIVE, Full-Day Coverage of Breeders' Cup Championship Saturday from Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles, California.  Oh, and Go Cards & Go Krogering!
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
#9 Union Strike (Martin Garcia 6-1)...upgrade in trainer since winning Del Mar Debutante; first-year sire Union Rags seems to be moving 'em up
#2 With Honors (Flavien Prat 10-1)...has been tested three times & usually has the right answers; rider is hungry & moving up the ladder as well
#4 Yellow Agate (Manny Franco 8-1)...shocked at 32-1 in debut, then wins Grade 1 Frizette next out at 6-5. No fan of east coast dirt juveniles heading west but her come-back style might get her this piece
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
#3 Seventh Heaven (3-1 Ryan Moore)...Galileo, Aidan O'Brien try to take turf in back-to-back years w/three-year-old filly; flopped in last & price is low but she has talent; O'Brien & Moore pretty chilly during Friday races
#12 Pretty Perfect (Seamus Heffernan 15-1)...not getting me off the Galileo, Aidan O'Brien angle, not at 15-1 anyway; never can tell on Euro form so she's worth the price
#5 Al's Gal (Jose Ortiz 15-1)...think she might be well north of this price when the gate springs open; heroine of Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon two back & picks up world class long-shot rider Jose Ortiz
Breeders' Cup Sprint
#2 Defrong (Martin Garcia 7-2)...Bob Baffert sent him east to Saratoga & he ran impressively; back home, can rate as he wishes; hard to see him getting beat in weak field
#5 A. P. Indian (Joe Bravo 4-1)...six-for-six in 2016 & nothing to knock; was all out to beat Limousine Liberal last out & that one is no super horse (although this race came up tragically weak & w/small field to boot)
#9 Limousine Liberal (Jose Ortiz 15-1)...usually underwhelms, then can uncork a good one like he did last out in Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland; zero depth in this field & banking on Jose Ortiz to keep him around at the finish
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
#13 Holy Lute (Jamie Theriot 10-1)...six-year-old in career best form & that might be enough on his home track & surface; Jamie Theriot won this race back at Churchill Downs several years ago & rider's lack of name recognition might get you a better price too
#9 A Lot (Javier Castellano 8-1)...liking him more for trainer Chad Brown on the weeds than his pilot in here; distance should flatter his style
#8 Washington DC (Ryan Moore 8-1)...generally don't like Euros in these turf sprints, but at 6 1/2 furlongs they get a better run; should be motoring home late
#16 AE-Green Mask (Julien Leparoux 15-1)...he's been sneaking into really good form, was right there in last year's race & if he draws in, will have clear sailing front the outside; very live player
#15 AE-Lady Shipman (Irad Ortiz 12-1)...another very live horse on the also-eligible list; how in the world did Green Mask & this filly not get in? She was a neck away from winning this race last year & has been equally solid this year as well...strange
Breeders' Cup Juvenile
#7 Gormley (Victor Espinoza 5-1)...Santa Anita-based runner was overlooked in both his impressive California scores & at 5-1, still not getting too much respect; John Shirreffs can train (insert Zenyatta & Giacomo here) & Victor Espinoza wins everything big on the planet the last few years
#6 Three Rules (Cornelio Velasquez 8-1)...five-for-five & never challenged in south Florida, he'll be class-tested in here; his form is good enough to challenge for a piece & Cornelio Velasquez is solid anywhere
#10 Not This Time (Robby Albarado 7-2)...Kentucky-based runner was world class in last two & could be any kind; just not a fan of the Kentucky juveniles heading out to run for the first time on the LA freeway that is Santa Anita
Breeders' Cup Turf
#7 Ulysses (Frankie Dettori 12-1)...lightly raced & never tested for this type of class. Galileo is hottest sire in the world, he sports world class connections & they have obviously targeted this race
#10 Found (Ryan Moore 3-1)...rewarded me w/6-1 score in this race last year when this then-three-year-old filly won BC Turf at Keeneland; she's been solid in nine races this year (aggressive for the high-end Euros); can't knock her at all plus you have Galileo breeding & world class trainer Aidan O'Brien as added bonus
#4 Flintshire (Javier Castellano 5-2)...poorly ridden by Castellano in several races this year & he steps back up in big field (which might help him w/pace scenario); supremely talented, but does like to get beat in these races
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
#11 Irish Zapper (Irad Ortiz 10-1)...think it'll be hard to keep Irad Ortiz out of the winner's circle all day & her last two starts are good enough; trainer Chad Brown made his fame on the weeds, but he can train any kind
#7 Gloryzapper (Stewart Elliott 15-1)...don't go sleeping on Smarty Jones best buy (Stewart Elliott), he's carving solid niche now out west & this bargain basement $13k yearling usually fires legit shot
#3 Tara's Tango (Rafael Bejarano 8-1)...solid house horse (based at Santa Anita) doesn't seem to have carved out niche in any direction, other than she can run & this was best spot to pick up a piece
Breeders' Cup Mile
#2 Alice Springs (Ryan Moore 4-1)...sire (Galileo), trainer (Aidan O'Brien), rider (Ryan Moore); not an easy spot for three-year-old filly & think price might sneak north of that 4-1
#12 Hit It a Bomb (Seamus Heffernan 20-1)...rewarded me w/7-1 score in last year's BC Juvenile Turf, retains my loyalty here at 20-1; form isn't great but Aidan O'Brien might go 1-2
#9 Ironicus (Jose Ortiz 8-1)...was charging home impressively & just missed winning Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland; American turfers are usually up against it in this race but he should put in his run late
Breeders' Cup Classic
#4 California Chrome (Victor Espinoza 1-1)...simply dominant all year, career best form, home track, not great value but horse for the ages; appreciate this guy
#10 Arrogate (Mike Smith 5-2)...freaked in Travers & might be the next big thing; only 5 starts nearing end of three-year-old season & never really tested, good older horses usually have an edge over three-year-olds so edge to California Chrome
#9 Hoppertunity (John Velazquez 15-1)...very solid sort, usually picks up a piece 

Breeders' Cup 2016 Friday Plays

Nov 03, 2016 -- 12:11pm
Day One Breeders' Cup Plays 'o the Day...
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
#8 Intelligence Cross (Ryan Moore 6-1)...Aidan O'Brien, Ryan Moore, turf, nice win to start Breeders' Cup
#2 Keep Quiet (Florent Geroux 12-1)...Mark Casse & Florent Geroux keep galloping to the top of North American racing & wonderful on the weeds
#14 Ticonderoga (Rafael Bejarano 15-1)...turf trip wouldn't be complete w/out Chad Brown trainee included; outside post should keep him clear of most of large 14-horse field
Breeders' Cup Mile
#3 Dortmund (Martin Garcia 6-5)...stellar record at Santa Anita, pace scenario should flatter his style & only races he's lost have been to California Chrome & American Pharoah
#2 Tom's Ready (Joel Rosario 12-1)...nice price on 3-year-old that can uncork a big one; saw his Belmont Stake Day stakes score in person, visually quite impressive & sire (More Than Ready) just puts out solid racehorses
#6 Texas Chrome (CJ McMahon 20-1)...grinder keeps getting better & picks up a piece; nice to see horse w/running lines from Lone Star, Arapahoe, Retama, Zia Park, Remington Park & Prairie Meadows take his shot
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
#13 Roly Poly (Ryan Moore 4-1)...hard to take 4-1 in 14-filly field but breeding, trainer & rider are all Grade 1 & this Euro invader looks best of 'em
#11 Rymska (Irad Ortiz 20-1)...Chad Brown is America's reigning turf genius & Irad Ortiz continues to sparkle on the big stage; tasty price for high percentage connections
#6 Coasted (Mike Smith 20-1)...off the radar east coast invader picks up Mike Smith (who always seems to hit on something off the radar)
Breeders' Cup Distaff
#1 Songbird (Mike Smith 6-5)...more of a heart play than a head play (even though she's 11-for-11 lifetime & five-for-five at Santa Anita); recent ability to rate will serve her well in race brimming with early pace
#6 Forever Unbridled (Joel Rosario 12-1)...makes her first start west of Houston (which is scary first-time trying the freeway that is Santa Anita's dirt course); race is bursting w/speed & she's been very solid this year running on late
#5 Stellar Wind (Victor Espinoza 5-2)...only loss is five tries at Santa Anita was to Beholder (who herself is 13-for-15 at Santa Anita); she's in career best form while Beholder seems to be losing half a step; her last two speed figures say she's best

Bud Fox v. Art Vandeley...Saturday at Churchill Downs

Sep 22, 2016 -- 10:26am

Night Racing at Churchill Downs takes on an epic quality with the clash between two big screen/little screen titans.

Post time is 6:56p as race three features Art Vandeley v. Bud Fox.

Rumors are flying the Blue Horseshoe loves Bud Fox.  At the same time, reports are swirling that Dr. Martin Van Nostrand has loaded up on Vandeley.

Me...my dream remains to be a latex salesman.

Hey, hey, whadda ya' say & meet your friends at the Downs.

AND...tune into ESPN 680/105.7 this Sunday morning for "Inside Churchill Downs Racing."

ESPN Louisville Day at Kentucky Downs (Thursday, September 8)

Sep 07, 2016 -- 4:15pm
It's the 4th Annual ESPN Louisville Day at Kentucky Downs as we celebrate America's biggest all-turf race meet.  Tune into "The V Show" w/Bob Valvano from 12n-3p ET on ESPN 680/105.7 as we get ready for a 10-race, all-grass adventure.  First post is 2:25p ET.
Pack up the car, pack up the cooler...tailgate on the rail...it's FREE.
It's "Old Friends Day" too as we recognize the thoroughbred stars of yester-year & take care of those that call Old Friends home today.
For Finish Line & Turf Club seats...visit the on-line Kentucky Downs box office at KentuckyDowns.com.
Thursday is the NEW Friday...come on down.  You ain't seen nuthin' like it!!

FLASHBACK: The Great Churchill Downs 1 5/8th Mile Iron Gelding...Tupolev.

Jul 24, 2016 -- 10:19am

Saturday, July 23 marks the 33rd anniversary for one of Churchill Downs more obscure track record holders…1 5/8th miles on ‘das dirt.  THIS is the story of an Argentine iron horse named Tupolev.

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

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 (and only 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-shuttered 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 that summer in Louisville 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 still 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 goes for 115th Consecutive Year

Jun 27, 2016 -- 2:06pm

This Saturday evening (July 2) marks the final Saturday of Churchill Downs 2016 Spring Meet.  For the 115th 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 runnings.  Grand, grand ole race.

Saturday also marks the successful conclusion for the second season of "Inside Churchill Downs" w/Darren Rogers & John Asher on ESPN 680/105.7.  Cracklin' good show every Saturday at 10:00a.  AND beginning July 9, the inaugural summer edition of "Inside Churchill Downs" will debut.  Stay tuned!

First run on May 13, 1902, the Bashford Manor 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 year’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.

The 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 somewhere in Charlotte NC.  Oh, by the way, 112 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 115th consecutive spring in Louisville.  Party on likes it's 1902!

FLASHBACK: The Inaugural Running on The Belmont Stakes

Jun 08, 2016 -- 4:37pm

It was June 19, 1867 when the first Belmont Stakes went postward at Jerome Park, built by Leonard Jerome w/financing from August Belmont.  For his financial wizardry, Augie got the eventual third leg of the American Triple Crown named in his honor.  You'll hear the Belmont Stakes for the sixth consective year in Louisville ONLY on ESPN 680/105.7.  Big Game, Big Race, ONLY One Place...ESPN Louisville.  And tune in for the best local coverage on Saturday as we go "Inside Churchill Downs" & the Belmont Stakes with Darren Rogers & John Asher this Saturday morning from 10a-11a exclusively on ESPN 680/105.7.

That first Belmont Stakes saw America in its post-Civil War reconstruction era that late spring on 1867.  The Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Cincinnati Reds) were in their second season of professional baseball.  By the way...the Reds are on the Radio (and heard EXCLUSIVELY on ESPN 680/105.7 in Louisville).

Earlier in that first Belmont Stakes year of 1867, Nebraska was admitted as the 37th of the United States.  The previous summer,President Andrew Johnson had officially ended the Civil War & re-admitted 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 could've today been it's own country.

Shortly after the first Belmont, Congress would grow weary of President Andrew Johnson's lenient treatment of southern states & impeach him (and there wasn’t even a blue dress).  His Senate conviction would fail by a single vote of removing him from office.  There's 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.  No federal income tax.  Simpler times.

America plunked down 2 cents an acre & purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.  Ridiculed at the time, looks like a pretty good land deal these days. 

Jerome Park would host the Belmont Stakes through 1889.  Nearby 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 3/8 miles & run clockwise (English style) v. today's American standard counter-clockwise running.

Jim McLaughlin & Eddie Arcaro each rode six 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.  Her Belmont was marred by the fatal breakdown of Derby runner-up & Preakness winnerPrairie Bayou.  Pretty good week for another female, this one on the political landscape.  Having said that, guess this means the Belmont Stakes...and college...won't be free for everyone.  'tis what it 'tis.


Louisville Handicap, Grover Cleveland & the Big League Louisville Colonels

May 18, 2016 -- 3:53pm

79th Running on the Louisville Handicap headlines Preakness Saturday at Churchill Downs.  Field of seven (7) will go the 1 ½ miles on the grass.  Currently the longest distance stakes race on Churchill's calendar, the race was inaugurated in 1895.  For the "Inside" look at a great Preakness Saturday card at Churchill Downs, tune into ESPN 680/105.7 this Saturday from 10a-11a for "Inside Churchill Downs" with Darren Rogers & John Asher!

Grover Cleveland was midway through the second of his two, non-consecutive terms as President when the first Louisville Handicap field went to post.  Grover actually won the popular vote three elections in a row 1884, 1888 & 1892.  Benjamin Harrison took the Electoral College though in '88.  George Herman (Babe) Ruth was born a couple months before that first Louisville Handicap.

That first Louisville Handicap of 1895 was also early in 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 their defense, the Colonels played 74 road games in 1895 and only 57 at home. 

The Louisville Handicap has been run in the spring meet except from 1946-52 when it was returned to the calendar following the Depression & World War II as a fall meet stakes.  After 1952, it took four years off before returning permanently to the spring calendar in 1957.  For four years (1982-85) it was held as one of the Derby weekday stakes races.

Silverfoot(2004-06) & Chorwon (1997-99) each won this race in three consecutive years.  Silverfoot also ran in the '08 & '10 editions as well. 

Robby Albarado, Calvin Borel, Larry Melancon, Steve Brooks & Jimmy Combest all have won four runnings.  Alcee Richard trained six winners between 1959-72, his record is safe Saturday.

The Louisville Handicap has never quite settled on a distance.  It started at 1 1/16 miles (1895-99), wasn't run between 1900-06, came back at six furlongs (1907-13), took off another 25 years, came back for a year at 1 1/16 miles in 1938, then took off the back end of the depression and WWII, then stretched out to 1 1/8 miles from 1946-52.  It rested again from 1953-56, came back at 1 1/16 miles from 1957-81, back to 1 1/8 miles from 1982-86, over to the grass at the same distance through 1995, then lengthened to 1 3/8 miles from 1996-06 & finally, 1 1/2 miles beginning in 2007 through today. 

Enjoy two legends from racing's great past Saturday...the Louisville Handicap and distance racing at Churchill Downs.

Trump This...142nd Kentucky Oaks Preview

May 04, 2016 -- 8:26am

On the morning following Donald Trump securing republican presidential nomination...and Hillary Clinton losing yet again to socialist Bernie Sanders...let's make Kentucky Oaks betting great again!  Kentucky Oaks coverage LIVE on ESPN 680/105.7 from 3p-6p Friday.  Big game, big race, ONLY one place!!

By John Salzman
3. Lewis Bay (8-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...always runs her race & in wide-open race, giving her the edge w/Irad Ortiz in the saddle
13. Land Over Sea (5-1 w/Mario Gutierrez)...went beast mode in Fair Grounds Oaks after chasing Songbird in five straight races; no Songbird today
7. Mo d'Amour (30-1 w/Joel Rosairo)...Pletcher, Rosario, 30-1 & connections that have stunned this race before; much too tasty not to try
6. Mokat (20-1 w/Flavien Prat)...couldn't come close to Somgbird i last two, but those Uncle Mo offspring are running' big right now.
Box 'em up!!
142nd Kentucky Oaks Preview
1. Terra Promessa (10-1 w/Ricardo Santana)...pops (Curlin) was a champion & she's half length from being five-for-five.  All out to last at 2-5 in Oaks prep at Oaklawn, concerning.  She's mid-pack type on rail.  Looking elsewhere.
2. Weep No More (9-2 w/Corey Lanerie)...another with champion pops (Mineshaft).  Mineshaft's biggest upset loss was at Churchill Downs (in Stephen Foster Handicap).  Was 45-1 in debut last November at Churchill before reeling off three straight, including 30-1 upset in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes.  Three straight wins at 6-1, 13-1 & 30-1 isn't anything to sneeze at.  From the clouds type.  Bubble burst day.
3. Lewis Bay (8-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...champion dad #3 (Bernardini) has been knocking' heels with the big girls in Florida & New York.  Mixed bag, although never worse than second.  Rider moves her way up, on paper deserve better than 8-1 though.
4. Go Maggie Go (12-1 w/Luis Saez)...champion dad #4 (Ghostzapper).  Some serious horseflesh in the Fillies' Family section at Churchill Downs Friday.  Two-for-two, both at Gulfstream (at 7-1 & 4-1).  Clearly talented, untested with these types & this size field.
5. Dream Dance (30-1 w/Brian Hernandez)...only two-for-nine lifetime but sports the track's best longshot rider (by far).  Has been gradually improving & comes in off allowance win at Keeneland after second (at 23-1) in Fair Grounds Oaks.  Expect price to soar north.  Include in exotics.
6. Mokat (20-1 w/Flavien Prat)...only one-for-seven, but all in California.  West Coast maidens have been equal to the best winners anywhere else.  Don't discount pedestrian record.  Up 'n coming rider & she chased the world's best (Songbird) in last two.  Sire Uncle Mo is hot, hot, hot with his first crop of three-year-olds.  Play'a.
7. Mo d'Amour (30-1 w/Joel Rosario)...same connections shocked Oaks with lesser light (like this one) couple years ago.  That's selling point, plus Uncle Mo breeding.  Rosario at 30-1 tasty too.  Some wonderful intangibles, but she seems cut or two below.  But, on May 6, she only needs to fire once.
8. Royal Obsession (20-1 w/Florent Geroux)...sire Tapit owns the world right now & rider is in beast mode.  Winner in debut at Churchill, but hasn't morphed into top tier since.
9. Paola Queen (30-1 w/Jaramillo Emisael)...fine second in Gulfstream Park Oaks, but maiden winner otherwise.  Can't recommend.
10. Venus Valentine (30-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)...shocked prep for Fair Grounds Oaks at 74-1 w/last-to-first sweep.  Then dusted in Oaks itself.  Before tossing out, note she's always closing ground in last bit.  Still looking elsewhere for the bomber(s).
11. Rachel's Valentina (7-2 w/John Velazquez)...bred through the ying yang with Bernardini & Rachel Alexandra.  American royalty.  She's been good, but not special yet.  Runner-up to Songbird in Breeders' Cup Juvenile & Songbird sitting Oaks out w/cold.  Only beaten neck in '16 debut in Ashland at Keeneland, but again, it didn't look special.  She's very good, would be great story for her to win, but she just seems a whisker below this race.
12. Cathryn Sophia (9-2 w/Javier Castellano)...was super filly through first four starts w/scores by 12, 16, 5 & 7 lengths.  Couldn't last at 1-2 odds in Ashland Stakes at Keeneland when beaten half-length.  Was ticketed to the undercard before Songbird fell out.  Connections won Derby w/Funny Cide.  She's good, but price is low for connections that were looking elsewhere.
13. Land Over Sea (5-1 w/Mario Gutierrez)...beaten five times by Songbird.  Credit for showing up.  Can toss those.  Last two w/out Songbird were both wins (Fair Grounds Oaks & Del Mar maiden).  Fair Grounds Oaks has been key race recently for Oaks.  Owner & trainer also sport Derby favorite for Saturday.  Big chance.
14. Taxable (20-1 w/Mike Smith)...lightly raced, but top-end breeding w/Tapit & Giant's Causeway.  Post might be tough for her, but she's really closed well in all three starts.  20-1 w/Mike Smith is little bit of okay too.  Playable, but looking elsewhere.
15. Dothraki Queen (30-1 w/Gary Stevens)...strong start with win & then scored in Churchill's Pocahontas Stakes.  Not moving forward since the competition picked up.  Hasn't been disgraced & she could absolutely make a run (if she draws in).  Only '16 prep was dull 8th on grass at Keeneland.  Having said that, it was a prep for this race & trainer Kenny McPeek knows how to pop at big price.

Read My Lips...No New Taxes & Flashback 25 Years to Opening Day 1991

Apr 27, 2016 -- 6:31pm
By John Salzman
Countdown continues to Churchill Downs 142nd Spring Meet w/knock of wood for my 43rd consecutive Opening Day (& now Night) in the Spring.
Let's Flashback 25 years to Churchill Downs & Opening Day in the year that was 1991...
Opening Day '91 fell on April 27 with first post at 1:00p.  It was the first (& only) year of the slightly larger pocket program, which first included some oh-so-brief handicapping lines for each horse.  By Opening Day '92, Churchill Downs had moved to the harness racing-style program which continues today.
'91 had begun with Operation Desert Storm as the U.S. & its allies successfully removed the Iraqi army from its invasion of Kuwait.  President George H. W. Bush soared to 90% popularity in the polls.  After "Read My Lips, No New Taxes", he broke his promise to the American people & they drummed him out of office at first avail.  Perhaps now 25 years later, thanks to political novice Donald F. Trump, we've seen the last of the Bush family political dynasty.
'91 also saw the re-inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton as governor of Arkansas.  One year later, it would be Clinton who would put George Bush & America itself out of its Bush misery.  As Bush before him though, Clinton was quite challenged in the truth department (insert finger wagging "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky...")  The Clinton family dynasty remains 25 years later.  In November, America will decide if Trump is destined to pull off the most improbable political daily double by ending both the Bush & Clinton dynasties.
Eastern Jefferson County had Jim Bunning representing it in Congress.  Lonely place for a true conservative in '91 as the dems ruled the House by 270-164.  Ever-popular, Bunning would go onto win two terms in the U. S. Senate.  Mitch McConnell had whipped Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane the previous November to win his first re-election to the U. S. Senate seat he still holds (now as Majority Leader).  Not the same Mitch he was back in the day, not even close.
Kentucky's other senator in '91, Wendell Ford, was the #2 guy in the U.S. Senate, then ruled 56-44 by the democrats.  Louisville baseball fans of the era might remember Ford when, as governor, he kicked the Louisville Colonels out of Fairgrounds Stadium at the end of the '72 season, put up some metal bleachers in right field & called it the NEW football stadium he'd promised the University of Louisville.
Rodney King was taking center stage with the American media in the months leading into Opening Day '91.  It was also to be the year that Mike Tyson faced (& lost) his rape trial in Indiana.  And the skies were unsettled on Opening Day '91 as the day prior, 70 tornadoes had ripped across the American heartland, killing 17.  Kansas took the fullest measure of the deadly storm.
The previous Fall Meet leading rider at Churchill Downs had been, of course, Pat Day w/26 wins.  Dean Kutz had completed the rider's exacta w/19 wins followed by E. J. Perrodin w/13.  Sadly, both Kutz & Perrodin have since passed on.  
Wayne Lukas was reigning training champ at the Downs, coming off 10 wins in the previous meet, closely tracked by Pete Vestal w/nine.  Local favorite, Jimmy Baker, had posted a solid ninth in the Fall Meet standings w/four wins in 16 starts.  He saddled Discount Broker for George Steinbrenner on that Opening Day '91 under card, finishing second w/Jerry Bailey in the saddle.
The Derby Trial was worth $75,000-added & rated Grade 3 status on Opening Day '91 as a field of eleven went to post.  It would be Alydavid ($9.80) winning under Pat Day for Phil Hauswald, completing the one-turn mile in 1.36 2/5.  He'd return the following Saturday, running 14th (of 16) in the '91 Derby (won by Strike the Gold for rider Chris Antley & trainer Nick Zito).  Longshot Honor Grades paid $14.60 for his placing en route to a solid racing career.  And that runner-up's breeding?  Try Danzig out of Weekend Surprise by Secretariat.  Yeah, he had a lovely future wining & dining the pretty little fillies with the pony tales.
Wagering times they were advancing in '91 as there was now a daily Pick 3 and Pick 6 along with an early & late double.  Plus, two trifectas were carded as well in the 5th & last races of the day.
Churchill Downs had moved the legendary Derby Trial from Tuesday of Derby Week to Opening Saturday beginning in 1982.  It was a memorable move in one sense as the first-ever Opening Day Derby Trial winner, Listcapade, paid $115.40 for his win for jockey Darrell Haire & trainer Dewey Smith.
The final ever Stepping Stone Purse had been won the previous year (1981) by local legend Mythical Ruler.  Trained by Fred Wirth & ridden by his son Kevin, he's perhaps best remembered for his connections suing Churchill Downs in 1981 (when originally excluded from the 20-horse field).  They received enough legal relief to enter & run.  It was the final year when more than 20 horses went to post as Churchill Downs tightened its entry requirements thereafter.  Mythical Ruler finished 17th in the '81 Derby which saw 21 three-year-olds go to post.  The "mutuel field", long since gone, consisted of nine horses that year (bet one, you'd get 'em all).  
Mythical Ruler went on to finish second in the first two runnings of Churchill Down's now Grade One Stephen Foster Handicap, beginning in 1982.  When piloted by Jimmy McKnight, he finally broke through at age six in '84 to win his Stephen Foster.
Classic Go Go (also one of those nine ponies in the '81 mutuel field) had finished second in the final Stepping Stone Purse ever run & came back the following Saturday to run 4th in the legally expanded 21-horse '81 Derby.  He'd score an impressive 14 wins in his 50-race career.  And 3rd in the '81 Derby was another "field" horse, Partez.  His claim to fame?  He was the first Derby starter trained by an up 'n comer name D. Wayne Lukas.
'81 was also the last year of the La Troienne Stakes being on Opening Day.  The great filly Heavenly Cause won, she returned six days later to win the Kentucky Oaks.  Yes, they were still running' 'em back just 25 years ago.  Heavenly Cause was trained by The Woodman, Woody Stephens.  She went on to produce the great sprinter Two Punch, who then sired Smoke Glacken (another successful sire) who just recently passed at the age of 22.
Music that ruled Opening Day '91?  Amy Grant & "Baby Baby."  Wanna feel old?  Amy had taken the top spot from Wilson Phillips ("You're in Love).  Can Wilson Phillips really be that long ago??  On the little screen, the final ever episode of "Dallas" would broadcast on Oaks night '91.  "Cheers" though was the mack daddy throughout the '90-'91 TV season.  And on the big screen, you're a better individual than me if you recall the movie "Oscar", which ruled the box office for two weeks, including Opening weekend & Derby weekend '91.
Opening Day at Churchill Downs 1991!  Countdown to Opening Day 2016 continues...

Countdown to Derby 142...Flashback to Opening Day 40 Years Ago, Apple Computer Company & The Beatles!

Apr 23, 2016 -- 8:40pm
By John Salzman
Countdown to Churchill Downs 142nd Spring Meet is on!  Knock wood, this will be my 43rd consecutive Opening Day (& now Night) in the Spring.  Streak began in 1974 when Cannonade won the Stepping Stone purse seven days prior to winning the 100th Kentucky Derby.  Yeah, they ran 'em then.  'dem were da' days.
Let's Flashback 40 years to Opening Day in the year that was 1976...
Jerry Ford was in his final year subbing for Richard Nixon.  A no-name, one-term governor was en route to securing the democrat presidential bid (Jimmy Carter).  Not exactly Murderer's Row of the political sect.  Ford would hold off Ronald Reagan in a photo to win the republican nomination.  However, after the republican convention, near consensus was they'd nominated the wrong guy.  They had.
Carter left the democrat convention cruising in the polls.  Ford closed a gap in the stretch, but lost & the country was poised four years of malaise & decline.  Nevertheless...
It was the earliest possible Opening Day in '76 as Saturday fell on April 24.  First post was 1:45p for the first thoroughbred races of the year in Louisville.  Jimmy McKnight guided Anaconda to a 15-1 upset in the opener for Clarence Mitchell.  Race was for $3,000 claimers running for a $3,500 purse.
Had a Blast & Jim Murchison won the second half of the double at 22-1, producing a $770 daily double.  Judge John Boone would break his maiden in race three for Fernando Valdizan, paying $9.20.  Four weeks later, he'd win the 75th running of the $20,000-added Bashford Manor Stakes.
Between race five & 6, the 1976 Stepping Stone Purse was run as a betless exhibition as only four had been entered for the $10,000 Derby prep at seven furlongs.  Go East Young Man & Eddie Delahoussaye would've been heavily favored but it was Amano with Larry Melancon up that took the race in 1.24 3/5.  The following Saturday, Amano & Melancon would run fourth in the 102nd Kentucky Derby (won by Bold Forbes over odd-on favorite Honest Pleasure).
And that name...Amano...stood for All Men Are Number One.  Yes, that's true.  Progressives forty years later would consider that pony a hate crime, micro aggression & likely further settled science proof of global warming.
Co-featured on Opening Day 1976 was the customary La Troienne Stakes, a prep for the Kentucky Oaks.  Moreland Hills & Tony Rini took top honors & the heart of the $20,000-added purse.  They covered seven furlongs in 1.26 3/5 while paying $3.60 for the win.  Moreland Hills was sired by the legendary Dr. Fager & trained by U of L basketball great Jim Morgan.
The wagering menu on Opening Day 1976 featured the Daily Double for races 1-2, plus a fifth race & ninth race exacta.  Wagering times they have changed.  So has music.  Anyone remember "Disco Lady" & Johnnie Taylor?  They ruled the charts for their 4th & final week that Opening Day '76.
In one of the great near misses in TV history, the evening of Opening Day '76 featured Lorne Michaels offering The Beatles $3,000 to come on Saturday Night Live.  It was a joke.  But John Lennon & Paul McCartney were watching the show together, in New York City, and considered coming down to accept the check.  History was missed, they did not.
On the big screen, "The Bad News Bears" had taken the the box office top spot from "All the President's Men."  Fear not, Richard Nixon & the boys would return tanned, rested & ready a week later to retake the #1 position.
Three weeks prior to Opening Day, couple of guys named Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak formed Apple Computer Company.  Boys did alright with that thing.  Boys (& girls) at Churchill Downs are still doing alot of things quite well themselves still.  Opening Day at Churchill Downs 1976!  Countdown to Opening Day 2016 continues...

Lexington Stakes & Arkansas Derby...Final Major Preps for Derby 142 Today!

Apr 16, 2016 -- 10:55am
By John Salzman
Final two major Derby preps greet this fourth Saturday before Derby 142.  This morning on "Inside Churchill Downs" Darren Rogers & John Asher previewed the Arkansas Derby w/trainer Ron Moquette & Oaklawn inside Mary Rampellini.  Plus Norman Casse, live from Keeneland.
Last week on "Inside Churchill Downs", trainer Rusty Arnold profiled Weep No More in that afternoon's Ashland Stakes.  30-1 later...winner, winner, that's alot chicken dinner.
You'll hear both the Lexington Stakes & Arkansas Derby LIVE today on ESPN 680/105.7.  Big Game...Big Race...ONLY One Place!
Lexington Stakes, Race 9 at Keeneland - Post Time 4:59p
8. Riker (6-1 w/Florent Geroux)...rider is in his sweet spot, Casse barn keeps getting bigger & better on big stage.  Plus, Blue Grass Stakes last week was won by Tampa Bay Downs flopper.  Same story here.
4. Swipe (9-5 w/Flavien Prat)...Flavien variety, not Mike.  Chased the best three-year-old in America (Nyquist) around all last year.  Has been trained to the minute for this.  Tough taking those odds off lay-off (only negative).
2. Discreet Message (15-1 w/Luis Saez)...the Luis of the ridin' Saez family has been moving' 'em up in Lexington.
10. Collected (2-1 w/Javier Castellano)...Castellano hasn't been moving' 'em up and at low odds too.  Baffert has done well w/ponies stopping off in New Mexico. 
Arkansas Derby, Race 11 at Oaklawn Park - Post Time 7:18
10. Cupid (2-1 w/Martin Garcia)...very impressive effort in Rebel.  Odds are low, but Bob Baffert owns this race.  Same path for Cupid as for American Pharaoh in his pre-Triple Crown campaign.
8. Whitmore (9-2 w/Irad Ortiz)..."Inside Churchill Downs" is hot, stay on winners.
3. Creator (10-1 w/Ricardo Santana)...nice price for improving son of Tapit.  They can run.
4. Suddenbreakingnews (5-1 w/Luis Quinonez)...solid sort, always cashes a check.

ESPN 680/105.7 Broadcasts Three BIG Derby Preps Today. And the Winners are...

Apr 09, 2016 -- 11:32am
By John Salzman
Day Two at Mr. Keene's place w/the sun shining bright (but bit briskly) on the Old Kentucky Home.  With my 10-1 winner in yesterday's Transylvania Stakes scratched (grrrrr), we tightened the girth on the single best day of Derby preps today with the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes & Santa Anita Derby all scheduled to run between 5:30-7:00p.  All thee will broadcast live as well on the OFFICIAL Derby station, ESPN 680/105.7.  Big Game...Big Race...ONLY ONE PLACE...ESPN 680/105.7.
Wood Memorial (5:30p)
1 - Shagag (2-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...Irad is the way of the future, the way of the future...
6 - Matt King Coal (3-1 w/Jose Ortiz)...brother Joes tends to pop at better prices than old brother Irad.
8 - Outwork (5-2 w/John Velazquez)...hard to go deep & long in this eight horse field & yes, I know this is really chalky.
5 - Flexibility (8-1 w/Manny Franco)...juices things up a bit, but when a race is this chalky, poor yourself a stiff drink & just enjoy the race and double-down on the Blue Grass Stakes.
Blue Grass Stakes (6:00p)
7 - Laoban (12-1 w/Jose Lezcano)...maidens a'plenty in this million dollar race.  He's a California-based one & modern history says those California boys are just better.
10 - American Dubai (20-1 w/Chris Landeros)...rider might be the next Brian Hernandez for long-shot must plays.  Field is wide but not deep.  Price is good too.
13 - Star Hill (10-1 w/Emisael Jaramillo)...bit too much buzz on him this week, might sneak down in price.  Trainer Rusty Arnold was featured on "Inside Churchill Downs" this morning (10a-11a) on ESPN 680/105.7 w/Darren Rogers & John Asher.
4 - Zulu (5-2 w/Javier Castellanos)...race has eluded Castellanos, trainer Todd Pletcher though is defending champion.  Seems to have the most upside but will try & beat him in big field.  Pletcher too was on this morning's 2016 maiden broadcast of "Inside Churchill Downs." 
Santa Anita Derby  (6:45)
4 - Mor Spirit (8-5 w/Gary Stevens)...price isn't worthy but Stevens & Bob Baffert are; tag-team to Churchill as one of the legit contenders to take on Nyqvist.  And, completing the "Inside Churchill Downs" broadcast trifecta this morning...yes, Gary Stevens was on live this morning w/Darren & John too!
5 - Smokey Image (15-1 w/Victor Espinoza)...let's see, rider sports back-to-back Derby wins, just won Dubai World Cup, 15-1, worth a shot.  It's his world.
6 - Iron Rob (12-1 w/Stewart Elliott)...another Derby winning rider (Smarty Jones) but not one of the California insiders.  He'll ride 'em hard & price'll be legit.
2 - Exaggerator (4-1 w/Kent Desormeaux)...top four riders in Blue Grass Stakes sport zero Kentucky Derby wins, Santa Anita Derby riders sport nearly 10 of 'em.  It's a who's who.  Colt is better than he showed last time out.
"Inside Churchill Downs" is fueled by our friends at Kroger, TwinSpires.com & delivered fresh each Saturday morning from 10a-11a on ESPN 680/105.7 by PapaJohns.com.

Keeneland Opens...Urban Bourbon to be Flowin'?

Apr 08, 2016 -- 11:17am
By John Salzman
Opening Day at Mr. Keene's place with less than Chamber of Commerce weather...but, Opening Day of the Spring Meet none-the-less. Four weeks this day from 142nd running of the Kentucky Oaks. Your OFFICIAL Kentucky Oaks & Kentucky Derby broadcast home is ESPN 680/105.7  & 93.9 the Ville.  AND tune into ESPN 680/105.7 tomorrow from 10a-11a for the seasonal debut of "Inside Churchill Downs" w/Darren Rogers & John Asher.  Best broadcast team in racing, period.
Transylvania Stakes goes for its 28th consecutive running as today's feature. Post time 5:30p. Race honors Drew Deener's alma mater, Transylvania University. Its claim to fame being America's oldest college west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Shane Sellers rode the winner of this race four times ('03, '99, '94 & '91). In his prime, Sellers was one of a very select few that could ride saddle to saddle with Pat Day in his prime. Shane could ride. Javier Castellano, winner last year aboard Night Prowler, returns this year to ride #7 Converge (5-2). John Velazquez, '13 winner, is aboard #3 Prime Time Man (15-1) today. And the other repeat winner, two-time winner ('09 & '10) Julien Leparoux goes for the hat trick with #8 Catapult (3-1).
On the trainer side, Bill Mott sports three Transylvania wins ('09, '07 & '95). Mott isn't in this year's edition. Chad Brown, winner last year w/Night Prowler, is back with two entrants this year (#7 Converge & #8 Catapult). Brown & Castellano teamed together last year for the Transylvania win. Shug McGaughey, winner in '11, is represented this year by #1 Inspector Lynley (3-1 w/Florent Geroux up).
Keepin' it simple & real today, let's box up...
#4 Urban Bourbon (10-1 w/Jersey Joe Bravo)...right price, right rider, breeding says okay too. Cheers!
#8 Catapult (3-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...not going to try & beat Kitten's Joy off-spring on the turf at Keeneland. Leparoux is still solid enough rider as well. My Kitten's Joy progency paid $49 last week winning the Spiral (on polyturf).  'nuff said.
#9 One Mean Man (20-1 w/Cisco Torres)...big fan of Mizzen Mast as turf sire & grass figures to be soft today. Should favor him & 20-1 juices the exotics nicely.
We'll also put our Win & Place dollars on the #4 Urban Bourbon as well.
And, for those lucky enough to enjoy a Maker's & Diet (or three) nightcap, put a couple of those Urban Bourbon winnings on Siva (the horse). Goes as the #5 pony in race 10, post time 6:03p. Morning line...50-1. Can't say much for the horse, other than he's got a championship name. 

Surgical Look at Spiral Stakes as Derby Fever Comes to Northern Kentucky

Apr 01, 2016 -- 8:08pm

Field of fourteen (including two on the also-eligible list), head to post in the 45th running (actually 51st) running of the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.  While the 45th consecutive year for Turfway's marquee race, between 1973-80 the race was split into two divisions no less than six times (getting the “runnings” up from 45 to 51).  Race 10 on wonderful betting card of 12 races.  Nice, bulky fields.  Spiral winner secures enough points to start in Derby 142 with runner-up securing enough points to get to the bubble of the 20-horse Derby field.


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 the Lane’s End before eventually winding its way back to the Spiral (and this year’s Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral).  


The Spiral’s first significant Derby contender was At The Threshold who won in 1984 under Pat Day.  The pair would 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 for nearly a generation.  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 10 years ago, the Spiral has mostly been a big money race for turf horses & synthetic wannabes.  One never knows & there’s $500,000 on the line & a full field casing it.  


And now, the 2016 Spiral Stakes…


2. Surgical Strike (12-1)…puts in professional run, needs to find that extra gear to close deal..think he does.  Score one for the home crowd.


5. Oscar Nominated (10-1)…Ramsey’s might have claimed Derby pony for $75k here.  Can float mid-track & call his tune.


4. Don’t Be Salty (8-1)…could be controlling speed; stalking trip puts him in winner’s circle.


8. Kasseopia (6-1)…any kind of improvement & he has big say in here.  Rider is only 1-for-14 this year, enough to get him beat?


Spiral Snapshot


1. That Makes Sense (30-1 Colby Hernandez)…$550k yearling is nose away from five-race maiden.  Knocked heads at Oaklawn, so give him that.  No polyturf experience, inexperienced Turfway rider, not seeing it.  Would be nice pick-me-up for Wayne Lukas, most everyone would agree.  There’s racing & then there’s life.


2. Surgical Strike (12-1 Orlando “last of the” Mojica(s))…been on this guy for awhile, he’s legit in this race.  Won prep impressively & his prior race at Turfy was good too.  Class test but he’s been close enough in Keeneland & Gulfstream turf stakes to believe & he broke his maiden at Kentucky Downs.  I’ll take all of that 12-1, if they give it.


3. Jensen (6-1 Florent Geroux)…one of the hottest riders on the planet over the last six, eight months.  No polyturf experience as all four starts on Fair Grounds dirt.  Larry Jones knows what he’s doing, wouldn’t be a shock, but too much variable for me.


4. Don’t Be Salty (8-1 Cornelio Velasquez)…two polyturf wins at Woodbine & Presque Isle.  Trainer’s been cold in ’16 though.  Broke maiden on the weeds at Saratoga.  Two-for-two polyturf, 8-1.  Nice.


5. Oscar Nominated (10-1 Robby Albarado)…couple turf wins, including Fair Grounds stakes.  Head & a neck away from four-race win streak.  Hasn’t been higher than 2-1 in last five starts, today 10-1.  Another to like.


6. Two Step Time (15-1 Mitchell Murrell)…rider mostly unknown in Kentucky, he can ride.  Bargain $27k weanling has three turf wins on three different surfaces.  Can see him being forgotten in the wagering, keep an eye if he starts sneaking up there.


7. Strike Up The Band (20-1 Corey Lanerie)…three dirt wins with two stinkers on turf & polyturf.  Ramsey’s run where the money is & he was well-beaten fourth in Turfy prep for this.  After rough Louisiana Derby ride, Lanerie due to steal one back.


8. Kasseopia (6-1 Alan Garcia)…maiden score across the pond & nice second in Woodbine stakes.  Only start this year was train-wreck start & solid finish.  Garcia can ride & Graham Motion knows his way around this race.  Pure European breeding works fine at Turfway.  Lots to like, might get bet down though.


9. Swagger Jagger (20-1 Francisco Torres)…couple wins at the old Calder Race Course.  Not much to recommend.  Give him credit though, seventh straight race in field of 12 or more for $77k yearling.


10. Airoforce (3-1 Albin Jiminez)…awesome four-race two-year-old campaign, including win in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.  Only start this year was 39-length drubbing at Fair Grounds.  Has never failed to fire on turf in three starts, but that was last year & pre-stinker.  Can he rebound mentally from the drubbing plus Mark Casse goes with local rider v. one of the big boys.  Looking elsewhere.


11. Ralis (6-1 Corey Nakatani)…last three were all double digit whippings, all though in Grade 1 or 2 races.  Boatload of class relief in here.  No turf or polyturf experience & breeding says no too.  Did win Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga going short but price is too low & challenge too high (for me).


12. Azar (5-1 Manny Franco)…$300k yearling won Grade 2 on turf at Saratoga.  Last out won on dirt at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream.  Versatile.  Franco gets aboard after Johnny V. had reigned up in previous seven starts.  Can’t knock him, just not seeing it.


13AE. Crescent Drive (12-1 Leandro Goncalves)…three polyturf starts last year were good.  Only turf this year on grass was solid too.  If he draws in, he’ll be wide & in tougher than his 12-1 odds say he should be; let him go.


14AE. Diplodocus (20-1 Constance Hill)…broke maiden going long on grass at Santa Anita, but other four starts aren’t even pedestrian.  Had some run last out at Golden Gate, but he’s all of 20-1 or better for reason.

Flashback: 100 Years Ago & Derby Winner George Smith

Feb 11, 2016 -- 8:16pm
OH the humanity...George Smith...Weeghman Park...plus '16 Wimbledon & '16 Olympics Cancelled!  And an end to Cardinal basketball??
That is correct, the '16 Olympics, '16 Wimbledon plus the '16 British Open have all been cancelled.  And they'll be no basketball for the University of Louisville in '16-'17.  It is what it is...as we Flashback to 1916 & your Kentucky Derby winner of 100 years ago, George Smith.
The Great War was raging on (to later be re-named World War One)...across Europe major sporting events were shelved & the 1916 Olympics scheduled for Berlin were cancelled.
America was sitting it out as President Woodrow Wilson was in re-election battle on the campaign promise "He Kept Us Out of War".  Republican Charles Evans Hughes went to bed thinking he'd replace the ineffective, pacifist Wilson.  Alas, late returns from California said otherwise & the democrat Wilson was re-elected.  
It was true that Wilson had kept America out of The Great War...right up until re-election was won, he then declared war a couple days after his inauguration in 1917.  America's young men were heading across the pond to fight it out.  Wilson was in the fine political tradition of "Read my lips, no new taxes" & "If you like your health insurance, you can keep it."
The Supreme Court of 1916 declared the national income tax to be legal.  Everytime you see 40% of your commission and/or bonus check missing, thank the boys on that '16 Supreme Court.  Funny, that ole 10th amendment was pretty clear about what the feds could & could NOT do, yet runaway, unaccountable federal courts lorded over America even 100 years ago.
Just weeks before George Smith (the horse) would make Derby history 100 years ago, the Chicago Cubs took up residence in a new ballyard...Weeghman Park.  Not striking a chord?  It still stands today, re-named as Wrigley Field.  It would be the Boston Red Sox though who'd emerge 1916 World Series Champs after winning four of 5 from 'dem Brooklyn Dodgers.  Game Two was 14-inning classic won by the Red Sox & featured 13 shut-out innings pitched by another famous George of the era, George Ruth, better remembered these days as George Herman "Babe" Ruth.
In its fifth season of collegiate basketball, the University of Louisville Cardinals achieved its first-ever winning season with 8 wins (against 3 losses).  They closed the season on the road in Danville, puttin' the wood to the Centre College Colonels 53-15.  And Friday, February 12, 2016 marks 100 years to the day the roundballin' Cards had whipped up on the team from the University in Lexington, Cards 26, Cats 22.  So, what have we learned?  It is possible to beat 'em.  Thanks coach Ed Bowman!
There would be no 1916-17 Cards basketball, as The Great War cancelled the season.  As it would the Cardinals football season beginning in 1917.  Cards football wouldn't return until 1921.  Those pigskin Cardinals of 1916 would finish 2-3-1 with wins over Chattanooga & Butler.  They'd opened the season with a scoreless tie against Centre.
That gavel poundin' barrister of yester-year (now interred at the U of L Law School), Louis Brandeis, took his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  And, sending out the good news was pretty efficient too...stamps were two cents.
George Smith was ridden on Derby Day '16 by future Hall of Fame rider Johnny Loftus.  Loftus, then 20-years-old, was beginning a stellar stretch that would see him win the Derby in '16 & '19, Preakness in '18, '19 & Belmont in '19.  He also added a Travers in '16 & Kentucky Oaks in '17 for additional measure.
Loftus today is best remembered for being the first rider ever to win the American Triple Crown, aboard Sir Barton in 1919.  At the time though, the three races were not yet linked.  He also achieved distinction...and infamy...as he rode Man o' War to eight wins, plus he was aboard Man o' War for his only ever defeat.  In the "Irony can be pretty ironic" category, Loftus & Man 'o War met defeat in the Sanford Stakes.  Who was the Sanford Stakes named for...John Sanford, owner of...wait for it...George Smith, your 1916 Kentucky Derby winner.
The 42nd running of the Kentucky Derby would be the only stakes win of the year for George Smith (in four starts).  His next best effort was a second in the Latonia Derby.  He'd win three more times at age four & added four more wins at age five, his final year on the track.
All told, George Smith won 17 times in 31 starts, adding five seconds & three thirds.  And while history may not have long remembered George Smith, at Pimlico Race Course in 1918, it was '16 Derby winner George Smith that took the full measure of '17 Derby winner Omar Kayyam & '18 Derby winner Exterminator.  Three Derby winners lined up, raced & finished 1-2-3.  Omar Kayyam had been imported to America from England in 1916 to avoid The Great War.
And the final chapter for George Smith, the three-year-old colt that entered immortality that second (yes, second) Saturday in May 1916...less than 10 years after retiring from the races, our boy George was in service to Uncle Sam, siring military horses for his remaining years.
George Smith...100 years ago...your Kentucky Derby winner that 13th day of May 1916.

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'...

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