06/01/2011 3:12PM

Churchill Downs: Artistides lineup looks extremely strong

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Churchill Downs/ Reed Palmer Photography
Here Comes Ben, winning the Kelly's Landing at Churchill Downs, returns as part of a solid lineup of older sprinters in Saturday's Aristides.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Quite a few of the most accomplished sprinters in the Midwest will clash at Churchill Downs when an exciting 23rd running of the Aristides is held as one of two Grade 3, $100,000 races on an 11-race Saturday program.

The field of eight older horses for the Aristides includes Here Comes Ben, winner of the Grade 1 Forego last summer at Saratoga; Atta Boy Roy, winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs last spring; Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga in 2009; Riley Tucker, the Aristides winner last year; and Noble’s Promise and Cash Refund, both multiple stakes winners.

“I can’t imagine it coming up a whole lot tougher,” said Steve Margolis, trainer of Cash Refund. Margolis is headed this summer to Saratoga, where the top Aristides finishers figure to wind up in the Vanderbilt and/or Forego.
Also set for Saturday is the Dogwood Stakes, a one-turn-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. Might, a full sister to 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, could come favored when making her stakes debut in a field of eight.

Might is by Arch out of the mare Liable, which makes her a full sister to Blame. Her connections are the same, with Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm as owner-breeders and Al Stall Jr. as trainer. After being beaten a head in her first career start in February, the filly easily won a maiden race at Fair Grounds and was very impressive in taking a first-level allowance on the May 6 Kentucky Oaks undercard.

Other notables in the Dogwood lineup include Fantasy of Flight, a sensational maiden winner on the Oaks undercard for John Terranova; Holy Heavens, winner of the Martha Washington at Oaklawn in February; and Salty Strike, an easy last-out allowance winner at Churchill.

The Dogwood is the ninth race and the Aristides is the 10th.

New names atop jockey leader board

Since Pat Day retired in the summer of 2005, the vacuum he left atop the Churchill jockey standings usually has been filled by Julien Leparoux, Calvin Borel, or Robby Albarado, who have accounted for every jockey title here since the 2007 spring meet.

But as the spring meet hits its exact midpoint Friday with the 20th of 39 programs, things are shaping up quite differently. Corey Lanerie leads Shaun Bridgmohan by a 23-22 count, and both are elated with the opportunities they have had so far.

“I never thought I would ride at Churchill Downs, and I definitely never thought I could be the leading rider here,” said Lanerie, who was a dominant rider in Texas and at smaller tracks in his native Louisiana before moving to Kentucky in the fall of 2003. “It’d be really special to win the title.”
“I’m glad my horses have performed well so far and hopefully that will continue,” said Bridgmohan, who tied with Borel for leading rider here at the 2006 fall meet.

Leparoux enters Friday action third in the standings with 14 wins.

Little Mike will miss Poker with shin injury

Little Mike, who rose to prominence in the national turf ranks by capturing three Grade 3 stakes at Gulfstream Park last winter, has been sidelined by a shin injury, according to trainer Dale Romans, who had intended to run the 4-year-old gelding in the Poker Stakes at Belmont next Friday, June 10.

“It’s nothing that threatens his career in the long term,” said Romans. “Hopefully we’ll have him back by the fall, or by Gulfstream next winter at the very latest.”

Little Mike, bred and owned by Carlo and Priscilla Vaccarezza, swept the Fort Lauderdale, Canadian Turf, and Appleton handicaps at Gulfstream.

Brass Hat takes one last lap

Brass Hat had one last jog around the Churchill track Monday morning before leaving for his permanent retirement home at Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort, Ky. The 10-year-old Brass Hat, a longtime fan favorite who earned nearly $2.2 million, was honored with a winner’s circle ceremony between races here Saturday.

“Hopefully he’ll pass the baton to one of my other horses,” said Buff Bradley, who trained Brass Hat for his father, owner-breeder Fred Bradley. “But no one will ever replace him. There’ll never be another like him.”

Amoss tries to stay perfect with 2-year-old maidens

Tom Amoss will be in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to attend a wedding on Friday, but surely he will be keeping abreast of how his next 2-year-old starter does at Churchill. Amoss has gone 3 for 3 so far at the meet with juveniles and will put that impressive streak on the line when Charming Vixen, a filly by Bernstein, is part of another good-looking field of maidens in the sixth race.

Amoss already has won maiden-special sprints with Culotte (72 Beyer Speed Figure) on May 13, Sum of the Parts (88 Beyer) on May 14, and Little Miss Muffet (70 Beyer) on May 27.