06/28/2012 1:23PM

Churchill Downs: Bashford Manor consists of cast of look alikes


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Bashford Manor Stakes looks like a pretty cool race this year, although not in the literal sense. Seven of the eight 2-year-olds in the Saturday night feature at Churchill Downs were maiden winners in their last starts, while the other starter is a maiden trained by D. Wayne Lukas, a record five-time winner of the Bashford Manor.

Unfortunately, most of the racetrack buzz may not focus on how well-matched this promising field is, but how the horses will fare in the heat. The Saturday card is the second of three straight meet-ending programs that will start at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Churchill made the change to a nighttime start for Friday and Sunday – the Saturday card already was scheduled as a Downs After Dark program – in attempting to avert the hottest parts of each day amid an oppressive heat wave predicted for the weekend.

Beyond the weather issue, the Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor is representative of how competitive the stakes have been throughout a spring meet that began April 28. Given that none of these 2-year-olds has raced outside the maiden ranks, favoritism in this six-furlong race should be lukewarm, regardless of which horse it lands on.

“It looks like they all pretty much belong,” said Dale Romans, trainer of Roman’s Avenue, a 4 1/4-length winner of his lone start May 27. “It’s a real interesting race, if you ask me.”

Roman’s Avenue will have leading jockey Corey Lanerie aboard when breaking from post 6. He will be surrounded by two of the likely favorites – Special Jo (post 5, Shane Sellers) was a six-length winner of his only start May 25, and Positively (post 7, Calvin Borel) drew off with style in capturing a June 8 race when making his second start.

Other viable contenders include Good Tickled (post 1, Shaun Bridgmohan) and Circle Unbroken (post 2, Jon Court).

Good Tickled, second in his debut at Keeneland in April before winning here May 18, “has been real honest for us so far,” said trainer Darrin Miller. “He’s shown up both times we’ve run him. It looks like he’s got some ability to work with there.”

Circle Unbroken can boast a field-high Beyer Speed Figure of 79 and is trained by Garry Simms, who won the Debutante Stakes last weekend for the second straight year when Blueeyesintherein prevailed as the favorite. Circle Unbroken is named for the many friends and family members who have supported Simms in his ongoing 2 1/2-year bout with multiple myeloma.

Rounding out the cast are Go Jack Go (post 3, Rodney Prescott), Praetorian Prefect (post 4, Dean Sarvis), and the Lukas maiden, Hightail (post 8, Ramon Vazquez).

This will be the 111th running of the Bashford Manor, which is named for the long-defunct Louisville farm that owned two Kentucky Derby winners (1892, 1906). It goes as the sixth of 11 races, with post time set for 9 p.m. The last race will go at 11:40.

The Saturday undercard is a good one, with one overnight stakes, the Roxelana, directly preceding the Bashford Manor as race 5 and three allowances (races 4, 8, 9) dotting the program.

Sassy Image, trained by Romans, is the obvious class among a field of eight fillies and mares in the Roxelana, a seven-furlong race with a $73,600 purse. A two-time Grade 1 winner last year, Sassy Image has been working sharply in trying to regain the form she lost when injured last August in the Ballerina at Saratoga. Her lone subsequent start resulted in a distant sixth-place finish as the defending champion in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the May 5 Kentucky Derby undercard.

“She’s really been acting like she’s ready to get back to her old self,” said Romans.

◗ Turallure figures as a strong favorite among a field of six entered in the closing-night feature for Sunday, the Grade 2, $150,000 Firecracker Handicap. From the hedge, this is the field with riders for the one-mile turf race: Night Party, Shane Sellers; Seruni, Jon Court; Mandurah, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Turallure, Julien Leparoux; Silver Rock, Shaun Bridgmohan; and Guys Reward, Corey Lanerie.

◗ Jockey Victor Lebron, who sustained a concussion in a June 17 spill here, is scheduled to return to action by accepting six mounts on the Saturday card.

◗ Yuichi Fukunaga, the leading jockey in Japan last year and this year, has five mounts on the Saturday card, starting with race 2.

◗ The second race Saturday marks a milestone for 2-year-olds as the first six-furlong maiden race this year in Kentucky. To date, only the Debutante has been that far.

◗ The Downs After Dark theme for Saturday is “White Party,” with customers encouraged to be attired entirely in white.