05/24/2012 12:48PM

Churchill Downs: Cease going long on turf in Louisville Handicap

Ethel Castaneda/Coady Photography
Cease will be making his first start on turf since last July in Saturday's Grade 3 Louisville Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Simmard is a known quantity in turf marathons, having earned most of his $537,391 in such races. Tahoe Lake and Harrods Creek also are comfortable fits as both have been consistently competitive in graded company within the niche.

But for the five other older horses set to race Saturday in the 75th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap at 1 1/2 miles over the Churchill Downs turf, there is little to no data on which to base their chances. Perhaps one of the more accomplished of those, a 5-year-old gelding named Cease, can make an immediate impact.

“He’s a long-galloping horse, so we thought we’d put him in a staying race,” said Al Stall Jr., who trains Cease for breeder-owners Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm.

Simmard, shipping south from Canada for Hall of Fame-elect trainer Roger Attfield, is the 120-pound highweight and deserving favorite in the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville, which goes as the 10th of 11 races on a Saturday card that begins at 12:45 p.m. Eastern (Louisville post, 5:25). A 7-year-old chestnut with 30 career starts, Simmard will start from post 7 with Gabriel Saez aboard for the three-turn race.

Cease (post 1, Brian Hernandez Jr.) was supplemented for $5,000 to the Louisville after scratching out of the Pimlico Special last weekend because “the race just came up so tough,” Stall said. The gelding finished first (before being disqualified to third) in a maiden turf race over the Churchill course last July, but has not returned to turf since then.

“We just really haven’t had the chance,” Stall said. “He freaked at Saratoga,” winning back-to-back maiden and allowance races on dirt, “and we just mostly kept him on the dirt after that. Now, we want to take a shot on turf and see if he’s worse, as good as, or better. I do think he’s a much better horse than he was last year. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of options with him this summer.”

The other horses joining Cease in making the leap from other categories into this turf marathon are Rescue Squad, Joinem, Depeche Chat, and Derby Kitten. Conversely, along with Simmard, Tahoe Lake and Harrods Creek are accustomed to this grueling type of event. Tahoe Lake, a Brazilian-bred 6-year-old, has never run worse than third in four marathon tries, while Harrods Creek, locally bred and owned by Louisville surgeons Hiram Polk and David Richardson, will be making his 10th straight start at 1 1/4 miles or farther.

The Louisville anchors a Saturday card that also includes the $68,000 Optimistic Gal (race 3), a 1 1/16-mile overnight stakes that drew just five 3-year-old fillies. Ron Moquett sends out 40 percent of the field in Amie’s Dini, eighth in the Kentucky Oaks; and Livi Makenzie, fourth in the Eight Belles Stakes.

As this 39-day spring meet has unfolded, short fields have been something of a problem. Beyond the Optimistic Gal, the Saturday card also includes three six-horse races, one seven-horse race, and three eight-horse races, including the Louisville.