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Churchill Downs: Centre Court to close out year in Mrs. Revere
By Marty McGee
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One can only assume that the local consignment and thrift shops have been besieged with young folks bent on nostalgia. After all, scoring a retro outfit that reflects “The Golden Era” of the 1920’s will be some kind of cool Saturday evening, when the only Downs After Dark program of the Churchill Downs fall meet will be run before a festive crowd expected to approach 20,000.
It’s highly doubtful that handicappers will revert to the terminology used by the Damon Runyons of the day, when the likes of Man o’ War and Exterminator ruled the turf. Still, when a horse runs a corker or a pip, it’s a likely winner – and one to log into your “dope book,” which has absolutely nothing to do with the cobra venom or frog juice of today’s racing scandals.
As a licensed trainer of nearly 40 years, Rusty Arnold has been around a long time, so he has heard about pretty much everything that came before him on the racetracks of America, including the Prohibition era at his longtime stomping grounds in Saratoga. This week, however, he was concerned primarily with the future, namely how Centre Court will fare as the likely favorite against 11 other fillies in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes, the anchor of the Saturday card.
The $175,000 Mrs. Revere will be the second turf stakes for 3-year-olds as the ninth of 11 races on a program that starts at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Its male counterpart, the Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf, comes about an hour earlier as race 7. Both stakes go at 1 1/16 miles.
Centre Court, who gave game but futile chase to Dayatthespa as a race-long runner-up in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last month at Keeneland, will have Julien Leparoux in from California to ride. Leparoux, who ruled this circuit for much of the last six years, will be aboard Centre Court when she breaks from post 7.
“Julien told me after the QE II that he’d like to come back and ride her, and I said I’d love to have him come back,” said Arnold, who trains Centre Court for breeder-owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr. “So his returning is kind of a mutual arrangement.”
Arnold said he considered putting Centre Court away for the winter.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to bring her back for one more, but after the way she’s trained since the QE II, I thought we’d be fine,” he said. “It’s the last chance for a 3-year-old filly [in this niche and age group]. After this I’ll just let her down, just kind of piddle with her at Palm Meadows and point for the Jenny Wiley in April at Keeneland.”
Leparoux joins John Velazquez among the big-name jockeys flying in for the evening card. Velazquez has the call on Peace Preserver (post 3), one of the main threats to Centre Court as a run-off winner of the ungraded Pebbles Stakes last month on the Belmont Park turf. Todd Pletcher trains Peace Preserver, a four-time winner from 10 starts.
Other major contenders in this well-matched 22nd running of the Mrs. Revere are all graded winners: Leading Astray (post 1, Eddie Perez), who won the Pucker Up in September; Somali Lemonade (post 4, Corey Lanerie), winner of the Jessamine at 2; Colonial Flag (post 9, Joe Rocco Jr.), who took the Ontario Colleen this summer; Volcat (post 10, Robby Albarado), winner of the Virginia Oaks; and Miz Ida (post 11, Shaun Bridgmohan), a stretch runner with 5 wins from her last 6 starts, the latest being a division of the Valley View at Keeneland.
Besides the twin turf stakes, two allowances (races 8 and 10) also are carded for Saturday. Post time for the Mrs. Revere is 8:36, with the 11th and last race going at 9:36. HRTV will have extensive coverage of the entire card.
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