07/01/2011 2:59PM

Churchill Downs: Dupuy sending army of one into Firecracker

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Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
General Quarters is the highweight and likely favorite in the Firecracker.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After Strike Impact dominated a May 5 turf allowance at Churchill Downs, his trainer, Pat Dupuy, started kidding some of his more well-known colleagues when enjoying a post-race beverage at a ground-floor clubhouse bar.

“I’ll be giving seminars on how to train a racehorse on Saturday mornings,” he gleefully announced.

For Dupuy, a 53-year-old New Orleans native whose stable typically has consisted of just a horse or two since he was 20 while he also worked in other racetrack capacities, having a legitimate contender in a race such as the Firecracker Handicap is uncharted territory. But when the Grade 2, $175,000 Firecracker is run Monday on the final program of the 39-day Churchill spring meet, that’s exactly where Dupuy will find himself when he saddles Strike Impact for the one-mile turf race.

A field of 11 is entered in the Firecracker, with General Quarters being the 119-pound highweight and likely favorite. General Quarters, with Jamie Theriot to ride, was assigned post 1, while Strike Impact, with Robby Albarado named, will start from post 9 as one of his top challengers.

Dupuy has co-owned and trained Strike Impact since Nov. 2009, a few races after the gelding, now 7, was claimed at Arlington Park for $25,000. Dupuy has been married since 1990 to Jennie Rees, the longtime turf writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“You can’t imagine how big it is for somebody with just one horse to be in a race like this,” said Rees. “A lot of people have always known Pat is a good enough horseman to be in these kinds of races, but obviously he’s never had the opportunity. The first time he ever ran in a stakes was when this horse was third in the Claiming Crown [Jewel] last summer, so we’re really excited about Monday.”

Strike Impact comes into the Firecracker in excellent form, having won his last two starts, both of them two-turn turf races at Churchill. In all, the gelding has won 16 of 54 starts and earned $456,860.

Other contenders in the Firecracker, which is carded as the 10th of 11 races, include Baryshnikov (post 7, Julien Leparoux), Mister Marti Gras (post 3, Shaun Bridgmohan), and Lubash (post 11, Kent Desormeaux).

Banned eyes Virginia Derby

Banned, one of the leading 3-year-old turf runners in North America after easy wins in the American Turf and Jefferson Cup at Churchill, is pointing to the $600,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 16, said trainer Tom Proctor.

If the colt runs well and comes out of the Virginia Derby in good order, the $400,000 Secretariat at Arlington could logically follow, said Proctor.

◗ Stall applications for the Turfway Park fall meet in September will close July 23, said the track’s racing secretary, Rick Leigh. Unlike in prior years, Turfway has been closed for training since shortly after the winter-spring meet ended in early April because of the expense involved in remaining open.