06/07/2013 1:51PM

Churchill Downs: Fast filly Bahnah may pass Debutante in favor of Saratoga

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Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
The 2-year-old filly Bahnah, ridden by Corey Lanerie, earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for winning her career debut Thursday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Granted, it’s very early. Nonetheless, the fastest Beyer Speed Figure for a 2-year-old so far this year in North America was recorded Thursday at Churchill Downs by Bahnah, a filly making her first career start.

Trained by Bret Calhoun for Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, Bahnah earned a 91 Beyer with a six-length triumph under Corey Lanerie in a 4 1/2-furlong race. She was the 9-5 favorite in a field of eight and finished in 51.17 seconds over a fast track.

“It’s great when they run the way they’re supposed to,” Calhoun said Friday.

The “top Beyer” mantle is somewhat misleading because relatively few 2-year-old races have been run so far this year. Only one has been run at Belmont Park, and none of the 2-year-old spring races at Keeneland is graded with Beyers. The second-highest Beyer so far was a 78 by Ghostly Wonder last Sunday at Arlington Park for trainer Andy Hansen.

Meanwhile, Calhoun said he is reluctant to run Bahnah back in the only 2-year-old filly stakes of the Churchill spring meet, the $100,000 Debutante Stakes on June 22.

“Sixteen days back is a little too quick for my liking,” said Calhoun. “The owners have been talking about the Debutante for a while now, and I know they’d like to run. We’ll see. I’m thinking it might be best to wait for something like the Schuylerville at Saratoga.”

Bahnah, by Elusive Quality, was a $62,000 yearling purchase last September at Keeneland. She had five recorded works before her explosive debut Thursday.

Abstraction working sharply for Matt Winn

While the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis handicaps promise to be excellent races next Saturday night, June 15, one of the undercard events, the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes, also is shaping up very well.

Three-year-olds already committed to the Matt Winn, a Grade 3 race run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, include Abstraction, Bellarmine, Code West, Looking Cool, Sunbean, Treasury Bill, and Uncaptured.

Abstraction, trained by David Carroll, will be making his first appearance since an odds-on victory in the April 27 Tesio Stakes at Pimlico. Through last weekend, Abstraction has had four works at Churchill in the interim, three of them bullets.

As for the Grade 1 Foster, at least six are expected: Successful Dan, Ron the Greek, Take Charge Indy, Fort Larned, Golden Ticket, and Pool Play. And only four are known for the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis: Royal Delta, On Fire Baby, Wine Princess, and Funny Proposition.

Weight assignments for both handicaps were to be released Saturday. Entries will be drawn Wednesday.

The Foster card will be the first of three straight Saturdays for Downs After Dark, with the first race run at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Jones unsure where stakes trio will run next

Larry Jones said all three of his stable stars returned to Churchill in good shape from their Memorial Day races at Belmont Park and that he has no definite plans for them.

Joyful Victory and Believe You Can were fifth and sixth, respectively, among a field of six fillies and mares in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, while Mark Valeski was fourth of nine in the Metropolitan Mile.

Jones said owner Rick Porter “is giving me three more races” with Joyful Victory, ending with the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on Nov. 1. “We’ll probably run in the Zenyatta before that,” said Jones.

As for Believe You Can, beaten 20 lengths by the victorious Tiz Miz Sue in the Phipps, “there is no game plan for her,” said Jones. “As bad as she ran, we just wanted to make sure she came out okay, and it seems like she’s fine. I can’t figure what went on with her that day. I’d imagine either her or Joyful Victory will wind up in the Molly Pitcher” on July 28 at Monmouth Park.

Mark Valeski “might go to Saratoga, although we haven’t really talked about what’s on the schedule for him yet, either,” said Jones.

Departing aims for West Virginia Derby

Departing, the Illinois Derby winner who ran sixth in the Preakness, will make his next start in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 3 at Mountaineer Racetrack, said trainer Al Stall Jr.

“It seems like we should fit well in there,” said Stall.

The Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, the annual marquee event at Mountaineer, will be contested at 1 1/8 miles.

Neck ‘n Neck resumes training

Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the Matt Winn, Indiana Derby, and Ack Ack Handicap last year at 3, is back in light training at Churchill after recovering from surgery for a fractured sesamoid in his left fore.

Trainer Ian Wilkes said Neck ‘n Neck, bred and owned by A. Stevens Miles Jr., is still a long way from a race but that the colt appears to have recuperated well.

“You have to wait and see how the surgery goes,” said Wilkes. “When we saw there was minimal damage to the suspensory branch, we were optimistic.”