06/29/2012 12:27PM

Churchill Downs: Firecracker's pace should give Turallure a chance to rally

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Charlie Loprestie says Turallure was hampered by a slow pace in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Short fields going two turns often translates to a race with a slow pace. But in the case of the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on closing night at Churchill Downs, that doesn’t necessarily look like the case.

Two of the six older horses in the $150,000 Firecracker, which anchors the final program of the 38-day spring meet Sunday, have speed aplenty. So the prospect of an honest pace gives trainer Charlie Lopresti hope that the stretch-running Turallure, the solid favorite, will rebound from a disappointing last start and post his first triumph of the year.

“That’s what I like,” said Lopresti, who trains Turallure forFour D Stables of Donna Arnold. “He needs something to run at. That’s his deal.”

Night Party and Mandurah are the obvious speed in the Firecracker, a one-mile turf race that goes as the seventh of 10 races on a card with a rescheduled start of 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Night Party was assigned post 1 and Mandurah gets post 3, while Turallure, with Julien Leparoux in to ride, will break from post 4.

Turallure clearly is the class of the Firecracker field, having developed into one of the top turf milers in North America over the last year, and as such will carry high weight of 122 pounds. The 5-year-old Turallure won the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch and Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last year before finishing an agonizingly close second to Court Vision here in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile last fall. He was favored in his two starts this year when running second in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland and then seventh in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the May 5 Kentucky Derby undercard.

“Derby Day, there was nothing to run at,” said Lopresti. “They went 48-and-change and never came back. We really didn’t have much chance under that scenario.”

After the Firecracker, Turallure will race next in the Grade 2 Fourstardave on Aug. 11 at Saratoga, said Lopresti, who was speaking from Prairie Meadows in Iowa, where on Saturday night he was to saddle Successful Dan as the favorite in the Cornhusker Handicap.

Probably the top threats to keep Turallure winless on the year are Guys Reward (post 6) and Seruni (post 2), the respective one-two finishers in a June 9 overnight stakes on the Churchill turf. Both are in good form and have the tractability to perhaps get a little jump on Turallure before they all straighten away for home. Rounding out the Firecracker field is Silver Rock (post 5).

Sunday marks the last of three programs with which Churchill is ending the 38-day meet in an attempt to offset the effects of a brutal heat wave. This is the first time since 1999 that Churchill has not extended its spring meet at least through July 4 and the first time ever that its spring meet will end at nighttime.

Quite a few of the better races from the Thursday card that was cancelled because of the heat have been redrawn as part of the Sunday finale. Churchill officials said they will add nine races to the fall-meet schedule to make up for that cancellation.