06/20/2012 12:33PM

Churchill Downs: Formal Plan carries stable


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For a much wider audience, the story line is a familiar one: Horse has Sunland Park on its past performances. Arrives to zero fanfare at Churchill Downs. Wins at huge odds on a weekend in May. Gets people buzzing.

Mine That Bird, of course, followed that script three years ago in capturing the 2009 Kentucky Derby at 50-1. The details involving a 4-year-old filly named Formal Plan are not quite the same, although her 31-year-old trainer, Jennifer Tooley, may have felt like she won the Derby when the only horse in her stable came rolling home a 47-1 winner in a May 20 allowance. The $400 purchase earned $27,000 that memorable afternoon for Tooley and Brad Brooks, her partner in Brooley Racing LLC.

“Right now I’m mostly just living on what my mare makes,” said Tooley, who grew up on the Oregon and Washington racing circuits and has Formal Plan at the nearby Trackside training center.

Formal Plan, with Greta Kuntzweiler back to ride, is one of six fillies and mares in the fourth and richest of 11 Friday races at Churchill, a $62,500, second-level allowance at six furlongs. Tooley, like most everyone else, is interested to see whether that latest victory was a fluke or not. Formal Plan, whose previous claim to fame was a distant third-place finish behind eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty in the 2011 Sunland Park Oaks, was returning from an 11-month layoff when she rallied from far back to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths.

“I really didn’t know what to expect that day,” said Tooley. “I know she’s fast, and I knew she had a good three-eighths in her. Greta rode her really well.”

The back-story on a California-bred bought for the proverbial ham sandwich at a mixed training sale at Emerald Downs is a fascinating one, and Tooley hopes the filly accomplishes enough so that she has to keep retelling it. One major step in that direction would be for Formal Plan to repeat Friday. “I think we have a great shot in there,” she said.

The logical favorites opposing her in the first of two Friday allowances include Always Here Too (post 2, Leandro Goncalves), the third-place finisher in the Grade 3 Eight Belles two starts back for Tom Amoss, and Force de la Nature (post 3, Corey Lanerie), who, like Formal Plan, also won a first-level allowance here in her last start, albeit at a mere 9-5. The rest of the lineup is Grand Illumination, Garnet Crystals, and Henny’s Hurricane.

The second allowance of the card, the 10th race, also is for fillies and mares. It’s a $59,800, first-level turf route that drew a field of 12, with Forest Legend and Even Forest being among the logical choices.

First post for the second-to-last twilight card of the meet is 2:45 p.m. Eastern. The race-4 feature goes at 4:18, with race 10 set for 7:24.

The Saturday card will have the normal 12:45 post. The final Downs After Dark card (6 p.m. post) comes the following Saturday, June 30. Closing day is July 1.