11/07/2012 2:15PM

Churchill Downs: Hernandez intends to ride at Gulfstream this winter

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Barbara D. Livingston
Brian Hernandez will switch his winter home base from Fair Grounds to Gulfstream Park.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., fresh off his triumph aboard Fort Larned in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, announced Wednesday that he will move his tack to Gulfstream Park for the winter, marking a shift from his longstanding winter base at Fair Grounds.

Hernandez and his agent, Frank Bernis, said they have little to lose by trekking into new territory at Gulfstream, which starts a four-month meet Dec. 1. It also doesn’t hurt that Hernandez will be staying close to Fort Larned and trainer Ian Wilkes, who will winter at the Palm Meadows training center just north of Gulfstream.

“We’d been thinking about it, and after winning the Classic, that kind of clinched it,” said Hernandez. “Maybe we’ll have a chance to ride better horses than in New Orleans. Hopefully we’ll get to ride for Ian, Rusty Arnold, Buff [Bradley], and some of the other Kentucky guys. You also look to open some doors with other people.”

Hernandez, 27, is a Louisiana native who began his career in his home state and has made Kentucky his primary base in recent years. He joins fellow Cajun native Corey Lanerie, who also has enjoyed a banner 2012, in making the move from New Orleans to south Florida this winter.

Hernandez and his bride of just a few weeks, Jamie Radosevich, hosted a celebration Tuesday night at a Louisville hot spot, Drake’s. “We had maybe 50 people from the track show up,” he said. “It was a whole lot of fun.”

Ailing trainer’s luck begins to change

Trainer Phil Thomas Jr. got some much-needed salve for his wounds last Friday when he sent out a 3-year-old filly named With Excellence to win and return $61.40. Thomas, 61, has been suffering mightily after sustaining a major wound to his lower right leg when he fell on a pitchfork last month while working at his Finchville, Ky., farm. The fork tine entered at the shinbone and pierced through the outer section of his calf before emergency personnel were able to extract it. Thomas spent five days in a local hospital receiving massive doses of antibiotics and other treatments for the injury.

Thomas, who has two sons, suffered a stroke less than two years ago in one of the stalls in Barn 33 at Churchill. His doctors said then that only a quick and fortuitous discovery of a stricken Thomas by Karen Salisbury, a longtime exercise rider for Ian Wilkes, saved him from far greater peril and quite possibly saved his life.

With Excellence is wheeling right back in the fifth race Friday, and Thomas is hoping for a repeat of what happened last Friday afternoon – and not anything close to what happened last Friday morning.

“One of my dogs got hit by a car and died that morning,” he said. “I was crying in the paddock before the race. Winning sure helped me start feeling better.”

Daisy Devine tops Cardinal lineup

Daisy Devine, a Grade 1 winner and most recently second in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland, heads a field of nine fillies and mares entered in the Saturday feature at Churchill, the Grade 3, $100,000 Cardinal Handicap.

Daisy Devine, trained by Andrew McKeever, will carry high weight of 122 pounds when ridden by Calvin Borel in the 39th Cardinal, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Daisy Devine won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April.

The rest of the Cardinal field, in order of weight assignments: Bizzy Caroline, 118; La Cloche, 118; Indian Pond, 117; Julia’s Love, 117; Affair Dabbler, 115; Fugitive Angel, 115; Last Full Measure, 115; and Revelstoke, 114.

Saturday is another College Scholarship Day, with 10 scholarships worth $1,000 apiece being raffled off throughout the afternoon. Churchill co-sponsors the event with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Registrants must be present to win.

Take Charge Indy on schedule for Clark

Take Charge Indy, a good third in the Oct. 27 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, will have his first workout since that comeback effort Saturday at Churchill when gearing back up for the signature race of the fall meet, the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 23.

Trainer Pat Byrne said he is pleased with how Take Charge Indy came out of the Fayette. Winner of the Florida Derby before coming out of his 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with an ankle injury, Take Charge Indy led much of the way before being passed late by the one-two finishers, Newsdad and Nikki’s Sandcastle.

Take Charge Indy figures as one of the main contenders in the $400,000 Clark, along with Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the Ack Ack Handicap here Friday. Churchill racing officials say other Clark possibilities at this early juncture include Pool Play from the BC Classic.

Two turf stakes on night card

The first and only night racing card of the meet comes a week from Saturday, Nov. 17, with twin turf stakes for 3-year-olds, the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere and Grade 3 Commonwealth. This will be the first time those two races will be run on the same card.

Churchill will be heavily marketing the night program throughout the local area in the coming days, with the theme being “The Roaring Twenties.” First post is 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

◗ Glenn Montgomery, 89, a longtime owner who raced horses for many years on the Kentucky circuit with his wife, Sara, died Oct. 31. Montgomery’s son, Gary, oversees a small stable at the nearby Trackside training center.