09/06/2013 10:56AM

Churchill Downs: Irish Sea continues comeback in Sunday turf feature


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Turf racing at Churchill Downs will be limited at the new 12-day September meet, with an average of less than one race per card having been written into the condition book by racing secretary Ben Huffman.

This conservation effort owes to the prevalence of warm and dry conditions at this time of year, mindful that the grass course requires coddling with the traditional fall meet not too far into the future. Besides, if a trainer really wants a turf race for his horse, there are 50 of them being run this month a couple hours away at Kentucky Downs, with fat purses, no less.

Steve Margolis made no mention about feeling fortunate to be able to run one of his newer horses, Irish Sea, on the Churchill turf in the nominal feature Sunday, but he didn’t have to. Aside from the relatively rare opportunity to race on turf under the Twin Spires, Margolis prefers racing in his own backyard, as they say, and he has been eager to get Irish Sea back in action after the chestnut colt made a promising return during Arlington Million week in suburban Chicago.

Irish Sea was making his first start under Margolis’s care when a late-flying third as a lukewarm favorite on Aug. 15 at Arlington Park. Bred and owned by the Mount Joy Stables of Brian Burns, the 4-year-old English Channel colt had been off for 18 mounts following a promising start to his career for his prior trainer, Chad Brown.

“I honestly don’t know the nature of the problems that caused him to be away so long, although I do know there were two separate times they had to give him time, and plus he’s just a big horse,” Margolis said. “Knock wood, he’s sound as a brass bell. He’s coming into this race in great shape after I got a couple more works into him, and he’s really training well.”

Irish Sea, with Shaun Bridgmohan to ride, will break from post 3 in a field of 11 entrants that includes one also-eligible. A $48,000, first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles, it is the ninth of 10 races on the Sunday card, and the only allowance event of the day.

Other contenders in the feature include Prado Cat (post 2, Corey Lanerie), third for this same condition two weeks ago at Saratoga for owner Frank Jones and trainer Dale Romans; Wings of Fortune (post 8, Rosie Napravnik), in off back-to-back seconds for this same condition on the Ellis Park turf; and Paroled (post 9, Robby Albarado), a consistent stretch runner with a 1-5-3 record from 17 career starts.

First post Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

After Sunday, Churchill goes dark for four days before the second 3-day weekend of the meet commences Friday.