06/14/2011 12:49PM

Churchill Downs: Mission Impazible out to rebound in Foster

Barbara D. Livingston
Mission Impazible ran seventh in the Alysheba.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There doesn't seem to be much room for error atop the national handicap ranks this year. Mission Impazible went from a division leader to just one of the gang when six opponents finished ahead of him in the Alysheba Stakes last month at Churchill Downs.

Six weeks after he finished seventh, beaten less than four lengths by victorious First Dude in the May 7 Alysheba, Mission Impazible will try to recapture some of his status when part of a sizable field Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill.

"I don't really know if we have an excuse for that last race," said Michael McCarthy, the locally based assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "Maybe he didn't like the track, but I don't know. Probably just an 'off' day. The good news is he really worked well over the track Sunday, and he's in good order. Let's hope he can pick it back up Saturday."

Mission Impazible won a rugged edition of the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap in late March to become a major player in the division. Two of his Foster opponents, Apart and Giant Oak, were among those trailing him in that Fair Grounds race, while Birdrun, winner of the Brooklyn last weekend at Belmont Park, ran fifth behind them.
Javier Castellano will be in from New York to ride Mission Impazible, a gray Unbridled's Song colt who is assigned 118 pounds, four fewer than highweighted Giant Oak.

Besides the Foster, the customary assortment of graded undercard events also is on tap for Saturday. Top names in those races include Diva Ash, Bouquet Booth, and Gaya for the Grade 3, $125,000 Regret; Joe Vann, Wilburn, and possibly Dominus for the Grade 3, $125,000 Matt Winn; and Banned, Chinglish, and Derby Kitten for the Grade 3, $100,000 Jefferson Cup.

The Matt Winn, formerly known as the Northern Dancer, lost a top candidate Monday when Bind suffered a condylar fracture in a workout at Keeneland. The injury required surgery but is not expected to be career-ending for the Claiborne Farm 3-year-old.
The Foster program also will include the first race in track history for Arabian horses. The $50,000 race is being sponsored by the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi and will be run at 1 1/4 miles.

Entries for all Foster Day races were to be drawn Wednesday.

Nighttime again right time

The Friday night programs that have proved so popular with local fans return this week with a first post of 6 p.m. Eastern and a $10 general admission. Although it would seem unreasonable to expect a crowd approaching the 38,142 that turned out for the April 30 night opener, track officials once again are hoping for numbers that far exceed the typical attendances for afternoon or twilight cards.

While the Friday feature, the $68,000 Opening Verse, will be run on the grass and in daylight as race 4, two allowances (races 9 and 10) will be run with the help of the permanent lights system installed last year.

Two more Friday night cards will follow June 24 and July 1. The meet runs through July 4.

Derby alumni day on hold

The Kentucky Derby Alumni concept is back on hiatus. Revived last year with a 1970's emphasis that featured appearances by the connections of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed, the Derby Alumni day once had been a Foster Day fixture before being abandoned because of excessive costs in the early 2000s.

Churchill officials tentatively had hoped to stage an alumni day for Derby winners of the 1980s, but "there is no timetable for when we'll be able to put that on," said track spokesman John Asher.

Orm, trainer, dies at 72

Jerry Orm, a Thoroughbred trainer since 1991, died Saturday in Louisville at age 72. Orm, who rode and trained barrel horses and Quarter Horses for years before switching to Thoroughbreds, was the father of longtime backstretch employee Scott Orm and the grandfather of apprentice rider Cory Orm. A funeral service is scheduled for Thursday.
Orm, a Navy veteran who also worked as a heavy equipment operator, had 109 winners from 1,314 starts for earnings of just more than $1 million.

◗ While veteran jockey Manny Cruz received quite a bit of notice by riding five winners here Saturday, easily his best day since he moved his tack from Calder, Corey Lanerie won three races on the same card and continues to hold a sizable lead atop the jockey standings. Lanerie enters Thursday action with 34 winners, nine ahead of Shaun Bridgmohan.

◗ A benefit Texas hold 'em poker tournament is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, June 22, in the Triple Crown room at Churchill, with proceeds going to the Blackie Huffman Memorial Scholarship Fund. The buy-in is $125, with first prize worth as much as $7,500. More information is available by calling (502) 363-1077 or (502) 636-4830.