06/27/2012 3:12PM

Churchill Downs notes: Jockeys pass on Saratoga to stay in Kentucky for the summer

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Tom Keyser
Leandro Goncalves will take a trip back home to Brazil when the Churchill meet ends.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Since the era of Pat Day, the end of the spring meet has meant that the next stop was Saratoga for some in the Churchill Downs jockey colony. But after the 2012 meet ends Sunday, not a single Churchill jockey will ride regularly at the Saratoga meet that starts July 20.

“I can hardly remember a time when not one Kentucky jock went to Saratoga,” said Fred Aime, a longtime agent who represented Day for years and now works for Miguel Mena and Shane Sellers.

Aside from frequent out-of-town stakes engagements this summer, including perhaps some spot-riding at Saratoga, the leading riders at the Churchill spring meet – Corey Lanerie, Shaun Bridgmohan, and Calvin Borel – intend to ride mostly at Ellis Park, the western Kentucky track that starts its 29-day summer meet next Wednesday, July 4. Also, Aime said Mena and Sellers will move to Arlington Park as soon as Churchill ends.

Besides Day, who retired in August 2005, a handful of other Kentucky-based jockeys typically moved on to Saratoga for the summer. In more recent years, Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux, Kent Desormeaux, and Borel have ridden there, as have Bridgmohan and Mena. But a confluence of varying circumstances involving all of those jockeys has yielded this unusual development.

“Saratoga is going to be extremely tough this year,” said Lenny Pike, agent for Bridgmohan. “Besides the regulars like Ramon [Dominguez] and [Javier] Castellano, you’ve also got Rosie [Napravnik] and [Joel] Rosario there for the first time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for any of us to go up there for six weeks just to try to max out with 8 or 10 wins.”

Leandro Goncalves, third in the Churchill standings entering the final week of action behind Lanerie and Bridgmohan (Borel was a close fourth), is heading home to Brazil for a few weeks before starting back at the Hoosier Park meet that begins Aug. 1. Other Churchill jockeys planning to ride regularly at Ellis include Brian Hernandez Jr., Gabriel Saez, Jon Court, and Victor Lebron.

Quite a few Churchill trainers will stable at Saratoga, with Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, Ken McPeek, and Rusty Arnold among those shipping out sizable strings.

Eight for Bashford Manor

Working on the assumption that racing will be held here Saturday night as scheduled, the highlight will be the Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes. From the rail out, this is the field of eight 2-year-olds: Good Tickled, Circle Unbroken, Go Jack Go, Praetorian Prefect, Special Jo, Roman’s Avenue, Positively, and Hightail.

Likely favorites in the six-furlong race include Positively, with Borel riding for Pat Byrne, and Special Jo, with Sellers aboard for Asmussen.

First post Saturday is 6 p.m. Eastern, with the Bashford Manor, the sixth of 11 races, set for about 8:30.

◗ Yuichi Fukunaga, the leading jockey in Japan, has been named on five horses for Saturday night and also is scheduled to ride here Sunday. His Saturday mounts are in races 2, 3, 4, 8, and 11.

After this weekend, Fukunaga, 35, will go to California to ride the last couple of weeks at the Betfair Hollywood Park meet before trying his hand at Del Mar, which starts July 18. Fukunaga has prior experience in America, with his biggest win coming aboard Cesario in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood in 2005.

◗ Jockey Pat Johnson has been named back on Humor’s Punch in the eighth race Friday. Johnson, 53, won his first Churchill race since 2008 when he urged Humor’s Punch to a nose victory in the first race June 16. Humor’s Punch is trained by 78-year-old Tom McCarthy of General Quarters fame.