05/23/2012 3:59PM

Churchill Downs notes: Simmard looks like Louisville Handicap favorite

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Barbara D. Livingston
Simmard ran third in the Elkhorn at Keeneland.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Tahoe Lake and Simmard will be sticking with their specialty, the turf marathon, when returning to action Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap, the first graded stakes at Churchill Downs since the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

Simmard, shipping in from Woodbine for trainer Roger Attfield, is likely to come favored in the 1 1/2-mile Louisville after finishing third at 4-1 in his last race, the Elkhorn Stakes on closing day at Keeneland. Tahoe Lake, locally based with Ken McPeek, was second at 15-1 in the Elkhorn.

Several of their rivals will be trying something new by stretching out in the Louisville, most notably Cease, a supplementary nomination for Al Stall Jr. after scratching last weekend from the Pimlico Special, and Rescue Squad, shipping in from New York for Shug McGaughey.

From the hedge out, this is the field for the 75th running of the Louisville, which goes as the 10th of 11 Saturday races: Cease, Tahoe Lake, Rescue Squad, Harrods Creek, Joinem, Depeche Chat, Simmard, and Derby Kitten.

Stakes action really picks back up the following Saturday, June 2, with a trio of graded races on an evening program: the Aristides, Winning Colors, and Mint Julep.

Castanon has surgery

At this time last year, Jesus Castanon was basking in the limelight of a Preakness victory aboard Shackleford. Unfortunately for the 39-year-old jockey, things are much less subdued as the Belmont Stakes approaches this time around.

Castanon will be out of action for about a month, according to his agent, Dennis Cooper, after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair two small bones in his left hand. Castanon suffered the injury when his mount in the 10th race Friday stumbled badly at the break, throwing him.

Not only will Castanon miss most of the rest of the Churchill meet that ends July 1, but he also had to give up the mount on Shackleford to John Velazquez for the Met Mile on Monday at Belmont.

Laurie’s Rocket to Woody Stephens

Laurie’s Rocket, second to Il Villano in the Chick Lang Stakes on the Preakness undercard, likely will make his next start in the $400,000 Woody Stephens, a seven-furlong race on the June 9 Belmont Stakes undercard, said trainer Dallas Stewart.

“It’s tough to get a ‘two-other-than’ right now without having to run against older horses,” said Stewart. “Plus seven-eighths should be just right for him.”

* The water buckets and hoses will be much needed this weekend at Churchill when temperatures soar into the 90s and the heat index goes into triple figures. The forecast for the twilight card for Friday calls for a high of 92, while the highs for the next three days are supposed to be 95, 94, and 94.