06/19/2012 4:41PM

Churchill Downs notes: Simms hanging tough for Debutante repeat

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Flashy Lassie (5) upsets the 2011 Debutante at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The temptation is to say that winning a second straight Debutante Stakes this coming Saturday at Churchill Downs would be the proverbial icing on the cake for Garry Simms. With a remarkable record of 5 wins and 2 seconds from just 8 starters so far at the spring meet, the 60-year-old Simms has done a lot with a little, with his most recent starter being a first-timing 2-year-old winner named Circle Unbroken here Sunday.

The most amazing aspect, however, to running Blueeyesintherein as one of the favorites in the Grade 3, $100,000 Debutante is that Simms is even around to see it. In January 2010, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer that continues to make his life difficult. He said he has undergone two bone-marrow transplants, 60 chemotherapy treatments, and 15 radiation treatments.

“It’s in my spine, my ribs, my skull, and my arms,” said Simms, who upset the Debutante last year with 17-1 shot Flashy Lassie. “The only place it hasn’t spread is my legs. But I’m doing okay, I really am. I had a little bit of a setback last month, but I still feel great, still feel blessed. I’m just moving right along, thanking God for this wonderful life he has given me.”

Blueeyesintherein, a 3 3/4-length winner of her May 31 debut here, was bought by Simms on behalf of Dorothy Self and Berry King for a mere $10,000 as a yearling last September at Keeneland. The filly’s sire is Magna Graduate, and her breeder is Elisabeth Alexander, two characters in a story of many intertwined details.

Simms bought Magna Graduate for longtime client Burr Travis and trained him as a 2-year-old before selling him to Alexander for a handsome profit, with Pat Byrne, Todd Pletcher, and Steve Asmussen eventually training the horse. Now 10, Magna Graduate earned nearly $2.6 million on the track.

So far, Blueeyesintherein is providing Simms with a happy bit of nostalgia.

“She’s a female Magna Graduate,” he said. “I thought she looked just like him when I bought her. She has his demeanor, his soundness, his mind, and she might even have his speed. She’s been 100-percent straightforward and tough, and we’ve never set her down.”

Leandro Goncalves will have the mount back Saturday when Blueeyesintherein makes her second start in the six-furlong Debutante. Other probables for the race include Fantacious, Floral Sky, Love Me Good, My Daughter’s Song, Quiet Success, Richie’slilcowgirl, Sheila Tequila, and Shesakitty. Entries were to be drawn Wednesday.

Castanon planning return

Jockey Jesus Castanon, who suffered a hand injury when spilled at the start of a race here May 18, said last weekend that he hopes to be back for the final week of the Churchill meet. Easily his biggest win of the meet came aboard Shackleford in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on the May 5 Kentucky Derby undercard.

“It’s feeling a lot better,” said Castanon, showing off the dexterity in the hand.

Castanon, 39, won the 2011 Preakness aboard Shackleford for his greatest career win. He said he will ride mostly at Ellis Park after Churchill ends July 1. Ellis starts July 4.

◗ The cat in the hat was back in the winner’s circle for a second straight Sunday after trainer Grant Forster, he of the familiar fedora, sent out 8-year-old Mandurah to lead all the way to win the allowance feature at 9-1. The previous Sunday, Forster saddled Brushed by a Star to a 16-1 allowance win over males.

Brushed by a Star likely will run back at Prairie Meadows in the $100,000 Iowa Distaff on June 29, said Forster.

◗ Longtime racing official Sue Brewster escaped serious injury Saturday night in an accident in the paddock before the second race. Brewster, working as the paddock judge, was trying to help catch a frantic horse, Emmy Rules, when an outrider’s pony ran over her. She said she was “shaken and very sore” from the incident but is otherwise okay.

◗ Two filly-mare allowances – one early, one late – highlight an 11-race Friday twilight card at Churchill, where first post will be 2:45 p.m. Race 4 is a second-level sprint on the main track, and race 10 is a first-level turf route.