09/30/2013 1:53PM

Churchill Downs: Romans ties for training title on final day

Barbara D. Livingston
Dale Romans (above) tied Steve Asmussen for the Churchill Downs training title. Romans has now won the Churchill title 11 times, and Asmussen 13.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As if his weekend hadn’t been great enough after being in New York to see Little Mike win the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Saturday at Belmont Park, Dale Romans got off an airplane Sunday in Louisville just in time to be on hand to tie for the Churchill Downs training title.

Going into the closing-day Sunday program, Romans trailed Steve Asmussen by two winners (8-6) at the 12-day September meet.

“I got off the plane and we’d just won the eighth,” an allowance with Owl Moon, Romans said. “Then I got in the car and was there in plenty of time for Scariff Island.”

Scariff Island rallied for a 2 1/2-length score in the 10th-race finale, a $5,000 claiming event.

“It was some weekend,” said Romans, the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning trainer who now has won or tied for 11 training titles at his hometown track. “Things are a lot better now than they were in the spring when we couldn’t get out of our own way. We’d love to carry this momentum into Keeneland, the Breeders’ Cup, and the Churchill fall meet.”

For Asmussen, this meet marked a record 13th time he has won or tied for a Churchill title.

Among owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey topped the meet standings with six wins and extended their own record with a 20th Churchill title. It was the sixth meet this year alone that the Ramseys have led all owners, following Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Churchill (spring), Saratoga, and Kentucky Downs.

Corey Lanerie led all jockeys with 19 wins, marking the third time in four meets he has been the top jockey at Churchill.

This was the first modern-era September meet held at Churchill.

Big attendance, small handle

While Churchill Downs Inc. tracks have a standing policy of not releasing attendance and business figures, the flagship track has always made such numbers available for Downs After Dark night programs since their 2009 inception.

Ontrack attendance Saturday night, the second of two night cards at the September meet, was 15,485, surpassing the 13,963 for the first one Sept. 7. Ontrack handle this Saturday was $817,000, or a per-capita of just $53, which illustrates the youthful demographic of the night crowds.

All-sources handle Saturday was $4,473,990, the lowest ever in 24 night programs (the night record is $8.86 million, set at the 2011 spring-meet opener).

One night card is scheduled at the fall meet (Nov. 16).

Gary Stevens’s son saddles winner

Tory Stevens saddled the first winner of his nascent training career when Sultry Warrior surged to a head victory in the 10th race Saturday, returning $104.40 to win.

Stevens, 28, is one of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens’s five children. The younger Stevens explained the next day that he has been on hand for a number of his dad’s major victories in racing but “when that horse hit the wire in front, it was the best feeling I’ve ever had in this game.”

It was just the fifth career starter for Stevens, who is based at the nearby Trackside training center.

Fort Larned gets a 107 Beyer

Fort Larned earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure from his 1 1/2-length triumph in the Homecoming Classic on Saturday night and exited the race in good order, trainer Ian Wilkes said.

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“Hopefully, this will set him up just right for the Breeders’ Cup,” said Wilkes, referring to a title defense in the Nov. 2 BC Classic at Santa Anita.

The Wilkes and Carl Nafzger team enjoyed a fun closing day when Street Call, running in Nafzger’s name, won the fifth race at a $49 mutuel under Brian Hernandez Jr.

The win was the third of the card for Hernandez, the regular rider of Fort Larned. In an earlier race, he deftly kept his mount, Capital Goods, from bolting toward the outside fence before proceeding to victory.