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Churchill Downs roundup
Heading into Wednesday's card, trainer Dale Romans had more winners, seven, than co-leading riders Leandro Goncalves and Jon Court, who had six winners apiece. Besides going 7 for 17, a 41 percent win rate, Romans saw many of his horses run career-best figures, such as Bobby B. Goode, who earned a 97 Beyer, and Lost Aptitude, who ran a 90.
Other trainers off to quick local starts included Eddie Kenneally and Steve Asmussen, who each won four races, and Ian Wilkes, Paul McGee, Lynn Whiting, Bill Mott, and Rusty Arnold, who each won two.
The jockeys, meanwhile, were as tightly bunched as a finish on a synthetic track. Court and Goncalves held a narrow advantage over three riders who had five wins - Jamie Theriot, Jesus Castanon, and Robby Albarado. Calvin Borel, Julien Leparoux, Francisco Torres, and Shaun Bridgmohan each had four wins.
Look for Albarado, Leparoux, and Borel to gain momentum as the meet progresses. They, along with Kent Desormeaux, were out of town for the Breeders' Cup, costing them local mounts.
After not having a starter hit the board at Keeneland from 24 starters, trainer D. Wayne Lukas entered Wednesday's card 0 for 17 at Churchill, though two of his horses ran second and two others ran third. Among trainers with seven or more starters at this meet, Lukas was the only one without a win.
High-percentage trainers Mike Maker and Todd Pletcher were each 1 for 12 going into Wednesday, far off their usual pace. They customarily win at greater than a 20 percent clip at Churchill Downs.
Following a quiet meet at Keeneland, Miguel Mena has been the coldest rider here. He entered Wednesday's racing 0 for 32. Among other jockeys with at least 10 or more mounts at the meet, Ben Creed, Israel Ocampo, and Fabio Arguello Jr. were also winless. As one would expect, however, they have been riding mostly longshots. Their statistics were at least partially the result of the lesser stock they have ridden.
As usual, Churchill has played fairly since the meet began, with horses winning on the lead, from just off the pace, and from far back - depending on pace.
One thing we haven't seen as regularly is closers flying up the fence all the way to the wire, perhaps because Borel has not been attempting the maneuver as often. But as Borel likes to say, "you gotta have the pony" that is willing to go through those small openings.
Horses have saved ground and been successful, but most have angled out for the stretch run.
The main track hasn't been as fast as it was in the spring, when warm weather and humidity tighten the surface.
Saturday marks the 19th running of the Mrs. Revere. A Grade 2 race for 3-year-old fillies on the grass, it represents one of the last chances for horsemen to keep their fillies running against straight 3-year-olds and consistently draws some of the best in the division.
Hot Cha Cha - winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup last month at Keeneland - headlines a deep field.
The boys take center stage Sunday in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf, another race for 3-year-olds. Jefferson Cup winner Florentino is expected to head a medium-sized field, facing opposition such as Get Stormy and Proceed Bee.
The Mrs. Revere was drawn Wednesday, the Commonwealth on Thursday.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
The 2-year-old Lost Aptitude showed in last Sunday's seventh race that he is a colt with a stakes future on the grass. Facing a stakes-quality field, he drew away as much the best in the lane, scoring by 3 1/2 lengths and running 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.44.
He earned a 90 Beyer, which must be considered conservative, given that he ran 1.41 seconds faster than Mr All American's winning time of 1:43.85 in a second-level allowance for older horses later on the card.
Since Churchill began regularly carding 1 1/16-mile turf races for juveniles in the fall of 2002, no 2-year-old has ever run as fast as Lost Aptitude at that distance on turf.
Wise River, an eventual graded stakes winner on turf, ran the next-fastest time in 2005 - 1:43.55.
UNLUCKY FINISH OF THE WEEK
Star of David ran the fastest race of his life in the second race Nov. 6, racing six furlongs against $30,000 nonwinners-of-two claimers in about 1:09.80.
Unfortunately, for him, Bobby B. Goode also picked that day to run out of his skin. Dropping from allowance competition, he led from gate to wire, covering six furlongs in a blazing 1:09.57, posting the highest Beyer of the week and beating Star of David by 1 1/2 lengths.
When a horse runs a sub-1:10 time in a claiming race and earns a 93 Beyer, as Star of David did, he is supposed to win. Amazingly, he didn't.
Given the fast time, look for this contest to develop into a key race, particularly if some of the also-rans are dropped in class.
BRUTAL TRIP OF THE WEEK
It is not often one can say a horse who finished eighth was probably best, but it would not be absurd to say that about Bergman, who finished eighth in the featured ninth race Nov. 4.
Breaking from the rail in a seven-furlong second-level allowance, he was trapped behind horses in a slow-paced, congested field and never had a chance to get out and run to his potential.
It briefly appeared he might at the top of the stretch, but just as an opening appeared, it vanished when the tiring Maltese Dog cut into his path, forcing Jesus Castanon on Bergman to steady him and search for another hole.
It never materialized. Bergman could do little more than gallop under a hold down the stretch, losing by 5 3/4 lengths.
When he reappears next - and there is a second-level allowance in the Churchill Downs condition book scheduled for Nov. 21 - horseplayers should anticipate a much-improved performance with a clean run.
HORSES TO WATCH
B L's Pap Coo Coo
Trainer: Bernie Flint
Last race: Nov. 4, 7th
Finish: 1st by 2 1/4
This gelding dominated a talent-laden group of starter $5,000 runners, including Claiming Crown Iron Horse winner Bright Hall, setting a pressured pace and drawing off to an easy win going a mile. He is a skilled performer on dirt or synthetics and at any distance from six furlongs to a mile. Just put him around one turn, and he is all business.
Zooming White Star
Trainer: Steve Margolis
Last race: Nov. 6, 2nd
Finish: 3rd by 8
Racing in a swiftly run race at six furlongs, a bit shorter than he prefers, he rallied decently to be third but couldn't threaten the top two, who each earned a Beyer in the 90s. Against a more modest $30,000 nonwinners-of-two field, this one can probably pick up a victory.
Trainer: Al Stall Jr.
Last race: Nov. 7, 6th
Finish: 2nd by 1/2
Rebounding from a dull comeback at Keeneland last month, this horse turned in a quality effort to finish second to class dropper Good Question going a mile in a $15,000 nonwinners-of-two race. He was poised to challenge that rival in midstretch but could not sustain his rally in the closing furlong. A useful stalker, he would probably benefit from being shortened to a long sprint.