06/11/2012 12:11PM

Churchill Downs: Zayat hopes to end string of seconds with Nehro in Stephen Foster Handicap

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Tom Keyser
Nehro will try to end a spate of second-place finishes in major stakes for owner Ahmed Zayat in Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Ahmed Zayat would like to end his stable’s streak of runner-up finishes by winning the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday night at Churchill Downs. Problem is, Zayat considers the record that Nehro has compiled – seconds in four major stakes, including the 2011 Kentucky Derby and the recent Pimlico Special – and he just has to laugh.

“I’m picking the wrong horse to break this streak, aren’t I?” he said in hearty self-deprecation. “He’s notorious for being second, I think.”

Zayat Stables made a remarkable bit of history when their 3-year-olds finished second in each of the recently concluded Triple Crown races. Bodemeister led all but the crucial final yards in the Derby and Preakness, and then Paynter did the same Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. All were for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith.

Now comes the Grade 1, $400,000 Stephen Foster, the symbolic kickoff to the second half of the racing year, and it would surprise no one, including Zayat, if Nehro – with Corey Nakatani riding for trainer Steve Asmussen – would somehow find a way to be second again. Wise Dan, with John Velazquez in to ride, figures a solid favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race after earning a 117 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Ben Ali Stakes at the end of the Keeneland spring meet.

“Wise Dan – we’re up against a very fast horse,” Zayat said. “But our horse is doing really well. He ran a winning race in the Pimlico Special,” losing a head-bob photo to Alternation, “and I really think he has become significantly better this year than last. He seems much stronger and has more fight. I’m just hopeful that this will be a breakthrough for the stable.”

Nehro had his final work for the Foster when going an easy half-mile in 50.40 seconds Sunday over a fast Churchill track. Asmussen also has another possible Foster runner in Astrology, who breezed five furlongs Sunday in 1:02.40.

The Foster anchors a big night of racing, with three other graded races also on the schedule. Entries for all Saturday races will be taken and drawn Wednesday. As of Monday, this was the prospective lineup for the 31st Foster: Wise Dan, 123 pounds; Alternation, 122; Ron the Greek, 119; Nates Mineshaft, 118; Fort Larned, 117; Mission Impazible, 116; Nehro, 116; Astrology, 115; and Rogue Romance, 115.

Alternation, undefeated in four starts this year, arrived here Sunday morning from Arlington Park. Luis Quinonez has the mount for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.

In the three other stakes:

◗ Grade 2, $150,000 Fleur de Lis: Royal Delta, the 123-pound highweight, was scheduled to arrive here Monday from New York and represents something of a coup for Churchill in this 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares, which is back after a one-year hiatus. Others under consideration include St. John’s River, 118; Absinthe Minded, 116; Afleeting Lady, 116; It’s Tea Time, 115; and Distorted Love, 114.

◗ Grade 3, $100,000 Matt Winn: Asmussen could have an uncoupled duo in Macho Macho and Master Rick in this 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, with the favorites possibly being Stealcase for Mark Casse and Neck ’n Neck for Ian Wilkes. A mid-sized field is likely.

◗ Grade 3, $100,000 Regret: This 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies figures to be perhaps the deepest of all the stakes, with as many as 12 likely to go. Top names include Centre Court, Karlovy Vary, Heart of Destiny, Left a Message, Treasured Up, and Silver Hustler.

The Saturday card will start at 6 p.m. Eastern. It will be the second of three Downs After Dark programs this month, with 21,827 having attended the first June 2. The last one is set for June 30.

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Marc More than 1 year ago
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Jack More than 1 year ago
Mr Zayat, Make sure you have "The greatest Jockey that EVER lived in Mike Smith" He will GUN to the Lead and get CAUGHT everytime, MAYBE even OPEN the rail up for someone else to win IF he gets to TIRED to finish....Bob Baffert's "Massive Ego" got in the way of GOOD business...The day Mike (over-the-hill) Smith can go up to Golden Gate and OUT Ride Russell Baze,is a day THAT would NEVER happen...Wake the HELL up Baffert. And Mr Zayat you have two CHANCES of beating Wise Dan, SLIM and NONE.....................
Frank More than 1 year ago
Your an idiot -- If your still on this Paynter bit give it up. The best horse won that race. Run it 50 times UR beats Paynter everytime -- with or with Mike Smith. Quit crying about your loss and get in there and pick another winner!
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
'pick another winner' people like Jack are only good at picking their nose VQ
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Hey Frank I was at the Belmont and UR did win faiir and square. But anyone who thinks this horse has a shot at the 3yo chip let alone horse of the year is dreaming. UR had his favoriite race track and a slow pace. Paynter doesn't have the rep that bode has but I'm willing to bet Paynter Beats UR in the Jim Dandy. and Possibly the Travers. UR needs a 112 to 114 pace for 6f in order to be effective. throw a 110 111 at him and he hangs in the stretch.
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
Russel Baze is a top notch jock but he's a big fish in a small pond VQ
Doug Pearson More than 1 year ago
Hey Jack how many triple crown races or breeders cup races has Russell Baze rode in? When is the last time he won a Grade 1 race? I agree with you that Russell is a good rider but he is not even on the same level as Mike Smith. Remember Zenyatta what was that jocks name oh no it was Mike Smith. Mike Smith is a stand up guy, during his pre race interview @ the Preakness he paid tribute to Rene Douglas and Elvis Perrodin who wer side lined due to injury and health issues. Elvis Perrodin passed away this past Sunday from cancer. Mike Smith took time out to mention him and I think he is one of the classic jocks in the business.
David Sias More than 1 year ago
Totally agree.
Edward Kelly More than 1 year ago
Wah, wah another jockey basher. If you knew anything about horse racing you'd at least remember that Paynter was all out and couldn't catch Hierro in the Derby Trial a month earlier - the Hierro who got his hooves handed to him by 5 horses on the Belmont undercard.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Russell Baze big fish in a small pond...
Elijah Allison More than 1 year ago
wise dan will romp on dumb zayat
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
zayat doesn't look like he can outrun a horse so I say your statebred is correct.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Statebred LOL
Sal Cinaglia More than 1 year ago
LOL!! Has Nehro even won another race other than his maiden.
Doug Pearson More than 1 year ago
Sal Nehro won a race @ Fairgrounds the last meet.
Sal Cinaglia More than 1 year ago
Thank you Doug.
Doug Pearson More than 1 year ago
You are welcome Sal
Frank More than 1 year ago
Karma! I hope he never wins for what he did by not paying his bills back in 2009-2010. Dead beat bankrupt loser! Zayat doesnt even deserve 2nd!
Cry June More than 1 year ago
i would have move my horses from baffert barn martin garcia would have won 2 a those races bad choice for baffert
rdeeps52 More than 1 year ago
Well obviously, Martin Garcia is clearly a better rider then Mike Smith...smh
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Don't you love it when some dudette armed with a keyboard sitting in an $800 a month apartment waxes poetic about what he would do with millions of dollars in horse flesh. Moving them from trainer to trainer at will. If only video games were real life, I would rule the world! Ha!
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
the he should be a *She* i'd b willing 2 tell u what i would do with with millons of horse flesh but this a family blog lmao VQ
Doug Pearson More than 1 year ago
Good reply Meydan
Doug Pearson More than 1 year ago
Get a life, Baffert even said he was happy that his horses ran their races and he didn't blame Mike Smith for the loss in the Belmont Mike Smith blamed himself. No one is perfect, but when a man takes blame for his mistakes you have to respect him for that. I wouldn't call it a mistake I would call it horse racing.
Taso More than 1 year ago
Is Nehro a half brother to Perfect Drift?
Elijah Allison More than 1 year ago
nehro is bred by mineshaft and the administrator by afleet perfect drift is by dynaformer and nice gal
Edward Kelly More than 1 year ago
I don't think Taso was seriously asking if they were related. It was just a way to jokingly connect Nehro with the King of the 2nd place finish, Perfect Drift. I might be crazy but I loved that horse. He would make me laugh the way he loved to play around and have other horses run with him. He was just having fun running with his buddies, first or second. He ran some really huge races.
nick More than 1 year ago
"Zayat Stables made a remarkable bit of history when their 3-year olds finished second in each of the recently concluded Triple Crown races". ??? Uh, Mr. McGee excuse me, but have you ever heard of a horse named Alydar?
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Alydar = 3 second place finishes. Zayat Stables had double of that in the past 3 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Uh, excuse me, but searching 2010-2011 Triple Crown results show that, except for Nehro in 2011Ky. Derby, a definite lack of Zayat horses finishing second. Which Triple Crown were you looking at? Baseball, maybe? Besides, what do you think "recently concluded" means? Through 2005, maybe?
Peggs Wathen More than 1 year ago
wow, what a lineup for the SF.......1/2 of this field could be in the BC Classic !!!
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
NOT. wait until Acclimation runs in the pacific classic, then watch the 3yo's later in the year.