05/06/2010 12:00AM

Churchill roundup

Email

WHO'S HOT

Well, this one is fairly obvious - Calvin Borel. He became the first jockey to win three Derbies in four years when he guided Super Saver to victory last Saturday. He also won aboard Mine That Bird last year and Street Sense in 2007.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Super Saver, said after the race that he feels Borel is good anywhere but is worth five lengths at Churchill Downs. That is certainly the case when the track is wet at Churchill. Borel gets in a zone when the track is wet, perhaps because so many other riders tend to take outside paths, leaving Borel the fence.

The numbers bear this out. Borel was 3 for 6 on the Churchill main track Saturday, with his other winners being Zimmer ($10.80) in race 2 and Atta Boy Roy ($22.20) in race 9, the Churchill Downs Handicap. Borel also went 5 for 8 at Churchill on opening day, April 24, the only other time this meet the track was off.

Conversely, he is 0 for 3 on the turf this meet and 3 for 21 on the dirt when it has been fast.

As for hot trainers, Todd Pletcher got his much-sought-after Kentucky Derby victory with Super Saver. Last Saturday he also won the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile with the improving Phola.

Last week, Pletcher won four races at Churchill, most of any trainer there; Steve Margolis was second with three winners.

With the results from the preceding weekend of racing through Derby Day, Margolis led all trainers with five victories at the meet.

WHO'S NOT

Though trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Dale Romans have had horses run very well at this meet, they had not saddled a winner through Derby Day.

Lukas went winless with 18 starters at Churchill, though three ran second, and another three were third, including Tidal Pool in the Kentucky Oaks. Dale Romans was 0 for 20, but two of his runners were second and four were third, including Paddy O'Prado in the Derby.

Still, having horses ready to be third in races such as the Oaks and Derby is quite an accomplishment. These two know how to win races and should heat up soon.

Turning to the riders, Robby Albarado, coming off a strong Keeneland meet, is a surprisingly chilly 0 for 35. Other riders winless through Derby Day, with at least 12 mounts, include Alex Solis (0 for 12), Jimmy Graham (0 for 12), Terry Thompson (0 for 20), and apprentice Freddie Lenclud (0 for 18).

TRACK TRENDS

Wednesday, April 28: The fast main track played fairly to all paths, with pressing and stalking trips faring best.

Thursday, April 29: Speed held well, and most of the winners on the card raced on or near the lead.

Friday, April 30: Stalkers and closers were most effective on Oaks Day, mostly rallying about three paths off the rail.

Saturday, May 1: Stalkers and closers excelled over the sloppy conditions, usually with wide trips. The horses who seemed to fare well on the fence were ridden by Borel, who rides the rail closer than anyone.

GRADING THE UNDERCARDS

As disappointing as Rachel Alexandra's loss was in was worse. She had no excuse for losing, having had a prep and enjoying a favorable trip - relaxed early and comfortably pressing the pace on the outside.

Although the race was fast, she should have beaten Unrivaled Belle by three lengths the way the race unfolded. And try as she did to come back in a stirring stretch duel, she was reluctant to switch leads and didn't look like the old Rachel.

Boys at Tosconova bears watching. A 2-year-old, he made his debut in , and rallied to be second against more experienced rivals. He ran greenly, too, throwing his head up when taking dirt in his face early, and then rallying wide.

Phola looks like a star in the making on the grass. She has shown dramatic improvement this year as a 4-year-old, winning a graded stakes at Tampa and then last Saturday. She can handle any course condition, and her powerful late burst is extraordinarily difficult for her opponents to repel.

And though General Quarters won , he looms a "bet-against" horse in his next start. He appeared to win that race almost by default when runner-up Court Vision hung badly in the final furlong.

Give a pass to those runners who were unplaced in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Derby undercard. Churchill was pounded by heavy rain that morning and had off-and-on showers through the afternoon, creating a soggy grass course that many runners appeared to dislike even if they had previously shown a fondness for wet going.

If these races hadn't been graded contests run on Derby Day, they probably would not have been run on the grass, but on the dirt instead. That was evident when Churchill took the third and fifth races on the card off the grass and moved them to a sloppy main track.

In light of the wet-course conditions, it seems best to toss out the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile performances of Fantasia, Tizaqueena, Cure for Sale, and Diamondrella - who ran fourth through seventh.

Fantasia and Tiazaqueena were notably off their best form, with Fantasia lacking her usual acceleration and Tiazaqueena never showing her customary speed.

Blues Street, winner of the Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds in March, didn't fire in running fifth in the Woodford and looks capable of rebounding over a firmer course.

Wise River, who set the pace in the race before fading to eighth over the tiring turf, also merits attention if dropped into an allowance or Grade 3 stakes race.

ON DECK AT CHURCHILL

After a graded stakes smorgasbord on Oaks and Derby Day last week, racing returns to more ordinary levels at Churchill on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend's lone stakes race is Saturday's $62,000 Unbridled Sidney, a five-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares.

Libor Lady and Silver Time, second and third behind West Ocean in the April 17 Giant's Causeway at Keeneland, are among the 25 nominees to the race.

HORSES TO WATCH

Gold For Cash

Trainer: Larry Demeritte

Last race: April 28, 7th

Finish: 3rd by 5 1/2

Making his debut at 4 1/2 furlongs, he was conservatively ridden in the early stages before being cut loose in the stretch. Once asked for run, he blew past horses and galloped out best past the wire.

Luv Gov

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Last race: April 29, 1st

Finish: 2nd by 1

Leaving the gate, his rider, Freddie Lenclud, lost his left iron and was never able to regain it during a 1 1/16-mile contest for $30,000 nonwinners-of-three claimers. Yet the horse still performed well, despite Lenclud repeatedly bouncing in the saddle. He fits right back at this class level.

Colors Flying

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Last race: April 29, 8th

Finish: 2nd by 4

Off poorly in this first-level allowance, he quickly got back in contention despite racing four wide into the first turn and three wide in the second turn. He flattened out in the stretch to be second, but the winner, Our Dark Knight, looks like a colt destined for stakes. This colt should be tough to beat next out, particularly if he lands at Belmont. Its sweeping turns should aid his closing style.