06/09/2010 11:00PM

Churchill roundup

Email

WHO'S HOT

Jockeys

With many riders out of town last week, wins were spread around quite a bit. From May 31, Memorial Day, to June 6, Robby Albarado won the most races, 5 from 23 mounts. Three jockeys - Miguel Mena, Corey Lanerie, and Calvin Borel - closely followed with four wins.

Borel went 4 of 6 in limited action - he was recovering from an infection over his eye and had out-of-town riding obligations. He also reached a milestone last week at Churchill, earning his 1,000th career victory at the track. At 43, Borel, who has ridden the winner of three of the last four Kentucky Derbies, is the second rider to reach the 1,000-victory plateau at Churchill. The other is Pat Day, the Hall of Fame jockey who retired with 2,482 victories at Churchill.

Back to Albarado: He entered this week with 19 winners from 133 mounts, placing him in a tie for sixth in the standings with jockey Francisco Torres. More noticeable than his winners, however, have been his runners-up. He has ridden 36 of them.

It is reasonable to expect Albarado to heat up in the coming weeks. Many of these runners-up return, and because many winners are forced to move up in class, his mounts could prove the ones to beat.

Trainers

Other trainers with at least a pair of winners over the week included Steve Asmussen (3 for 13), Cecil Borel (2 for 3), Helen Pitts (2 for 11), Ralph Nicks (2 for 4), and Bernie Flint (2 for 3).

WHO'S NOT

Jockeys

Five jockeys with at least five mounts went winless at Churchill last week. They were Alex Solis (0 for 10), Fabio Arguello (0 for 9), Peter Artieda (0 for 7), Randall Toups (0 for 7), and Dean Mernagh (0 for 5).

None of Solis's mounts hit the board at Churchill, but he did ride Mandurah to a victory in world-record time at Monmouth on Sunday, when Mandurah went a mile on a hard turf course in 1:31.23.

Trainers

Of trainers with five or more starters at Churchill last week, eight went winless. Tim Glyshaw, Merrill Scherer, and Al Stall each went 0 for 6, and D. Wayne Lukas, Ian Wilkes, Lon Wiggins, and Rusty Arnold each went 0 for 5.

TRACK TRENDS

Monday, May 31: A quick main track on Memorial Day played mostly to early leaders and those who raced within a few lengths of the early pace.

Friday, June 4: Up-close runners again performed well on dirt, and despite the rail being out 15 feet on the turf course, two of the three grass races were won by deep closers.

Saturday, June 5: Once again horses either on the lead or prominent in the early stages were most effective on dirt. Turf racing played fairly to all styles.

Sunday, June 6: Closers performed better than earlier in the week over what appeared to be a fair main track.

FINALLY A FAST JUVENILE

For the most part, this meet has not had fast performances from 2-year-olds -- that is, until Memorial Day, when Changing the Rules raced

5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.15, posting a Beyer Speed Figure of 88, the top figure posted by a 2-year-old at the meet. He won by 12 lengths.

The race was the second start for Changing the Rules, who finished second in his debut April 22 in a maiden race over Keeneland's Polytrack.

Changing the Rules, trained by Asmussen and owned by Vinery Stable, should prove a major factor in the Bashford Manor Stakes later in the meet.

OTHER NOTABLES

The top three finishers in last Saturday's Mint Julep all ran well, with Hot Cha Cha narrowly defeating Acoma and Keertana.

Acoma's runner-up finish -- off a layoff extending back to last fall -- was particularly impressive.

Hot Cha Cha's victory was largely attributable to a favorable trip under James Graham. He had her well positioned throughout and saved ground with her, which is often the key to success on the grass provided a horse gets a clear path for the stretch.

As for Keertana, she ran competitively but seemed to bounce off a fast allowance triumph in her previous start. Jockey Jon Court said as much after the race, saying she didn't accelerate when he called upon her at the top of the stretch.

Other fillies and mares catching the eye were Dubai Majesty, who scored an easy win in the Grade 3 Winning Colors on Memorial Day, and Ash Zee, a 3-year-old filly who won a maiden race in her second start, posting a 92 Beyer.

Graded stakes winner Danzon scored her second straight optional claiming race in the third race Friday and was claimed out of the race for big bucks. Trainer Jimmy Baker claimed Danzon, a 7-year-old Royal Academy mare, for $80,000 for horse breeder Alfred Nuckols Jr.

As for the boys, flashy wins were scored by Land of Giants, a 4-year-old who took a fast second-level allowance last Friday, and Lonesome Street, a 3-year-old runaway winner on a turf race last Sunday. They ran Beyers of 93 and 88.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

The best day of racing at Churchill Downs since the Derby takes place Saturday when five graded stakes are contested, led by the Grade 1, $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap - a race that is expected to feature Arson Squad, Blame, Battle Plan, Duke of Mischief, and Macho Again.

Blame, a winner of 5 of his last 6 races, including the Grade 2 Clark Handicap last fall and the Grade 3 Schaefer Handicap on the Preakness undercard in his 4-year-old bow, may start as a mild favorite.

Competing for the public's attention will be Battle Plan, a lightly raced Todd Pletcher-trained runner who won the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap in his last start, and Arson Squad, who has the benefit of a start over the Churchill strip this meet, having won the Grade Alysheba Stakes on the Derby undercard.

Supporting the Stephen Foster will be the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis, a race that drew a short field led by reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Now in the third start of her form cycle this year and facing what appears to be an outclassed group, there are no excuses for Rachel.

Other graded stakes on tap Saturday at Churchill include the Grade 3 Regret, the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup, and Grade 3 Northern Dancer Stakes.

The two turf races of that foursome of undercard races - the Regret and Jefferson Cup - offer larger, more attractive fields.

The Regret drew several Kentucky Oaks also-rans, including It's Tea Time, who finished ninth in the race when making her first start on dirt. A turf/synthetic specialist before that start, she should appreciate a return to grass racing in the Regret.

HORSES TO WATCH

Sweetest Rhythm

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Last race: June 4, 5th

Finish: 1st by a neck

Dropped from a $10,000 to $7,500 claimer, this 4-year-old gelding proved narrowly superior in a game effort. He overcame a wide trip to win and was claimed out of the race by Tom Amoss for owner Maggi Moss, whose runners are winning at a 33 percent clip on the year. This horse looks capable of contending against $10,000 opposition or in the starter ranks.

Jozi's Turn

Trainer: Cecil Borel

Last race: June 5, 5th

Finish: 4th by 5 1/2

Racing in a mile race for maiden $50,000 claimers, this one dueled on the lead with 5-2 second favorite Intervention, and after putting that one away on the turn, didn't have enough left to resist the top three finishers. Nevertheless, it was a good performance in light of how the race unfolded.

Yankee Player

Trainer: Nichole Luce

Last race: June 6, 5th

Finish: 4th by 4 1/4

Racing against open $7,500 claimers, this filly had a troubled trip racing in traffic and wide. She came up a little empty late, but that was not altogether unexpected given her trip. Claimed out of the race by the skilled Luce, and should perform better in a nonwinners-of-three claimer.

In the Paint

Trainer: Kellyn Gorder

Last race: June 6, 9th

Finish: 6th by 8

Breaking from the outside in a first-level grass allowance June 6, this colt was hung four wide throughout and flattened in the stretch to finish sixth. He was only 1 1/2 lengths out of second, though, and he lost more than that margin in ground loss.