06/16/2010 11:00PM

Churchill roundup



Jockeys Calvin Borel and Corey Lanerie had the most wins last week at Churchill Downs, with Borel, who tops the standings, going 7 for 22 and Lanerie going 6 for 23.

Lanerie also had six seconds and three thirds, meaning he was in the exacta 52 percent of the time and in the trifecta 65 percent of the time.

Corey Nakatani also made the most of limited opportunities, going 3 for 7.

Todd Pletcher was the hottest trainer, winning four races last week, including two graded stakes Saturday: the Northern Dancer with Colizeo and the Regret with Caminadora.

His representative in the Stephen Foster, Battle Plan, nearly won, too, setting the pace for much of the race before being run down in the closing yards. Battle Plan exited the race with a soft-tissue injury to his right foreleg, putting his racing future in doubt.


Five of trainer Dale Romans's 14 starters last week hit the board, but none won. Three finished second, two were third, and the rest were unplaced.

Other trainers who went winless with five or more starters last week were D. Wayne Lukas, Ralph Nicks, and Eddie Kenneally.

Several riders were just as chilly, if not more so. Alex Solis went 0 for 14, and apprentice Freddie Lenclud went 0 for 24.

Jamie Theriot (1 for 16), Robby Albarado (1 for 21), and Miguel Mena (1 for 23) didn't fare much better.


Oh yeah, reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra also raced last week, and for the first time in three races this year, she won. Looking like the Rachel Alexandra of last year, she pressed her primary foe, Jessica Is Back, in the Fleur De Lis, easily put her away, and then drew clear in the lane to score by 10 1/2 lengths.

Granted, Rachel Alexandra beat a weak field, but perhaps more important than the win was that she showed the speed that contributed to her championship campaign last year.

Under 124 pounds, spotting her opposition between seven to nine pounds, Rachel Alexandra ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.78, more than a half-second faster than Blame's winning time of 1:49.37 in the Stephen Foster. And Blame carried only 120 pounds.

Rachel Alexandra earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure; Blame earned a 102.

We will probably see Rachel next at Saratoga.


Although Blame's race in the Stephen Foster was not as quick, he still turned in a striking performance. Poorly drawn in post 11, he was wide from the start but managed to run down Battle Plan, who appeared to be home free after shaking loose to a four-length lead in the stretch.

Battle Plan exited the race with an injury, perhaps explaining his late fade, but Blame's victory under adverse circumstances nevertheless reflected what a good horse he is.

General Quarters ran his usual honest race to finish third, performing well but not showing the same fight in the stretch that he displayed in winning the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on turf on Derby Day.

Pace played an important role in the Grade 3 Regret. With Go Ask Alex running off and setting fast splits on a good turf course, the top three finishers - Caminadora, Snow Top Mountain, and Queen Hazel - all rallied from the rear half of the pack. Caminadora was last of 12 early, Snow Top Mountain was 11th, and Queen Hazel was 10th after a quarter-mile.

Similarly, Gleam of Hope rallied powerfully to win the Jefferson Cup from last place. Though the fractions were not as quick, he finished with a flourish to run down Psychic Income and Asphalt.

In contrast, speed ruled in the Northern Dancer, with Colizeo, Worldly, and Vow to Wager running first, second, and third at every call in the race. Splits of 24.89 seconds and 49.19 set the stage for the success of the speedsters.

Colizeo edged Worldly by a neck, racing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.60 and earning a 95 Beyer.


A crowd of 25,012 turned out last Friday night for the first of four Friday evening cards that will close out this spring/summer meet.

Though attendance was down from last year − when night racing began at Churchill and averaged about 30,000 − no one seemed to notice. The atmosphere was electric and brought several younger fans not normally seen on a weekday card.

Tizdejavu won the night's feature, the Opening Verse Stakes, leading from start to finish over Public Speaker. A multiple stakes winner, Tizdejavu earned a 99 Beyer.


Typically, Pletcher saves his best 2-year-old stock for New York, mostly for Saratoga. If so, the results from last week bode well for his summer.

He unleashed a pair of talented juveniles last week, when Razmataz and Blue Orleans each won a 4 1/2-furlong dash for maidens in their second career starts. Razmataz, a son of Forest Wildcat, had previously finished third, and Blue Orleans, a daughter of Bluegrass Cat, had previously finished second.

Razmataz earned an 83 Beyer Speed Figure in the win, the second-highest figure at the meet, trailing only the 88 that Changing the Rules earned in his win May 31. Blue Orleans earned a 68 Beyer in her win.


Thursday, June 10: Just when it seemed speed was dominant on the main track, the final two races were won by closers who blew by the leaders with ease. The scheduled turf races were moved to a fast main track after rain Wednesday.

Friday, June 11: Up-close runners performed best on the main track, and turf racing resumed. Although the course was listed as firm, some horses seemed to bobble a bit over the divot-marked footing.

Saturday, June 12: Speed horses performed well on dirt throughout Stephen Foster Day. Closers fared best on the turf, rated as good. The 11th race was moved from turf to the main track.

Sunday, June 13: Front-runners and stalkers ran well on the main track, which played faster than normal under hot, humid conditions. The turf played fairly.


Having run five graded stakes last Saturday, the stakes cupboard is bare this Saturday and Sunday at Churchill. There are no stakes or even an overnight stakes race scheduled.

The next major stakes race is the Grade 3 Debutante Stakes on June 26, a six-furlong dirt race for 2-year-old fillies that carries a $100,000 purse. Salty Strike, who beat Blue Orleans by 4 1/4 lengths in her lone start May 14, leads the 18 nominations.


Sun Bear

Trainer: Karen Crouch

Last race: June 13, 10th

Finish: 2nd by neck

In his first start on turf, this colt showed vast improvement and finished a close second at 51-1 odds. Making his performance even more impressive, he was off last and had to rally from 11 lengths off the pace.

Tiger's Song

Trainer: Wayne Catalano

Last race: June 13, 9th

Finish: 1st by 1

Shipped from Arlington to Churchill for the chance to race on dirt, this filly made the most of the optional claiming conditions, winning her third straight race. She won despite a wide trip and carrying top weight of 124 pounds. She handles any distance, is starter eligible, and fits in just about any dirt race for fillies and mares.


Trainer: Bill Mott

Last race: June 12, 9th

Finish: 5th by 2

Racing over good turf in the Regret, she was the only one close to the pace who stuck around late. She ran deceptively well, taking a narrow lead in midstretch, only to tire in the final furlong. Capable of better.


Trainer: Paul McGee

Last race: June 12, 8th

Finish: 2nd by neck

A full brother to Suave, he ran well in defeat in the Northern Dancer, giving front-running Colizeo all he wanted. He made a bold run to challenge him in midstretch, but the winner had too much left after getting away with a soft pace. This horse is still eligible for first-level allowances and will be tough to beat if he drops into such a spot.