06/24/2010 12:00AM

Churchill roundup



Dale Romans became the second trainer to win 500 races at Churchill when Skipadate won the eighth race Thursday under a rallying, inside trip from jockey Francisco Torres.

Bill Mott is the only trainer who has won more races at Churchill. Through last week, he had 631 wins.

Considering the challenge of racing at Churchill, which along with Keeneland offers the best racing in the state, winning 500 races is quite an accomplishment. And Romans is only 43.

Romans, a Louisville native, won his first race at Churchill on Nov. 12, 1987, with Final Destroyer. He has won five training titles outright at the track and has shared in three others.

Besides his victory with Skipadate, Romans won three other races last week, finishing 4 for 12 in the four-day stretch of racing.

Other trainers with multiple winners included meet leader Steve Asmussen (3 for 10), Jinks Fires (2 for 5), and Dallas Stewart (2 for 4).

Leading rider Calvin Borel had his usual productive week, going 5 for 25, but several other jockeys were just as good.

Francisco Torres, enjoying a banner Churchill meet, won with 6 of 24 mounts last week, a 25 percent clip; Victor Lebron, the leading rider at Indiana Downs, ventured to Churchill to win aboard 5 of 18; and Robby Albarado won with 4 of 16 despite missing Saturday's card.

Albarado had a more important mount elsewhere -- Comedero, whom he rode to victory in the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town on Saturday evening.


Four trainers went winless despite starting five runners apiece: Tim Glyshaw, Mike Lauer, Todd Pletcher, and Eddie Kenneally.

Although none of their combined 20 starters won, they hit the board 60 percent of the time. Their runners were firing but were finishing second and third.

Winless riders last week included Peter Artieda (0 for 9), Leandro Goncalves (0 for 10), and Fabio Arguello Jr. (0 for 8). Jamie Theriot and Brian Hernandez also had quiet weeks, going 1 for 10 and 1 for 15.


Where are all the fast 2-year-olds? Not at Churchill.

Last week there were two straight maiden races for juveniles, one for males and another for fillies. Blue Right By won the race for males, posting a Beyer Speed Figure of 66 to win his third start, and Le Mi Geaux won the race for juvenile fillies with a modest 63 Beyer.

For the meet, one juvenile filly has earned a Beyer in the 70's: Salty Strike, who won a maiden race May 14 with a 78 Beyer.

The males have proved to be a faster bunch. Eight have earned Beyers of 70 or higher, but only two have run figures in the 80's: Changing the Rules, who ran an 88 Beyer when he won his maiden May 31, and Razmataz, who earned an 83 when he won a straight maiden contest June 11.

This trend of relatively slow juveniles has not been limited to Churchill. Across much of the country, winning juveniles have been averaging below-par numbers compared with previous years.


Music City hit all the right notes in winning the $59,824 Morluc overnight stakes at Churchill Downs on Friday during the track's second night-racing card of the spring meet.

A speedy 4-year-old colt coming off a win on the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle, he successfully made the transition to sprinting five furlongs on the turf. He dueled early with favored Barge, put that one away, and was kept right on going to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

Music City raced five furlongs on firm turf in 56.56 seconds, posting a 99 Beyer, the highest figure by any horse at Churchill last week, either on turf or dirt.

Tommy Pompell rode the winner for trainer William Helmbrecht and owner Michael Helmbrecht.

Once again, attendance was high for racing under the lights -- 24,645, down slightly from last week's 25,012.


Owners will regularly spend big money for yearlings, 2-year-olds, and private purchases, but will rarely risk claiming a horse for more than $50,000, especially not an older horse, who has probably already shown his potential. But such a claim is exactly what happened Sunday in the sixth race.

Turf marathoner Silver Mountain, a 5-year-old who ran second in an optional claimer behind runaway winner Lignon's Hero, was claimed for $62,500 by owner Michael Dubb and trainer Rick Dutrow.

Dubb and Dutrow are a successful owner/trainer combination, and that alone makes Silver Mountain worth watching in the months ahead. He probably will resurface at either Monmouth or Saratoga.


Thursday, June 17: Although most of the main-track winners raced on or near the pace, a couple of closers were successful, most notably Hold'em Tiger in the last race. All paths seemed to play fairly.

Friday, June 18: Racing under the lights, most dirt winners raced down the stretch a few paths off the fence. Speed horses and stalkers ran well.

Saturday, June 19: After a heavy downpour in early morning, the sun returned along with oppressive heat. The scheduled turf races were moved to the main track, and the dirt began the day sloppy before tiring out quickly as the day more on. Equibase upgraded the track to wet-fast for races 5 and 6 and then called it fast thereafter. The track was sealed through race 6. Front-runners and pace-pressing types did best when the track was wet.

Sunday, June 20: Horses won on the lead or from well off the pace with wide trips, depending, of course, on how the race developed. A drying-out turf course was listed as good by Equibase.


Greta Kuntzweiler returns to race riding this week at Churchill after a 4 1/2-year absence.

Kuntzweiler was the leading rider at Turfway Park in 2002 after beginning her career in 1999. She quit riding in 2005 and was arrested in November 2006 for methamphetamine manufacturing and possession. After pleading guilty, she was given five years probation.

Juvenile fillies will be on display Saturday in the $100,000 Debutante, the first graded stakes at Churchill since the June 12 Stephen Foster. Salty Strike is the likely favorite over a field that includes Internet Cafe, Iones Folly, and Just Louise.


Lignon's Hero

Trainer: Eduardo Caramori

Last race: June 20, 6th

Finish: 1st by 3

Making his first start since February, this Brazilian-bred horse was a flashy winner of a turf marathon over Silver Mountain, overcoming a wide trip. Trainer Eduardo Caramori has a history of success with long-distance runners, and this one appears to have a bright future going long on the grass.

Wind Energy

Trainer: Bernie Flint

Last race: June 18, 1st

Finish: 2nd by 3 1/2

Breaking a length or two behind the field, this one was slow to get into gear but performed well against maiden $40,000 stock once she got going. She launched a powerful wide move on the turn before flattening out in the stretch. An Indiana-bred, she should prove tough to beat against statebred foes there.

Saratoga Vicar

Trainer: Angel Montano

Last race: June 18, 5th

Finish: 2nd by 1 1/2

He managed a fine runner-up finish behind heavily favored Big Bold Place despite breaking slowly. Even with the winner getting away with a soft pace, this one made a race of it. He acts like a solid nickel claimer.


Trainer: Paul McGee

Last race: June 17, 9th

Finish: 7th by 6 1/4

Although never a factor against bottom-level claimers, this one has a right to improve off the race. He was claimed by trainer Paul McGee, who handled him well during a prior stint training him, and being an Indiana-bred, he may have statebred opportunities in the coming months at either Indiana Downs or Hoosier Park.