10/28/2009 11:00PM

Churchill roundup




Calvin Borel: Few jockeys ride the Churchill Downs main track as well as Borel, whose rail-hugging tendencies are perfectly suited for the track's quarter-mile stretch. Seemingly whenever possible, he will quickly guide his mount to the fence, advance while saving ground on the turn, and then bravely scrape the paint on the rail for the long run to the wire.

This riding style isn't as effective over tracks with shorter stretches, or over the Polytrack at Keeneland - hence Borel's quiet meet there this fall.

His numbers from Churchill meets suggest further big things from Borel. He won 61 races at Churchill in the spring, one less than Julien Leparoux.

Last fall, he was third behind Leparoux, and second behind him in the 2007 fall meet.

Shaun Bridgmohan: Heading into Wednesday's card at Keeneland, Bridgmohan was 3 for 52 in the standings, but a horseplayer who thinks those numbers will continue into Churchill Downs needs to reexamine that thought.

Bridgmohan, the first-call rider for trainer Steve Asmussen, has been the fifth-leading rider in each of the past three meets at Churchill. And with Asmussen expected to be a force at Churchill this fall - much more so than at Keeneland - Bridgmohan will soon be winning often again.

Also look for him to team up with trainers Rusty Arnold and Steve Margolis, for whom he has ridden successfully.

Others: Although they will be hard-pressed to challenge Leparoux, Borel, or Robby Albarado for the riding title, look for these five other riders to build upon their Keeneland meets: Jamie Theriot, Jesus Castanon, Jon Court, Leandro Goncalves, Miguel Mena, and Corey Lanerie.

The races carded at Churchill fit the types of horses they ride - providing them with opportunities they didn't see as often this fall at Keeneland.


Steve Asmussen: As noted, Asmussen will certainly be more of a presence at Churchill Downs than at Keeneland, where he was 0 for 12 heading into Wednesday.

Asmussen's runners typically fare better on dirt tracks than on synthetics, and he seems to have been sitting on his better dirt horses of late, waiting for this meet. Chances are likely he will have more than 12 starters just a week into the meet.

He has historically unveiled a number of talented juveniles during the fall at Churchill, and this meet should be no exception.

Mike Maker: Maker has been productive at Keeneland this fall, but he hasn't fully unloaded the stable, something he is almost sure to do once Churchill starts. He was the leading trainer here last fall, and finished second to Asmussen at Churchill in the spring.

Last fall, he was 31 for 80 at Churchill (39 percent winners), and this spring he continued to win at a high percentage, going 18 for 77 (23 percent winners).

Others: Tom Amoss, Rusty Arnold, Cody Autrey, Jimmy Baker, Bret Calhoun, Bernie Flint, Greg Foley, Dave Kassen, Eddie Kenneally, Steve Margolis, Paul McGee, Ken McPeek, Angel Montano, Bill Mott, Helen Pitts, Todd Pletcher, Tom Proctor, Tony Reinstedler, Dale Romans and Ian Wilkes - have all won two or more races in each of the past two fall meets.


Delaware Invasion

In contrast to years past, a large number of stables headed north to Delaware Park this summer and fall, bypassing Ellis Park and Turfway Park, the two Kentucky tracks with the smallest purses.

Autrey, Pletcher, Ron Moquett, Ronny Werner, Steve Margolis, Brad Cox, Neil Howard, and Pitts were just some of the regular Churchill Downs-participating trainers that ran horses there.

With that meet now over, some of these Delaware horses should be reappearing at Churchill Downs this fall, and horseplayers are advised to check charts and replays to get a better feel for horses they might not have seen race for several months.


In checking last year's results, horses that won over the Polytrack at Keeneland had a Churchill Downs dirt record of 4 wins, 7 seconds, and 6 thirds from 48 starts - counting only their first races of the Churchill fall meet.

Included in this sample were horses that raced in between their Keeneland victory and a Churchill dirt start - with Dream Empress being an example. After winning the Alcibiades at Keeneland last year, she ran second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies before finishing a distant fourth in the Golden Rod at Churchill.

Modest odds on the four winners - 2-1, 5-1, 7-1, and 8-1 - resulted in $1.14 return on investment.

Based on these numbers, when considering backing a recent Keeneland Poly winner bettors are understandably advised to focus on those with established dirt form.


Churchill Downs is one of the least biased dirt tracks in the country, in great part due to its long stretch and how well it handles rain.

On occasion, particularly on days when Borel is winning regularly up the rail, handicappers too quickly call for an inside bias. But rarely is the track biased - other than the inside simply being the shortest path to victory.


Prince Teton

Trainer: Dale Romans

Last race: Oct. 21, 9th Keeneland

Finish: 1st by neck

Facing 3-year-old $20,000 claiming opposition, Prince Teton was hung wide breaking from the outside post. Racing five to six paths off the fence, he closed well under Julien Leparoux to win a seven-furlong race that he had every right to lose. Although this race came on Polytrack, Prince Teton should transfer his form to dirt. He has performed well on both the Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds main tracks and looks capable of repeating if matched against straight 3-year-olds again.

Attempt to Name

Trainer: Helen Pitts

Last race: Oct. 22, 7th, Keeneland

Finish: 3rd by 3 1/2

A filly accustomed to racing near the lead, she appeared to lose all chance when she broke in the air at the start. Reserved in the back of the pack, she fought jockey Julien Leparoux, wanting to do more, but once clear in the stretch finished well to grab third. She has yet to race on dirt, but being by Consolidator out of a Capote mare, her pedigree suggests dirt could prove to be her calling.

First Dude

Trainer: Dale Romans

Last race: Oct. 22, 3rd, Keeneland

Finish: 2nd by 1 3/4

A long-striding son of Stephen Got Even, he broke a step slowly in his debut - which put him behind horses and in traffic throughout. Boxed in until early stretch, he could have easily quit - as many first-time starters will do after encountering such trouble - but he instead kicked on, closing to be second to heavily favored Chief Counsel. When he returns, don't let the ordinary 61 Beyer Speed Figure he posted be a reason to discount him. This colt can run.