Updated on 09/17/2011 11:52AM

Cuvee and Limehouse in battle of unbeatens


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It may not be a rivalry yet, but it sure will be an interesting match. Limehouse and Cuvee, unbeaten colts who have each won a stakes at the Churchill Downs spring meet, will clash Sunday in the third and decisive stakes of the meet for 2-year-olds, the $150,000 Bashford Manor Stakes.

Limehouse won the Three Chimneys Juvenile on the May 3 Kentucky Derby day undercard, and Cuvee won the Kentucky Breeders' Cup on May 26. Neither colt raced in the other's win, a fact that gives closing day of the 52-day spring meet a rather powerful first-time match-up.

Cuvee, with Lonnie Meche to ride, most likely will be the favorite in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor, a six-furlong race that represents the longest distance that any of the starters will have raced. But Limehouse, with Robby Albarado taking the call, also figures to take plenty of support.

Steve Asmussen and his Churchill-based assistant, Scott Blasi, have been enamored with Cuvee since well before the Carson City colt ran off to win by 6 1/4 lengths in his debut on May 2, Kentucky Oaks Day. In his only subsequent start, Cuvee, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, was even more impressive in taking the Kentucky BC by 8 1/4 lengths.

Limehouse, a Grand Slam colt owned by a Dogwood Stable syndicate, has been less flashy but equally effective, winning an April 16 maiden race at Keeneland before rallying to win the Three Chimneys by 1 1/4 lengths.

Limehouse was part of an entry in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park last weekend with Heckle, who won the race as the lone Dogwood starter following the scratch of Limehouse. Trainer Todd Pletcher is flying Limehouse to Churchill this week from his Belmont base.

Dogwood president Cot Campbell said he and the other syndicate members have been "anxious" to have Limehouse run back at Churchill. Campbell said Limehouse was entered in the Tremont as a precautionary measure in case Heckle had to be taken out but that "we have always wanted to run Limehouse back in Kentucky."

One other unbeaten also will run in the Bashford Manor: Next Bandit, a Texas shipper trained by Bret Calhoun. Next Bandit won the June 7 TTA Sales Futurity to run his record to 2 for 2.

Other probables include Bustin' Out, Exploit Lad, and First Money.

Royal Spy vs. Rock Slide

Royal Spy, winner of the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in April, and Rock Slide, winner of the Sea o' Erin at Arlington in his last start, are the likely highweights for the $250,000 Firecracker Handicap here Saturday.

A field of 10 older horses is shaping up for the Firecracker, a one-mile turf race that carries a Grade 2 ranking. With weights, the probable starters include Royal Spy, 118; Rock Slide, 117; Pass Rush, 115; Political Attack, 115; Tap the Admiral, 115; Freefourinternet, 114; Package Store, 114; Classic Par, 112; Drewman, 112; and Entitlement, 111.

Firecracker a day late

Something doesn't look quite right. Shouldn't the Firecracker Handicap be run on the Fourth of July?

"We'd prefer that, but with the opportunity to get it on network television this year, we were glad to move it to Saturday for this year," said Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar. "Obviously, 'firecracker' and the Fourth of July belong together under normal circumstances."

The Firecracker is the middle leg of the fourth and final NTRA Summer Pick Three of the season. The nationally available wager starts with the Suburban from Belmont and ends with the American Oaks from Hollywood Park. CBS Sports will show all three races live on a one-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Ethan Man hits comeback trail

Ethan Man, who won the 2002 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park before being sidelined with an ankle chip, had his first workout on the comeback trail, breezing a half-mile in 47.80 seconds here Tuesday.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Pat Byrne, Ethan Man is unraced since a fifth-place finish behind Proud Citizen in the Lexington Stakes in April 2002.

Ethan Man has had an adventurous time since then. After undergoing ankle surgery, Ethan Man had a splint bone that had been aggravating a suspensory ligament removed. He also has been gelded.

Bo knows race-calling

Churchill race-caller Luke Kruytbosch says he blew an opportunity. When a 3-year-old maiden named Beau Jackson won here last week, Kruytbosch used his best Keith Jackson imitation when calling the horse a winner.

"I meant to throw in there, 'The big sophomore,' but I forgot," said Kruytbosch, referring to how legendary football broadcaster Keith Jackson used to gush over superstar Bo Jackson.

Earlier in the meet, when Party On won, Kruytbosch used a line from the famous Dana Carvey and Mike Myers "Wayne's World" films, when calling: "Party On . . . excellent!" But Kruytbosch has not yet had the opportunity to get in a clever line regarding Touchdown Ky, a 4-year-old who is still a maiden. Kruytbosch said he wants to blurt out: "He's at the 25, the 15, the five . . . Touchdown Ky!" But the colt was well beaten as the favorite here Saturday in a maiden-claiming race.

Kruytbosch moves next to Ellis Park for a 41-day meet that begins Wednesday.

Bugler awarded Medal of Music

Steve Buttleman, who has been the Churchill bugler since the 1995 fall meet, was presented with the Medal of Music by the American Legion between races here Sunday for his service to veterans in this area. Buttleman frequently plays "Taps" at the funerals of local veterans.

Buttleman termed the awarding of the medal "an extreme honor," because he is a non-military recipient. Buttleman typically plays theme-related songs before each race on holidays such as Independence Day.

Holiday weekend giveaways

Churchill is offering giveaways for each of the last three days of the meet. They are:

Friday - Five-pack postcards with photographs of the Twin Spires and the last four Triple Crown winners.

Saturday - Seabiscuit lapel pins and drawings for Seabiscuit-related events and merchandise. The movie "Seabiscuit" opens July 25.

Sunday - Souvenir pieces of wood from the original Twin Spires.