Updated on 09/16/2011 8:38AM

Duckhorn tries Plan C


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After Duckhorn finished a tired fourth in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in May, trainer Pat Byrne and owner Michael Tabor went to Plan B, opting for a turf allowance instead of the Stephen Foster Handicap.

The allowance conditions suited him perfectly. The grass did not. Duckhorn, sent off at 4-5, was never able to poke his head in front on the grass, and weakened to fourth, 24 lengths behind Jeremiah Jack.

Now it is time for Plan C - a confidence booster, which Duckhorn may find in the third race at Churchill Downs on Sunday, a $58,200 allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

His five opponents appear at his mercy. Most are outclassed, and those that have the talent to run with him, have not been at their peak in recent months.

Duckhorn should also get what he needs to be at his best - the lead. Only one opponent - Horrible Evening - has the speed to keep him honest.

This April when Duckhorn was left alone on the lead, he was a runaway winner of the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. That performance earned him a 114 Beyer Speed Figure. He won the 2001 Hawthorne Gold Cup in similar style, leading gate to wire and recording a 116 Beyer. Pat Day rides Duckhorn, who will be a prohibitive favorite in a field with just five betting interests.

Remington Rock, winner of the Grade 3 Fifth Season Breeders Cup at Oaklawn Park in 2001, heads the opposition. He has also been in good form this season, twice hitting the board in graded stakes at Oaklawn over the winter. In his lone start at this meet, he finished fourth in the slop behind Fajardo June 12. Calvin Borel rides for trainer Rick Hiles.

The Niall O'Callaghan-trained entry of Noble Ruler and Horrible Evening also figures in the outcome. Both are stakes winners and proven over the Churchill Downs surface. Larry Melancon has been named aboard both halves of the entry. Tahkodha Hills, a money allowance horse with past stakes experience, and Louie Loual,a $10,000 claimer, round out the short field.

* Three other allowances are part of Sunday's card, which includes a simulcast of the Queen's Plate from Woodbine. The most competitive of those allowances seems to be the eighth race, which will be the U. S. debut of Esyoueffcee, a listed stakes winner at Newmarket last year. She takes on a good field that includes stakes droppers No Deadline and Kiss the Devil.

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