06/30/2009 11:00PM

Firecracker field provides some pop


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs racing officials are elated with the turnout for the $150,000 Firecracker Handicap, a Grade 2 race that helps close out the final weekend of racing at the spring meet with its 19th running Saturday.

Thorn Song and Mr. Sidney, both winners of Grade 1 turf races this spring, were among the eight older horses entered Wednesday, as was Tizdejavu, whose 3-for-3 record over the Churchill turf course includes two graded stakes last year.

"It's about as good a field as we could have possibly hoped for," Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman said.

Thorn Song, with Mike Smith in from California to ride, will carry high weight of 123 pounds as the defending champion in the Firecracker, a one-mile turf race that anchors an 11-race Saturday card. In his last start, Thorn Song led throughout to win the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 25 at Hollywood Park for trainer Dale Romans.

Mr. Sidney and Tizdejavu are next on the weights list at 120 pounds. Mr. Sidney, based in New York with trainer Bill Mott, won the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in April. Tizdejavu won a May 17 turf allowance at Churchill in his first start after a nine-month layoff, which followed an outstanding 2008 season that included wins in the Grade 3 American Turf and Grade 2 Jefferson Cup at Churchill and the Grade 2 American Derby at Arlington Park.

Kent Desormeaux will be in from New York to ride Mr. Sidney, while Jon Court gets the call from trainer Greg Fox on Tizdejavu.

The rest of the Firecracker field is Passager, Seaspeak, Wise River, Inca King, and Artic Cry.

Capt. Candyman Can working at Skylight

Capt. Candyman Can is gearing back up for action after getting a brief freshener following his victory in the May 16 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill. The gelding recently was sent through two half-mile workouts at the Skylight training center, the satellite facility that Ian Wilkes uses for about half of his sizable stable.

Capt. Candyman Can, a winner of four stakes from eight starts, is being pointed to the Aug. 3 Amsterdam and Aug. 29 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga. He breezed in 51.40 seconds on June 24 and in 48.60 on Tuesday.

Wilkes said he likely will keep Capt. Candyman Can at Skylight until he sends him with a string of horses to Saratoga on July 19 or 20.

"I can turn him out in a paddock for a couple of hours a day" at Skylight, Wilkes said. "He loves it out there."

Meanwhile, the rival that Capt. Candyman Can outfinished in a long stretch drive in the Matt Winn, Cash Refund, has been sidelined for several months with a minor injury, according to Richard Klein, whose family owns the Petionville gelding.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to start him back early in the fall," Klein said.

Zee Zee to supplement to Locust Grove

About nine fillies and mares were expected to be entered Thursday for the closing-day feature of the meet, the Grade 3, $100,000 Locust Grove Handicap on Sunday.

Zee Zee, winner of the 2008 Edgewood Stakes on the Churchill turf, was expected to be supplemented to the race by Zayat Stables and trainer Rick Dutrow.

In order of weight assignments, these are the probables for the one-mile Locust Grove: Tizaqueena, Scolara, Gloria Goodbody, Tensas Yucatan, Closeout, Leamington, Flaming Slew, Zee Zee, and Stealin' Kisses.

Smaller purses for meet-ending stakes

The $100,000 purse for the Bashford Manor Stakes on Friday will be the lowest in at least 11 years. Like most of the stakes at the spring meet, the Bashford Manor underwent a purse cut this year. The race was $100,000-added from 1993-98 before being increased in subsequent years, reaching an all-time high of $176,250 for the 2005 running.

The 1998 Bashford Manor, won by Time Bandit for trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Charlie Woods Jr., was worth $110,100.

The two stakes that end the meet also underwent cuts, with the Firecracker being lowered from $200,000 and the Locust Grove from $150,000.

* It might look something like the format of a night-racing elimination tournament, but don't be fooled. By sheer coincidence, back-to-back winners from the first night program in track history will start alongside each other in the second race on the Friday twilight program.

Agastache, winner of the ninth race under the lights June 19, and Cosmic, winner of the 10th race that same night, will break from posts 1 and 2 in a $55,300 allowance sprint that drew six older horses.

* No trainer has made more of limited opportunities at this meet than Bob Pincins, who from has 6 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third from just 10 starts. Pincins, based at the nearby Trackside training center, grew up around Narragansett Park and Lincoln Downs in his native Rhode Island and has been training since 1977.