06/22/2010 11:00PM

Hancock upgrade working well


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - John Hancock is applying his signature in a different style. Having managed mostly lower-end stock throughout his 30-year tenure as a Thoroughbred trainer, Hancock has turned to 2-year-olds as a way to make a name for himself.

"We just took a different approach, started getting rid of our cheaper horses," Hancock said this week from his lifelong base, Ellis Park, in his hometown of Henderson, Ky. "It's been working out pretty good for us."

Hancock will be trying to do better than pretty good Saturday at Churchill Downs when he saddles two fillies, Bach Hamilton and Internet Cafe, for the Grade 3, $100,000 Debutante Stakes. They were among a field of seven 2-year-old fillies entered Wednesday for the six-furlong Debutante, with Just Louise and Salty Strike likely to be the favorites.

Hancock, 50, said he has been coming to work at the same barn at Ellis since he was 6. His mother, wife, daughter, and brother all are important cogs in the operation, with most of them holding down outside jobs while helping to keep the stable running smoothly.

William Dorminy, a retired insurance executive in the Orlando, Fla., area, is Hancock's main client. For the last couple of years they have focused on buying young horses at sales, and they made a score this spring with one of them, She'll Heir, whom Dorminy sold privately to David and Holly Wilson after the filly won a Keeneland maiden race. She'll Heir, now trained by Vladimir Cerin, won the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park earlier this month in her second start.

"That really worked out for all of us," said Hancock.

Hancock said he has about 16 horses at Ellis, including his two Debutante starters. Bach Hamilton won a May 30 maiden-claiming race under a $50,000 tag, while Internet Cafe not only won a maiden special weight race on May 21, but wheeled back to capture the only 2-year-old filly allowance race of the meet 10 days later.

Internet Cafe, by Freefourinternet, looks like the stronger half of an uncoupled Dorminy entry. "She's a really nice, useful filly," said Hancock. "We bought her out of the OBS sales in April on the recommendation of Jacinto Vasquez. She's really come along."

The Debutante will be the first stakes at Churchill since five graded races were run on the June 12 Stephen Foster card.

Blame to breeze Sunday

Blame is scheduled to have his first workout since his eye-catching victory in the Grade 1 Foster Handicap when he breezes Sunday morning at Keeneland, said trainer Al Stall Jr.

"He came out of the race in great shape," said Stall.

Blame, bred and owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, will ship soon to Saratoga, where he will make his next start Aug. 7 in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race also expected to get Quality Road and Mine That Bird.

Blame won the Foster with a sensational late run, moving his career mark to 7 for 10.

Three graded stakes for holiday weekend

After the Debutante, three graded races will wrap up the 42-day spring meet next weekend. A pair of Grade 3, $100,000 stakes, the Bashford Manor and Locust Grove, are set for July 3, while the Grade 2, $175,000 Firecracker Handicap will serve as the highlight of the closing-day card, July 4.

The July 3 program also could see the return of Mine That Bird in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race. The 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird breezed again here Tuesday in anticipation of a prep race for the Whitney.

Successful Dan ready to train

Successful Dan, unraced since running his record to 3 for 3 by defeating the highly regarded Warrior's Reward here in the 2009 Northern Dancer, is ready to return to serious training at Keeneland after recuperating from an injury, said trainer Charlie Lopresti.

Successful Dan, a 4-year-old gelding bred and owned by Morton Fink, "had an issue with an upper suspensory ligament," said Lopresti. "I'm hoping to start breezing him soon and have him back in action by the end of July."