Updated on 09/16/2011 7:36AM

Leelanau returns at long last


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was right about this time a year ago that trainer Steve Morguelan got the bad news: His stable star, Leelanau, was going to the sidelines with a tendon lesion.

Leelanau, a Carson City colt, had been so impressive winning the Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes in track-record time that John T.L. Jones Jr. bought part-ownership in him from David Clark. Not long after that, the tendon injury was diagnosed, and Leelanau headed off to Jones's Walmac International for a long rest.

It's been more than a year since Leelanau last saw action, but the long wait ends Sunday at Churchill Downs when he faces five other 3-year-olds in the ninth and featured race, a $47,500, second-level allowance at six furlongs.

Leelanau has been working steadily since returning to Morguelan's barn about two months ago. Morguelan, 52, said no surgery was performed and that Leelanau "hasn't missed a beat since he's come back. Some horses come back [from injury] and you're kind of scared of them. But once it looked like this colt was going to stand up to some pretty hard training, we've gone on with him."

Saturday Hero, who was likely to scratch from the Northern Dancer Stakes on Saturday, appears to be the main challenger to Leelanau.

"This is a good little test for him," said Morguelan, a 30-year training veteran. "One thing that encourages me is that the colt who finished second to him last summer, Gygistar, has come back to win three in a row, including the Riva Ridge last weekend at Belmont. That's always a good sign."

* Holiday Runner, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly who stayed unbeaten in three starts when she won the June 6 Fashion Stakes at Belmont, was on the same charter flight that transported Street Cry and several other horses to Louisville on Thursday. Lukas said Holiday Runner will make her next start in the July 6 Debutante Stakes.

* Apprentice rider Valerie Nagle will be out indefinitely after incurring complications following a June 8 spill. Nagle, 23, has recovered from the concussion she suffered in the spill but has been experiencing body soreness.

* Veteran jockey Joe Judice has begun exercising horses after a lengthy recuperation following a serious leg injury suffered in February at Oaklawn Park. Judice, 40, said he expects to return to race riding by the end of the month. "I want to be all ready for Ellis Park," which begins July 10, he said.

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