05/28/2009 11:00PM

Macho Again working toward Foster

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Lynn Roberts
Macho Again will look to rebound from a disappointing effort in the Alysheba when he starts in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 13.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Macho Again has won the occasional big event, having earned more than $1 million while accounting for the Derby Trial, Jim Dandy, and New Orleans Handicap in his 17-race career. The gray 4-year-old colt is not the most consistent runner in the world, and when he returns to action June 13 in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, he will be attempting to rebound off a lackluster sixth-place finish as the favorite in the Alysheba Stakes.

"He's had some pretty legitimate excuses in his subpar races," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "I really like the way he's training right now, though. We've pointed to the Foster for quite a while now, and I think he's going to run really big."

Macho Again, along with Einstein and Bullsbay, is among the early known candidates for the $600,000 Foster Handicap, the annual highlight of the post-Kentucky Derby segment of the Churchill Downs spring meet. At this early juncture, Einstein figures as a big favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Macho Again posted a bullet five-furlong drill Thursday at Churchill in 1:00.40 over a track rated good. The colt is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, the prominent syndicate that won the 2007 Foster with Flashy Bull, and will be ridden by Robby Albarado, who will be shooting for his third straight Foster win after scoring on Flashy Bull and in the 2008 renewal with Curlin.

Einstein, trained by Helen Pitts, had his first workout since he won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the May 2 Derby undercard when breezing a half-mile last Sunday in 49.40 seconds over the Churchill main track. Pitts has scheduled similar works for him on each of the next two Sundays leading into the Foster. Julien Leparoux will have the mount on the 7-year-old Brazilian-bred.

"Einstein is a great horse, but we're going to take a shot at him," Stewart said.

Bullsbay, winner of the Alysheba on the May 1 Kentucky Oaks undercard, is based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland with trainer Graham Motion.

One big-name possibility for the Foster was downgraded to unlikely earlier this week when trainer Marty Wolfson said It's a Bird, winner of the Oaklawn and Lone Star Park handicaps, probably will bypass the race in favor of the $400,000 Suburban on July 4 at Belmont Park. It's a Bird tested positive for the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory naproxen after his Oaklawn Handicap win, according to the Arkansas Racing Commission. No ruling has been issued and a hearing is expected to be held in June.

The Foster is one of five graded stakes set for June 13, with the others being the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis, the Grade 2 Jefferson Cup, the Gradeo3 Regret, and the Grade 3 Northern Dancer. Nominations for all five races closed Saturday.

The Foster, formerly worth $750,000, was one of six post-Derby stakes to undergo a purse decrease because of a decline in business at the meet.

George Herman bats again

As far as Karen Creger is concerned, George Herman Ruth was the greatest baseball player who ever lived and George Herman Seeger was the strongest man who ever lived.

Ruth, of course, was better known as "The Babe," the legendary New York Yankees slugger who died in 1948. Seeger, a farmer who lived his entire life in Edgar, Wisc., before his death several years ago, "was extremely proud of being named for Babe Ruth," said Creger, his daughter. "He was a very, very strong man, in many ways."

In remembrance of her father, Creger named a horse George Herman, a 3-year-old gelding who will start from post 1 in the 10th and last race Sunday at Churchill.

Suffice it to say, George Herman is not the fastest horse who ever lived. In his first and only career start on April 26, George Herman trailed a field of maiden runners from start to finish.

"I'm putting blinkers on him Sunday because I thought maybe we could change some of the things he does wrong," trainer Larry Lay said.

Peery looks to build momentum

Chuck Peery is adjusting to a new way of life. A lifelong racetracker from the Pacific Northwest, Perry moved to Kentucky last year, where he and his wife, Tracy, now own and operate the 23-acre Bella Vista Farm near Versailles.

In the meantime, Peery, 51, has run far fewer horses than he did earlier this decade on the Northern California circuit, where his peak years were 2000, when he won a career-high 65 races, and 2002, when his stable earned a career-high of almost $1.25 million.

Amid his transition, Peery went winless from just six starters last year, but things are picking up a bit for his public stable in 2009. He has sent out 2 winners from 7 starts, including Proud Monkey, a first-time starter on closing day of the Keeneland spring meet, and Lord Robyn, a grizzled 7-year-old he claimed for $32,000 early in the Keeneland meet.

Peery will be here Sunday to saddle Lord Robyn as one of the contenders in the eighth-race feature.

* Terrain, the seventh-place finisher in the Preakness, is a possibility for the $100,000 Northern Dancer Stakes on the Foster undercard but is more likely for the $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on Juneo26, trainer Al Stall Jr. said. Both races are run at 1 1/16 miles.

"He came back good, and we're just looking for the right kind of spots for him," Stall said.

* Loch Dubh, winner of the Turfway Prevue in January, missed the May 16 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill after being taken out of training "for a few months' freshening," according to trainer Jeff Talley.

Loch Dubh is owned in part by Bev Hendry, a colorful Scotsman who wears a kilt to the track on days when the gelding is in action.

* Churchill officials say interest from racing fans and media outlets has been brisk regarding the three night programs that will be staged for the first time in track history later in the spring meet. Those dates are June 19, June 26, and July 2, when first post will be 6 p.m. Eastern. Part of each program will be conducted under temporary lighting.

* Pure Clan, Acoma, and Tizaqueena are among the 25 fillies and mares nominated to the lone stakes to be run here next weekend, the $100,000 Early Times Mint Julep. The Grade 3 turf race will highlight a Saturday card that will conclude just prior to the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes.

* The condition book is out for the summer meet that starts July 11 at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., and partly because the meet has been condensed into 23 days from its originally scheduled 48, purses are better than what might have been expected. For example, maiden-special races are worth $25,000, and a $5,000 claiming race is worth $10,000. More information is available at ellisparkracing.com.