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No laid-back schedule for this Californian
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Californian emerged from his upset win in the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland on April 17 in such good condition that trainer Kristin Mulhall is not hesitant to bring him back following a two-week break in Friday's $100,000 Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Downs.
"He won easily enough and had plenty left," Mulhall said. "He was bucking and playing when he got back to the barn."
Mulhall's hopes for a second stakes win from the English import will be tested in the American Turf, which is run at 1 1/16 miles and attracted 15 entries. Only 12 will start.
The Crown Royal American Turf is one of five stakes races on Friday's 11-race program, led by the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks.
The other stakes races are the $300,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles and two $100,000 races on turf - the Edgewood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile and the Aegon Turf Sprint at five furlongs.
The Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap drew six fillies and mares, and is led by Take Charge Lady, the 119-pound highweight. Take Charge Lady, a 4-year-old, finished a game second behind 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park April 5. Take Charge Lady led to deep stretch and appeared to be on the verge of an upset when Azeri rallied to win by a head.
The front-running Take Charge Lady will be challenged by You, the winner of four Grade 1 races last year. You has lost her last five starts, including a second in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita in February. Santa Maria winner Starrer returned to take the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap.
Other starters include Fly Borboleta, Majority Whip, Red n'Gold, and Seven Four Seven.
The Edgewood is the fifth race and has a field of 10, including Tangle, Cheryl's Myth, and Golden Marlin, the second- through fourth-place finishers in the Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland. Ebony Breeze, who has won her last four races, all in Florida, starts for trainer Bill Mott.
Trainer Randy Morse has three starters in the Aegon Sprint - Morluc and Testify, the last two winners of the race, and Mighty Beau, who finished seventh behind No Jacket Required in the Shakertown at Keeneland in his last start.
No Jacket Required also starts in the Aegon Turf Sprint, seeking his fourth consecutive win.
Frankel very busy this week
Frankel was raving about You's chances Tuesday, and hoping to have success on Saturday's undercard.
Saturday, Frankel will have leading contenders in several races.
Heat Haze, the winner of the Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita, will start in the $100,000 Citgo Distaff Turf Mile. Aldebaran, the winner of the San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita in March, starts in the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap, and Sightseek starts in the $200,000 Humana Distaff Handicap, a Grade 1 at seven furlongs.
In the race before Peace Rules and Empire Maker represent Frankel in the Kentucky Derby, he will start Requete in the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.
While Aldebaran, Heat Haze, and Sightseek will be well bet, Requete will not attract as much attention.
He won the restricted San Marino Handicap at Santa Anita in February, but finished sixth in the Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds in March. Frankel is throwing out that race, saying that Requete was too close to the pace and is better rallying from the back of the field.
"In the two races he won, he was last and he came with a big run," Frankel said.
Requete has certainly been battle tested this week. Sunday, he worked in company with Empire Maker and returned to the stable blowing hard. "He's a fit horse and he had to work to stay up with that other horse," Frankel said in reference to Empire Maker.
The are likely to be eight starters in the Woodford Reserve, including With Anticipation, who finished second in the Breeders' Cup Turf last October.
Ipi Tombe has first U.S. workout
Ipi Tombe, the brilliant winner of the Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Nad Al Sheba in her last start, breezed four furlongs in 51.20 seconds Tuesday over the Churchill Downs turf course. It was her first breeze since coming to North America and trainer Elliott Walden's barn.
Walden actually caught Ipi Tombe a little quicker, including a final quarter-mile in 22.40 seconds in a move conducted around the dogs, traffic cones placed in the middle of the turf course.
"She did that very nicely," Walden said. "There was a horse working an eighth of a mile in front of her and by the seven-eighths pole galloping out she had caught that horse."
Walden said he did not have a race picked out for Ipi Tombe, who has won seven straight races and 11 of 13 overall. The major objective for Ipi Tombe this summer is the Arlington Million Aug. 16, according to Barry Irwin, head of the Team Valor syndicate which owns Ipi Tombe in partnership with WinStar Farm and Sunmark Partners.
"She's already defeated the boys in her last four starts," Irwin said.
Walden said he would want to get one race into Ipi Tombe before the Arlington Million, but would choose his spot carefully.
"I'm a little concerned about handicaps and what they might do in handicaps," Walden said, referring to a possible high weight assignment. "You want to play defense before you play offense. There's no reason to take her over there not knowing if she's over the ship. I think she's the best turf filly on grass in the country, maybe the best turf horse in the country."
Ebanks: professional poker player
Ronny Ebanks, the flamboyant jockey agent who recently parted ways with Jorge Chavez, has become a professional high stakes poker player in Las Vegas.
Ebanks, 39, became known for his sometimes outlandish antics during his 15 years as agent for Shane Sellers and several other riders. He said he probably will get back into racing at some point, "But right now, I'm having too much fun. I've always wanted to do this."
Ebanks, who is in Louisville for Derby week, said he has entered the World Series of Poker at Binion's in Las Vegas, a $6 million tournament that runs from May 19-23.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee