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Romans, Douglas part ways
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of the most formidable jockey-trainer combinations at the Churchill Downs spring meet is no longer. Rene Douglas was taken off all horses trained by Dale Romans after the two men had a disagreement about which Romans horse Douglas would ride in the first race Friday.
Douglas was named to ride Mansmind, while Julien Leparoux was named on the other Romans starter, Cat's on a Prowl. Romans said that Douglas wanted to ride Cat's on a Prowl.
"He didn't like my choice of horses," Romans said, adding that he was through with Douglas.
Cat's on a Prowl won as the favorite, and Mansmind finished second.
Romans replaced Douglas on all Friday mounts and planned to do the same Saturday and Sunday. Douglas did not return a Friday phone call. His listed agent, Terry Miller, said he has not spoken to Douglas in about a month and that he was no longer employed by Douglas.
Douglas, 39, has enjoyed a sensational career in the United States since coming here from his native Panama in 1983. He rode regularly in Florida, Illinois, and California before moving to Kentucky for the Keeneland meet in April, when he and Romans joined forces. Through Thursday, Douglas had 190 mounts on Romans horses, winning 37 races and more than $1.3 million in purses. In his entire career, Douglas has won 3,153 races and $84,582,949 in purses.
Douglas's former longtime agent, Dennis Cooper, said he had a lengthy conversation with the jockey Friday morning.
"He said he doesn't know where he's going yet," said Cooper, acknowledging that Arlington Park, where Douglas was the dominant jockey from 2001 to 2004, is a realistic option. Arlington runs through Sept. 12.
In the meantime, Romans, easily the leading trainer at the Churchill meet, will be employing several different jockeys, including Leparoux and Rafael Bejarano.
McPeek likely to be fined for mix-up
A wrong horse was brought to the paddock for the last race here June 24, resulting in a late scratch and an impending fine for the responsible party, trainer Ken McPeek.
Moose's Glory, an unstarted 2-year-old filly, was supposed to run in the $50,000 maiden claiming race, but another unstarted 2-year-old filly, Rapidian, instead was brought to the paddock by a McPeek employee. Fortunately for all involved, the mix-up was caught by Churchill's identifier, Barbara Borden.
"In my mind, it was a totally innocent mistake with no intention of wrongdoing," said Borden. "They're both bay fillies, although their markings are not very similar. Evidently there was a mistake from the time they both came into the barn."
McPeek, who returned to training in April after a 10-month hiatus, said Moose's Glory and Rapidian were part of a 10-horse shipment of 2-year-olds this spring.
"It was human error, plain and simple," said McPeek. "Ever since they came in, they've been wearing each other's halters."
Chief steward John Veitch said McPeek will be fined for the incident. Veitch's investigation was still ongoing Friday.
This is the second time in less than two years that the wrong horse was led over from the McPeek barn. In August 2004, a McPeek horse actually raced under the wrong name at Ellis Park. Boggy Creek, racing as Parker Valley, finished fifth in that race. McPeek was fined $2,500 for that incident, while his assistant at the time, Helen Pitts, was fined $500.
Woodard stock hot at claiming box
Joe Woodard set a Churchill record last spring by sending out 10 straight winners. This year, he is blazing another trail, albeit in a different way.
Into Friday, Woodard had sent out 21 different horses in claiming races, and, amazingly, 15 were claimed - and three that were not claimed competed for $50,000 claiming prices or higher.
"I think there's been a carryover effect from last year, when people had the conception that we were running horses for lower prices than their actual worth," said Woodard. "Maybe we did in a couple of spots, but I think the synopsis of our situation this year is we're running horses right where they belong, but people still must be under the impression that we're giving horses away."
Woodard, whose main client is Louisville car dealer Billy Hays, said the slew of lost horses has not necessarily created a vacuum in his stable. He and Hays, both of whom had been dominant in their respective categories in recent years at River Downs, have been rebuilding over the last year or so, ridding their stable of lower-priced claimers in favor of young horses with solid pedigrees.
Some of the claimed horses "were actually horses we didn't want to be carrying around much longer," said Woodard. "We've got some real nice 2-year-olds coming in soon, and we plan to be active at Saratoga, both racing and claiming. We figure with the Breeders' Cup coming to Churchill this fall, you're going to need to be a little more competitive, so we're going to beef up."
Maiden filly draws a crowd
The fact that owner Sanford Goldfarb and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. won a six-way shake in claiming Silver Frau for $20,000 from the last race June 23 is no big deal. But this was: Silver Frau was a 96-1 shot when horsemen crowded the claiming office after the race, in which the 3-year-old maiden filly finished seventh, beaten nearly 22 lengths.
More frequently than not, horses who are claimed are among the top contenders in any given race. But with Silver Frau, the odds were a nonfactor, since she obviously is a valued commodity as a broodmare prospect.
Previously owned by Joe Novogratz and trained by Glenn Wismer, Silver Frau is by Silver Charm out of Balancing Act, which makes her a half-sister to two stakes winners, including Grade 2 winner Eleusis. In addition, Balancing Act is a half-sister to Peaks and Valleys, a Horse of the Year in Canada and an active sire.
Tomasello work pays off
When Bankin on Candy stunned Churchill horseplayers Thursday by leading throughout to win the sixth race at 61-1, perhaps the least surprised person on the grounds was David Tomasello, the brother of and assistant to owner-trainer Jac Tomasello.
Bankin on Candy, a 3-year-old filly, had not raced in more than a year. She had three starts at 2, all of them poor efforts, after which Jac Tomasello, a Columbus, Ohio, businessman, decided to begin training his own horses, with his brother doing much of the hands-on work.
"Two years ago, my brother bought eight yearlings, and this is one of them," said David Tomasello. "She was just so green as a 2-year-old, and for months we've been working our tail off with her at Turfway Park. It looks like all our effort paid off."
Newcomer gets a win
Miguel Mena got off to a solid start in his first week of riding at Churchill when he won the seventh race Wednesday aboard Lear Heights for trainer Mike Maker.
Mena, 19, said he plans to make Kentucky his year-round circuit. The son of a jockey, the Peruvian native graduated from the same riding school as established riding stars Edgar Prado and Rafael Bejarano. Mena began riding in the United States in 2003 and until now had ridden primarily in Chicago.