Class was in session on June 17 at Churchill Downs. Depending upon the student, your lesson plan may have varied. But here are a few things everyone should have written down in the old notepad.
1. Thoroughbred racing is alive and well –The Triple Crown races are over, but don’t think for one minute the excitement is gone. Foster night featured some outstanding performances by some of the top horses in different divisions. The magnificence of Churchill Downs was on display and 20,669 fans were there to witness the splendor of the sport. As the year end Breeders’ Cup beckons, we found out the race is on!
2. Gun Runner is for real- For those that were wondering about this four-year old son of Candy Ride, you got an emphatic answer in the headliner. Basically going gate to wire, this Steve Asmussen trained colt flat took a quality field to school in the Stephen Foster. Covering the mile and an eighth in 1:47.56 (fifth fastest time ever) and winning by a stakes record 7 lengths, Gun Runner was blazing to say the least. “We got him to the winner’s circle here at home and set ourselves up for a great second half campaign,” says Asmussen. “This horse is incredibly special in so many ways.”
3. McCraken has been released- Three-year old home-bred McCraken proved he can be a force in his division before all is said and done in 2017. Perhaps a bit of bad luck early in the Kentucky Derby cost the Ian Wilkes trained son of Ghostzapper as he finished a disappointing 8th in the Run for the Roses. In his first start since, he put on a nice display in winning the grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes. Settling at the back of the pack early after an awkward start, McCraken put in a big move on the far turn and won the mile and a sixteenth race easily with a time of 1:42.84 under jockey Brian Hernandez. “There were no instructions for Brian before the race,” says Wilkes. “I told him you know the horse so just ride him with confidence. I loved everything about how he handled things. We think he is one of the best three-year olds in the country but he has to prove that on the track.” The win marked McCraken’s fifth career victory in seven lifetime starts.
4. Forever Unbridled is back and looking good- The 2016 racing year was good for Forever Unbridled. Six starts yielded three wins , one second, and two thirds. Six months into 2017 she made her first start and looked like the layoff was a good thing Not racing since the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, this Dallas Stewart trained runner ran very efficiently in winning the Fleur de Lis. Stalking the early pace, this daughter of Unbridled’s Song made her move inside the final furlong. Collaring the leaders, she moved past under jockey Joel Rosario and let everybody know she will be a player in a very competitive older female division. “Now that is what you call a racehorse,” says Stewart. “We just need to keep her healthy and happy and we’ll have her ready for the Breeders’ Cup.
5. Dale Romans is the man at Churchill- A Louisville native and having grown up in the shadows of the twin spires, Romans is now only seven wins shy of becoming the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs (currently has 694 wins). His win with Sweeping Paddy in the Regret Stakes was another fine example of how this horseman gets runners ready to perform at the highest of levels. With a couple of weeks remaining in the Spring meet, the September meet and fall meets coming, Dale will likely end the year right where he belongs…at the top!