Louisiana Bred Believe in Bertie Looks to Rebound in Mint Julep

Believe in Bertie Looks to Rebound in Mint Julep
Photo: Hodges Photographyy / Amanda Hodges Weir

Believe in Bertie won the Red Camelia Stakes in March

Klein Racing’s homebred Believe in Bertie, first or second in 10 of 12 starts, tops the field of seven fillies and mares entered in the $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (G3T) June 10 at Churchill Downs.

The Mint Julep Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile test over the Matt Winn Turf Course, is carded as race 10 on an 11-race program with an approximate post time of 5:21 p.m. EDT.

A Louisiana-bred daughter of Langfuhr   trained by Brad Cox, the 4-year-old Believe in Bertie is coming off a game head runner-up effort to favored Roca Rojo in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (G2T) on the  Derby Day undercard. Trained by Chad Brown, Roca Rojo is among the top contenders for the grade 1 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park Saturday.

The Distaff Turf effort ended a four-race win streak for Believe in Bertie, who won a trio of stakes wins this winter at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots led by a 7 3/4-length romp in the Pago Hop Stakes at one mile on turf and a half-length triumph in the Daisy Devine Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on grass. Topweighted at 122 pounds, $393,682-earner Believe in Bertie will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, who won last year’s Mint Julep with Cash Control for Richard Klein’s Klein Racing and Cox. The Klein family also took the 2013 edition of the race with Miz Ida.

Expected to give the front-running Believe in Bertie a stiff challenge is Janis R. Whitham’s Whitham Thoroughbreds’ 4-year-old homebred Linda, third in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for trainer Ian Wilkes. Unplaced in only one of 10 starts and with earnings of $336,110, the 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly typically settles off the early pace before making a late run.

Over the Churchill turf course and at the same distance as the Mint Julep, Linda last year won the grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes to complete her sophomore season. The filly began her 2017 campaign with a third in the Honey Fox Stakes (G2T) won by Celestine at Gulfstream Park.

Dona Bruja, a homebred for Ivan Gasparotto’s Dom Felipe stable, will be making her U.S. debut in the Mint Julep after beginning her career in Argentina. Trained by Ignacios Correas, the 5-year-old mare has won eight of 10 starts, with two seconds, including the group 1 Copa de Plata Roberto Vasquez Mansilla Internacional over 1 1/4 miles on turf at San Isidro in her most recent start last December and was named champion older female. She has been with Correas at Keeneland this spring.

Old Forester Mint Julep H. (G3T)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, June 10, 2017, Race 10
  • 1 1/16m
  • Turf
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo’s & up Fillies and Mares
  • 5:21 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1Believe in Bertie (LA) Shaun Bridgmohan 122 Brad H. Cox 7/5
2 2Majestic Angel (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Joseph Rocco, Jr. 113 Eric R. Reed 30/1
3 3Sky My Sky (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Sophie Doyle 116 Mark E. Casse 9/2
4 4Dona Bruja (ARG) Declan Cannon 119 Ignacio Correas, IV 3/1
5 5Lots o’ Lex (KY) Calvin H. Borel 114 Gerald Russel Aschinger 15/1
6 6Dynazar (KY) Gabriel Saez 115 Dallas Stewart 15/1
7 7Linda (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 121 Ian R. Wilkes 5/2

STRONG INCREASES IN HANDLE IN THE 2017 THOROUGHBRED MEET AT HARRAH’S LOUISANA DOWNS

Former Jockey Beverly Burress Posting Solid Stats as an Owner and Trainer

Bossier City, LA – The 2017 Thoroughbred racing season at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs got underway on May 6.  Officials made some changes in the live race day schedule in hopes of boosting handle and have already noted significant increases.   

Through the first 16 days of racing, total handle on live races was up 23%. The change the in the racing schedule from Wednesdays-Saturdays in 2016 to a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday format in 2017 has been extremely successful and impactful.

“The change to Monday and Tuesday racing was made in an effort to avoid competition from the major racing that takes place on the weekends,” said Trent McIntosh, Louisiana Downs assistant general manager. “We were confident we would likely see an increase, but Mondays and Tuesdays have been even stronger than expected.”

One other very positive note is the escalation in field size in 2017.  With gains in handle on Monday and Tuesday as well as additional horses showing up in the entry box in 2017, Louisiana Downs will be adding one race per day each Monday and Tuesday for the remainder of the meet.

“We have seen increases in field size, horse population and handle, so beginning June 12, an additional race per day (on Monday and Tuesday) will be carded at Louisiana Downs,” added McIntosh. “To say it has been a fun and successful start to the meet would be an understatement.”

 

Beverly Burress Makes Smooth Transition from Jockey to Trainer at Louisiana Downs

Becoming a jockey was a dream come true for Beverly Burress, who was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and grew up in Jones, Oklahoma. Both her dad, Bobby Burress and uncle, Billy, had ridden the Louisiana circuit before embarking on second careers as trainers.

She got her license in 2005 and rode for eight years. Burress had an excellent start as an apprentice, winning 29 races at Remington Park and 30 as a bug rider at Oaklawn Park.

“I am the all-time winningest female apprentice at Oaklawn,” said Burress.

Her second year in the saddle, 2006, was her best. She won 66 races and $1.1 million in purses.

However, after she lost her bug, she was injured in a spill, and had a difficult time getting named on horses.

“The injury was tough, and then I felt that I had to prove to trainers that I could still win races,” admitted Burress.

Burress continued to ride until 2013, piloting her final mount on September 22, 2013.  She had a pretty good reason for hanging up her tack​.​

“I was four months pregnant with my son,” she said.

Burress, 32, and her husband, jockey Juan Larrosa, are proud parents of Juan, Jr, who is now 3-years-old. She took out her training license in 2016, and saddled her first winner last November at Delta Downs. It is a true family affair as Juan rides and their son runs the shedrow, barefoot and beloved by the horses!

Burress is off to a very good start in 2017 and has won four races from seven starts at Louisiana Downs.  Plus, she is currently tied for leading owner with Patti Turner and Red Rose Racing.

“We are very hands-on,” said Burress of her stable. “Our day begins at 4:00 am and on race days, we don’t leave until after 6 pm, but we love doing what we do.”

And whereas many second or third generation horsemen and women might prefer to impart their own imprint on their training program, Burress loves getting input from her family members.  In addition to her dad, grandfather and uncle, her sister, Christy Hamilton began as an exercise rider and is now an assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. Christy was previously married to Thoroughbred rider, Quincy Hamilton.

“Horsemen of today don’t give enough credit to the horsemen of yesterday,” she stated. “I will always listen to my dad and uncle. Plus, I am training a horse for my 87-year-old grandfather, Billy “Chief” Burress! Gospel Glamour is doing well and will probably run by the end of the month.”

She and Juan own a home in Princeton, Louisiana, chosen for its good school system.  Burress has done well with her claiming and lower level allowance runners and would love to have a few stakes-caliber horses in her barn. However, she never wants to get so big that she is unable to work one-on-one with each runner.

“I think about renaming my stable one day and calling it the “Hands On Stable”, she said. “As each horse leaves the barn and heads to the racetrack, they would pass by me holding a bucket of white paint. I would leave a nice white handprint right on their butt!”

A hard worker with a wonderful sense of humor. Hard not to root for this affable horsewoman!

 

Calling All Horseplayers!

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs will host a regional qualifying event for the $2.5 million-est. National Horseplayers Championship. The contest will be held on Saturday, June 17.

This will be a live format, with win, place and show wagers on ten selected races. The entry fee is $300 ($150 entry fee, $150 live bankroll) and the contest will be limited to 100 entries, maximum two entries per person.  All participants must be NHC Tour Members and may join online. The fee of $50 offers valuable discounts for handicapping products and entry into the four FREE remaining online tournaments in 2017.

The top two finishers will win a berth in the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament which will take place in Las Vegas, February 8-11, 2018. In addition, both winners will receive a $400 travel voucher and hotel accommodations for four nights in Las Vegas.

Registration is now open. Players needing further information may contact Tracey Blevins (tblevins@caesars.com) or Michele Ravencraft (mravencraft@ntra.com).

Race Day Promotions

Fans in attendance on Saturday, June 10 will receive a $5.00 FREE BET which can be redeemed on Saturday, June 17.  Louisiana Downs offers value for racing fans each Wednesday with Dollar Day. They will be able to enjoy $1 hot dogs, $1 beer at the Paddock as well as $1 programs. Saturday’s weekly promotion is the Family Four Pack featuring four hot dogs, four sodas, a program, and a box seat for four at the affordable price of just $16.

 

The Total Rewards program is free for horseplayers. With the swipe of their card each Saturday, members will receive valuable incentives.  These include:

  • Play $250 or more to receive a 5X multiplier
  • Play $1,000 or more to receive a 7X multiplier
  • Play $5,000 or more to receive a 10X multiplier

Participant’s multiplier cannot exceed a total balance of more than one hundred thousand (100,000) Reward Credits during one promotional day after the multiplier is applied.

 

Post Times and Stakes Schedule

Live racing will be conducted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Saturday with a 3:15 p.m. (Central) post time through September 27.

The 84-day meet will include 14 stakes highlighted by two major events, Louisiana Cup Day on Saturday, August 5 and Super Derby Day on Saturday, September 9.  To see a complete list of the 2017 Thoroughbred stakes schedule, click here.

About Harrah’s Louisiana Downs

Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and was purchased by Caesars Entertainment in December, 2002. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.

For further information, please contact:

Trent McIntosh  |  Assistant General Manager
318-752-6980
8000 East Texas Street | Bossier City, LA 71111
www.caesars.com

Efforting Wins Acadiana Stakes

EFFORTING

Acadiana Stakes
Evangeline Downs, 6-2-17, 7f
Three-Year-Old Fillies, Purse: $50,000

EFFORTING
Into Mischief-Get Going Bertie, by Carson City
Owner: Fair Grounds Racing Club, Inc.
Breeder: Orange Grove Thoroughbreds, Inc.
Trainer: Allbert M. Stall, Jr.
Jockey: C.J Hernandez

2nd
Rose Guitar
Star Guitar-Rose Hunter, by Jade Hunter
Owner: Oak Leaf T.C. LP
Breeder: Oak Leaf Farm TCLP
Trainer: Jose R. Mendez
Jockey: Diego Saenz

3rd
Red La Rosa
Harborage-Ziarita, by Maria’s Mon
Owner: Sandra Domiano
Breeder: Royal B. Kraft Sr.
Trainer: Corale A. Richards
Jockey: E Nieves

 

The $50,000 Acadiana Stakes for Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs was run Friday.June 2 at Evangeline Downs. Efforting was sent off as the 7-5 betting favorite and lived up to that support by drawing off to a 3-1/2 length victory in a final time of 1:24.81. She settled nicely in behind the pacesetting Molly Rules at the outset. Molly Rules set a decent pace of 23.27 seconds for the quarter and 46.76 for the half, but once the field made the stretch, jockey Colby Hernandez moved Efforting to the front and she never looked back.

Efforting is a 3-year-old filly bred in Louisiana by Orange Grove Thoroughbreds, Inc. She is owned by Fair Grounds Racing Club, Inc. She is by Into Mischief and out of the Carson City mare, Get Going Bertie.

 

 

PACIFIC PINK WEARS DOWN COMPETITION IN SPOTTED HORSE STAKES

PACIFIC PINK

Spotted Horse Stakes
Evangeline Downs, 6-2-17, 1 Mile
Three-Year-Old & Upwards Fillies and Mares, Purse: $75,000

PACIFIC PINK
Private Vow-Truly Romantic, by Robyn Dancer
Owner: Keith Plaisance
Breeder: Brandon Adcock
Trainer: Edward J. Johnston
Jockey: C.J Hernandez

2nd
Sunny Oak
Giant Oak-Heckuva Time, by Gilded Time
Owner: Keith Plaisance
Breeder: Jeff Wahman & Darlene Wahman
Trainer: Edward J. Johnston
Jockey: E. Nieves

3rd
Vieja Luna
Street Hero-Amaday, by Dayjur
Owner: Juan Francisco Landaeta
Breeder: Fernandez-Robles Family Trust & Flying HStables
Trainer: Jose M. Camejo
Jockey: R. Morales

Pacific Pink led a one-two charge for owner Keith Plaisance and trainer Edward Johnston in the $75,000 Spotted Horse Stakes at Evangeline Downs on Friday night, June 2nd. Plaisance also owns and Johnston also trains the runner-up in the race, Sunny Oak. Pacific Pink was ridden to victory by Colby Hernandez, who also captured the $50,000 Acadiana Stakes on Friday with Efforting for trainer Al Stall, Jr.

The character of the Spotted Horse Stakes changed significantly right at the start when the Steve Asmussen trainee, Danzatrice, unseated rider Gerard Melancon, who was able to walk away from the incident under his own power. Vieja Luna set a solid pace through early fractions of 23.46 seconds for the quarter and 47.10 for the half, while tracked by Sunny Oak and Steel Cut. As the field entered the stretch, Sunny Oak assumed the lead under Emanuel Nieves, but Pacific Pink was moved into the clear on the outside by Colby Hernandez and she charged to a convincing victory by 2-3/4 lengths. Sunny Oak out-finished Vieja Luna for second. The final time for the one mile over the fast track was 1:38.08.

Pacific Pink is a 5-year-old mare by Private Vow and is out of the Robyn Dancer mare, Truly Romantic. She was bred in Louisiana by Brandon Adcock.

 

REGISTRATION OPENS TODAY FOR THE NATIONAL HORSEPLAYERS CHALLENGE AT HARRAH’S LOUISANA DOWNS

May 30, 2017

REGISTRATION OPENS TODAY FOR THE NATIONAL HORSEPLAYERS CHALLENGE AT HARRAH’S LOUISANA DOWNS ON SATURDAY, JUNE 17

 

Owner and Trainer Charles Hukill Still Going Strong

 

Bossier City, LA – Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is pleased to announce that they will host a regional qualifying event for the $2.5 million-est. National Horseplayers Championship. The contest will be held at the Bossier City racetrack on Saturday, June 17 and registration opens today.

This will be a live format, with win, place and show wagers on ten selected races. The entry fee is $300 ($150 entry fee, $150 live bankroll) and the contest will be limited to 100 entries, maximum two entries per person.  All participants must be NHC Tour Members and may join online. The fee of $50 offers valuable discounts for handicapping products and entry into the four FREE remaining online tournaments in 2017.

The top two finishers will win a berth in the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament which will take place in Las Vegas, February 8-11, 2018. In addition, both winners will receive a $400 travel voucher and hotel accommodations for four nights in Las Vegas.

Registration is now open. Players needing further information may contact Tracey Blevins (tblevins@caesars.com) or Michele Ravencraft (mravencraft@ntra.com).  

Owner and Trainer Charles Hukill a Force at Louisiana Downs

There are many Thoroughbred trainers who pursue the profession because their families were horsemen, and their love for racing was passed down from previous generations.  But Charles Hukill took a very different route!

Hukill was born in Dallas, Texas and built a very successful landscaping and sprinkler business in Plano, 20 miles northeast of downtown Dallas.  He got into horseracing as an owner in the ‘70’s, but did not begin training until his oldest son assumed control of the family business. In 1998, Hukill took out his trainer’s license and embarked upon building a new business centered on racing and breeding. He owned and operated a training center in Canton, Texas and had as many as 120 horses in the late 1990’s. He was a solid supporter of Texas racing with stakes wins at both Sam Houston Race Park and Lone Star Park.  In addition to training, Hukill stood several stallions, including Sand Tunnel and Record Catch.

Tragedy struck Hukill’s training center in February, 2011 when an electrical fire broke out and 25 horses perished.

 

“That was pretty tough,” acknowledged Hukill.

 

He got out of the breeding after the fire, and owns and trains the majority of his 26 horses currently stabled at Louisiana Downs.

 

“I have one owner, Bobby Salome, who has six horses with me,” said Hukill. “I prefer to train my own and bring them along my way.”

Hukill and his wife, Lynn, have three sons. Growing up, each one worked

​in the family

landscaping and sprinkler business, with the two oldest remaining in that vocation. His youngest son served our country in the Air Force, and Hukill chuckles when he talks about his career choice.

“Dad, I have dug my last hole; I’m going to join the Air Force,” Hukill recalled.

Hukill has started over 6,300 Thoroughbreds in Texas and Louisiana, with a record of 478 wins and purses of $7.5 million. He was the ninth-leading trainer at Louisiana Downs in 2016.

One of his top level horses is Chases Dixie Belle, who captured the Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies last August at Louisiana Downs. The daughter of My Pal Charlie has won 2 of her 11 starts and has bankrolled $89,800 to date.

 

“She’s a nice filly,” said Hukill. “She broke her maiden at first asking and moved right into stakes company.”

Hukill will turn 80 in November and talks about slowing down. But his version of cutting back may differ from most people in their late 70’s.  His last venture involved transforming a 40-acre property in Canton into Mare Haven Estates.

“I sold all but two lots,” he said. “It was home to my mares and babies, so that’s why it was named Mare Haven Estates.”

Current Meet Leaders

Last year’s top trainer Joey Foster continues his dominance with 13 wins, through May 30, to lead all conditioners. Foster has started 53 runners and is hitting the board at an impressive 58%. Ronnie Ward, Beverly Burress and Denise Schmidt are tied for second with four wins.

 

Gerardo Mora has the lead in the jockey standings with 15 wins, followed by Richard Eramia who has won 13 races and apprentice Jose Guerrero, who follows closely with 12 wins.

 

Beverly Burress has won four races to top the owner standings. Patti Turner and Red Rose Racing are tied for second with three wins and 13 owners, including Hukill, locked in a showdown for third-place with two victories each.

 

Post Times and Stakes Schedule

Live racing will be conducted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Saturday with a 3:15 p.m. (Central) post time through September 27. For more information on the upcoming racing season and special events, visit https://www.caesars.com/harrahs-louisiana-downs/racing.

The 84-day meet will include 14 stakes highlighted by two major events, Louisiana Cup Day on Saturday, August 5 and Super Derby Day on Saturday, September 9.  To see a complete list of the 2017 Thoroughbred stakes schedule, click here.

About Harrah’s Louisiana Downs

Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and was purchased by Caesars Entertainment in December, 2002. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.

For further information, please contact:

Trent McIntosh  |  Assistant General Manager
318-752-6980
8000 East Texas Street | Bossier City, LA 71111
www.caesars.com

THE $1,000,000 DELTA DOWNS JACKPOT TO TAKE PLACE ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18

IMPORTANT KENTUCKY DERBY POINTS UP FOR GRABS IN THE GRADE III EVENT FOR 2-YEAR-OLDS

 

VINTON, LA. – Boyd Gaming Corporation (NYSE: BYD) today announced that this year’s $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot (Gr. III) for 2-year-olds will be held at its Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel on Saturdayafternoon, November 18.

 This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot, which is contested at 1-1/16 miles on a dirt surface. The race is the second richest in the country for 2-year-olds and has become a springboard to the Kentucky Derby. Since its inception the race has produced a total of 16 starters, including 10 over the last five years, for America’s most historic race at Churchill Downs.

Last year’s $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot, won by multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera, was part of a 35-race series that made up the fifth edition of the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ point system. Following his victory at Delta Downs, Gunnevera gained additional qualifying points toward this year’s Kentucky Derby with top three finishes in the Holy Bull Stakes (Gr. II) and Florida Derby (Gr. II) as well as a rousing win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (Gr. II), each contested at Gulfstream Park.

The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Day program featured eight stakes races and over $2.2 million in total purse money. The undercard was highlighted by the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess (Gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies, which produces qualifying points to horses on their way to the Kentucky Oaks (Gr. I). In 2014, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won the Princess with eventual Eclipse Award winning filly Take Charge Brandi after Tepin won the race in 2013. Tepin would eventually amass over $4.4 million career earnings before being retired just a few weeks ago.

“The Jackpot Day program continues its rich tradition of attracting top quality race horses each year,” said Steve Kuypers, Vice President and General Manager of Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel. “Not only do the best horses come to Vinton for the event, but many of racing’s top jockeys, trainers and owners take part in a program as well. Our team will be ready to put on another spectacular show on November 18.”

For the fifth consecutive year, Delta Downs will offer a guaranteed $200,000 Jackpot Day Pick 4 during its biggest day of racing. The wager will include four stakes races anchored by the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot and the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess. Overall there will be eight stakes races during the special 11-race afternoon program.

Horsemen, fans and media can follow developments for this year’s $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot on the website www.deltadownsjackpot.com. Information about Delta Downs’ 2017-18 Thoroughbred season can be found at the track’s website www.deltadownsracing.com.

 

Delta Downs Racetrack Casino and Hotel, a property of Boyd Gaming Corporation (NYSE:BYD), features exciting fun, casino action, live horse racing and great dining experiences. Delta Downs is located in Vinton, Louisiana, on Delta Downs Drive. From Lake Charles, take Exit 7 and from Texas, take Exit 4.

 

Desormeaux Splits With Pegram, Hires Nelson Arroyo As New Agent

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux has parted ways with agent J.R. Pegram and teamed up with agent Nelson Arroyo, it was announced Monday. Desormeaux, who has been represented by Pegram since March 2016, was also previously represented by the agent in 2012 and 2013 while riding in New York.

“I’ve worked with Pegram a few times over the years and he’s done a good job for me,” Desormeaux said. “We have different views on managing my future, and as a result I thought it best to part ways. Nelson has done a great job as an agent and I am looking forward to him carrying my book.”

Desormeaux, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, is ranked sixth all-time in jockey earnings with $272,913,629, and has 5,856 wins from over 30,000 career starts. He has won seven Triple Crown races, including three Kentucky Derbies, three Preakness Stakes and the Belmont once.

After a second-place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby aboard the Keith Desormeaux-trained Exaggerator, the pair went on to capture the Preakness Stakes, finishing 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. He went on to pilot the colt to victory in the $1 million Haskell Invitational last July.

“Before I became a jockey my father encouraged me to watch and learn from Cordero, Pincay, Velazquez and Desormeaux,” Arroyo said. “I never imagined I’d be representing a Hall of Fame jockey and to be representing Kent, along with my brother Norberto, in Southern California is a dream come true.”

Desormeaux is currently riding at the Santa Anita Park meeting where he is fifth in the jockey standings. He rode three winners on the card there Sunday, including the Fran’s Valentine Stakes aboard Moonless Sky.

Stewart String Poised for Top Class Summer

 

Trainer Dallas Stewart knows how to get the good ones right and that is exactly what he is doing with stable star Forever Unbridled.

Given a little extra time following an ambitious and fruitful 2016 campaign, the daughter of Unbridled’s Song has returned to training for the Kentucky-based, New Orleans native.

“She’s doing great,” Stewart said of the Charles Fipke homebred. “She worked (May 20) going a half-mile in :48 4/5, so she’s coming along well. We’re looking at four races this year, hopefully. We’re hoping to make the (Longines) Breeders’ Cup (Distaff, G1) again. She’s coming along and she looks great.”

The daughter of Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever has two registered works since returning to Stewart’s Churchill Downs barn, including a May 13 three-furlong drill in :37 flat. Last year, she had a 10-month, six-start campaign that included victories in a pair of grade 1 events—the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park in October and the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in April—and the grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes in January.

Never failing to hit the board in 2016, she arguably put forth her best efforts in defeat. In the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1), she was caught behind horses turning for home and could not reel in multiple grade 1 winner Cavorting once she broke free, finishing a flying second.

In her season finale, she burst off the rail and into the clear under regular rider Joel Rosario at the top of the stretch in the Distaff, putting forth a furious rally to be the only horse gaining on dueling champions Beholderand Songbird at the wire. Finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind those super-horses, she out-finished phenomenal fillies and fellow 2012 crop members Stellar Wind, I’m a Chatterbox, and Curalina. Stellar Wind since resurfaced to successfully kick off her 5-year-old campaign in this year’s Apple Blossom.

Some wear and tear after such top efforts over the course of a demanding campaign was not unexpected, but luckily it was nothing career-threatening.

“She had minor surgery over the winter and that is why she’s just getting rolling now,” Stewart explained. “She had a small chip taken out of her left front ankle and she’s doing great now; good as new.”

Stewart is over the moon with how the filly looks after a freshening, which is not surprising considering how much praise he threw on his darling over the last couple seasons. Long thought of as one of the best fillies with whom he has been associated—keeping in mind that he used to gallop Kentucky Derby-winning champion Winning Colors while an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas—he is pumped to get her going again.

“She looked good last year and looks just as great this year, if not better,” he said. “She’s just strong-looking all over. She is what a wonderful horse looks like. She’s massive and has a presence to her on the racetrack—you just know she’s a good horse. When she walks into the barn, she’s like an amazon.

“I’m not sure where we’ll point to first,” he continued. “We’ll just have to see where she is. If she’s out there working three-quarters (of a mile) in (a minute and) 12 (seconds) and doing it easily, then I know she’ll be ready to go against the best right off the bat. We’ll just have to see how that comes along. As far as racing (at age 6 in 2018 after an expected light 2017 campaign), you never know with Chuck (Fipke). It’s always possible. He has the mother and the sister (fellow grade 1 winner Unbridled Forever). Her sister just had a Medaglia d’Oro   and her mother just went to Medaglia d’Oro, so you never know.”

If things go according to plan, Forever Unbridled, who has earned in excess of $1.5 million, will become Stewart’s leading earner. At the top of said honor roll with just over $1.8 million is grade 1-winning Rachel Alexandra chaser Macho Again, while such standouts as Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine, grade 2-winning and grade 1-placed Dollar Bill, and both of Forever Unbridled’s aforementioned family members are not far behind.

Stewart was also quick to praise two other stable standouts on the improve and with ambitious schedules.

G M B Racing’s multiple graded stakes winner and 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) alum Tom’s Ready kicked off his 2017 impressively, rallying for third against a top field in the Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Twinspires.com (G2) May 6.

Additionally, Mark Stanley’s 3-year-old Hollywood Handsome exits a driving neck allowance victory against older horses eight days later, also at Churchill. Both are likely to head to Belmont for its biggest day, June 10.

“I really like how (Tom’s Ready) ran the other day,” Stewart said. “He ran hard and stepped up against good horses. We’re looking at the Met Mile next with him. It’s a step forward, but he made a step forward in the Churchill Downs and is doing very well and has since the race.”

A run in the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (G1), historically the top open dirt mile event, would mean a return to the site of the colt’s best effort, a rousing victory in last year’s seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes (G2). The last time the son of More Than Ready   ran a one-turn mile, he was the winner of the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) last fall.

“Hollywood Handsome is a strong possibility for the Belmont (Stakes),” Stewart continued. “We could have gone to the Preakness after the Illinois Derby, but we just wanted to win a race with him and get his head right. He had a bad trip at Hawthorne and we think he moved forward last time. (Jockey) Florent (Geroux) said that a mile and a half will be right up his alley and he will ride him in the Belmont.”

A photo-finish from being considered for the Kentucky Derby when he placed fourth, a nose astern third, in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), the late-running son of Tapizar   has upped his game and could be a longshot to watch—as all Stewart trainees have come to be known in the Triple Crown.

A big effort would signal a turn of the tide in the Stewart barn, which has had its fair share of ups and downs already, including the loss of barn favorite and Stewart homebred Saints Fan.

“So far, so good this year,” Stewart concluded. “We have had some good performances from a lot of our horses and have some babies coming along who look great and we’re taking our time with those. The older horses are fighting it out, so everything is good. I’m happy with where we are and things look good.”

Easy to root for with his friendly disposition and hands-on horsemanship, Stewart keeps things in perspective and seems poised for the pendulum to swing back.

Evangeline Indefinitely Postpones Start of Turf Racing

By Mary Rampellini

http://www.drf.com/news

Evangeline Downs, which had delayed the start of turf racing this meet to a tentative date of Wednesday, May 24, will instead be off the grass indefinitely. The track announced on its latest overnight that it would be “off the turf course for an extended period.”

Evangeline hired a new turf consultant this year and changed maintenance procedures in order to build a better course foundation for the long haul, according to Chris Warren, the track’s director of racing. The turf, however, has not grown in as quickly as anticipated, leaving some bare areas. As part of the renovation of the course, it underwent a “sprigging” process Tuesday, according to the overnight. The date the course will be available for usage is to be announced by officials at Evangeline.

Hernandez Rides Four Winners At Churchill

by | 05.14.2017

Brian Hernandez Jr. won four races for four different trainers on Saturday’s card (5-13-17) at Churchill Downs, starting with the early double aboard Tarpy’s Surprise ($8) for Dale Romans in Race 1 and Miss Cobblestone ($15.60) for Bernie Flint in Race 2. He entered the winner’s enclosure once again for Ian Wilkes with Fifth Title ($12.60) in Race 5, then gave trainer Tim Glyshaw his 400th career victory in Race 7 with Louies Flower ($12.40).

Hernandez has now brought his victory total to 11 through the first nine days of the 38-day Spring Meet.

“It was a great day,” Hernandez said. “It’s always fun to get on a roll like that. Hopefully we can keep the streak going.”