Friday, November 21, 2014


Churchill Downs Race Day Notes: Friday, Nov. 21


NELLIE CASHMAN HITTING TOP FORM FOR RETURN IN SATURDAY’S CARDINAL ’CAP

Maryland-based filly Nellie Cashman completed a promising 3-year-old season with a disappointing run in last fall’s Mrs. Revere (Grade II), but she climbed aboard a van Friday morning for a return trip to Churchill Downs and a bid to make amends for that performance.


It’s been an unusual 4-year-old season for Sycamore Racing LLC’s daughter of Horse of the Year Mineshaft, but Nellie Cashman comes into Saturday’s $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (GIII) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf with some confidence following her first win in five 2014 tries. Trainer Francis “Trey” Abbott III, who conditions the filly at Maryland’s Fair Hill Training Center, believes his filly has finally hit her best stride following a slow start on the season.

“After the Mrs. Revere she got 40 days off on the farm down in Ocala,” Abbott said. “The idea was that she was going to fill out and get bigger and stronger, and she did. But she was in love with the farm life. So when we brought her back she would kind of sulk a little bit and her head wasn’t in the game for the first part of the season.”

Nellie Cashman ran sixth behind Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Emotional Kitten in the 2013 Mrs. Revere, but didn’t run again until an allowance race at Pimlico in late April. After three losses to start the year, she ran an encouraging third behind 2013 Cardinal winner Abaco in the Ballston Spa (GII) at Saratoga, and then followed that outing with an easy win under regular rider Forest Boyce in a Sept. 26 allowance race on turf at Laurel Park.

“I made the decision to run her up at Saratoga because her body of work progressively through the year has gotten stronger and stronger,’ Abbott said. “I wanted to get her a little confidence-builder at Laurel, and thankfully all of that worked out. She’s coming into this really well and I’m really happy with her.”

Nellie Cashman’s career record of 3-4-4 in 16 starts is probably a bit stronger than it appears. She won the 2013 Virginia Oaks (GIII) at the now-shuttered Colonial Downs and actually finished first in her next outing in Saratoga’s Lake Placid (GII), but was disqualified and placed third and Caroline Thomas was elevated to the victory. Nellie Cashman was a solid runner-up to Overheard in Keeneland’s Valley View (GIII) before her run in Mrs. Revere, where she encountered some traffic woes at the top of the stretch.

She has career earnings of $265,071 and has finished first in both of her starts at the Cardinal’s nine-furlong distance, but lost one of those triumphs with her Lake Placid disqualification.

Abbott was optimistic about Nellie Cashman’s chances prior to his last visit to Louisville, and appears to be more so this time around. She could even have a small advantage in that she has continued to train at Fair Hill, while Churchill Downs-based runners have stayed in their barns as the frozen racetrack was closed for training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and two days of racing were lost to this week’s uncommon winter blast in Louisville.

“It’s chilly up here, as well, but we’ve got the Tapeta surface up here, so we haven’t missed any training,” Abbott said. “I’m slowly moving everything down to Florida, so this filly on Sunday is headed straight to Florida. She’s going to get a little campaign down in Florida, so I’ve been trying to keep her fresh and happy.”

With the lessons of last year’s winter break for Nellie Cashman in mind, Abbott will keep her busy this time around during her time in Florida.

“No, she will not be getting a farm rest,” Abbott said. “I’ve got two races picked out for her down in Florida.

“She’s a big filly – she’s very big. And I haven’t been hard on her. I’ve been conservative in hopes that next year will be her big year.”

ON THE WORKTAB – Churchill Downs’ main track reopened Friday for the first time since Monday. The one-mile dirt oval was frozen for three days following three inches of snow in Louisville earlier this week. Despite the reopening, there were no recorded workouts – just gallopers and joggers after three days of tack-walking the shedrow. Racing resumed at 12:40 p.m. Friday for a 10-race card following a two-day hiatus.

LOUISVILLE/NOTRE DAME FEATURED AT SATURDAY’S PIGSKINS & PONIES

Saturday’s first-ever meeting between the University of Louisville and Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. is the featured game for this week’s “Pigskins and Ponies” at Churchill Downs.

The 3:30 p.m. EST game will be shown on the Plaza video board, select TV monitors around Churchill Downs and between races on the Big Board. It will be preceded by a Big 10 matchup between Minnesota and Nebraska at noon.

Churchill Downs has showcased college football games during the races most Saturdays during the Fall Meet. Pigskins and Ponies also features all-day drink specials – $2 Bud/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois and $1 Pepsi products and bottled water – in the Lower Club near the paddock, and free admission to college students with a current student I.D.

SUNDAY’S WHO’S THE CHAMP? WINNER OFF TO HORSE PLAYER WORLD SERIES

The winner of Sunday’s “Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge” will be awarded with a fully-paid spot in the Horse Player World Series at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on March 25-28.

Last week, Craig Meuter of Louisville won the first prize besting a field of 67 handicappers.

The “Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge” requires entrants to place mythical $2 Win/Place wagers on Races 3-8 at Churchill Downs. The contestant with the highest bankroll at event’s end is crowned the winner.

The weekly grand prize includes a four-night hotel stay and $250 travel voucher. Second place gets a $500 betting voucher and the third place-finisher receives a $250 betting voucher.

Registration for this Sunday’s event is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Churchill Downs Lounge. It costs $35 to enter ($30 for TSC Elite members) and entrants receive an official program and meal voucher.

The final “Who’s the Champ? Betting Challenge” of the year will be held on closing day, Sunday, Nov. 30.

HORSES & HOPE RETURNS SUNDAY

“Horses and Hope,” the initiative created in 2008 by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the Pink Stable, will return to Churchill Downs on Sunday (Nov. 23) in Millionaires Row 4 and Skye Terrace 5.

The mission is to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families.

The color of pink will be scattered throughout Churchill Downs that day, including saddle towels for a featured race (Race 5 at 2:39 p.m.), jockey arm bands, groom’s vests, outriders, the bugler, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners.

To help celebrate, Churchill Downs’ world famous Twin Spires will be bathed in pink light, as well.

KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGER POOL 1 FIELD ANNOUNCED TUESDAY

A reminder: Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will open Friday, Nov. 28 at noon EST and continue through Sunday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. EST. The 23 individual wagering interests will be announced Tuesday (Nov. 25).



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