“He’s not going to run in the Belmont,” Casse said. “We’re going to point for the Matt Winn (GIII at Churchill Downs on June 16).”
“We want to get him some confidence and it looks like the Belmont is going to come up pretty tough,” Casse said.
Stealcase, who breezed five furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Thursday in 1:02.40 under Shaun Bridgmohan, would be making his fourth consecutive start in a Grade III in the Matt Winn, but Casse thinks he will prove himself to be a Grade I-caliber horse.
“We’re going to aim for the Travers (GI),” Casse said.
The $1 million Travers, the so-called “Midsummer Derby,” will be run at Saratoga on August 25.
While Stealcase was ruled out of Belmont contention Thursday, Brereton Jones’ homebred Mark Valeski was all but ruled out of the 1 ½-mile classic.
“He’s probably not going to the Belmont,” trainer Larry Jones said. “It’d be really strange if we went. I’d say there’s about a 0.44% chance we run.”
Mark Valeski finished second in both the Risen Star (GII) and Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds earlier this year. The bay son of Proud Citizen was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs, but he was declared from the race on the Tuesday prior to the Run for the Roses.
After being taken out of consideration for the Derby, Jones pointed Mark Valeski to the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park. The decision to skip the Derby and point for the Peter Pan worked out well for Mark Valeski, who won the race on May 12 by 1 ¼ lengths.
“I don’t think he needs a (a lot of time off), but I don’t want to turn him around and run him again so quickly and then knock him out for the summer,” Jones said. “The number one priority for us now is the Travers.”
With Mark Valeski highly doubtful for the Belmont, jockey Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard the colt in his prior three starts, has picked up the mount MeB Racing Stables LLC’s Five Sixteen.
SIMMARD ARRIVES AT CHURCHILL DOWNS FOR LOUISVILLE ‘CAP BID – Roger Attfield and William Werner’s Simmard, winner of the Mac Diarmida (GII) in February, arrived at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning to continue his preparations for Saturday’s 75th running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) where he will carry the top weight of 120 pounds in the field of eight.
“He had a nice breeze yesterday at Woodbine (five furlongs around the dogs on the turf in 1:01) and he traveled through the night to Churchill,” Attfield said via phone from his base at Woodbine. “He arrived in good order this morning.”
Simmard will enter the 1 ½-mile Louisville off a third-place finish in the Elkhorn (GII) at Keeneland. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has made the 7-year-old son of Dixieland Band the 2-1 morning-line favorite on Saturday.
“I haven’t looked at the race too much yet,” Attfield said. “He’s run in some good races, though, and I’m sure it’s an OK spot for him.”
Attfield had also nominated Stella Perdomo’s Musketier-GER to the Louisville. Musketier was assigned the high weight of 121 pounds by racing secretary Ben Huffman, but he was not entered in the race. The two Attfield-trained horses previously raced against each other this year in the Mac Diarmida and the Elkhorn.
“I didn’t want to run the two against each other again,” Attfield said. “I also thought Simmard was training a bit better and I wanted to give Musketier a little more time between races.”
Simmard will be saddled by assistant trainer Suzanne Lorimer on Saturday and will break from post seven under Gabriel Saez. Post time for the Louisville is 5:25 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the 11-race card Saturday will begin at 12:45 p.m.
SPRING MEET LEADERS AT A GLANCE – Through 14 days of the 39-day Spring Meet, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, trainers Steve Asmussen and Dale Romans and owners Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. are the leaders in their respective categories at Churchill Downs. Below is a look at the leaders entering Thursday’s action:
1. Shaun Bridgmohan (19-for-84, 23% win-percentage, $698,296 in earnings)
2. Corey Lanerie (15-for-87, 17%, $503,359)
3. Calvin Borel (13-for-77, 17%, $286,747)
4. Miguel Mena (11-for-69, 16%, $377,133)
4. Julien Leparoux (11-for-43, 26%, $636,584)
1. Steve Asmussen (7-for-34, 21%, $392,408)
1. Dale Romans (7-for-41, 17%, $1,161,072)
3. Bret Calhoun (6-for-22, 27%, $212,824)
3. Wayne Catalano (6-for-17, 35%, $252,607)
5. Tom Amoss (5-for-19, 26%, $153,514)
5. Brad Cox (5-for-13, 38%, $77,913)
1. Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. (5-for-14, 36%, $83,713)
2. Paula Haughey’s PTK LLC (4-for-8, 50%, $62,910)
2. John Oxley (4-for-12, 33%, $176,795)
4. Donald Adam’s Courtlandt Farms (3-for-8, 38%, $89,131)
BARN TALK – Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, third in the Kentucky Derby (GI) in his most recent start, is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Saturday after the renovation break at approximately 8:30 a.m. The chestnut son of Even the Score will van to Belmont Park on Sunday to continue his preparations for the Belmont (GI) on June 9, according to trainer Dale Romans.
Romans also said Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Shackleford, winner of the Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GII) in his most recent start, will board a plane bound for New York on Friday to race in the Met Mile (GI) at Belmont Park on May 28. The 4-year-old son of Forestry will be ridden in the Met Mile by John Velazquez, who will replace the injured Jesus Castanon. …
Agent Dennis Cooper reported Thursday that jockey Castanon underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a broken left hand he suffered in a fall at the beginning of the 10th race at Churchill Downs on May 18. “The surgery only took about 20 minutes,” Cooper said. “The doctors said he will be out about a month. There’s a chance he could return to ride the last week of the meet here (at Churchill Downs).”
Castanon had ridden three winners at the 2012 Spring Meet, which concludes on July 1. His biggest of those three victories came aboard Shackleford in the Churchill Downs (GII) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard. …
Trainer Mark Casse said Thursday that John Oxley’s Prospective, who finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby, was shipped to his base at Woodbine Park and will be pointed to the $150,000 Victoria Park on June 10 at the Toronto track. …
Friday’s Twilight Racing program at Churchill Downs will conclude with a performance by The Black Lillies in the final Paddock Concert Series of the 2012 Spring Meet. The Black Lillies will take to the paddock stage with their unique blend of country, rock, bluegrass, jazz and blues at approximately 8 p.m. The first 850 people in attendance for the concert will be allowed free access to the paddock to watch the concert up close in a VIP viewing area. Admission to the concert is free with the $3 general admission to Churchill Downs before 7 p.m. Admission to the concert is $10 after 7 p.m. …
The Bluegrass Art Experience Festival will take place in the Churchill Downs infield on Memorial Day Weekend. The family-friendly festival will be open Saturday through Monday from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. and provides a unique environment to showcase the vast variety of artistic expression in Kentucky and the surrounding region. The event will also be used as a platform to raise money and create public awareness of nonprofit charities that include Home of the Innocents and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. Admission to the festival is free with the $3 general admission to Churchill Downs. …
The Churchill Downs racing program on Sunday, May 27 will be accompanied by Family Fun Day activities Presented by Kroger. Family Fun Days promise a very special day for the entire family with attractions that include Horse Racing Bingo, Junior Jockey Club activities, a walking tour of the Kentucky Derby Museum to visit with Winston, its resident miniature horse, visits with Churchill Charlie and more. Family Fun Day activities take place from 11:30 a.m-4 p.m. in the Paddock Pavilion on Sundays throughout the meet. More information is available at http://www.ChurchillDowns.com.
WORKTAB – Barbara Hunter’s homebred Snow Top Mountain breezed five furlongs around the dogs on the firm Matt Winn Turf Course on Thursday morning in 1:03.80 for trainer Tom Proctor. It was the second fastest of three works at the distance. The 5-year-old daughter of Najran is being pointed to the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs on June 2. …
Martin Racing Stable LLC and Morgan Thoroughbred LLC’s Beat the Blues, runner-up to Sassy Image in last spring’s Winning Colors (GIII) and most recently the winner of the Carousel at Oaklawn Park, breezed four furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs in :50.20 for trainer Bret Calhoun. The work ranked 24th of 37 at the distance.
WEATHER – Thursday: sunny, 88. Thursday night: mostly clear, low around 68. Friday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m., 93. Saturday: sunny and hot, 94. Sunday: sunny and hot, 95. Monday: mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 93. Tuesday: partly sunny with a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 87. Wednesday: partly sunny with a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, 81.