Simms, who has battled multiple myeloma for more than two years, saddled Blueeyesintherein to win last Saturday’s Debutante (GIII) and a win by Circle Unbroken would make him just the fifth trainer to sweep the Spring Meet’s graded stakes races for 2-year-olds.
Circle Unbroken is coming off an impressive 1 ¼-length maiden victory on June 17 at Churchill Downs in his career debut. Simms is confident in the dark bay or brown son of Broken Vow, but realizes Saturday night’s Bashford Manor will be a much tougher race than the colt’s first outing.
“It’s a pretty open race,” Simms said. “(Trainer Steve) Asmussen’s (Special Jo) will be tough and (trainer) Pat Byrne has a nice colt (Positively) in there. But I feel good about my horse. We’re going over there sound and we’re ready. Our karma is good right now. Things run in cycles in horse racing and we’re on a little bit of a roll, so hopefully we can keep the train rolling.
“I think this is a tougher race than the Debutante. I was very confident going into that race. I feel confident now, but I think I have more competition to beat in the Bashford Manor. The horse is doing well, though, and we’ve done all we can do. It’s up to him now.”
Purchased at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $92,000, Circle Unbroken was a relatively expensive purchase for Simms, who is known to look for bargains at the sales.
“It’s the second most I’ve ever paid for a horse,” Simms said. “I just loved the horse. I usually look for bargains, but there was just something about this horse. He’s almost a perfect specimen, as far as conformation goes. He has a few little flaws, but not many. He had the perfect eye, attitude, walk…he had everything I like in a horse. I was going to get him and I probably would have paid more than I did.”
Simms added the most he ever paid for a horse was $105,000 for a filly named Twelve Steps, who was injured and never raced. Twelve Steps is still owned by Simms in partnership with a few others and he currently has a 2-year-old out of the mare in training at Churchill Downs.
Circle Unbroken was ridden by Leandro Goncalves in his career debut, but Jon Court will have the mount Saturday because Goncalves is out of town. Court was able to get acquainted with Circle Unbroken and worked the horse Wednesday morning in :49 on the fast main track.
“The horse is doing really well, but if we lose I won’t be disappointed,” Simms said. “I know I have a nice horse and it’s just one race. There are plenty more to come. The main thing is that he comes back sound and we’re ready to fight another day. I know I’ve got a good horse. He proved it the day he broke his maiden.”
The 111th running of the Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds at six furlongs is the featured event on the 11-race “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program. Post time for the first race is 6:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Bashford Manor will go as Race 6 at 9:00 p.m.
SUMMER IN AMERICA BEGINS SATURDAY FOR JAPANESE JOCKEY FUKUNAGA – Saturday at Churchill Downs will mark the beginning of a summer-riding tour in the United States for Japan’s leading rider, Yuichi Fukunaga.
Fukunaga is scheduled to ride at Churchill Downs in Races 2, 3, 4, 8 and 11 on Saturday night and Races 4, 6 and 9 on Sunday night. Post time for the second race Saturday night is 6:58 p.m. and he will ride Go Baby Go Go for trainer Jimmy Baker.
“He came over in 2005 and won the American Oaks (GI) at Hollywood Park with a Japanese-bred filly named Cesario and that got his juices flowing for American racing,” agent Brian Beach said. “Since then, he’s always wanted to come back. It’s a bit of a slow period for Japan racing during the next few months, so he decided to do it now.”
Fukunaga, who has more than 1,400 career victories and earnings totaling nearly $300 million, will be based in Southern California after his weekend of racing beneath the Twin Spires and plans to ride in the United States through the first week of September.
“We started in Kentucky because (trainers) Ken McPeek and Wesley Ward had heard of him and wanted to put him on some horses,” Beach said. “Also, it was his only shot to ride at Churchill Downs.”
Beach added that Fukunaga has been working with an English tutor and is learning the language, but he will be accompanied by a translator.
SALTY STRIKE GOES FOR BACK-TO-BACK STAKES WINS IN ROXELANA – In the race preceding the 111th running of the Bashford Manor (GIII), Craig Singer’s homebred Salty Strike will seek to score back-to-back stakes wins and her third stakes victory beneath the Twin Spires in the $73,600-added Roxelana.
A four-time winner on the Churchill Downs oval, Salty Strike won the Dogwood (GIII) at Churchill Downs last spring and took the Dream Supreme in the fall. In her last race, she won the Prairie Rose at Prairie Meadows by a nose. The Prairie Rose was the first race back for the Ken McPeek-trained Salty Strike since finishing seventh in the Humana Distaff (GI) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard.
“She loves it here and her only off-the-board finish at Churchill came in the Humana,” assistant trainer Phil Bauer said. “Maybe we were a little ambitious trying a Grade I, but we were taking a shot. She’s doing really well and it’s good to be coming off a victory. We’ll have to beat (trainer) Dale (Romans)’ horse.
Romans, the leading trainer at the Spring Meet, will send out Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image, who finished sixth in the Humana Distaff, a race she won in 2011, in her first start of the year. A 5-year-old chestnut daughter of Broken Vow, Sassy Image also has quite the liking for the Churchill Downs surface with wins in the Humana Distaff and Winning Colors (GIII) last spring and a sweep of the Pocahontas (GIII)-Golden Rod (GII) Fall Meet double at two.
Salty Strike, who was cross-entered in the Saylorville at Prairie Meadows but will opt to run in the Roxelana, will be ridden by the meet’s leading rider Corey Lanerie and will break from post four, while Sassy Image will break from post three under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Post time for the Roxelena, which is scheduled as Race 5, is 8:27 p.m.
BARN TALK – With near-record temperatures in the area this weekend, Dr. Foster Northrop, a veteran equine veterinarian and member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, noted there are many ways to keep horses cool and safe during and after racing.
“Water is vital,” Northrop said. “After the race, horses will get a bath immediately and get their head cooled down. Some will get alcohol poured on them to help them cool out quicker. Then they will be walked extensively and put into stalls with good circulation and fans.
“They handle the high temperatures well. They’re animals and they deal with the extremes a lot better than people do.”
In anticipation of the high temperatures, Churchill Downs officials have increased the number of water buckets for horses in the paddock runway and winner’s circle, additional water hoses will be available after the race, cool towels will be available near the winner’s circle for use on horses if needed and a state vet will be in the runway and at the stable area gap to watch for signs of overheating in horses. Trucks equipped with water tanks and spray hoses will also be positioned around the track.
Admission gates for Friday, Saturday and Sunday will open at 4 p.m., with the first post at 6:30 p.m. General admission is $3 on Friday and Sunday and $10 on Saturday for the “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
Friday’s Happy Hours in the paddock area, featuring 16-ounce Stella Artois for $3 and music by Edgewood, will take place from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
The final “Downs After Dark” racing program of the Spring Meet is billed as the second annual “White Party,” in which on-track guests are encouraged to wear an all-white wardrobe. Paddock entertainment will be provided by Trinity, a Miami-based trio that uniquely mixes the sounds of a DJ and drums, and popular Nashville band, Burning Las Vegas.
Sunday’s Junior Jockey Club activities will go on as scheduled, but the one-day “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” has been postponed because of timing conflicts. Pre-registered contestants will be contacted in the next few days by track officials. …
WORKTAB – Carl R. Moore Management LLC’s Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII) on the Matt Winn Turf Course in 2010 and most recently sixth in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII) on this year’s Kentucky Derby Day undercard, breezed four furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Friday morning in :49.40 for trainer Bret Calhoun. It was the eighth fastest work of 27 at the distance. …
Bluegrass Hall LLC’s homebred Optimizer, the lone horse that competed in all three legs of the 2012 Triple Crown series, breezed five furlongs on the main track in 1:00 for trainer Wayne Lukas. It was the fastest of 14 works at the distance. …
Willis Horton’s Laurie’s Rocket, winner of the Bachelor in April at Oaklawn Park, breezed three furlongs in :36.80 on the main track for trainer Dallas Stewart. The work ranked fourth of nine at the distance. …