On Friday, Keeneland’s closing-day feature is the 27th running of the $150,000 Elkhorn (G2), which offers a number of enticing angles. Among the nine horses entered on Tuesday is Stella Perdomo’s Musketier (GER), who will bid for his third consecutive win in the 1½-mile stakes on the turf after finishing second in the race in 2009. Now 10, the Acatenango gelding is trained by Roger Attfield, who saddled the 2009 winner, Spice Route (GB), and won the race in 2006 with Pellegrino (BRZ). Attfield, who will enter the Racing Hall of Fame this year, also will start Simmard in the Elkhorn. With William Werner, Attfield owns the Grade 2 winner, a 7-year-old son of Dixieland Band who was fourth in the race last year.
Newsdad returns to Keeneland, where he won a 1 1/4-mile allowance on Polytrack in October. A year ago, he was fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass (G1). Finishing 10th in that race was Gaillardia Racing LLC’s Wilkinson, who also was entered in the Elkhorn.
The Elkhorn is the ninth race on Friday’s 10-race card with a post time of 5:13 p.m. First post is 1:05 p.m.
The field for the Elkhorn, from the rail out, is as follows: Musketier (GER) (Jose Lezcano, 121 pounds), Point of Entry (John Velazquez, 119), Wilkinson (Garrett Gomez, 119), Newsdad (Julien Leparoux, 121), Simmard (Javier Castellano, 121), Skipshot (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., 119), Tahoe Lake (BRZ) (Manny Cruz, 119), Suntracer (Shaun Bridgmohan, 119), and Center Divider (Robby Albarado, 119)
CHASE MILLER SET TO MAKE APPRENTICE DEBUT
When 18-year-old Chase Miller steps out of the jockeys’ room in silks Wednesday afternoon for his riding debut, he will be realizing a dream he had before he ever even rode horses.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but it’s more realistic now,” Miller said. “Riding a horse is definitely better than dressing up in silks and riding the couch for however many years I did that.”
Miller will make his first start in Wednesday’s second race aboard Murjan, a 4-year-old colt who is making his second start off a year-long layoff. Murjan is trained by Miller’s father, Darrin.
“I think I’ll be nervous, but Ill try my hardest to be real calm,” Miller said.
Miller, who said he has dreamed of becoming a jockey since he was 10 years old and has spent countless hours in the jockeys’ room, only recently began to fully strive toward achieving his goal. He spent the past two years working in his father’s barn in Kentucky and Florida, and this past year breezed horses for trainers Christophe Clement, Roger Attfield and Vicki Oliver, among others.
“I started riding when I was 16,” Miller said. “When I was 14 I wanted it to become a reality, but I didn’t want to work hard for it. Darrin had me jog this old racehorse, and I was just so weak I just didn’t want to do anymore so I just completely let it go. I was still in school and I wanted to join the Army.”
Not long after, Chase grew serious.
“I called (Darrin) when he was in Florida and asked him if I could just hotwalk for a little bit,” he said. “When I went down there I hotwalked for about a month and then I started getting on the pony and going out there, and then I wanted it all back. That’s when I really started working hard for it.”
Miller already has goals for his career. One of them should be happen when he breaks from the starting gate in his debut.
“Short-term goals – to ride with Calvin Borel, and luckily I get to do that (in Wednesday’s race),” Miller said. “I was really excited when I saw in the overnight that Calvin’s going to be on the inside of me.”
As for his riding style, Miller said he probably resembles riders such as Borel and Garrett Gomez.
“Everyone’s just got a bunch of different styles, and I just try to pick at each one and take one.”
For an aspiring jockey to become an apprentice, he or she must receive approval from the track starter by successfully breaking horses out of the starting gate, done during morning training, and apply for and receive an apprentice license from the stewards.
Miller was approved on April 18.
“We broke him (from the starting gate), and he’s done a good job,” said longtime Keeneland starter Robert “Spec” Alexander.
To Miller, the approval process seemed to take forever.
“(You’re) always asking, ‘Did I get it? Did I get it? Did I get it?’ And then when you finally get it it’s the best feeling,” Miller said. “I feel better about myself now because Spec told me I’m the first kid that’s come back to ride in 17 years that he’s seen.”
Alexander said Miller is the first jockey in recent memory who has both been approved to ride and made his debut at Keeneland within the same meet.
“We run such a short meet at Keeneland, and to OK a kid you’ve got to see him a lot in the morning working horses and things like that,” Alexander said. “You want to see a rider work a horse and you ought to see him put (the horse) in the gate by himself so (you can see how) he handles the horse by himself.”
Amanda Tamburello was approved to ride two years ago, but she rode her first race as an apprentice in Chicago.
Miller spent two race days with the starting gate crew to watch jockeys break from the gate.
“I learned a lot from Spec,” Miller said. “Even though I just got (approved to ride), now I would tell any rider, any kid who wanted to ride, ‘Go to Spec, because he’ll teach you everything you need.’ ”
RACING HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES HAVE KEENELAND CONNECTIONS
On Monday morning, the announcement was made that trainer Roger Attfield, who is overseeing a string at Keeneland, was selected for induction into the Racing Hall of Fame, as were jockey John Velazquez, who rode Wise Dan to win Sunday’s Ben Ali (G3), Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and the late trainer Robert Wheeler.
Attfield, who was born in England, has received the Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer in Canada a record eight times. At Keeneland, he has 61 victories, including 15 stakes wins, since he sent out his first starter here in 1986. Within 13 days in April 1990, he won the Transylvania and Forerunner (G3) with Kinghaven Farms’ Izvestia, who went on to win the Canadian Triple Crown and became that year’s Horse of the Year in Canada.
Velazquez has ridden 4,806 winners and the earners of more than $264 million in his career. He rode at Keeneland for the first time in 1994 and to date has 139 victories and 30 stakes wins here. He was the leading jockey during the 2005 spring meet with 21 victories.
The Kentucky-bred Ghostzapper never raced at Keeneland, but he sired the highest-priced winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) when his son Stately Victor won the race in 2010 at odds of 40-1. A homebred for Stronach Stables, Ghostzapper, by Awesome Again, won nine races in 11 starts, including the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and earned $3,346,120.
(Stately Victor is entered in the sixth race at Keeneland on Friday. The race is his 2012 debut.)
In 1960, Wheeler was training the West Coast-based division of C.V. Whitney’s powerful stable. That year, he won Keeneland’s most famous race, the Blue Grass, with Whitney’s homebred Tom Fool colt, Tompion. Bill Shoemaker rode Tompion, who had won the Santa Anita Derby and scored a 2 3/4-length victory in the Blue Grass while defeating three rivals. Tompion was the 11-10 favorite for the Kentucky Derby and finished fourth to Venetian Way.
Wheeler, a Nebraska native, died in 1992 at age 72.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is on August 10 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
LOPRESTI KEEPS WINNING IN THE FAMILY
On Sunday, trainer Charlie Lopresti scored two of his three wins during the Keeneland spring meet with horses making their 2012 debuts. He won the sixth race, for maidens, with Let's Go Ben, a 3-year-old half-brother to Grade 1 winner Here Comes Ben. He won the eighth, the Ben Ali (G3), with Wise Dan, who ran off to a 10 1/2-length victory and broke Keeneland’s 1 1/8-mile track record. Both horses were ridden by John Velazquez, who the next day was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.
“It’s been a long winter waiting on them, but they came back good,” said Lopresti, who is based at Keeneland year-round.
By Songandaprayer, Let’s Go Ben is a homebred racing for Brandon and Marianne Chase, who also bred and raced Here Comes Ben. Here Comes Ben, a son of Street Cry (IRE) who won two of his three career starts at Keeneland, entered stud this year at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in New York.
Wise Dan, a 5-year-old gelding by Wiseman’s Ferry, is a homebred racing for Mort Fink, who also bred and races the gelding’s 6-year-old half-brother, Successful Dan, winner of Keeneland’s Greenbrier Fayette (G2) in 2010. Making his first start in 17 months, Successful Dan won an April 6 allowance race at Keeneland. On Tuesday, he worked a bullet five furlongs in :59, with Julien Leparoux aboard. Successful Dan is to make his next start in the Alysheba (G2) on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Among Lopresti’s other starters at Keeneland is Four D Stable’s Turallure, who finished second by a neck in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) on April 13. Turallure, who is to make his next start in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on May 5 at Churchill, also worked on Tuesday, going five furlongs around the dogs on the Keeneland turf in 1:02.60. Leparoux was aboard.
Sunday’s card opened with two trainers earning their first Keeneland victories. In the first race, trainer William D. Cowans achieved the feat with Michael A. Foster’s Brezing Rain. Brian J. Hernandez Jr. rode the 6-year-old Whywhywhy mare to win the seven-furlong claiming race by a nose in 1:23.59. In the second race, Coteau Grove Farms LLC’s How Pleasant won for trainer Patrick Devereux Jr. Robby Albarado rode the 4-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor to win a six-furlong maiden race by 2¼ lengths in 1:10.85.