Espoir City gets a feel for Churchill
Two days after arriving at Churchill Downs from Japan, Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) hopeful ESPOIR CITY (Jpn) (Gold Allure) got the opportunity to set foot on the track beneath the Twin Spires.
Leaving the quarantine barn at 9 a.m. (EDT) Thursday morning, Espoir City was accompanied to the track by a pony. The two jogged in the mile chute for about 20 minutes before Espoir City galloped 1 1/4 miles under exercise rider Toshiyuki Abematsu.
'We just wanted to get him out for some light exercise because he was climbing the walls in the barn,' said Mikki Tsuge, West Coast representative for the Japan Racing Association. 'He will probably go out about the same time tomorrow when there is not as much traffic on the track.'
Tsuge said that trainer Akio Adachi, who was here for the five-year-old horse's arrival Tuesday, returned to Japan on Wednesday and would be back in Louisville, Kentucky, the first part of Breeders' Cup week. Jockey Tetsuzo Sato, who has been aboard Espoir City for 16 of his 20 starts, would arrive in Louisville on Friday night and be at the track on Saturday and Sunday before returning to Japan.
'Mr. Adachi has some horses in races over the weekend,' Tsuge said. 'He has a lot of trust in Sato. Espoir City has been a project for both Mr. Adachi and Sato and it was Sato who recommended that Espoir City go on dirt.'
A winner of 10 of 13 races on dirt, Espoir City has earned $5,963,979 but never has raced at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles during his career in Japan. While Sato is in town, he is expected to work Espoir City either Saturday or Sunday.
In other Breeders' Cup news:
The lights will be on for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, but the scene will be nothing new for multiple Grade 1 star BLAME (Arch), one of the favorites for the race.
'The third night they ran here last year under the portable lights, he won,' trainer Al Stall Jr. said. 'He handled them fine, no problems at all.'
The Classic is not scheduled to be run under the track's permanent lights, which were installed this year. But with the scheduled post time of 6:45 p.m., and sunset on that November 6 being at 6:38 p.m., the lights are likely to be on for the Classic as a precaution -- especially if the day is cloudy.
Stall plans to work Blame on Sunday at Keeneland and then bring the four-year-old to Churchill Downs on Wednesday 'to let him hang out. He will have six training days here.'
Blame is scheduled to have his lone Churchill Downs work on October 31, with jockey Garrett Gomez up.
Also coming with Blame is J. B.'S THUNDER (Thunder Gulch), winner of the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland on October 9.
'He will work tomorrow morning at 8:15 at Keeneland,' Stall said Thursday. 'He will go back to the track Sunday and Monday and if everything is perfect, we will pull the trigger and pre-enter (in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile [G1]).'
The most recent time trainer Tom Proctor saddled a horse in the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs it was a six-year-old mare named One Dreamer, who scored a shocking 47-1 upset win for Glen Hill Farm in the 1994 Distaff (G1).
Proctor hopes to have another runner for Glen Hill in this year's Juvenile Turf (G2) in BANNED (Kitten's Joy), a five-length allowance winner at 1-2 odds on October 17 at Keeneland.
'He should get in,' Proctor said of Banned, who is two-for-two on the turf. 'He broke his maiden the same way at Saratoga.'
One Dreamer led all the way under Gary Stevens, defeating a Distaff (now Ladies' Classic) field that included the likes of Heavenly Prize, Hollywood Wildcat and Sky Beauty.
'She never should have been 47-1,' Proctor said. 'She won (the Louisville H. [G2]) here that spring and the year before in the fall she ran second to Miss Indy Anna (in the Churchill Downs H. [G2]). I had run her on turf all that summer before the Breeders' Cup.'
Proctor said a decision has not been made on pre-entering KEERTANA (Johar) in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The $100,000 Cardinal H. (G3) is also a possibility for the four-year-old Keertana, winner of the 2009 Regret (G3) here and most recently fourth in the Flower Bowl Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park on October 2.
Keertana's half-sister, Snow Top Mountain (Najran), is being pointed to the Mrs. Revere (G2) for three-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs on November 20, according to Proctor. Snow Top Mountain ran fifth in last Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland.
Traffic will begin to pick up in the Churchill stable area on Friday with an arrival of horses from California for the Breeders' Cup. Coming in from California on Friday via a Tex Sutton charter are Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) contender SMILING TIGER (Hold That Tiger) and a handful of horses for trainer John Sadler to join the four horses he has in Barn 39.
Five charters are scheduled in next week, beginning Tuesday with a contingent from New York that will include a number of horses for trainer Todd Pletcher. Sutton also has flights coming in October 29 from California and October 30 from New York.
Also on October 30, Godolphin runners are expected in from Europe on one charter with a second charter bringing other European-based horses. Sutton has charters arriving in Louisville from California and New York on October 31 and November 2. Irish-based horses are scheduled to arrive on November 1.
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