Joe Woodard, leading trainer at River Downs for the last two years and on course for a third if his current form holds, tied and then broke Patrick Byrne's Churchill Downs record of eight consecutive wins on the May 26 card at the Louisville track.
Woodard matched Byrne's mark of eight straight wins in the sixth race when his 5-year-old gelded son of Holy Bull
, Native Bull, third in a $58,000 allowance at the Keeneland spring meet, dropped into a field of $8,000 claimers to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Woodard, who had said publicly that the milestone was the impetus for the class drop, lost the horse when he was claimed by owner/trainer Eddie Kenneally. Thirty-two claims were dropped for NativeBull and, after four of the claims were voided, there was a 28-way shake for the horse.
In the seventh race, Woodard saddled the favored Quick Blend, a 3-year-old colt by Wised Up, who romped by 11 3/4 lengths and also changed ownership, claimed by Steve Fugitte and trainer Ron Kohnhorst for a $10,000 tag. There were eight claims for Quick Blend.
Woodard's fiancee, jockey Angela Owens, rode Quick Blend. Woodard and Owens have a daughter, Caitlin, who shared the winner's circle celebration with her parents.
Woodard received his training license in 1992 and currently keeps over a dozen horses at Churchill Downs.
"It's nice being here from Louisville and getting all the phone calls from the people I grew up with, and those that I've met and have been associated with over the year," Woodard said. "It's an extra special deal being from here."
Woodard's streak started on Friday the 13th, but he has had nothing but good luck under the Twin Spires since then. Eight of Woodard's nine winners are owned by Billy Hays, a Louisville auto dealer who now holds the track's record for consecutive wins by an owner.
"Joe does a great job and he flies under the radar most of the year," said Hays. "They know him at River Downs and now maybe they know him at Churchill Downs. Joe and Angela work real hard, as do a lot of trainers, and they don't all get the recognition that they deserve. And Patrick Byrne -- it's an honor to be in the same category with him for Joe, because he's a class guy and a Hall of Fame caliber trainer. To be mentioned with him is a good deal."
The record-breaking win by Owens was her first victory of the meet.
Woodard expressed relief after his first win of the day with Native Bull, which allowed him to tie Byrne's record for consecutive victories.
"I'm proud for the horse and I'm really glad for Billy Hays," said Woodard. "He's been a great owner for me. He's a local guy, too and he's been playing the game for a long time and I'm glad to see him on the end of the things here where we're having a lot of fun."
Woodard said after the record-tying win that it was special to enjoy a special run at Churchill Downs -- despite the personal pressure he felt as he neared the record.
"It's neat for us, because we don't have a lot of graded (stakes) type horses," he said. "We've got claiming horses. To get these claiming horses to come over and perform every time, it's tough to do. I can't say how much luck is involved. We've been on a really lucky streak."