The last time Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro raced at Churchill Downs, he finished a disappointing eighth, 15 lengths behind Big Brown, in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). In the June 14 Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, trainer Steve Asmussen looks for a much-improved effort.
Two other trainers – Louie Roussel III and Michael Matz – send their Kentucky Derby contenders back to the track for the first time since May 3 as well.
The $175,000 Northern Dancer, run at 1 1/16-miles, has drawn a field of seven 3-year-olds competing on "Stephen Foster Super Saturday" under the Twin Spires, which his highlighted by the appearance of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin in the $1-million Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). The runners in the Northern Dancer include the Roussel-trained Recapturetheglory (fifth in the Derby) and the Matz-trained Visionaire (12th). Pyro, by Pulpit, shares the high weight of 122 with Recapturetheglory, by Cherokee Run.
The latter, winner of the April 5 Illinois Derby (gr. II) for Roussel and co-owner Ronnie Lamarque, had been pointed toward a start in the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), but a fever that popped up less than 10 days before that race scuttled those plans. Bred in Kentucky by Charles Jacobi, Recapturetheglory shocked racing fans when scoring the Illinois Derby win with only a maiden score to his credit.
The former, a Winchell homebred, opened the year with authoritative victories in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, but ran 10th over Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) prior to his unplaced Derby run.
Second to Pyro in the Louisiana Derby was My Pal Charlie, the B. Wayne Hughes runner who followed up that effort with fifth-place results in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) for trainer Al Stall Jr. An Indian Charlie colt, he seeks his first win since a February allowance score at Fair Grounds.
Matz, who won last year's edition of the Northern Dancer with Chelokee, will saddle Visonaire – a son of Grand Slam – as he makes his eighth career start. A winner of three of seven attempts thus far, the Team Valor International and Vision Racing starter scored in the Gotham (gr. III) this March.
Texas Wildcatter was second in the Gotham for trainer Todd Pletcher, but the Stonerside Stable runner has not turned in a solid effort in two attempts since. He ran eighth in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and was sixth in the May 10 Lone Star Derby (gr. III). A homebred son of Monarchos, he holds his maiden and an allowance score to his credit.
Jim Tafel’s Unbridled Vicar, a gelded son of Vicar, could very well stand a chance in this race. Unraced since an April 4 score in a Hawthorne allowance event, he got that win by three-quarters of a length after an awkward start and a five-wide rally down the center of the track. Trained by Greg Geier, he has only one black mark on his record – a last-place finish of nine in the Louisiana Derby. Aside from that race, he has never finished worse than fourth.
Zabeel Racing International’s Tiz Now Tiz Then comes off back-to-back scores after breaking his maiden at Keeneland and winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance event at Churchill for trainer Eoin Harty May 8. The allowance score was son of Tiznow’s first start on dirt.
$175,000 Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III, race 8, approximate post 4:49 p.m. EDT), 1 1/16-miles for 3-year-olds, dirt
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Recapturetheglory, 122, E. T. Baird
2. Pyro, 122, Shaun Bridgmohan
3. Tiz Now Tiz Then, 116, Miguel Mena
4. Unbridled Vicar, 116, Calvin Borel
5. My Pal Charlie, 116, Jamie Theriot
6. Visionaire, 120, Garrett Gomez
7. Texas Wildcatter, 116, Julien Leparoux