Grade I winner Ballingarry and defending winner Kim Loves Bucky head a field of nine older turf runners assembled at Churchill Downs on Memorial Day for the Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT).
The 1 3/8ths-mile race for 3-year-olds and up on the Matt Winn Turf Course is the centerpiece of a special 10-race Memorial Day holiday card.
Ballingarry, a 5-year-old son of Sadler's Wells owned by the Sidney Port Trust, Marsha Naify and San Gabriel Investments, shipped from trainer Laura de Seroux's California stable to compete. The Irish-bred veteran has raced only twice this year, finishing fourth in both the Jim Murray Memorial at Hollywood Park and the Arcadia Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita. De Seroux said she hopes that Ballingarry will find the footing on the Churchill Downs turf more forgiving than the firm grass courses in California.
"He ran a decent fourth in the Jim Murray, but he was just a little off the bridle," she said. "It was just a track that was stinging his feet." A victory in the 2002 Canadian International (Can-I) at Woodbine marked a very successful North American debut for Ballingarry, but a half-length win in last July's Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) at Arlington Park has been his only other triumph in eight subsequent races. He brings a career record of 5-1-4 in 18 races and earnings of $1,573,975 into Monday's race, where he figures to be a prominent player as the 2-1 morning line favorite. Foot problems have slowed his progress over the past year, but de Seroux said those ailments are under control. Ballingarry will carry high weight of 120 pounds and jockey Mark Guidry as he bids to snap a four-race losing streak.
Defending winner Kim Loves Bucky will attempt to halt a six-race losing skid that dates back to his win in last year's Louisville. Kim Glenney's 7-year-old son of Green Dancer is coming off a fourth place finish behind Epicentre in Keeneland's Elkhorn (gr. IIIT), a 1 1/2-mile race that marked his first start since early October.
Rafael Bejarano will ride the 3-1 second choice, who will carry 117 pounds.
Other contenders in the Louisville include Augustin Stable's 2003 runner-up Rochester, who is trained by steeplechase legend Jonathan Sheppard; Team Victory II's Art Variety, third to Epicentre in the Elkhorn for trainer Ken McPeek; and Chrysalis Stable's Silverfoot, a recent turf allowance winner for trainer Dallas Stewart.
$100,000 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 1 3/8 mile on turf
PP. Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Dia Allegre (110) Larry Melancon 15-1
2. Rochester (116) Cornelio Velasquez 9-2
3. Silverfoot (114) Robby Albarado 6-1
4. Spruce Hero (110) Calvin Borel 15-1
5. Ballingarry (120) Mark Guidry 2-1
6. Art Variety (115) Brice Blanc 5-1
7. Feel The Wind (110) John McKee 20-1
8. Kim Loves Bucky (117) Rafael Bejarano 3-1
9. Gottabeachboy (108) Brian Hernandez, Jr. 50-1