Churchill Downs Race Report: Good Day

Published in the July 13 issue of The Blood-Horse
Churchill Downs closed out its spring meeting over the Independence Day weekend with a display of emerging stars in the turf mile and 2-year-old divisions.

Good Journey returned with a bang to win the $292,500 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) on July 4. The strapping chestnut won a mile allowance over the Matt Winn Turf Course on June 15, departed for the kinder climes of trainer Wally Dollase's barn at Hollywood Park to beat the heat, then jetted back to steamy Churchill for the Firecracker. The 6-year-old son of Nureyev, owned by the partnership of Michael Jarvis and his breeder, Flaxman Holdings, did not race at two, and did not break his maiden until the fall of his 4-year-old season, but now has five wins from 12 lifetime starts, two of them in graded stakes. He was the 2-1 second choice in the Firecracker.

Turf sprinter Morluc broke on top, then tracked pacesetting Even the Score through fractions of :23.33, :46.73, 1:11.20, and 1:22.93, while Good Journey was rated behind the leaders under a patient Pat Day. Morluc assumed the lead briefly in the stretch, but yielded to Good Journey. The winner needed a couple of left-handed taps to refocus when he drifted toward the grandstand at the sixteenth pole, but drew away from a game Morluc to a 1 1/4-length victory in 1:34.83.

Even the Score finished third. Strut the Stage fizzled as the 9-5 favorite, never running better than a dead heat for sixth.

"We were very pleased with what we'd seen last time with this horse," Day said of Good Journey, "and I was looking forward to this afternoon."

The win was significant for Day. While rocketing to another riding title in the meet that was about to close, Churchill's all-time leading stakes-winning jockey had been winless in stakes to that point in the meet, but salvaged one with the Firecracker.

Good Journey had won the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24 of last year, two starts back, will now get a rest, then point to the Atto Mile (Can-I), Dollase said. The Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Arlington Park is the season's goal.

"He'll love that place," Dollase said. "He loves a track like he had for the Citation. He loves a little 'give' in the ground."

Taste for a turf mile resounds in Good Journey's pedigree, top and bottom. He is out of the Private Account mare Chimes of Freedom; her half-sister, Imperfect Circle, is the dam of 1997 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Spinning World.

Awesome Juveniles
Tom Durant's Awesome Humor got off to a bumpy start, then rolled from fifth place to a two-length victory over Vibs and five other rivals in the July 6 feature, the $109,500 Debutante Stakes (gr. III). The Ronny Werner trainee, by Distorted Humor out of the Pass the Tab mare Horns Gray, had won her only other start, at Keeneland, on April 11, but was overlooked at 7-1.

Blues in Seattle became the 3-2 favorite off a maiden win in her only start at Churchill on June 9, after unbeaten Holiday Runner, who had defeated boys in Churchill's Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day, was declared out of the Debutante due to a fever. Blues in Seattle dueled with D' Nile, then Vibs, through fractions of :22.24 and :45.25, before winding up fourth, behind third-place finisher Attemptress. Under urging from Calvin Borel, Awesome Humor covered the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.45.

The $136,250 Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) on July 7 saw the stakes record fall when Lone Star Sky charged to a 3 1/2-length victory over 3-5 favorite Posse and five other rivals. The son of Conquistador Cielo and the Deputy Minister mare Ministrada, owned by Walter "Buddy" New, had broken his maiden at Arlington Park on June 13.

Wild Bid leaped out to a hot opening quarter in :21.39, with Posse and Boston Park taking it to the half in :45.09. Posse assumed a narrow lead in the stretch, getting five panels in :57.25, but in mid-stretch Lone Star Sky, third in the early going, surged past under right-handed urging by Mark Guidry, to get the six furlongs in 1:09.68.

The win by Lone Star Sky tied his trainer, Tom Amoss, with Dale Romans for the spring meet training title at 23 wins apiece. Romans now has tied for three titles, while this marked Amoss' first Churchill title.

(Chart, Equibase)