Churchill Race Report: Cash and Bounty

Published in the July 14 Blood-Horse
The filly, purchased privately in late June, already has returned dividends. The colt went through the auction ring earlier this year for what thus far appears to be a bargain. And judging from their performances at Churchill Downs on closing weekend of the spring meet, there's more to come.

Cashier's Dream, a Michigan-bred filly now owned by Team Valor and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, crushed the opposition in the $110,500 Debutante Stakes (gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies July 7 in track-record time.

Lunar Bounty, a Florida-bred owned by Texas car dealer Tom Durant, comfortably defeated fellow 2-year-old colts in the $133,750 Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. II) July 8 in stakes-record time.

Between them, they're perfect in five starts with more than $202,000 in the bank. Not a bad number considering Service Stripe, sire of Cashier's Dream, stands for $2,500, and Migrating Moon, sire of Lunar Bounty, stands for $1,500.

Cashier's Dream was bred by James and Laura Jackson, who migrated to Kentucky in 1999 after Detroit Race Course closed. The couple owned the filly, and James Jackson trained her to two victories at Churchill -- a $50,000 maiden-claiming event May 18, and an allowance test for nonwinners-of-two on June 20.

Team Valor president Barry Irwin said he liked what he saw after the filly's initial start and purchased her immediately after her second start. "We had a contract in the guy's hands the very next day," Irwin said.

Irwin said he wasn't thrilled with racing Cashier's Dream with only 17 days between starts, but the Debutante came up light. In fact, Cashier's Dream was the only member of the field who had won a race other than a maiden test.

With Donnie Meche in the irons for new trainer Steve Asmussen, second choice Cashier's Dream broke on top in the eight-filly field. Stalked from the outset by Lakeside Cup, the eventual second-place finisher, Cashier's Dream rolled through fractions of :21.80 and :44.67.

When asked by Meche, she dispensed with the outside challenge of Lakeside Cup at the top of the stretch and glided to a 3 1/2-length score in 1:02.52, a track record for 5 1/2 furlongs. The previous record of 1:03.11 was set in May by the 2-year-old colt Leelanau.

Lakeside Cup was an easy second, 6 1/4 lengths ahead of favored Colonial Glitter, who tracked the top pair most of the way.

"Initial discussions were not to run her in the Debutante," Asmussen said. "There was possibly going to be a little overnight (stakes) up at Arlington, and she's eligible for some Michigan-bred stakes -- those were kind of the conservative ideas. We breezed her over the track, and it would have been impossible not to let her (race in the Debutante). She obviously excels over this surface and is just a dynamite little filly."

"We thought she'd win, but we didn't expect the fireworks," Irwin said. "She's OK looking, and her pedigree is very regional, but she has a great mind and a great temperament."

Cashier's Dream, who could start next in the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Aug. 13, earned $68,510 to lift her earnings to $103,230. The victory marked a milestone for Irwin and Jeffrey Siegel's Team Valor -- it was the 100th stakes win for the partnership formed in 1987.


BOUNTIFUL COLT

Lunar Bounty didn't have as easy a time winning the Bashford Manor, but trainer Ronnie Werner had no problem with what he saw. With Frank Lovato Jr. aboard, Lunar Bounty, who wired the field in his debut score at Arlington Park June 21, had to work a lot harder this time around.

With Binyamin to his inside, and favored Storm Passage to his outside, Lunar Bounty disputed the pace through splits of :21.22 and :44.42. Despite having to race between foes, he opened by a length in the stretch, and finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Binyamin, with Storm Passage another 1 1/4 lengths back in third in the five-horse field. He covered the six furlongs in a sharp 1:09.90.

Like Cashier's Dream, Lunar Bounty really wasn't expected to compete at Churchill on closing weekend. Werner said the racing office called him, and he decided to race based on how well the colt trained at Arlington.

Werner, who got his start as a Quarter Horse trainer, caught the racing world's eye when several of his 2-year-olds won at first asking this spring at Keeneland. Werner also trains Durant's City Street, who won the Three Chimneys Juvenile in a dead heat earlier in the Churchill meet.

"It gets me wanting to move (to Kentucky)," said Werner, who hails from Texas. "It has been a lot of fun. When I first came up here, I had to ask people where the tracks were. But horses can take you to these places if you have the good ones."

Lunar Bounty has earned $99,725 and may also be headed to Saratoga, Werner said. Durant purchased the colt for $60,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March 2-year-olds in training sale.


A FEW FIREWORKS

He had to survive an objection, but Gainsborough Farm's Irish Prize took home the top prize in the $276,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at a mile July 4. The odds-on favorite Irish Prize had won the grade I Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in his previous start.

With Gary Stevens up for trainer Neil Drysdale, Irish Prize, who proved difficult to load, raced at the rear in the seven-horse field but launched a wide bid on the turn. He leaned in a bit late while in the midst of his rally in the lane and nosed out Where's Taylor, who was first or second throughout the race.

Aly's Alley, the third horse under the wire, was squeezed between Where's Taylor to his inside, and Irish Prize to his outside. Jockey Calvin Borel claimed foul, and the stewards ruled Where's Taylor had drifted in. He was placed third behind Aly's Alley.

Irish Prize, who now has eight wins in 20 starts and earnings of $848,524, won despite the fact he apparently doesn't care for Churchill's turf course.

"This horse ran terrible here last year, and I think had he not really been on top of his game today, we would have been in big trouble because he did not handle this turf course again, for whatever reason," Stevens said. "But he ran a hell of a race today. He was struggling with the turf, though, all the way around, whether it be from the rain or whatever reason."

The course was rated good, but the final time for the mile -- 1:34.68 -- was less than a second off the record for the distance.


A NAIL-BITER, ONCE AGAIN

For the second year in a row, the spring meet training title ended up in a dead heat, and once again, Dale Romans was in the photo.

Romans and Bernie Flint each won 22 races, and the battle went down to the meet's final race. Romans held a one-win lead, but Flint won with first-time starter Interest Only for owners Richard, Elaine, and Bertram Klein. It was the only horse Flint had in on closing day.

"I think when you get older, you get lucky," Flint said with a laugh. "I know I'm not getting any smarter, so I guess that's it. We only had one bullet left, so I guess it was in the cards."

Romans tied for the title last spring with D. Wayne Lukas. He won the first race on closing day this year to tie Flint, and then the second race to take the lead with Mike Tarp and John Rathwell's I Will Survive, who was ridden by Tammy Fox, the trainer's wife.

"I feel pretty good about it," Romans said after a joint presentation after the final race. "When it goes back and forth the way it did, it's a shame for one of us to have to lose it. Tammy winning that race to put us one in front really topped off the meet."

The leading rider with 86 wins was Pat Day, who took his 30th Churchill riding crown. Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey were the leading owners for the third consecutive meet with 14 victories.

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