Thanksgiving Day features four graded stakes for horseplayers, with two at Churchill Downs and one each at Aqueduct and Del Mar.
A highly-contentious field of 10 filly and mare turf specialists are set for Thursday’s 45th renewal of the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap (Grade III) – a 1 1/8-mile test over the grass at Churchill Downs.
The co-feature on the 12-race Thanksgiving Day card, along with the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GIII), is slated as Race 9 with a post time of 3:24 p.m. (all times Eastern). The first post gets underway at a special time of 11:30 a.m.
The Cardinal Handicap field is topped by 118-pound starting high weights Bonnie Arch, the Ellis Park Turf winner, and One Dreamer Stakes runner-up I Remember Mama.
Bonnie Arch (20-4-3—$173,299), owned by Clarendon Stable, scored a half-length win in the Ellis Park Turf for trainer Ian Wilkes on July 8. The 5-year-old Regal Ransom mare more recently finished third in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Preview at Ellis prior to a lackluster eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, which was won by Insta Erma.
The homebred will be ridden by Wilkes’ son-in-law Chris Landeros from the far outside post position No. 10.
On the opposite end of the starting gate is Lewis Schaffel’s I Remember Mama (7-3-3-1—$172,800), who recently scored a one-length win over “soft” turf at Keeneland in an Oct. 27 allowance race. The 4-year-old filly by Ghostzapper finished a half-length behind Bonnie Arch in the Ellis Park Turf Preview before her second-place finish in the One Dreamer at Kentucky Downs.
Trained by Tommy Drury Jr., I Remember Mama will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.
Chilukki Winner Divine Miss Grey Tops Falls City Handicap
Corms Racing Stable and R. A. Hill Stable’s Chilukki Stakes (Grade II) winner Divine Miss Grey is the 122-pound starting high weight for Thursday’s 103rd renewal of the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GII) – the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving holiday racing feast at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/8-mile Falls City for fillies and mares is scheduled as the 11th event at 4:22 p.m. (all times EST) on a 12-race program that begins with a special first race post time of 11:30 a.m. The undercard also includes the 45th running of the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course, which goes as Race 9 at 3:24 p.m.
Divine Miss Grey (22-11-5-1—$807,672), a 4-year-old filly by Divine Park, rallied from just off the early pace in the Nov. 3 Chilukki to defeat four rivals as the 4-5 favorite for east coast trainer Danny Gargan. The Kentucky-bred filly previously finished second by 3 ¼ lengths in Belmont Park’s $400,000 Beldame Invitational (GI) on Oct. 6 after winning the $182,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes at Parx by 7 ¾ lengths in September.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione has the call on Divine Miss Grey in the Falls City and will break from the rail in the field of eight.
Among Divine Miss Grey’s likely rivals is G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and Ashbrook Farm’s 3-year-old filly Skeptic, who most notably won the $106,000 Monmouth Oaks (GIII) in August. Based with trainer Rusty Arnold II’s Keeneland string, Skeptic broke her maiden in April at the Lexington, Ky. track by three-quarters of a length. The filly then won a first-level allowance on May 13 at Churchill Downs by 4 ¼ lengths under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. She looks to rebound from an eighth-place finish in the Oct. 7 Spinster (GI) after being unprepared at the start.
Skeptic (8-3-1-1—$167,806) will once again be ridden by Hernandez and break from post No. 4.
Also entered in the Falls City is Iowa Distaff winner Dreamcall for owner Mike Rutherford and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The daughter of Midnight Lute will try to round back into form following non-competitive finishes in the Beldame and Royal Delta Stakes. Prior to that, she finished a close second to Berned in July’s Molly Pitcher (GIII) at Monmouth Park.
Jockey Robby Albarado has the mount on Dreamcall (18-5-3-2—$301,484) who drew post 5.
Fall Highweight at Aqueduct
A wide-open field of nine horses will battle it out for Thanksgiving spoils in the 105th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Fall Highweight going six furlongs on Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The traditional centerpiece of a 9-race Thanksgiving holiday card with a special 11:50 a.m. first post-time, the Fall Highweight will be featured along with the $150,000 Winter Memories and the $100,000 Central Park.
Runaway Lute, a 4-year-old New York-bred son of Midnight Lute for owners Harold Lerner and Nehoc Stables, enters the Fall Highweight following a victory in the Hudson Handicap on October 20 at Belmont Park. Set to make only his fourth start of the year due to a number of minor setbacks and first against open company since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course as a juvenile, he is now in good health according to trainer Gary Contessa.
“He’s in good condition now following his win in the Hudson,” said Contessa. “He’s always been a bit difficult to keep sound, but thankfully he’s been healthy as of recent.”
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for three of Runaway Lute’s four career victories, is slated to ride and Contessa is confident in the rider’s ability to work out the best trip.
“He’s a very versatile horse and can adjust to any scenario as the race develops,” added Contessa. “Javier knows this horse well and has ridden him a number of times, so I’m confident in whatever spot he wants to put him in coming out the gate.”
Runaway Lute will depart from post 5 carrying 126 pounds.
Got Stormy looking to rebound in Winter Memories
Gary Barber’s Got Stormy will look to get back to winning ways in Thursday’s $150,000 Winter Memories, part of a stakes-laden Thanksgiving card, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Mark Casse, the Get Stormy chestnut enjoyed a spectacular run of form this summer when travelling a mile on the turf, winning the Penn Oaks, the Wild Applause at Belmont Park and the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen at Woodbine with prominent trips.
The talented filly was expected to take her roadshow to California for the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, until the plan was derailed through illness. Following a three-month layoff, Got Stormy returned to action on October 13 at Belmont in the Pebbles but failed to handle the soft going when seventh.
“Unfortunately, she was supposed to go to California (for the Del Mar Oaks) and she got sick and that’s why she didn’t run for a while,” said Casse. “She trained really well up to her last race, but just didn’t handle the turf. She’s trained really well again up to this race, but we’ll have to see what the turf is like. We’re going to monitor how the turf is coming up to the race and see what happens. If it’s really soft, she probably won’t run.”
With four wins from eight starts, Casse holds Got Stormy in high regard and cites her good gate speed as a significant weapon for pilot Jose Ortiz as the filly squares off against a talented field of 11 in the 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies.
“I think anytime you can be a little more forwardly placed, it allows you to control the race more than the race controlling you,” said Casse. “She’s got some gas, so she can be on the lead or close to it. Ultimately, when you have a horse that can do that, it gives them a better trip. She’s a filly we took our time with and I think she’s gotten better and better. It’s unfortunate she got sick, but now we have to get her back into place.”
Trainer Chad Brown, who won this event last year with Rymska, will saddle the formidable duo of Competitionofideas and Significant Form.
Competitionofideas, a dark bay daughter of Speightstown, will make her stakes debut on a two-race win streak, both over 1 1/16-miles of good Belmont turf, that includes her graduation on September 7 and an allowance score on October 21. Never worse than fourth in five career starts, the improving filly, owned by Klaravich Stables and out of the graded stakes winning dam Devil by Design, will leave from post three under regular rider Javier Castellano.
Significant Form, a Creative Cause grey owned by Stephanie Seymour Brant, won the Grade 3 Miss Grillo in just her second career start ahead of a solid fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She launched her sophomore campaign with a victory in the Memories Of Silver at Aqueduct before a trio of graded races finishing second in the Grade 3 Wonder Again, fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational and fifth last out in the Grade 2 Lake Placid. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride from post 11 as Significant Form returns to the scene of her most recent win.