LIVE THOROUGHBRED RACING AT HARRAH’S LOUISIANA DOWNS GETS UNDERWAY ON SATURDAY, MAY 4

Opening Day Features Eight Races and the Simulcast of the 145th Kentucky Derby

 

Bossier City, LA – The 2019 Thoroughbred racing season at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs commences on Saturday, May 4. A new post time has been set for each Saturday with live racing to begin at 12:55 pm (Central). The meet’s additional race days of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will get underway at 3:15 pm.

 

Opening day will feature plenty of action for racing fans and an entertaining day for families as well. Beginning at 11:00 am along the track apron, there will be a children’s area with free bounce houses, water slides, face painting and culinary delights from the most popular food trucks in Shreveport-Bossier City.  Of course, racing fans will also be able to watch and wager on the  145th Kentucky Derby and each of the stakes races from Churchill Downs.

 

Track announcer John McGary and his guest, Jimmy “The Dee”, will conduct a pre-race handicapping seminar at The Inside Rail at 11:55 am. They will offer analysis of Saturday’s eight live races at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs as well as their insights on the Kentucky Derby.

 

Saturday will also mark the final day of the Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest which got underway at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs on January 19. Fans were able to make selections on major stakes races as well as the key Kentucky Derby prep races. Each participant earned points and following this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, the winner will be awarded the $1,000 grand prize.

 

“The response from our horseplayers for this contest has been exceptional,” said Eric Halstrom, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Vice President of Operations. “We appreciate the loyalty of our local race fans and look forward to kicking off the 2019 Thoroughbred racing season with our  opening day festivities, live racing, and of course, the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby.”

 

Trainers To Watch

Karl Broberg, who won the 2018 training title here with 36 wins, returns with a full barn. Last December, he became just the third Thoroughbred trainer in North America to win 500 races in a calendar year. Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen and Scott Lake were the only other horsemen to accomplish that feat.  Heading into May of this year, Broberg is the leading trainer, by wins, according to Equibase statistics.

 

Joey Foster of Vinton, Louisiana, who was the leading conditioner in 2016 and 2017,  Al Stall, Jr., Beverly Burress, H. B. Johnson,  James Hodges, Scott Gelner, Patti Turner, Jorge Gomez, Ronnie Ward, and Danny Pish will also be prominent throughout the meet.

 

“We thank our many returning horsemen for their support of our Thoroughbred meet,” said David Heitzmann, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Director of Racing. “While our Grade 3, $300,000 Super Derby always receives tremendous attention, we are also committed to carding plenty of races for accredited Louisiana-breds on both our main track and Franks Turf Course.”

 

Leading Rider Emanuel Nieves Hoping for A Second Title

Jockey Emanuel Nieves  won the first leading rider title of his career last September when he made 85 trips to the winner’s circle.  The hard-working and affable young man is eager to replicate his success at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs when the meet begins on Saturday.

 

Born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, a municipality south of San Juan, the 26-year-old Nieves attended Puerto Rico’s Escuela Vocational Hipica, the famed jockey school that also produced the sensational Ortiz brothers, Irad and Jose.

 

Two years ago, Nieves got the call from respected former rider and jockey agent Ronald Ardoin encouraging him to come to Louisiana Downs.

 

Nieves appreciates the hard work of his agent in getting him quality mounts. He rides for a multitude of trainers including Joey Foster, Al Stall, Jr., H. B. Johnson and Joe Duhon

 

“Every day he shows up at the barn, even on his days off.” explained Foster. “He has an excellent work ethic; he’s polite and very professional.”

 

Following last year’s meet at Louisiana Downs, Nieves made a trip to Puerto Rico to see his family and had an opportunity to ride several races at Hipodromo Camarero.

 

“Riding in Puerto Rico was very special for me,” he explained. “Plus, it is always wonderful to visit my family.”

 

And on that topic, Nieves proudly announced that he will become a father in October when he and his girlfriend of four years, Milyorie Marie, will welcome their first child, a son!

 

For now, his mindset is on arriving early each morning in the barn area, working horses for each of his clients and winning races four afternoons a week.

 

“I believe in working hard everyday and doing my best for the horsemen who I ride for,” stated Nieves. “I want to win the title here again!”

 

Nieves will have plenty of competition as the 2019 jockey colony will include Gerardo Mora, Aubrie Green, Larry Taylor, Erica Murray, Eguard Tejera, Hector Del-Cid and Jose Guerrero as the meet gets underway.

 

2019 Thoroughbred Stakes Schedule

The 84-day meet will include 14 stakes highlighted by two major stakes programs, Louisiana Cup Day on Saturday, August 3 and Super Derby Day on Saturday, September 7.

 

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs 2019 Stakes Schedule

Saturday, August 3                           Louisiana Cup Day               Noms close July 20

$50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile                    2 YO LA-Bred                        Six furlongs

$50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies          2 YO Fillies LA-Bred             Six furlongs

$50,000 Louisiana Cup Filly & Mare Sprint  3 YO & Up F&M, LA-Bred  Six furlongs

$50,000 Louisiana Cup Sprint                        3 YO & Up LA-Bred              Six furlongs

$50,000 Louisiana Cup Turf Classic              3 YO & Up LA-Bred              1 1/16 miles (T)

$50,000 Louisiana Distaff                              3 YO & Up F & M LA-Bred  1 1/16 miles (T)

$60,000 Super Derby Prelude                         3 Y0                                        1 1/16 miles

 

Saturday, September 7                     Super Derby Day                  Noms close August 24

$60,000 Frank L. Brothers                              3 YO & Up                             1 1/16 miles (T)

$60,000 River Cities                                       3 YO & Up F&M                    1 1/16 miles (T)

$60,000 Happy Ticket                                    2 YO Fillies                             One Mile (T)

$60,000 Sunday Silence                                 2 YO                                       One Mile (T) $300,000 SUPER DERBY (G3)              3 YO                                       1 1/16 miles

$60,000 A. L. (Red) Erwin                             3 YO LA-Bred                        One Mile (T)

$60,000 Elge Rasberry                                   3 YO Fillies, LA-Bred            One Mile (T)

 

To see a complete list of the stakes schedule, including nominations, click here.

 

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Special Events

145th Kentucky Derby                                                         Saturday, May 4

Watch and wager on the most anticipated race of the year from Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, all while sipping on a Mint Julep and donning your favorite derby! Post time for the race is 5:50pm (CST). And if you are looking for a great place to dine while watching all of the live racing action, Harrah’s Club has an All You Can Eat Buffet offering for just $29.99 per person ($39.99 on special race days). Harrah’s Club will be open on Saturdays May-September from 12pm until 6pm. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made by calling 318-752-6367.

 

Mother’s Day Diamond Dig                                                Saturday, May 11

Mothers can swipe their Caesars Rewards card to be entered in to the Diamond Dig drawing at the Racing Kiosk located across from Racing Publications. 10 Moms will be drawn for a chance to dig on the racetrack for a Diamond Ring valued at $2,500! One Mom will walk away with new bling and nine others will walk away with a Cubic Zirconia Ring. The Mother’s Day Diamond Dig is scheduled to take place between the 5th & 6th race of the day. First Post Time 12:55 pm.

 

Preakness Stakes Family Fun Day                                      Saturday, May 18     

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is the place to be to watch and wager on the live racing action at Pimlico and Preakness 144 as the quest for the Triple Crown continues. Enjoy family fun on the apron including food trucks, inflatables, face painting and the thrill of live racing action. First Post Time 12:55pm Preakness Stakes Post Time: 5:20pm (CST).

 

Memorial Day Pig Races and Family Fun Day                 Monday, May 27

Don’t miss these wacky races as these high flying little porkers race to the finish line. The Pig Races will take place between post times for the Memorial Day Race Card. There will also be a Petting Zoo for children and a kid’s area with bounce houses and water slides. Face painting is available for purchase. Eat up as food trucks serve up great local bites. First Post Time 3:15 pm.

 

For more information on the upcoming racing season and special events, click here.

 

Daily Racing Promotions and Daily Offers

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs welcomes patrons four days a week for live racing and daily simulcast wagering on racetracks across the country. Promotions and food and beverage specials include:

 

Mobile Mondays | Enjoying the races? Check-in on the Caesars Rewards app from your smart phone to receive an entry into the weekly “Day at the Races” drawing. Winner will receive a dining experience for two to the Harrah’s Club (max value of $100).

 

2X Tuesdays | Present your Caesars Rewards card when making a wager and receive a 2X racing reward credit multiplier each Tuesday.

 

Watch & Wager Wednesdays | Enjoy hotdogs, popcorn, beer and racing programs for only $1.00!

 

$5.00 Free Bet | Saturdays, May 4 & 18 |Opt in and receive a ticket at the Racing Kiosks between 11am and 5pm. Saturdays, May 11 & 25| Redeem your Free Bet at the Mutuel Counter.

 

Super Saturdays| Race to more Rewards by presenting your Caesars Rewards card when making a wager and receive up to a 7X Racing Reward Credit Multiplier.

 

Saturday Pick 4 Family Day| Enjoy a box seat for 4 with food and drinks for only $16 on select Saturdays.

 

Bet & Earn| Check out Harrah’s new Bet & Earn offered through Racing by Caesars Rewards. Guests wagering using a Caesars Rewards card will now receive one Tier Credit and one Reward Credit on a three dollar bet.

 

About Harrah’s Louisiana Downs

Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and was purchased by Caesars Entertainment in December, 2002. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.

 

 

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Churchill Downs Increases Kentucky Derby Purse From $2 Million To $3 Million

The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) on Saturday, May 4 will be the richest in history as the purse for America’s greatest race and first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown has been elevated to a guaranteed $3 million.

The substantial $1 million increase to the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby for 3-year-olds highlights a record-setting, 34-race stakes schedule cumulatively worth $12.03 million for Churchill Downs’ 2019 Spring Meet. Fifteen of the races received significant purse hikes, including the Old Forester Turf Classic (GI), Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Humana Distaff (GI), and two new races were added to the historic Louisville racetrack’s action-packed season, which will be run over 38 dates from April 27-June 29. 

With a record $3 million in prize money now guaranteed for the Kentucky Derby, the winner will receive the event’s highly sought-after gold trophy and a $1.86 million payday. Also, $600,000 will be awarded to the runner-up, $300,000 to third, $150,000 to fourth and $90,000 to fifth. Previously, the Kentucky Derby purse had been worth $2 million since 2005, and was $1 million from 1996-2004.

The 1 1/8-mile Longines Kentucky Oaks – the Derby’s sister race staged one day prior on Friday, May 3 – received a $250,000 boost to $1.25 million and remains the nation’s most lucrative race for 3-year-old fillies. It had been worth $1 million since 2011, and was worth $500,000 from 1996-2010.

The race that annually precedes the Kentucky Derby, the 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Turf Classic, has been doubled from $500,000 to $1 million, making it one of the most lucrative Grade I grass races for older horses in North America and attractive to potential international competitors.

Another Derby Day fixture, the seven-furlong Humana Distaff for older fillies and mares, had its purse enhanced by $200,000 from $300,000 to $500,000.

All told, there will be a record 18 stakes races cumulatively worth $9.58 million staged over Kentucky Derby Week, including seven stakes totaling $6.2 million on Derby Day and six totaling $2.9 million on Oaks Day. There also will be a pair of stakes on the May 2 Thurbyprogram and stakes races on Tuesday and Wednesday of Derby Week.

The significant increases in stakes prize money are attributed to early returns from state-of-the-art historical racing machines at Derby City Gaming, Churchill Downs Incorporated’s $65 million facility that opened in mid-September at nearby 4520 Poplar Level Road.

“Our recent investment into historical racing machines is paying immediate dividends to Kentucky horsemen,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “It’s extremely gratifying to meaningfully raise the purse of the iconic Kentucky Derby and other important racing fixtures on our stakes schedule as we continue to advance the overall racing program at Churchill Downs. Our steady growth in available prize money is truly exciting for the Kentucky horse racing and breeding industry.”

Purses at Churchill Downs in 2019 will be supercharged with more than an additional $10 million as a result of handle generated by Derby City Gaming’s initial year of operation.

More than $30 million in total prize money – $12 million in stakes races and another $18 million in overnight races – is expected to be offered during this year’s Spring Meet. The first condition book of scheduled races is being finalized by Director of Racing Ben Huffmanand is expected to be published in early February.

Last year, Churchill Downs offered a 32-race Spring Meet stakes schedule worth $8.84 million and total purses paid during the 372-race meet was $22.2 million.

The Stephen Foster (GII), the 1 1/8-mile test that has annually attracted some of the nation’s top older horses, will be worth $600,000 in 2019 and is one of four stakes that was boosted by $100,000. The others are the Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII), American Turf presented by Ram Trucks (GII) and Pat Day Mile presented by LG&E and KU (GIII), which are now worth $400,000 apiece and run on the Derby Day undercard.

Seven races received $50,000 hikes. Oaks Day’s Eight Belles (GII), Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GII), Edgewood presented by ForchtBank (GIII) as well as mid-June’s Fleur de Lis (GII) and Wise Dan (GII) are now worth $250,000 each. The Matt Winn (GIII) and Regret (GIII) each have $150,000 purses.

The Foster, Fleur de Lis, Wise Dan, Matt Winn and Regret will be run during a “Downs After Dark” nighttime program on Saturday, June 15 that features five graded stakes races under the lights cumulatively worth $1.4 million.

Two $90,000-added overnight stakes races were added to the 2019 schedule: the Champions Day Marathon for older horses at 1 ½ miles on April 30, and the Mamzelle for 3-year-old fillies at five furlongs on turf on May 11.

The American Graded Stakes Committee upgraded a trio of Churchill Downs stakes races for 2019 and downgraded two others. The $500,000 Churchill Downs over seven furlongs on Derby Day has been raised to Grade I status, and Oaks Day’s Twin Spires Turf Sprint was elevated to a Grade II race. Also, opening night’s $100,000 William Walker for 3-year-olds at five furlongs on turf is now a Listed stakes race. The Stephen Foster was downgraded from Grade I to Grade II, and the $100,000 Aristides lost its Grade III status to become a Listed stakes race.

In other changes to the stakes schedule, the Stephen Foster, Fleur de Lis, $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (GIII) and $100,000 Louisville (GIII) will no longer be run under handicap conditions. Also, the distances of the Twin Spires Turf Sprint and $100,000 Unbridled Sidney (formerly an overnight stakes race and now the headliner on Thurby) have been extended from five furlongs on turf to 5 ½ furlongs on grass.

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CHURCHILL DOWNS ANNOUNCES NEW DERBY WEEK ENTRY PROCEDURES & SECURITY MEASURES

Track encourages guests to visit KentuckyDerbyParking.com for parking, arrival & entry information

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs Racetrack (“Churchill Downs”), home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby, announced today new entry procedures that will be in effect for guests visiting the track any day of Derby Week (Saturday, April 28, 2018 through Saturday, May 5, 2018). The track unveiled its new parking and traffic plan last week and launched KentuckyDerbyParking.com to help visitors plan their arrival.

“Churchill Downs has invested heavily to improve the arrival and entry experience for all our guests and employees. We want to ensure a safe and secure environment, while helping people get in and out of the venue as efficiently as possible,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “We encourage everyone joining us for Derby Week to visit KentuckyDerbyParking.com so you know exactly what to expect before you get to the track.”

Derby Week visitors will be the first to use Churchill Downs’ new expanded entry plaza, which will lead guests from Central Avenue to the newly constructed Paddock Gate that’s replacing previous entrances at Gates 1 and 17.

Churchill Downs has renamed its admission gates to reflect their locations in the venue. Ticket holders will enter Churchill Downs through one of three admission gates: the new Paddock Gate, the Clubhouse Gate (formerly Gate 10) and the Infield Gate (formerly Gate 3). The Infield Gate will only be available to guests with a General Admission ticket. All others will enter through the Paddock or Clubhouse Gates.

Once ticket holders arrive at Churchill Downs, a new entry process will help them enter the track safely and efficiently:

  1. To ensure the safety and security of all Churchill Downs guests and employees, anyone entering the track will walk through metal detectors as part of the security screening measures. Prohibited items are not allowed past the security screening area.
  2. Next, guests entering through the Paddock or Clubhouse Gates will scan their ticket at one of the new self-scanning entry turnstiles. Or, if someone has a General Admission ticket and is entering through the Infield Gate, an attendant will scan their ticket by hand. Once inside the track, guests are not allowed to leave the venue and reenter.
  3. Once a ticket is scanned, guests will proceed through the turnstile and follow staff direction and new signs from the admission gate to their seating section or venue.
  4. As guests make their way to their seating section, they will be greeted by an usher at the appropriate access control point. The usher will scan the ticket for a second time, stub the ticket and then apply an official wristband around their wrist. This wristband allows guests to come and go from their seating section throughout the day. Each ticket may only be scanned once at the wristband locations and must scan as valid to receive a wristband.
New this year, special quick entry lanes have been added to the security screening areas of all admission gates for those guests who are not bringing a bag of any type into the venue.

Additionally, guests with mobile tickets purchased through the official Ticketmaster Resale Marketplace will follow the same entry process as guests with printed tickets and will receive their wristband at the access control point.

Churchill Downs released a short video letting guests know what to expect before entering the track: https://youtu.be/jNOrSBjuZAU

In keeping with tradition, guests on Oaks and Derby Days are permitted to bring in food and box lunches in clear plastic bags smaller than 18 inches by 18 inches. However, these items are prohibited Opening Night (Saturday, April 28) through Thurby (Thursday, May 3).

Prohibited items and items deemed inappropriate for entry into the grounds are the responsibility of the ticketholder and cannot be accepted or checked by Churchill Downs. We urge patrons to plan ahead and leave these items at home. Churchill Downs and its security partners will not store prohibited items for patrons. The full list of prohibited and permitted items can be found at KentuckyDerbyParking.com.

PROHIBITED ITEMS FOR DERBY WEEK (Opening Night through Kentucky Derby Day)
• COOLERS AT ANY GATE – including the Stable Gate (styrofoam coolers and ice are available for purchase in the Infield)
• CANS (any size or type)
• GLASS BOTTLES OR CONTAINERS

• BACKPACKS and DUFFEL BAGS
• TENTS – NO POLES OR STAKES OF ANY KIND
• LAPTOP COMPUTERS and CAMCORDERS
• CAMERAS WITH DETACHABLE LENSES OR EQUIPPED WITH A LENS THAT IS 6” OR LARGER
• DRONES and REMOTE-CONTROLLED AIRCRAFT
• HOVERBOARDS
• PURSES LARGER THAN 12” IN ANY DIMENSION
• FIREWORKS, NOISEMAKERS, AIR HORNS, LASER LIGHTS/POINTERS, PEPPER SPRAYS
• ANIMALS (with the exception of service animals for guests with special needs)
• TRIPODS
• SELFIE STICKS                                                      
• ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
• ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES
• WEAPONS (including knives)                                                     
• THERMOSES                                                   
• LUGGAGE (including briefcases)
• GRILLS
• WAGONS                                                                                    
• UMBRELLAS
• ANY ITEMS DEEMED DANGEROUS AND/OR INAPPROPRIATE

PERMITTED ITEMS FOR KENTUCKY DERBY AND OAKS DAYS
• FOOD ITEMS IN CLEAR PLASTIC BAGS (maximum size 18”x 18” – no trash bags) *
• BOX LUNCHES in clear plastic bags or containers (maximum size 18” x 18” – no trash bags)
• WATER & SOFT DRINKS – plastic bottles only (sealed, clear and unopened)
• PURSES, BUT NONE LARGER THAN 12” IN ANY DIMENSION (subject to search)
• BABY/DIAPER BAGS – only if accompanied by a child (subject to search)
• SMALL CAMERAS – none equipped with detachable lenses or lenses of 6” or more **
• SMALL PERSONAL MUSIC SYSTEMS, RADIOS & TELEVISIONS ** (no boomboxes) ***
• CELLULAR PHONES, SMARTPHONES & TABLETS **
• SEAT CUSHIONS SMALLER THAN 15”x 15” – no metal arms and/or backs, zippers, pockets or flaps                         
• STROLLERS (ONLY if carrying a child)
• SUNSCREEN (non-glass containers only)
• CHAIRS (permitted through the Infield Gate ONLY and cannot be carried to the frontside)
• BINOCULARS
• BLANKETS & TARPAULINS (Paddock and Infield Gates ONLY)

* Limit of two bags per person
** Patrons could be required to turn on electronic items
*** Not permitted in hospitality spaces and dining rooms

For more information on arrival, parking and entry, please visit KentuckyDerbyParking.com and download the Churchill Downs and Waze mobile apps.

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Final Jockey Assignments Confirmed In 2017 Run For The Roses: Includes Three Louisiana Natives

by | 04.30.2017 | 3:05pm

Always Dreaming works under the Twin Spires with John Velazquez aboard.

The last of the Kentucky Derby riding assignments was confirmed on Sunday morning, and the current field of 20 is all booked up for Saturday’s Run for the Roses. The most recent addition is that of jockey Channing Hill aboard Fast and Accurate for trainer Mike Maker; Hill breezed the colt at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, then announced the decision later in the morning on Twitter.

Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Patch for Calumet Farm, it was also announced on Twitter Sunday morning. Pletcher’s other riders were announced over the past few weeks, with John Velazquez scheduled to team with Always Dreaming and Jose Ortiz to pilot Tapwrit.

Trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed his final Derby reinsmen on Saturday, naming Ricardo Santana to ride Untrapped and Corey Lanerie to ride Lookin at Lee. Florent Geroux had previously been named to ride Hence.

Late last week, trainer Dale Romans named Luis Saez as the replacement rider for the injured Robby Albarado aboard J Boys Echo.

 

Here is the full list of expected Kentucky Derby contenders and their riders, as of Sunday afternoon:

  • Always Dreaming (John Velazquez)
  • Battle of Midway (Flavien Prat)
  • Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux)
  • Fast and Accurate (Channing Hill)
  • Girvin (Mike Smith)
  • Gormley (Victor Espinoza)
  • Gunnevera (Javier Castellano)
  • Hence (Florent Geroux)
  • Irap (Mario Gutierrez)
  • Irish War Cry (Rajiv Maragh)
  • J Boys Echo (Luis Saez)
  • Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie)
  • McCraken (Brian Hernandez Jr.)
  • Patch (Tyler Gaffalione)
  • Practical Joke (Joel Rosario)
  • Sonneteer (Kent Desormeaux)
  • State of Honor (Jose Lezcano)
  • Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz)
  • Thunder Snow (Ire) (Christophe Soumillon)
  • Untrapped (Ricardo Santana Jr.).

Next up in order of preference: Royal Mo (Gary Stevens)

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Albarado Fractures Lower Leg, Off J Boys Echo in Derby

Albarado Fractures Lower Leg, Off J Boys Echo in Derby
Photo: Coady Photgraphy

Robby Albarado

Jockey Robby Albarado sustained a fracture of his lower left tibia and fibula after falling from Chiltern Street at the beginning of the eighth race at Keeneland April 23 and will be off mounts for approximately three to four weeks, including Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) hopeful J Boys Echo, agent Rob Ebanks said.

The 5-year-old horse stumbled at the start of the 5 1/2-furlong race on turf unseating Albarado, who was immdiately attended to on the track. After being taken to first aid at Keeneland, he was then transported to UK Chandler Hospital.

In an official statement, Keeneland medical director Dr. Barry Schumer said: “Robby’s horse stumbled at the start of the race and Robby was thrown to the ground. He braced himself. He suffered an injury to his left ankle. He is being transported to UK Chandler Hospital (at the University of Kentucky in Lexington) for X-rays and further evaluation.”

Albarado underwent surgery April 24 at UK Chandler Hospital and had a rod and two pins inserted in his lower left leg, per Ebanks.

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Native Son Harry Connick Jr. to Perform National Anthem at Derby

Churchill Downs Racetrack has announced that multi-platinum recording artist Harry Connick Jr. will sing our national anthem at the 143rd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

The multiple Grammy and Emmy award-winning entertainer and host and executive producer of his own nationally syndicated entertainment show HARRY, will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” live for more than 160,000 fans at the Kentucky Derby. The performance will take place in the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle just after 5:00 p.m. EDT and be broadcast live as part of NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage.

“We are excited for Harry Connick, Jr. to perform our national anthem for the millions of Derby fans across the globe,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “He’s one of the finest entertainers in the world and his performance will help make 2017 another great year at the Kentucky Derby.”

Harry Connick, Jr. has exemplified excellence in every aspect of the entertainment world. He has received recognition with multiple Grammy and Emmy awards as well as Tony nominations for his live and recorded musical performances, his achievements on screens large and small, and his appearances on Broadway as both an actor and a composer. The debut season of his new daytime TV Show HARRY was recently recognized with five Emmy nominations, including a nomination for best host.

Harry Connick Jr. is the ninth artist to perform the national anthem since Churchill Downs began the tradition in 2009.  Past artists who performed the national anthem are Lady Antebellum (2016), Josh Groban (2015), Jo Dee Messina (2014), Martina McBride (2013), Mary J. Blige (2012), Jordin Sparks (2011), Rascal Flatts (2010) and LeeAnn Rimes (2009).

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Louisiana Native Hernandez Opts To Stick With McCraken in the Kentucky Derby

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Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. is the regular rider for a pair of 3-year-old colts with enough points to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, and knew he would have to choose which to ride if both came through their final prep races without issue. According to drf.com, Hernandez ultimately made the decision to stick with the Ian Wilkes-trained McCraken, despite the son of Ghostzapper’s third-place finish in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes.

“It was a really, really tough decision because both trainers and owners have been extremely loyal to me throughout the year,” Hernandez told The Courier-Journal. “It was one of those decisions that took a whole lot of time and a whole lot of talking with my agent. And we went with McCraken.”

That left Girvin, winner of both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby, without a rider for the first Saturday in May. Despite several light-hearted rumors that trainer Joe Sharp’s wife, the famed female jockey Rosie Napravnik, might come out of retirement to ride the son of Tale of Ekati, the mount will go to Hall of Famer Mike Smith (Napravnik intends to stay retired, according to her Twitter account).

 

Both McCraken and Girvin have only lost once in their respective careers, but McCraken is more likely to be one of the top choices for the Derby because of relatively slow finish times in Girvin’s Fair Grounds efforts. Take nothing away from Girvin: the lightly-raced colt has done nothing wrong and just keeps improving with each start.

That said, McCraken’s third-place effort in the Blue Grass may have some fans questioning their belief in the previously undefeated star. Based on Wilkes’ record, including derby winners Unbridled and Street Sense (during which time he served as assistant to trainer Carl Nafzger) and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, a sub-par effort prior to the big dance is nothing to be concerned about. Both Unbridled and Street Sense lost in the Blue Grass before winning the Derby, and Fort Larned finished third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup before winning the Classic.

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Louisiana Native Hernandez Has Momentum, Confidence on His Side

Hernandez Has Momentum, Confidence on His Side
Photo: Coady Photography

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Brian Hernandez Jr. is quick to give credit where credit is due.

In recalling his 2016 season, when he celebrated a career-high eight graded stakes wins and tallied his second highest single-season earnings, the 31-year-old jockey talked about the wave of good fortune that came his way. Good mounts make for even better outcomes and in that vein, Hernandez said he “got lucky and had the right kind of horses for the right races.”

Quietly yet methodically, the 2004 Eclipse Award winner for outstanding apprentice jockey has taken an already full career that boasts more than 1,600 victories and started adding some key intangibles to it.

A year ago, he rode in his first Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) aboard 12th-place finisher Tom’s Ready. By the end of the evening Feb. 11, he could be linked with a horse considered the leading contender this season for the first Saturday in May.

Hernandez has been in the eye of big-race hype before, but there is no buildup that quite compares with being attached to an unbeaten, graded stakes-winning 3-year-old about to take his first step on the Kentucky Derby trail. As the regular rider for Janis Whitham’s homebred colt McCraken, the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, Hernandez could find his current groundswell of momentum dwarfed by what could come should his Ian Wilkes-trained mount prevail in his seasonal debut.

When Hernandez guided McCraken to victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 26, it locked the son of Ghostzapper   in as a sophomore to watch for 2017 and sealed the best season for his jockey since he steered Fort Larned  —another Wilkes-trained, Whitham homebred—to victory in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The $7,791,059 in earnings Hernandez amassed in 2016 was second only to his career-best total of $8,034,048 four years earlier.

WINCZE HUGHES: McCraken the Real Deal in KY Jockey Club

The Kentucky Club Jockey Club triumph capped off a whirlwind stretch that saw the Louisiana native win three graded stakes in as many days. The other victories came aboard Thatcher Street in the Nov. 24 River City Handicap (G3T) and Linda in the Nov. 25 Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2T).

“You know, it just kind of snowballed,” Hernandez said of 2016. “Last year was one of the first years where I had multiple really good horses and won multiple graded races, and the momentum just kept building. Even last May, I was getting on a lot more 2-year-olds than I normally do.

“We had a really big year with the 2-year-olds and some of the older horses I had been riding, they kind of stepped up and won a couple graded races. … And to have the owners put the confidence in me to ride their better horses, it helps a lot and that’s the biggest thing.”

Hernandez’s ability has long been acknowledged as a solid presence on the Louisiana and Kentucky circuits, not that anyone could ignore him much after he racked up 243 wins during his Eclipse Award-winning season. It often takes a fortuitous pairing for an upstart jockey to gain access to that next, elite level, however. Appropriately enough, Hernandez cites his association with Fort Larned as that catalyst.

He gained the mount on the future multiple grade 1 winner in the 2012 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3), when the colt’s previous rider, Julien Leparoux, was committed to pilot Successful Dan in the same spot. The chemistry was instant as Hernandez booted Fort Larned to victory both that day and during his subsequent start in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1) in the run-up to their Breeders’ Cup heroics.

MITCHELL: Fort Larned Wins Thrilling BC Classic

In addition to notching the first grade 1 victories of his career, Hernandez was also building a relationship with the Wilkes barn that has evolved him into the go-to rider for the former assistant to Hall of Famer Carl Nafzger.

“He understands what I’m trying to do, and he’s a great asset to my barn in helping and developing horses,” Wilkes said. “He’s good and he just knows how to put a horse in position to win a race.”

“It’s been a great working relationship, because riding for guys like Ian and Carl, they entrust me on some of the better horses and they’re easy to talk to,” Hernandez added. “It makes it to where it’s a team effort, where you don’t have any pressure going forward, like ‘Oh man, if I mess this up, I might not get another chance.’ With Ian and Carl, they are always behind you. Even in the big races … it’s ‘Let’s look at the bigger picture and get them to the next step.'”

Wilkes has plainly stated that the Sam F. Davis is not the end goal for McCraken. He doesn’t want the bay colt coming too much into his own before the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Hernandez has already compiled a career dotted with successes many will never get to the opportunity to experience. Like his late-running mount, momentum has been his friend in recent times, a powerful surge brought on by inherent talent that is being given a chance to reach a career pinnacle.

“We’re just going to try and get McCraken (to the Derby) and let him showcase how good he is,” Hernandez said. “I think the biggest thing we have to do is make sure it’s not any of us that stops him from running his best race. Just stay out of his way and let him take us there. But it’s excitement, really. There is no nervousness.”

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No Shortage of Louisiana Connections in the 2016 Kentucky Derby

As always, Louisiana native sons are scheduled to ride in the run for the roses on the first Saturday in May.

 

Kent Desormeaux on Exaggerator

Robby Albarado on Oscar Nominated (#13 on leaderboard)

B.J. Hernandez, Jr. on Tom’s Ready (#16 on the leaderboard)

Corey Lanerie on Mo Tom (#20 on the leaderboard)

 

Trainers from Louisiana also figure into this year’s Derby equation.

Keith Desormeaux (with brother Kent in the irons) trains Exaggerator

Dallas Stewart, who was raised in Louisiana trains Tom’s Ready

Tom Amoss, a native of New Orleans is the trainer of Mo Tom

 

New Orleans sports magnate Tom Benson, not satisfied with simply owning New Orleans Saints football franchise and New Orleans Pelicans basketball team has ventured into horse racing with G M B Racing; owner of both Tom’s Ready and Mo Tom.

If these aren’t enough reasons for Louisiana racing fans to be swept up with Derby fever, Gun Runner won the G2 Louisiana Derby and the G2 Risen Star Stakes at New Orleans Fair Grounds, and Exaggerator won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.

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