Air Support – The 2yo son of Smart Strike galloped 1 ¼ m under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Following a troubled main-track debut at Belmont, Air Support broke his maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 13 in his first turf start. He returned to finish fourth in the With Anticipation Stakes after a bumping incident at the start, but the Shug McGaughey-trained colt rebounded to score in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park last time out.
“Air Support, from the beginning, has always been mature for a 2yo and easy to work with. He always did what you asked him to do,” Patterson said. “Nothing ever seems to bother him. Even with him being a young horse, he’s come here and has handled everything well – all the people and all the cameras.”
Rajiv Maragh has the return mount aboard Air Support.
Banned – Banned jogged once around the track on Wednesday morning and also schooled at the gate as the 2yo son of Kitten’s Joy remained on schedule for Saturday’s Juvenile Turf.
“Banned is doing real good,” said trainer Tom Proctor. “He couldn’t be better.”
Joel Rosario will ride Leonard Lavin’s Glen Hill Farm colt who breaks from post 8 in the 13-horse field, and Proctor could not be more pleased with the draw.
Banned brings a two-race win streak by a combined eight lengths into the contest.
Deciphering Dreams – The Rick Dutrow Jr.-trained Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf contender Deciphering Dreams will find some familiar faces in the starting gate with him on Saturday.
Sixth in a Saratoga turf sprint behind fellow Juvenile Turf participant Pluck in his career debut, the freshman son of Freud would break his maiden in a follow-up start around two turns there. Adding Lasix for the first time last out in the Pilgrim at Belmont, he finished third behind another pair whom he is set to face Saturday in Air Support and Soldat.
“He’s a horse that’s training great,” Dutrow said. “He’s handled a couple of different turf courses getting a very firm turf at Saratoga and then running big on the yielding turf in the Pilgrim. I see no reason why we shouldn’t take a shot.”
Madman Diaries – Terming his juvenile gelding’s training as “awesome,” trainer Wesley Ward is excited about the prospects for the 2yo in the Juvenile Turf, who galloped over the Churchill grass again Wednesday.
“He’s shown a real affinity for this course,” Ward said, “so I’m really excited about him. What’s more, I own his sire [Bring the Heat], and he really has turned out nice grass runners.”
The youngster has run well on a synthetic surface at Woodbine and in his last outing, he captured the Sapling on dirt. So Ward, although he thinks turf probably is his best surface, says he sees him as a multi-talented runner.
Mantoba – For the second day in a row, Mantoba was ponied to the track under his Manton rug (blanket) with stablemate Dangerous Midge, and galloped around easily while remaining out of Barn 42 for about a half hour on Wednesday.
This time, he was accompanied by trainer Brian Meehan, who trained him for Manton Racing Partnership before the Noverre colt was purchased 10 days ago by agent Jamie McCalmont for Reddam.
“I’ve always liked the Noverres,” Meehan said, “and Jamie has had him in his sights for a while.”
Despite the fact that Reddam races in California as well as overseas, Meehan said that he expects that Mantoba will stay with him, “Mantoba will come back to Manton, and has a longer-term goal of the UAE Derby in March.”
Master of Hounds – Mrs. John Magnier’s Master of Hounds, made the morning line favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at 9-2, was led onto the track Wednesday by Aidan O’Brien’s traveling head lad Pat Keating. He walked and jogged the wrong way, then galloped once around.
Pluck – The promising son of one of trainer Todd Pletcher’s most versatile runners, More Than Ready, was on the track Wednesday for a spirited gallop the day after drawing the far outside post in a field of 13.
“We didn’t have a very good day at the draw for the most part,” said Pletcher, whose most grievous affront may have been the 1-post drawn by Quality Road for the Classic. “It’s something you can’t control; you just have to make the best of it.”
The Team Valor 2yo is coming off a pair of solid efforts in grass stakes, winning the Summer at Woodbine with a sustained rally under Garrett Gomez. His late run fell a neck short in the Continental Mile at Monmouth the start before.
“He gives you a good effort every time.” Pletcher said. “He’s coming to the race the right way.”
Soldat – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt, who arrived at Churchill Downs on Tuesday afternoon, galloped 1 3/8 m under Pat Correa Wednesday morning.
After finishing second in his first two starts, Soldat broke his maiden in the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga in his first turf start. The 2yo son of War Front was heavily favored to win the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park but had to settle for second behind Air Support after encountering trouble.
“He didn’t break well; the ground was yielding; he was five-wide on the turn; he was bumped hard turning for home by the eventual winner that caused an inquiry; and there was a shift in weight,” McLaughlin said. “There were plenty of excuses, but we don’t need to make any. We’re just happy with the race he ran to finish second.”
Soldat, who had previously beaten Air Support in the With Aniticipation, will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
Utley – The Augustin Stable homebred son of Smart Strike cantered on the main track Wednesday morning.
Danny Harrap, assistant to trainer John Gosden, said the 2yo colt traveled well from England and has settled in at the quarantine barn at Churchill Downs. Gosden was traveling Wednesday and is expected to be at the track on Thursday morning.
The Juvenile Turf will be his fourth career start. He broke his maiden on Sept. 15 in his second start and finished fifth in his most recent outing, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on the Arc de Triomphe program on Oct. 3 at Longchamp in Paris.
Jockey William Buick will ride the colt, who is making his two-turn debut and will start from post six in the 13-horse field.
“We’re happy. It’s a good draw,” Harrap said. “He’s very wise. He travels well on the bridle, so he should be OK.”