Fun Fall Meet Flashbacks

Trainer Neil Howard’s Ahh Chocolate (6) looked like a future star with her win in the Falls City Handicap. Photo by REED PALMER | Churchill Downs

Trainer Neil Howard’s Ahh Chocolate (6) looked like a future star with her win in the Falls City Handicap. Photo by REED PALMER | Churchill Downs

Many heroics were fueled by 2-year-old stars in a meet that is notable for the large number of future stars who strutted their potential in its races. But the “Best of Fall Meet 2015” offers congratulations on a wide range of categories from equine and human stars. We’ll start with the humans:

Trainer of the Meet

Louisville native Brad Cox has been a surging force at local meets in recent years and is honored for his best-ever performance beneath the Twin Spires in the recently-concluded meet. Horses trained by Cox finished the meet with a record of 9-4-5 in 25 races that included stakes triumphs by former claiming horses Spelling Again in the Grade II Chilukki and Almasty in the Grade III Commonwealth Turf. Cox won with 36 percent of his runners, and 72 percent finished 1-2-3 with total earnings of a meet-best $433,695.

Chris Richard had similar numbers – 10-4-5 in 30 races – but no stakes wins.

Steve Asmussen earned his 17th “Leading Trainer” title with 13 wins from 47 starters. Eight of his winners were 2-year-olds, which included Rags to Riches winner Stageplay.

Trainer stat of the meet: Louisville native Dale Romans, second in career wins at Churchill Downs, saddled six winners with an average $2 win payout of $12.80.

Jockey of the Meet

Corey Lanerie earned his fifth “Leading Jockey” title in a runaway with 33 winners from 157 mounts, but the edge here goes to Julien Leparoux, who compiled a slate of 18-23-13 from 114 rides. Among Leparoux’s victories were “Stars of Tomorrow II” stakes triumphs aboard Airoforce in the Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) and Carina Mia in the Golden Rod (GII) and a front-running triumph by Heart to Heart on turf in the River City Handicap (GII).

Leparoux gained an edge on the Matt Winn Turf Course, which was the scene of five wins in 24 starts. Lanerie failed to win in 17 races on the grass.

Applause is also due for jockey Sophie Doyle, the meet’s top female rider with a career-high six wins from 69 starters.

Fans of rising star Chris Landeros and veteran Robby Albarado were rewarded nicely for their support. Landeros piloted 10 winners from 65 starters that returned an average of $18.30 for a $2 win wager, while Albarado’s 18 winners averaged a $15 payout for a $2 win bet.

Top “money” riders of the meet made quick and very profitable strikes at the Louisville track.

Hall of Famer and Kentucky Derby winner Mike Smith won the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), the meet’s premier event, aboard Tri-Bone Stable’s Effinex. The Clark was Smith’s only ride during the meet.

Jockey Paco Lopez earned stakes victories on grass on successive weekends when he guided Isabella Springs to an upset in the Grade II Mrs. Revere and then won the Grade III Cardinal aboard Button Down (GB).

Owner of the Meet

Kentuckians Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who set a record for total titles of “Leading Owner” with each new crown, earned their 25th local title – a meet-leading 19 wins from 46 starters.

Midwest Thoroughbreds was next with six wins from only 19 runners – a 32 percent win rate. The stable’s in-the-money percentage was 74 percent.

Give Midwest Thoroughbreds the nod for stronger finish with fewer than half of the Ramsey starters. Tom Durant (4-1-0 from eight starters), Maggi Moss (4-2-1 from 14 starters), Winchell Thoroughbreds (3-0-1 in seven starts) and Stonestreet Stables (3-0-0 in five races) also enjoyed notable meets.

Best Betting Race

The $200,000 Mrs. Revere, the last North American graded stakes race of the year for 3-year-old fillies on turf, produced some wild payouts for horses that hailed from some of American racing’s top stables.

The victorious Isabella sings, trained by seven-time Eclipse Award winner and Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher, won at 27-1 and returned $56.60 to win. Runner’s Rainha Da Bateria was a 44-1 runner-up who finished ahead of third-place Devine Aida, a 6-1 shot trained by Christophe Clement, and the Mark Casse-trained 49-1 fourth-place finisher, Season Ticket.

The winning $2 exacta paid $1,799, while the $2 trifecta payout was $19,029 and the $1 superfecta mutual was $63,817. You can figure that some 10-cent superfecta tickets won the latter.

Rising Star

The Falls City Handicap (GII) winner was Ahh Chocolate. She was nurtured carefully through her 3-year-old season by Neil Howard, and the year-ending Falls City was her best moment. There will be more highlights to come in 2015.

Race of the Meet

The Clark Handicap won by Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up, Effinex, takes the honor. Effinex turned back defending winner, Hoppertunity, by three-quarters of a length, and the Clark’s top five finishers were separated by two lengths.

If I could bet on one horse I saw at the 2015 Fall Meet to win the Kentucky Derby it would be

Gun Runner. The inexperienced son of Candy Ride (ARG) ran fourth over the slop in the Kentucky Jockey Club in a run that bears close inspection. He gained a short lead in the stretch before running out of gas but has about 150 days to improve on his game and wear roses.

Same for the Kentucky Oaks

Smart Shopper overcame significant trouble to win her “Stars of Tomorrow II” racing debut over the slop. I love youngsters that hurdle obstacles early on. They’re already ahead of the game. VT