Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition

The promising Howling Time makes his 4-year-old debut

- By Nicole Russo

As it prepares for a big card with six stakes on Saturday – dubbed Stephen Foster Preview Day – Churchill Downs sets the table with Thursday and Friday cards featuring allowance-level events.

Howling Time, who hinted at strong ability against tough competitio­n in the 3-year-old class last year, makes his first start of the year in Thursday’s seventh race, a 6 1/2-furlong allowance-optional claiming race with a purse of $141,000.

Howling Time, trained by Dale Romans for the Albaugh family, won the Street Sense Stakes as a juvenile at Churchill Downs. Last year, Howling Time finished far back in the Fountain of Youth and Lexington, and then affirmed his affinity for Churchill with a frontrunni­ng five-length victory going 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in May allowance. The runner-up was Grade 1 winner Rattle N Roll.

In his next start, Howling Time again led the way and was nipped a nose at the wire by multiple Grade 1 winner Cyberknife at Churchill in the Grade 3 Matt Winn, with Rattle N Roll third. Howling Time was fourth behind Cyberknife and fellow multiple Grade 1 winners Taiba and Jack Christophe­r in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitation­al at 1 1/8 miles in what proved the final start of his 3-year-old campaign.

Howling Time’s two most recent works have been swift five-furlong moves at Churchill Downs. Cutting back to one turn for the first time since winning his debut in September 2021, he breaks from the rail in a field of eight under Martin Garcia.

In the fourth race, a $148,000 allowance-optional claimer at a mile on the turf, nine entrants in the field of 12 are dropping directly out of stakes company. Gentle Soul won the Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes in January and then was second in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds and third in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds.

On Friday, all eyes will be on Scylla as the royally bred filly faces winners for the first time in the eighth race, a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies with a purse of $148,000. Scylla won her only start by 2 1/2 lengths with an 85 Beyer Speed Figure going six furlongs on April 15 at Keeneland. She has breezed five times at Churchill Downs since then for trainer Bill Mott.

Distance should be no problem for Scylla as she progresses. The Juddmonte homebred is by Tapit – sire of long-winded runners including four Belmont Stakes winners – and out of Eclipse Award champion mare Close Hatches. That makes her a full sister to threetime graded stakes winner and multimilli­onaire Tacitus, who won the Grade 2 Suburban at 1 1/4 miles and was second in the 2019 Belmont.

Saturday’s card is highlighte­d by the Grade 3, $225,000 Blame Stakes, designed as a local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Stephen Foster on July 1. Probable entrants, according to Churchill Downs assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinato­r Dan Bork, include multiple Grade 1 winner Santin, along with Barber Road, Call Me Fast, Chess Chief, Happy American, Masquepara­de, and Pioneer of Medina.

Saturday’s card, for which entries will be drawn on Wednesday, also includes five other $225,000 stakes: the Grade 3 Shawnee, Grade 3 Arlington, Grade 3 Regret, Aristides, and Audubon. Each leads into a correspond­ing race on the July 1 Foster program.

Two more horses euthanized

Churchill Downs, troubled by a spate of equine fatalities this spring, had horses injured on the track and subsequent­ly euthanized last Friday and Saturday. Tests will be performed on the track this week, and an emergency veterinary panel will be convened at the track by the Horseracin­g Integrity and Safety Authority.

Kimberley Dream was pulled up in the stretch of Saturday’s first race, a claiming event, and was diagnosed with a distal sesamodean ligament rupture to her left front leg, which was “inoperable and unrecovera­ble,” according to a statement released by Churchill Downs on Saturday night. Lost in Limbo fell in the final sixteenth of Friday’s seventh race, also a claiming race, and sustained a similar injury, the track statement said. Both horses were 7.

There have been 12 equine fatalities at Churchill since the stable area reopened for training on March 30. The meeting opened April 29, and the Memorial Day program was the 19th live racing day.

“It is with absolute dismay and sorrow that we report this highly unusual statistic,” Churchill’s statement said. “Our team members mourn the loss of these animals as we continue to work together to discover cause and determine appropriat­e investment­s to minimize, to the degree possible, any avoidable risk in this sport and on our property. We do not accept this as suitable or tolerable and share the frustratio­ns of the public, and in some cases, the questions to which we do not yet have answers. We have been rigorously working since the opening of the meet to understand what has led to this spike and have yet to find a conclusive discernabl­e pattern as we await the findings of ongoing investigat­ions into those injuries and fatalities.”

The track said it has increased the frequency of the testing of its racing surfaces. Early last week, Mick Peterson, executive director of the racing surfaces testing laboratory and professor of biosystems and agricultur­al engineerin­g at the University of Kentucky, was commission­ed to perform tests on the racetrack.

“The report indicated that the measuremen­ts from retesting do not raise any concerns and that none of the data is inconsiste­nt with prior measuremen­ts from Churchill Downs or other tracks,” it said.

Churchill Downs said it is “actively working in cooperatio­n” with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and HISA in research into these fatalities, and that it is engaged in an epidemiolo­gical study with The Jockey Club to review each individual horse for any underlying patterns.

In a separate statement released Monday, HISA said the emergency veterinary summit was to be convened Tuesday, May 30, in Kentucky, with Churchill Downs, KHRC, and HISA teams participat­ing. HISA was to dispatch Jennifer Durenberge­r, director of equine safety and welfare, to provide additional veterinary expertise and observatio­n on-site at Churchill Downs, which will run its usual Thursdayth­rough-Sunday race week.

In addition to Peterson’s recent examinatio­n of the track, HISA will dispatch wellknown track superinten­dent Dennis Moore to provide a second and independen­t analysis of Churchill’s surfaces. Moore’s review was to begin Wednesday, May 31. HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus and racetrack safety director Ann McGovern will be on-site during the process.

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