LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The new Churchill Downs Stable Gate was bustling with activity Thursday morning as trainers continue to fill the backstretch of Churchill Downs. As of 11 a.m., there were more than 720 horses on the grounds with trainers such as Chad Brown, Norm Casse and Ian Wilkes all expected to nearly fill their stalls by the end of the day.
Training continued Thursday at Churchill Downs including the first published workouts over the track since late December. Five horses donned the work tab including a swift :47.80 half-mile move for the Larry Jones-trained Istan Council with jockey Gabriel Saez aboard.
“I never realized how much I missed Churchill,” Saez said. “The track feels great and I’m so happy to be back home. It’s going to be a good meet. It’ll be competitive but I’m ready to go.”
Jockey James Graham made his first spin around the Churchill Downs oval in nearly six months as he worked a horse out of the gate for trainer Tom Amoss. Graham and Saez are two of 49 different jockeys expected to ride on opening weekend of the Spring Meet.
Three-time Churchill Downs leading trainer Brad Cox’s Barn 22 continues to fill with nearly all of his horses arriving on the grounds including champion Monomoy Girl. The Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) winner trained at 7:30 a.m. Thursday alongside of Monnie Goetz aboard arguably the most famous racetrack pony in the world, Harley.
“This is one of the many reasons why it is so great everyone is home,” Goetz said. Brown, one of the nation’s top training outfits, will be based in Barn 25 with a string of 24 horses under the watch of assistant trainer Whit Beckman, a Louisville native who graduated St. Xavier High School in 2000.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was originally scheduled to have a small string of horses at Churchill Downs but plans to stay in California and ship entrants to fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas as need be, according to senior director of the stable area Steve Hargrave.
Training will resume Friday at 5:30 a.m.
Churchill Downs Press Release