FLORENCE, Ky. -- Al Stall Jr. should sleep well Friday night. That will have little to do with the fact that Stall and his wife, Nicole, will be getting home late from the Rolling Stones concert at Churchill Downs, but more that Stall has done everything within his power to fully prepare Greeley's Galaxy for the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.
"We're going in with no excuses," said Stall. "I've really kind of hammered on him since we got back from Saratoga. He's got two sprints behind him, he's on his toes, and hopefully he'll be forwardly placed from the get-go. All I'm really asking from him is that he tries, that he gets on his belly and runs."
Greeley's Galaxy has been a tough gauge for horseplayers - not to mention his connections, owner B. Wayne Hughes and the two men who have trained him, Warren Stute and Stall - since becoming a serious contender for the 2005 Kentucky Derby with a 9 1/2-length romp in his final prep, the Illinois Derby.
Stall took over the training of Greeley's Galaxy after the colt got a short break following a series of mediocre efforts over the winter. He was a gritty winner in his comeback race, a July 9 Churchill allowance, after which he was ninth, beaten eight lengths, in the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 2 at Saratoga. Both races were around one turn.
"I really didn't think he ran that bad at Saratoga," said Stall. "I think he's better at two turns, and I don't know how much I liked the way he trained over the racetrack there."
Bejarano regains winning ways
Rafael Bejarano, who had been sidelined since Aug. 25 with a rib injury, wasted absolutely no time in getting back to the winner's circle when he won with the first mount in his comeback, Hit the Hardwood, in the third race Wednesday night.
Bejarano, who rode Greeley's Galaxy in the July allowance triumph and has the mount back Saturday, missed the Forego because of his injury. He was scheduled to ride on the Aug. 26 Travers card before the pain in his broken rib became too much.
Bejarano set the record for most wins at a Turfway meet by winning 150 races at the 2004 winter-spring meet. That mark was eclipsed last winter when Julien Leparoux rode 167 winners.
Romans to sit this one out
D. Wayne Lukas has the record for most Kentucky Cup wins with 14, but the Hall of Fame trainer has not been especially prominent on this circuit for the past few years while younger trainers such as Dale Romans have become dominant.
And therein lies a statistical aberration for Saturday at Turfway: Lukas is scheduled to run six horses on the 12-race card.
Meanwhile, Romans has no starters - and for good reason. He is serving a seven-day suspension stemming from excessive Butazolidin that turned up in a sample from M B Sea when the 7-year-old horse finished second in the $100,000 Carpenter Memorial on July 15 at Delaware Park.
The Romans suspension runs through Wednesday. The purse was redistributed in the Carpenter.
Connections look for history to repeat
A mild upset by Good Reward in the KC Classic would be a case of deja vu all over again for owner Phipps Stable, trainer Shug McGaughey, and jockey Mike Smith. That team was victorious four years ago when Pure Prize got a perfect trip and held off Dollar Bill to win the Classic by three-quarters of a length.