Atras makes KY Downs debut with Law Professor in Tapit

By Robert Yates (Benoit photo of Law Professor winning Santa Anita Mathis Mile last Dec. 26)

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022) — New York-based trainer Rob Atras is scheduled to make his FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs debut Thursday when he sends out Grade 2 winner Law Professor in the opening-day $400,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes at a mile and 70 yards. The Tapit is restricted to 3-year-olds and up that haven’t won a stakes race in 2022. It goes as the ninth of 10 races, with probable post time 4:57 p.m. (Central).

A homebred for Twin Creeks Racing Stable LLC (Randy Gullatt), Law Professor will be making his first start for Atras after previously being with Southern California-based trainer Michael McCarthy. Law Professor hasn’t run since finishing last of nine in the $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for older horses April 2 at Oaklawn Park.

Atras said he received Law Professor in June after the 4-year-old Constitution gelding was freshened at Kentucky’s WinStar Farm following a troubled trip in the Oaklawn Mile, his first start outside California.

“Randy Gullatt, the owner, he mentioned this race a few weeks back,” said Atras, who has had other horses for Twin Creeks. “We were going to run at Saratoga in a three-other-than (allowance) and then we nominated for this race. We kind of took a look at it. He’s good on either turf or dirt. So, we thought a $400,000 race, that we would take a shot at it.”

Law Professor has made three starts on grass, winning a mile entry-level allowance last November at Del Mar and finishing fifth in the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) on March 5 at Santa Anita. Sandwiched around those two races was a victory in the $200,000 off-the-turf Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Dec. 26 at Santa Anita.

Law Professor was the 9-2 second choice in the Oaklawn Mile, but never a factor after having to check on the first turn under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

“I watched the replay a couple of times and I talked to the owner, Randy, about it,” Atras said. “The horse just kind of, he loses focus and kind of had to check a little bit. He was running up on heels and after that things didn’t work out. There was nothing really to report, if anything was injured or anything happened physically to the horse. Oaklawn’s tough. You know, it’s a big field and he was a little bit rank. Johnny had to check him a little bit and then after that he kind of lost contact and it was over from there.”

Law Professor has six published workouts – all on dirt – at Belmont Park since July 18 for his comeback race. Julien Leparoux, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, will ride Law Professor for the first time in the Tapit, which lured an overflow field of 15, including three also-eligibles. The race is limited to 12 starters.

Leparoux (47 victories) is the second-winningest rider in the history of Kentucky Downs, an undulating, non-symmetrical 1 5/16-mile European-style grass venue that opened in 1990 as Dueling Grounds.

“I’m glad Julien Leparoux is riding him,” Atras said. “He knows the course. He’s done really well on it. Kentucky Downs, the track’s kind of got some hills, up and down, and the stretch is long. Definitely a track I’m not familiar with. I’m glad we got an experienced rider that knows the track, where to be, when to make your move and all that kind of stuff. I think it’s very important, especially at Kentucky Downs.”

Atras said Law Professor, who drew post 9 and is 10-1 on the morning line, figures to be his lone starter this year at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, which has seven scheduled racing dates over two weeks in September. But the Canadian-born trainer indicated he could have an expanded presence in the future, if Law Professor performs well in the Tapit.

“Hoping that this goes well and maybe it will open the door to other opportunities down the road,” Atras said.

A former assistant under trainer Robertino Diodoro, Atras is best known for conditioning the now-retired Grade 1 winner Maracuja.


Jeff Hiles’ Volume At Entry Box Reflects Stable’s Growth
After starting four horses in 2021 at Kentucky Downs, trainer Jeff Hiles has a combined six entrants Thursday and Saturday, the opening two days of this year’s scheduled seven-day meeting presented by FanDuel.

“Kentucky Downs is kind of like the kickoff of the second half for me because I’ve got a lot of young horses that are getting ready to run,” Hiles said. “So, wherever we’ve been running, we’ve run maybe 10-15 different horses. Now, we’ve got about 35 that are getting ready to pop up.”

Hiles’ opening-day entrants are Metaphysical in the first race (a $150,000 maiden special weight sprint for 2-year-old fillies), Just Call Ray in the sixth race ($70,000 starter allowance for 3-year-olds at a mile) and Blue Devil in the 10th and final race ($150,000 maiden special weight event for 3-year-olds and up at a mile).

Metaphysical, by American Freedom, finished fourth sprinting in her Aug. 6 career debut on dirt at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Just Call Ray exits a fourth-place finish in an entry-level allowance/optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on dirt Aug. 1 at Colonial Downs. Blue Devil, a 3-year-old gelded son of champion Uncle Mo, has made two starts for Hiles after being purchased earlier this year for $260,000 at Keeneland’s April Horses of Racing Age Sale. Blue Devil, in his last start, was beaten a head in a grassy 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight event Aug. 12 at Ellis Park.

“If Metaphysical draws in, she’ll be tough,” Hiles said. “She had her first race at (Horseshoe Indianapolis) and she just ran green. She made a good run at the end and that’s exactly what we wanted. She got a good race out of it and will improve every start. Just Call Ray, I think, he is going to love the grass. He ran a deceivingly good race at Gulfstream Park on the grass this winter. He finished seventh, but if you watch the replay, he was stuck behind a wall of horses and then had a ton of horse and couldn’t get through. It’s just taken me a little bit to get him back in the right spot. With Blue Devil, he’s been right there in all three of his starts. He still hasn’t put it all together yet.”

All three horses are owned by the trainer’s major client, Rocket Ship Racing, of Louisville, Ky., businessman Brook Smith and former trainer William Denzik. Hiles said he has around 25 horses for Rocket Ship Racing, which was formed in the spring of 2021. Hiles is based at HighPointe Farm & Training Center in La Grange, Ky., about 25 miles northeast of Louisville.

Hiles’ volume at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs entry box reflects the growth of his operation. Hiles, 43, was an assistant under nationally prominent trainer Kenny McPeek before striking out on his own in late 2018 at Churchill Downs. Hiles brought three horses that winter to Oaklawn Park and saddled his first career winner there, Loran Holiday, March 21, 2019. Hiles won two races overall in 2019, seven in 2020 and 15 last year, including his first career stakes victory. He already had 15 victories and a career-high $528,055 in purse earnings through Monday in 2022, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

“You just kind of keep your head down and put one foot in front of the other and work hard,” Hiles said. “I travel with all my horses. I haul all my horses. I’ve run at a bunch of different places and I’m always there, so a lot of the clients that I’ve picked up, and my big client, Brook Smith, they noticed that. You know, attention to details. It’s just worked out. Everything has worked out for me. Been lucky.”

Hiles recorded his first career Kentucky Downs victory last year with Silky Warrior and finished the meeting 1 of 4 in his meet debut. That $135,000 maiden special weight victory also represents the trainer’s most lucrative to date. Kentucky Downs has bumped the purse of those races to $150,000 in 2022 for registered Kentucky-breds, the highest figure in the world, according to track officials. Silky Warrior is entered in Saturday’s fifth race, a $160,000 entry-level allowance for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at 1 5/16 miles, the same distance as her maiden victory.

“It’s serious racing,” Hiles said. “It’s very hard to win down there. You’ve got full fields all the time. Your horse just has to take to that course. So, a little luck involved. Fast horse and hopefully they can get the job done.”

A one-time Marine Corps sergeant, Hiles is the son of veteran trainer Rick Hiles, longtime president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Rick Hiles has three career victories at Kentucky Downs/Dueling Grounds.

The accomplished Long Range Toddy is scheduled to make his turf debut in Thursday’s seventh race at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, a $180,000 conditioned allowance for 3-year-olds and up at a mile.

Millionaire Long Range Toddy turns to turf to break streak

Long Range Toddy has earned more than $1 million in his career, the bulk coming for breeder/owner Willis Horton and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. But Long Range Toddy, a 6-year-old son of Take Charge Indy, hasn’t won since upsetting Grade 1 winner and future champion older dirt male Improbable for his former connections in the first division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles in 2019 at Oaklawn Park.

Long Range Toddy, now doing business for owner Zenith Racing and trainer Dallas Stewart, has lost 22 consecutive starts.

“We’re just trying to find another level for him,” Stewart said. “He’s been working on the turf up here at Saratoga and doing quite well, so we thought we would give it a whirl and see how he does.”

Long Range Toddy, in his last start, finished a well-beaten sixth behind champion Jackie’s Warrior in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at six furlongs July 30 at Saratoga. Long Range Toddy subsequently recorded three half-mile works on the turf there, including a :48.79 drill Aug. 26.

“He worked like he liked it,” Stewart said. “He came out of it bouncing and happy and feeling fresh, so I’m taking that as a plus. But you never know. We’ve got to hope he likes the configuration of the track and he takes to the turf. If not, we’ll go back to the dirt.”

Long Range Toddy has been competitive in several races during his lengthy losing skid, notably a runner-up finish at odds of 45-1 in the $300,000 Commonwealth Stakes (G2) at seven furlongs April 9 at Keeneland and second, beaten a half-length, in the $150,000 Aristides Stakes at six furlongs in 2021 at Churchill Downs. Long Range Toddy was also second, beaten a head, behind the well-traveled iron-horse Sir Alfred James in an allowance/optional claiming sprint last November at Churchill Downs.

“A couple of them were really close,” Stewart said. “He had a couple of races that he was close in.”

A three-time stakes winner, Long Range Toddy has bankrolled $1,107,572 in 29 lifetime starts. He has four victories overall.


Atras makes KY Downs debut with Law Professor in Tapit - The Mint Gaming Hall