Jockey Julien Leparoux scored an historic 1,000th Churchill Downs win on Stephen Foster Preview Day, with a well-judged ride aboard Walkathon in the $195,000 Regret (G3). Later on the Saturday card, comebacker Admission Office rolled late to deny Get Smokin in the $197,500 Arlington (G3).
Whitham Thoroughbreds’ homebred Walkathon was making her stakes debut after winning both turf starts, and the Ian Wilkes trainee stayed perfect since the surface switch. The 2.60-1 second choice worked out a perfect trip to topple 4-5 favorite McKulick.
Thus Leparoux did his part to record the milestone win, placing Walkathon in a stalking second through slow fractions. As front-running longshot Lola Flo carved out splits of :24.19, :48.46, and 1:12.91 on the firm course, McKulick appeared to be conceding a bit too much back in fourth.
Leparoux unleashed Walkathon on the far turn, and the Twirling Candy filly put the race away with a blitz into the stretch. McKulick closed furiously, but too late. Walkathon had built up enough of a margin to hold her safe by 1 1/4 lengths.
McKulick drew 6 1/4 lengths clear of third-placer Beside Herself. Next came Kneesnhips, Candy Raid, and Lola Flo.
Leparoux is only the fifth rider to win at least 1,000 races beneath the Twin Spires. According to track publicity, the feat was also achieved by Hall of Famers Pat Day (2,482 Churchill Downs wins) and Calvin Borel (1,232) along with Robby Albarado (1,192) and Corey Lanerie (1,169).
“It feels great and I’m glad to get it done today for Ian,” Leparoux said. “I’ve ridden for him for about 15 years now and it’s special to be able to get this milestone with him. I can’t really pick a moment that stands out above the others for the 1,000 wins but I’m very thankful for everyone who’s gotten me this far.”
By negotiating 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.26, Walkathon improved her overall resume to 7-3-2-0, $289,996. The Kentucky-bred hails from a family cultivated by the Whithams. Her dam, the Grade 3-winning Stroll mare Walkabout, is a half-sister to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) star and $4.4-million earner Fort Larned. Walkathon’s third dam is Hall of Famer Bayakoa, a two-time heroine of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Pace appeared to be making the race in the Arlington as well, until the final strides. Transferred from its now-shuttered home and shortened to 1 1/16 miles, the Arlington was controlled by Get Smokin through fractions of :23.82, :48.77, 1:13.44, and 1:37.24. By midstretch, neither Field Pass nor 1.70-1 favorite Floriform could gain, and Get Smokin looked poised to go wire to wire.
Then Admission Office, resurfacing as a first-time gelding off a 15-month layoff, suddenly stormed into contention. Patiently handled in last early by John Velazquez, the 7-1 shot finished with a flourish to head Get Smokin at the wire in 1:43.52. Admission Office rewarded his loyalists with $17.20.
Field Pass finally edged nearer in third, another neck back. Floriform hung in fourth, followed by Like the King and the tailed-off Gray’s Fable.
Admission Office had not won since the 2020 Louisville (G3) over Churchill’s former turf course, and the seven-year-old has historically accumulated minor awards. His scorecard of 18-5-5-3, $573,372, reflects placings in such events as the 2019 Dixie (G2), Wise Dan (G2), River City (G3), and Ft. Lauderdale (G2); 2020 Mac Diarmida (G2); and 2021 Tampa Bay (G3), ironically to Get Smokin.
The Amerman Racing homebred could be a more reliable customer as a gelding. Lynch mentioned another tilt at the July 2 Wise Dan and the transferred Arlington Million (G1) Aug. 13 as his summer targets.
By Point of Entry and out of the Royal Academy mare Miss Chapin, Kentucky-bred Admission Office is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Coffee Clique.