A half-length. That margin separated Beach Patrol from victory a year ago in the race now run as the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1), and it was also the margin by which he missed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar, a loss that might have cost the Chad Brown trainee champion turf male honors.
It remain to be seen whether the son of Lemon Drop Kid will be a championship contender this year, but he certainly will be in Saturday’s $500,000 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, which immediately precedes the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Last term’s Arlington Million (G1) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) winner will be making his first run since the Breeders’ Cup in the nine-furlong heat, and is likely again to show some early foot. Conditions should be dryer on Saturday than they were 12 months ago, though forecasted rain on Friday could soften the turf a bit.
Highly impressive in taking a pair of graded stakes at Fair Grounds over the winter was Synchrony, who has never been worse than second in five starts on grass. The Pin Oak homebred won the Muniz Memorial (G2) by 1 3/4 lengths last tie, which followed a two-length decision in the Fair Grounds H. (G3).
Deauville, the beaten favorite in the Arlington Million, ships in from Ireland for Aidan O’Brien following a second-place finish in the Earl of Sefton (G3) at Newmarket less than three weeks ago, while the one-two finishers in last season’s American Turf (G2), Arklow and Yoshida, return to the Derby Day program. Arklow was most recently second to Synchrony at Fair Grounds, while Yoshida make his first run since taking the Hill Prince (G3) last October.
The field also includes the Chad Brown-trained Kurilov, a Chilean Group 1 winner and neck runner-up in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1); the Mike Maker-trained duo of Camelot Kitten and Shining Copper, both of whom are graded winners on the Matt Winn Turf Course, and the Bill Mott-conditioned Channel Maker, twice Grade 1-placed in his last three starts.
Grade 1 winner La Coronel, who defeated stablemate Dream Dancing and Proctor’s Ledge in the Edgewood (G3) on Derby weekend last season, tops a competitive field in the $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2). La Coronel enters off of a fourth-place effort behind a trio of Chad Brown-trained mares in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland, while Proctor’s Ledge finished eighth of 11 in the same race.
Brown is represented here by Dream While, who has won once and missed in two other races narrowly since her importation from France. The field also includes Grade 3 scorer On Leave and the quartet of Madam Dancealot, Thundering Sky, Insta Erma, and Madame Stripes, all of whom were involved in several skirmishes with each other over the winter in California.
A full field of three-year-olds will contest the $300,000 American Turf (G2) at 1 1/16 miles. While the filly Rushing Fall was cross-entered here as well as in the Edgewood on Friday, the leading male contenders include the Jeff Mullins-trained River Boyne, last -out winner of the $200,000 Pasadena at Santa Anita.
Untamed Domain, runner-up to Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), seeks better form after two relatively dull efforts to start the season, though the latest in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) was on dirt. Maraud, Speed Franco, and Captivating Moon all possess solid graded form, while Threeandfourpence invades from Ireland where he missed by a less than a length to Mendelssohn in the Patton Stakes over the all-weather at Dundalk two back.