December 3, 2023

Mask returns in Pat Day Mile; Imperial Hint tops Churchill Downs

Mask drew off in his stakes debut in the Mucho Macho Man (Photo courtesy Kenny Martin/Coglianese Photography)

Of the three one-turn dirt stakes on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby undercard, the $300,000 Pat Day Mile (G3) may have the lower grade but arguably the most intrigue.

The former Derby Trial marks the return to action of Mask, who looked a potential star in the making for Chad Brown when taking his first two starts handsomely, including the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream the first week of the year. Subsequently knocked off the classic trail, the Tapit colt has the potential to be a major force during the second half of the season.

Sporting Chance failed to earn enough points to make the Derby after a couple erratic runs during the prep season, but the Hopeful (G1) winner could turn it around shortening up Saturday. The same goes for Greyvitos, who was undoubtedly a tad short when fourth in the Lexington (G3) in his season debut three weeks ago.

National Flag was only fifth to Sporting Chance in the Hopeful last summer, but has appeared a different horse in two starts this term, including a powerhouse four-length win in the Bay Shore (G3) at Aqueduct for Todd Pletcher.

The Bob Baffert-trained Restoring Hope adds blinkers following a fine third in the Wood Memorial (G1), while Madison’s Luna enters perfect after two starts, including a five-length win in the six-furlong Hutcheson (G3).

Imperial Hint, whose only setback in his last seven starts was a second-place effort to Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), could face as many as nine rivals in the $300,000 Churchill Downs (G2) over seven furlongs. The five-year-old had an easy prep in late March, taking the Florida Cup Sprint by five lengths at Tampa Bay Downs.

Limousine Liberal and Awesome Slew, the one-two  finishers in this race a year ago when contested on a wet track, are back, though Awesome Slew is cross-entered to the Alysheba (G2) on Friday. Multiple graded stakes Whitmore, meanwhile, comes off an exciting, off-the-pace title defense of the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn

Conquest Windycity upset subsequent Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) victor Mind Your Biscuits in a Gulfstream allowance back in February, but was no match for Warrior’s Club in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland last out. A 23-1 longshot in that heat, Warrior’s Club flies the colors of the Churchill Downs Racing Club.

Stakes winner Outplay won his allowance prep on the Florida Derby (G1) undercard and could be a potential good one for Todd Pletcher.

Finley’sluckycharm, six-for-six at Churchill, hopes to extend her early lead in the female sprint championship race in the $300,000 Humana Distaff (G1) over seven furlongs. She comes off a game score in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland, in which returning rivals Lewis Bay and American Gal were beaten by a head and a neck, respectively.

Multiple graded stakes winner Skye Diamonds invades from California, while the capable Ivy Bell and Salty could both factor if they choose this spot over Friday’s La Troienne (G1) at 1 1/16 miles.