While Churchill Downs’ Spring Meet ends on Saturday, the closing day stakes also point toward the future.
Promising juveniles who pass their tests in the $100,000 Bashford Manor (G3) and $100,000 Debutante could be back here in September for the Iroquois (G3) and Pocahontas (G2) – typically the first scoring races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1). And with Churchill hosting the Breeders’ Cup on November 2-3, the Iroquois and Pocahontas will be “Win and You’re In” contests over the same track and trip as their championship events. Saturday’s card may have a direct bearing on the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), with Aristides (G3) romper Chief Cicatriz the headline act in the $75,000 Kelly’s Landing.
The six-furlong Bashford Manor has attracted a crowded field of 13 youngsters. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen sends out Sir Truebadour, a full brother to Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2)-winning millionaire Regally Ready, and Cat Addiction, a Tale of the Cat half-brother to current Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Snapper Sinclair. Both are Churchill debut winners in the slop, with Sir Truebadour going wire-to-wire and Cat Addiction rallying from well back for a $50,000 tag. Sir Truebadour has run in the interim, finishing fourth in the Tremont at Belmont Park, and keeps Ricardo Santana Jr.
Doug O’Neill dispatches Toothless Wonder from his Santa Anita base. Fourth to well-regarded filly Tijori in his premiere, the son of Street Boss came back to show more tactical foot in his maiden score. Mario Gutierrez makes the trek.
Emerging young sire Shanghai Bobby is represented by Shanghaied Roo, a sharp winner at first asking at Keeneland. Trained by Bret Calhoun, the Tom Durant homebred has drawn the rail. Weiland, only fifth in his Keeneland appearance for owner/trainer John Ennis, jumped up next time to upset the May 3 Kentucky Juvenile at Churchill at odds of 19-1.
Freshman trainer Norm Casse saddled champion Classic Empire in the 2016 Bashford Manor for his father, Mark, and now has a prospect in his own right. Tales of Chaucer, a half-brother to a pair of New York-bred juvenile stakes winners, sped clear of fellow state-breds in his unveiling at Belmont Park.
Maiden winners are coming from various directions. Baytown Glory, The Song of John, and Overanalyzer all graduated at Indiana Grand. Eye Cloud (Evangeline Downs), Mr Chocolate Chip (Belterra), Dalliance and Mr. Granite (Presque Isle Downs) likewise look to step up on the big stage.
The Debutante, also at six furlongs, pits three Churchill winners against each other. Restless Rider (bred on the reverse cross from Arrogate as a daughter of Distorted Humor and an Unbridled’s Song mare) overcame a case of pre-debut anxiety to win going away for Ken McPeek. Shanghai Rain, who won in her second try, is another Shanghai Bobby for the Durant/Calhoun tandem. Also exiting a Churchill maiden score is Beach Getaway, successful third time out for Ben Colebrook.
Two shippers merit serious consideration. O’Keeffe, a Munnings filly from the Larry Rivelli barn, wired her debut over Arlington Park’s Polytrack. Kelly Rubley’s Hay Dilly, a Candy Ride half-sister to Grade 3-winning millionaire Rise Up, recovered from a tardy start at Delaware Park to win well.
Rounding out the nine-filly field are Payntermaniac, third in her first attempt at Churchill; War Ballad, a daughter of Declaration of War who made it fourth time lucky at Indiana Grand; and recent maiden scorers Miss Mission (Presque Isle) and My Wynter Rose (Belterra).
The aforementioned Chief Cicatriz proved that he wasn’t just a Southwestern-region wonder when crushing the Aristides by 6 1/4 lengths last out. According to Daily Racing Form, the Munnings gelding has also been contemplating a trip to Gulfstream Park for Saturday’s Smile Sprint (G2). If he does stay put at Churchill, he’ll have to negotiate a seventh furlong in the Kelly’s Landing. In his only prior experience at the trip, Chief Cicatriz was fifth in the sloppy Churchill Downs S. (G2) on Derby Day.
That distance is right in the wheelhouse for Warrior’s Club, the winner of the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland who missed by a head in the Churchill Downs. A tilt at the Met Mile (G1) last out didn’t pan out for the D. Wayne Lukas trainee, but this spot should be a better fit. A similar point applies to the respective second and fourth from the Aristides, Mr. Crow and Awesome Saturday, both eligible to improve in their rematch with Chief Cicatriz back at this trip.
Other notable contenders include lightly raced C Z Rocket, sixth in the Malibu (G1) and most recently third to American Anthem in his comeback; the feast-or-famine Cool Arrow, who takes the blinkers off for Joe Sharp; and Requite, resurfacing from a year-long layoff for new trainer Ian Wilkes.