The Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby undercards offer turf stars Colonel Liam and Smooth Like Strait. They offer filly stars Gamine, Shedaresthedevil, Sanenus, Aunt Pearl, and Envoutante. They also offer Maxfield, Roadster, and Max Player. And they offer one-time Derby hopefuls Jackie’s Warrior, Prevalence, and Gretzky the Great.
It’s easy to get a case of Kentucky Derby fever come the first Saturday in May. But don’t let that fever suck you into Derby tunnel-vision. Not with a loaded Oaks undercard and Derby undercard of graded stakes races offering five graded stakes races Friday and six Saturday. That’s in addition to Friday’s Oaks and Saturday’s Run for the Roses.
The Oaks and Derby undercards come replete with familiar names. A few of the races, most notably Friday’s Grade 1 La Troienne and Saturday’s Grade 1 Turf Classic, would headline most race days anywhere in the country. The La Troienne is one of two Grade 1s on Friday. The Turf Classic is one of four on Saturday.
Entries for Friday’s races are due Monday. Entries for Saturday’s Derby undercard are due Tuesday. OG News takes a preliminary look at the projected fields, according to Churchill Downs assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Dan Bork.
Grade 2 $250,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint
This 5 ½-furlong sprint features defending champion Diamond Oops, who won this race last September. After winning the Phoenix Stakes a month later, he finished sixth and ninth in his next two races. Coming at him is Peter Miller’s Sombeyay, who is 1-for-3 with a second this year. Others expected are American Butterfly, Carotari, Firecrow, Classy John, and Just Might.
Grade 2 $300,000 Edgewood
Brad Cox’s Irish-bred Aunt Pearl is the jewel of this field. The 3-year-old is 3-for-3, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. In this 1 1/16-mile turf race, she gets Kenny McPeek’s Oliviaofthedesert, who already has 10 races and three victories – none in a graded stakes — under her 3-year-old tack. Get It, Postnup, and Queen of the Green await. Todd Pletcher may bring in Jouster and Zaajel.
Grade 2 $300,000 Eight Belles
This seven-furlong race for one-time Oaks hopefuls gives us Dayoutoftheoffice, who has yet to miss the exacta in four races (3-1-0). That includes a Grade 1 victory in the Frizette and a runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to Vequist. Steve Asmussen’s Abrogate is 3-for-4 with a third, but none come in graded stakes. Joyful Cadence, Sun Path, Euphoric, Slumber Party, and Windmill await.
Grade 2 $400,000 Alysheba
Say hello again to Maxfield, last seen losing his first race in March’s Santa Anita Handicap. Reacquaint yourself with Max Player, last seen finishing 11th in the Saudi Cup. And welcome back Roadster, last seen finishing fourth in the New Orleans Classic — his first race outside Bob Baffert’s barn. Attachment Rate, Chess Chief, Sonneman, and Visitant are all expected in this 1 1/16-mile event.
Grade 1 $500,0000 La Troienne
The field for this 1 1/16-mile event is loaded. Shedaresthedevil returns to the scene of her record Kentucky Oaks victory last September. Her sixth victory in 12 races came at Oaklawn Park’s Azeri Stakes in March. Chilean mare Sanenus hit the board in four of her five US starts (1-1-2). Envoutante’s two-race winning streak ended with a fourth in that Azeri. Keep an eye on Paris Lights and Dunbar Road.
Grade 2 $500,000 American Turf
We welcome back Fire At Will to his natural grassy habitat. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner took a Derby trail fling with the Fountain of Youth in late February. It didn’t end well – a miserable sixth. He returned to turf for a third at the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland last month. Lucky Law’s sixth in the Sam F. Davis took him off the trail. Holy Vow has two wins and a second in three 2021 races, none in a graded stakes. Other probables are Palazzi and Winfromwithin.
Grade 2 $500,000 Pat Day Mile
Here’s the race for one-time Derby prospects who flunked the two-turn test. That’s why we see one-time Derby futures odds favorite Jackie’s Warrior, Gretzky the Great, and Prevalence. All three disappointed in their Derby trail escapades. Dream Shake dropping out of the Derby and into this race adds further intrigue, setting up a Jackie’s Warrior-Dream Shake duel. Whiskey Double and Excellent Timing also figure.
Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile
Mark Casse’s Got Stormy defines “crafty veteran.” The 6-year-old mare claims 11 victories and 19 in-the-money finishes in her 27 career races. She’s hit the board in three of her last four outings, including a victory in February’s Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Oaklawn. Chad Brown’s Blowout hasn’t missed the board in 11 races, but suffers from second-itis. She owns seven runner-up finishes, including in each of her last four starts.
Grade 1 Derby City Distaff
Gamine going seven furlongs. What could possibly go wrong for the rest of this field? The Champion Female Sprinter of 2020 won her six-furlong, 2021 opener by five lengths on April 4 at Santa Anita. She’s won her two seven-furlong races by 6 ¾ and seven lengths. Tangling with this buzzsaw is Bell’s the One, who won this race last year before finishing third to Gamine in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Then there’s Sconsin, who finished fourth in that Breeders’ Cup race and seventh in the Grade 1 Madison earlier this month.
Grade 1 $500,000 Churchill Downs
This seven-furlong sprint for the boys brings in an eclectic field. There’s Lexitonian, who hit the board once in his last four starts. Hog Creek Hustle owns a Grade 1 win from 2019. He’s 1-for-14 since. Mind Control finished second to Mischevious Alex in the Grade 1 Carter last month. He’s 0-for-7 in his most recent runs, but has hit the board in four graded stakes. Tap It To Win won his 2021 debut, the Black-Type Sprint Stakes. He’s hit the board in his last three (1-1-1). Phat Man joins the fray.
Grade 1 $1 million Turf Classic
Colonel Liam takes on Smooth Like Strait, Ivar, Masteroffoxhounds, and Ride a Comet over 1 1/8 miles in one of the best older male turf races of the year. Colonel Liam is 5-for-7, riding a three-race win streak into this fray. Smooth Like Strait has two first and two seconds in his last four. Brazilian-bred Ivar won last October’s Shadwell Turf Mile with a 122 Equibase Speed Figure. Masteroffoxhounds hit the board in two of his last three outings and ran a career-best 110 Equibase in his third at the Grade 3 San Luis Rey last month. Ride a Comet came off his seventh in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile into a second at the Maker’s Mark Mile.