(Edited Churchill Downs release)
An even dozen older grass specialists will line up to run 12 furlongs on Churchill Downs' Matt Winn Turf Course in Saturday's 70th -- and longest and richest -- renewal of the $150,000-added Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT).
The Louisville is the featured 10th event on an 11-race program that kicks off the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend at the historic track. Post time for the day's first race is 1:15 p.m. (EDT). This year's renewal of the Louisville will be its richest as the purse has been raised by $50,000, and is also the longest as its distance has been extended by a furlong from 1 3/8-miles to 1 ½-miles.
The race will also be won for the first time in four years by a horse other than Stephanie Clark's Silverfoot, winner of the past three runnings of the Louisville Handicap for trainer Dallas Stewart. The 7-year-old son of With Approval only recently launched serious training for his 2007 campaign and will sit out this year's renewal.
In the absence of the three-time champion, there is no clear-cut choice in the Louisville and handicapper Mike Battaglia has installed S J Stables' Cloudy's Knight as the 7-2 morning line favorite.
The 7-year-old Lord Avie gelding, who is trained by Frank Kirby and will be ridden by Mark Guidry, won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) in February and finished a strong second to Einstein in the Mervin Muniz, Jr. Handicap at the New Orleans track. Cloudy's Knight just missed a 16-1 upset at Churchill Downs when he finished second to G P Fleet in the 2004 running of the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Other major contenders include Runnin Horse Farm's Hotstufanthensome (4-1), Merriefield Farm's Always First (9-2), Bruce Lunsford and Lansdon Robbins III's Drilling for Oil (8-1), Gary Tanaka's Embossed (10-1), and Anstu Stable's Ramazutti (10-1).
Field for the Louisville Handicap (gr. III):
# Horse (weight), Jockey, ML odds
1--Murch (113), Willie Martinez, 20-1
2--Always First (118), Corey Lanerie, 9-2
3--I Believe In Me (113), Brian Hernandez, Jr., 10-1
4--Transduction Gold (118), Shaun Bridgmohan, 8-1
5--Hotstufanthensome (117), Rafael Bejarano, 4-1
6--Cloudy's Knight (116), Mark Guidry, 7-2
7--Louve Des Reves (118), Julien Leparoux , 20-1
8--Royal Assault (112), Jesus Castanon, 30-1
9--Ramazutti (115), Calvin Borel, 10-1
10--Drilling for Oil (114), Kent Desormeaux, 8-1
11--Fri Guy (113), Miguel Mena, 12-1
12--Embossed (115), Larry Melancon, 10-1
Morning Line odds by Mike Battaglia