Illinois Derby (gr. III) winner Joe Vann leads a field of eight 3-year-olds entered in the $125,000 Matt Winn Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs June 18.
The Matt Winn is one of four graded events on a Churchill Downs program headed up by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). The Winn, at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, is the 10th race on the card with an expected start of 5:25 p.m. EDT.
Two significant defections due to injury left the Winn field with several up-and-coming sophomores whose connections are hoping for a big second half of the year.
The highly-regarded Bind, from the Al Stall Jr. barn, suffered a condylar fracture in his right front leg during a four-furlong work for the race. Dominus , second by a neck to Machen in Churchill's Derby Trail (gr. III) April 30, was also a no-go for trainer Steve Asmussen due to a lingering foot problem.
That leaves Zayat Stables' Joe Vann and Charles Cella's Uncle Brent as the most accomplished runners in the field. Both are coming out of the Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont Park after recording stakes wins in their previous start.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Joe Vann finished fourth in the nine-furlong Peter Pan, seven lengths behind the victorious Alternation. A bump at the break left the son of Silver Deputy farther back than usual that day. The highlight of the colt's nine-race career came in the Illionois Derby, when he was able to prompt a sluggish pace and draw off in the stretch for a 4 1/2-length triumph.
Javier Castellano, who rode Joe Vann for the first time in the Peter Pan, is back aboard for the dark bay's initial try at Churchill. They'll break from the far outside post.
Uncle Brent tired badly when well bet in the Peter Pan, finishing ninth by more than 16 lengths. Trained by Lynn Whiting, the gelded son of Pioneering was a 1 3/4-length winner of Oaklawn Park's Northern Spur Stakes prior to that. Uncle Brent enjoyed a rail trip in the one-mile Northern Spur, clearing off in the stretch and holding sway. Manny Cruz picks up the mount for the first time.
Joe Vann and Uncle Brent were both assigned top weight of 120 pounds, four more than their six rivals.
Asmussen entered Stonestreet Stable’s Wilburn in the Matt Winn, but the trainer told the Churchill publicity office June 14 that he was not sure that his colt would run. The son of Bernardini won an optional claiming allowance at the Matt Winn distance over a sloppy Churchill strip May 15, his second win in three lifetime starts.
Infrattini ran second to Wilburn last time, beaten by three-quarters of a length, and jumps into stakes company for trainer Paul McGee and owner Z Thoroughbreds.
“He’s eligible for a one-other than (allowance), but the ones here (at Churchill Downs) were only one-turn races,” McGee said. “I wanted to keep him going two-turns. He’s doing really well and likes it at Churchill Downs. We think he’s doing good enough to try.”
Leading rider Corey Lanerie has the call on the Include colt.
Another Matt Winn contender, Iron Horse Racing's Alstom, worked a sharp four furlongs June 13 in :47 2/5 for Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas. It was the fastest of 54 drills at the distance.
The son of Silver Train ran fifth in the Northern Spur and most recently finished third to Meistersinger in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill June 5. He drew the rail with Calvin Borel aboard for the first time.
Peter Callahan's Scotus missed by a head in that allowance after being steadied at the eighth pole. The Ken McPeek-trained son of Successful Appeal has not been out of the money in four lifetime starts. Alan Garcia rides.
Maiden winners Chalice, who graduated on the Churchill turf May 6 for trainer Kellyn Gorder, and Supreme Ruler, to don blinkers for the first time for Jinks Fires, are also in the field.
$125,000 Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, 5:25 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Alstom (NY), C H Borel, 116, D W Lukas
2. Infrattini (KY), C J Lanerie, 116, P J McGee
3. Wilburn (KY), M E Smith, 116, S M Asmussen
4. Supreme Ruler (KY), J K Court, 116, W H Fires
5. Uncle Brent (KY), M R Cruz, 120, L S Whiting
6. Chalice (KY), J R Leparoux, 116, K Gorder
7. Scotus (KY), A Garcia, 116, K G McPeek
8. Joe Vann (KY), J Castellano, 120, T A Pletcher
Blinkers On: Supreme Ruler