Led by Zayat Stable’s talented but lightly raced Paynter, a field of 11 sophomores was entered in the $200,000 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) on opening night of the Churchill Downs 39-day spring meet April 28.
None of the horses entered in the one-mile Derby Trial will actually be pointing toward the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but we could see some of them show up in some major 3-year-old races later in the year. Post time for the under-the-lights Derby Trial is set for 9:39 p.m. EDT. Churchill will card 11 races Saturday night with first post at 6 p.m..
Paynter, shipping in from California from Bob Baffert's barn, enters off a fourth-place finish in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). It was a solid effort for his stakes debut, and it came one start after he broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths in February.
Martin Garcia will ride Paynter for Baffert. The son of Awesome Again has worked once since the Santa Anita Derby, a six-furlong drill in 1:12 April 18 at Hollywood Park.
Baffert won the Derby Trial in 1998 with Souvenir Copy and in 2006 with Record.
Dale Romans, who won this event in 2009 with Hull, has entered three—restricted stakes winner Tarpy's Goal, and maiden winners Saint of Saints and Seve. Tarpy’s Goal, by High Cotton , broke his maiden at Churchill in his debut last May, and after a string of poor starts later that season has come back to win two of four starts in 2012. Last out, the Florida-bred colt won the state restricted OBS Sophomore Stakes April 7 at Tampa Bay Downs. Leandro Goncalves, aboard for that one-length victory, will be back aboard and they will break from the rail.
Ian Wilkes trainee Motor City has the benefit of a graded stakes victory at Churchill. Lantern Hill Farm’s homebred son of Street Sense won the Iroquois (gr. III) back in October and was thought to be of Kentucky Derby potential heading into 2012. But he had a couple of setbacks, and an eighth-place finish in the March 10 Swale (gr. III) forced Wilkes to abandon those plans and point toward this race. Brian Hernandez Jr. will have the mount.
Stealcase, a maiden winner at Gulfstream in January, enters off consecutive off-the-board stakes efforts for Mark Casse. The Lawyer Ron colt was sixth in the Gotham (gr. III) after a troubled trip and was fifth in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) after being bet down to 8-1. He has recorded three consecutive works at Churchill leading up to the race.
Hierro, trained by Steve Asmussen, won his only race in five starts at Churchill, that coming last fall by more than five lengths in a seven-furlong maiden event. The son of Hard Spun was fifth in the Sham (gr. III) in his lone stakes try. Asmussen won the Derby Trial in 1996 with Valid Expectations.
Bourbon Courage, owned by Bourbon Lane Stable and Wayne Lynn, has won his first two starts by a combined 11 lengths at Fair Grounds. Trained by Kellyn Gorder, Bourbon Courage will break from post 11 and be ridden by Miguel Mena.