A field of 14 and one also-eligible was drawn for the American Turf, a 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds. The race will immediately precede the Friday feature at Churchill, the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Post time is scheduled for 4:44 p.m. EDT.
Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max, romping winner of the Transylvania (gr. IIIT) one month ago, drew post 13, while Team Valor International’s Howe Great, undefeated in three starts on turf, will be parked out in post 14. By contrast, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have two solid chances with colts on the inside—recent allowance winner Coalport drew the rail, while Gung Ho, who was third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), will break from post 2.
Silver Max, one of two horses entered for trainer Dale Romans, has won three of four starts this season, all of the wins coming on turf. His one setback came on dirt in the Holy Bull (gr. III) when fifth.
After finishing runner-up in the first five starts of his career, Silver Max broke his maiden on the Gulfstream Park turf in January, then shrugged off the Holy Bull defeat and came back to score a starter optional claimer over the same Gulfstream turf course in March. He went wire-to-wire in the April 6 Transylvania at Keeneland, scoring by 5 1/2 lengths when nobody challenged him on an easy lead under Robby Albarado.
Romans has assigned Albarado to ride Silver Max once again. The son of Badge of Silver is out of the Kissin Kris mare Kissin Rene. He was bred in Kentucky by Steve C. Snowden, Seth Lauffer, and Will Lauffer.
Romans has also entered Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake, another colt who was given a chance on the Triple Crown trail before being brought back to his preferred surface. The son of Powerscourt broke his maiden on the Gulfstream turf on New Year’s Day and was a close fourth in an optional claimer over the same course a month later. Romans then tried him in the Gotham (gr. III), where he ran a distant third to Hansen, and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), where he was 10th. Kent Desormeaux will be in the irons.
Howe Great has won all three of his starts on the Gulfstream turf, a first-level allowance in December, the Jan. 21 Kitten’s Joy Stakes, and the March 11 Palm Beach (gr. III) when he held off eventual Blue Grass winner Dullahan by a length. In the Blue Grass, Howe Great was never seriously involved and finished an even fifth.
Trainer Graham Motion has assigned John Velazquez to ride the son of Hat Trick .
The Ramsey’s two starters, both by Kitten's Joy , are from different barns. Coalport, trained by Wayne Catalano, was fifth in the Palm Beach but came back to win an allowance race at Keeneland on April 14. He was runner-up as a juvenile in the Bourbon (gr. IIIT), also at Keeneland.
Gung Ho, trained by Mike Maker, broke his maiden in his third start at Louisiana Downs in the Sunday Silence Stakes on turf. He was second in the Rushaway at Turfway Park and third by 3 3/4 lengths in the Blue Grass—both on Polytrack .
Other top contenders include the Todd Pletcher-trained Star Channel, who has won three in a row in Florida but will be making his graded stakes debut, and Blueskiesnrainbows, the third-place finisher of the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) last out for Bob Baffert. Blueskiesnrainbows was well-beaten in his only try on turf, that coming last fall at Santa Anita.