Those looking for an easy spot for their sprinters need to find a race other than the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) undercard May 5.
Trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr decided to ship last year’s champion sprinter Amazombie back to Louisville from his California base to contest the Churchill Downs over the same strip on which he won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) last November.
Those looking for a flaw in the champ’s armor will point to the seven-furlong distance of this $400,000 affair, and note that Amazombie has run third both times he has tried the distance, including February’s San Carlos (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park. Amazombie, a gelded 6-year-old son of Northern Afleet , comes off a victory in the April 7 Potrero Grande (gr. II). He has won 11 of 24 lifetime races and $1,639,708.
Lending further star power to the Churchill Downs is Shackleford, last year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner who ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown and then came back to miss by just a neck in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I). Shortened up to one turn in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) last month, Shackleford ran a good third in the seven-furlong contest. Darby Dan Farm has purchased an interest in the Forestry colt and will stand him at stud in 2013. Shackleford has earned better than $2 million.
Another California invader is Smiling Tiger, winner of the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park last July. The 5-year-old is a graded stakes veteran and also won the 2010 editions of the grade I Bing Crosby and Ancient Title. The millionaire, trained by Jeff Bonde, makes his first appearance since finishing fourth in the Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. I) last August at Del Mar.
Gantry brings a four-race winning streak into the Churchill Downs, the last three in stakes company at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The son of Pulpit has won six of 11 races lifetime.
Apriority, who took the Mr. Prospector (gr. III) on New Year’s Eve day at Gulfstream Park, just missed in the Count Fleet Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park last month. He finished second by a nose to Aikenite in last year’s Churchill Downs.
The race goes as the seventh on the card with post time at 2:08 ET. The field for the Churchill Downs in post position order with riders and weights:
1) Smiling Tiger (Joel Rosario, 118)
2) Alma d’Oro (Javier Castellano, 118)
3) Apriority (Rafael Bejarano, 118)
4) Shackleford (Jesus Castanon, 118)
5) Hamazing Destiny (Corey Nakatani, 118)
6) Amazombie (Mike Smith, 123)
7) Gantry (Richard Eramia, 118)
8) Will’s Wildcat (Calvin Borel, 118)