The Churchill Downs Stakes, for older horses, will be run two races before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Last year’s third-place finisher, Musket Man, returns to Louisville in this spot under the Twin Spires.
Warrior’s Reward, trained by long-time Carl Nafzger assistant Ian Wilkes, pipped Musket Man by a nose in the Carter at Aqueduct. Warrior’s Reward will add eight pounds off his latest win, toting 124 May 1. Musket Man gets in with 118 pounds under the allowance conditions, the same he carried in New York.
Last summer, Warrior’s Reward was beaten a head by Successful Dan in the 11/6-mile Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs and finished second to fellow CD Stakes runner Kensei in the nine-furlong Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
Musket Man, Eric Fein and Vic Carlson’s stocky son of Yonaguska, was off for nine months after his third-place finish in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) last year before returning in early February at Tampa Bay Downs. A half-length victory at seven furlongs was his steppingstone for the Carter. He came from off the pace to just miss in 1:21.62 for the seven panels.
Munnings, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith’s seven furlong specialist, drew the rail and will have John Velazquez up. A winner of the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. II) in his 4-year-old debut at Gulfstream, he was third in the Carter. He also dropped a decision to Warrior’s Reward last Oaks day at Churchill Downs.
Hull was a brilliant winner of the one turn one-mile Derby Trail last spring. Off from last summer to this spring, he ran in an allowance/optional claimer over the Polytrack at Keeneland April 2, running third as the 3-5 choice. Expect better with his return to dirt.
Kensei, winner of the Dwyer (gr. II) and Jim Dandy last year around two bends, makes his second start of the year after a closing runner-up effort going six furlongs March 27 at Fair Grounds.
Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II), $250,000 Churchill Downs, May 1, 4-Year-Olds and up, seven furlongs, Race 9, post time 3:52 p.m. EDT
PP, Horse, Jockey
1, Munnings, J Velazquez
2, Country Day, B Hernandez Jr.
3, Wall Street Wonder, C Hill
4, Victory Notion, J McKee
5, Hamazing Destiny, T Thompson
6, Hull, S Bridgmohan
7, Warrior’s Reward, J Leparoux
8, Ventana, G Gomez
9, Atta Boy Roy, C Borel
10, Cool Coal Man, J Lezcano
11, Kensei, R Albarado
12, Musket Man, R Dominguez
13, Accredit, A Garcia