Bittel Road is back on turf, where he has won 3 races.

Bittel Road is back on turf, where he has won 3 races.

Mathea Kelley

American Turf Stakes: Take Your Pick

Separating the members of the field in the American Turf isn't easy.

Two 3-year-olds with excellent turf form hope to leave behind mediocre efforts on dirt and synthetic surfaces in the $150,000 Crown Royal American Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/16 miles on the grass May 1 at Churchill Downs. But the field is contentious from top to bottom.

The American Turf, for 3-year-olds, is the 10th race on a 12-race program highlighted by the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Post time for the American Turf is set for 4:47 p.m. EDT.

James Scatuorchio and John Iracane’s Bittel Road, and Jack Spratt, owned by Sand Dollar Stable, Skychai Racing, Golden Goose Stable, F. Thomas Conway, and trainer Mike Maker, figure to attract much of the wagering interest. Both colts are stakes winners on the turf but haven’t fared as well on other surfaces.

Bittel Road, a Kentucky-bred by Stormy Atlantic  out of the Sultry Song mare Sultry Sal, was the second choice in the March 21 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) on Polytrack at Turfway. He didn’t pick up his feet and checked in 10th in a 12-horse field.

Previously, the Todd Pletcher trainee finished an even fourth in both the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) and Cash Call Futurity (gr. I) on synthetic surfaces in California. At 2, he won his first three races—all on the grass.

Jack Spratt, a Kentucky-bred by Candy Ride  out of the Miner's Mark mare Mayapple, finished fifth, about five lengths ahead of Bittel Road, in the Lane’s End. He didn’t fire in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) on dirt in his previous start, but earlier won the Dania Beach Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park, and last year broke his maiden on the Churchill grass course.

Garrett Gomez gets a return call on Bittel Road, while Eibar Coa rides Jack Spratt. Julien Leparoux, who rode Jack Spratt to his two wins, opted for Stomalory, who he rode to victory April 3 in the Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland.

Owned by Darley Stable and trained by Bill Mott, Stormalory has blossomed on the grass, with a solid third in the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream in his previous start. The Kentucky-bred son of Storm Cat out of the Mr. Prospector mare Miss Halory has shown he can handle firm or yielding courses.

California shipper Battle of Hastings, owned by Michael House and trained by Jeff Mullins, could be favored at post time. The Great Britain-bred gelding by Royal Applause out of the Night Shift mare Subya, won his last two starts: the LaPuente Stakes at one mile on the grass at Santa Anita Park, and the Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita.

Battle of Hastings also won two turf events last year in England. Tyler Baze, his regular rider, is back aboard.

An intriguing entrant is Flying Dutchman Stable’s Bunker Hill, who made his 2009 debut April 18 in what turned out to be a classy and contentious $100,000 Blue and Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the dirt at Charles Town Races & Slots. Trained by Derek Ryan, Bunker Hill got no breathers—typical of two-turn sprints at Charles Town, and fell just a neck behind seven-time winner Russell Road at the wire.

The final time was 1:24.88, a little more than a second off the track record. In four starts at 2, Bunker Hill won two off-the-turf route stakes at Delaware Park and Monmouth Park, and just missed in the Dover Stakes, also on the dirt at Delaware.

Bunker Hill, a Florida-bred by Trippi out of the High Yield mare Never Yield, finally gets his chance to try the grass in the American Turf. Mike Smith gets the call.

 $150,000 American Turf (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 4:47 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Stormalory (KY), 123, Julien R. Leparoux
2. Jack Spratt (KY), 121, Eibar Coa
3. Battle of Hastings (GB), 121, Tyler Baze
4. Bruce N Autumn (KY), 117, Kent J. Desormeaux
5. Skipadate (FL), 117, Shaun Bridgmohan
6. Bittel Road (KY), 123, Garrett K. Gomez
7. Turfiste (KY), 117, Jamie Theriot
8. Bunker Hill (FL), 117, Mike E. Smith
9. Orthodox (KY), 117, Jon Kenton Court
10. Pointing Home (FL), 117, Calvin H. Borel