Centennial Farms’ Chelokee, on the Triple Crown trail a year ago, makes his return to graded stakes action May 2 when he faces six older horses in the $150,000 Alysheba Stakes (gr. III) on the dirt at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile Alysheba is race 8 on the program, two races prior to the featured $500,000 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Among the talented rivals that Chelokee will face are Wanderin Boy, who won the Alysheba last year, and Magna Graduate, a six-time graded stakes winner.
Trained by Michael Matz, Chelokee made his return from a more than nine-month layoff March 29 at Gulfstream Park, scoring in a one-mile allowance event under Jose Lezcano. The 4-year-old Cherokee Run colt was a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) possibility in 2007 after finishing third in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
Ultimately, a foot abscess prompted Matz to bypass the Triple Crown in favor of the Barbaro Stakes, in which the dark bay colt won by 4 ¾ lengths at Pimlico. A victory in the June 16 Northern Dancer (gr. III) followed that, but injury forced Chelokee to the sidelines for the rest of the campaign.
Bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms Bloodstock, Chelokee is out of the Silver Ghost mare Dixie Ghost. He is 5-1-2 from nine lifetime starts. Ramon Dominguez will get the call.
Since taking the Alysheba by 4 ¾ lengths on a sloppy track a year ago, Wanderin Boy is winless in four starts. The son of Seeking the Gold will be making his 7-year-old debut, as trainer Nick Zito rested the chestnut horse after finishing fourth in the Oct. 26 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park.
Owned and bred by Arthur B. Hancock III, Wanderin Boy is a four-time graded stakes winner, and is less than $50,000 away from being a $1 million earner. He was second to Lawyer Ron in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) last summer at Saratoga. Corey Nakatani will ride.
A 6-year-old son of Honor Grades, Magna Graduate could be sitting on a big effort. The Todd Pletcher trainee is 0-for-3 this year, but was third in the Feb. 9 Mineshaft (gr. III), led after a half-mile in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) before finishing fifth, and was in contention the whole way in his most recent effort, the 1 1/8-mile Excelsior Handicap (gr. III).
Owned by Elisabeth Alexander, Magna Graduate last hit the winner’s circle in the 2007 Excelsior, which was his ninth career victory and seventh stakes score. The dark bay horse has earned more than $2.3 million. John Velazquez will be in the irons.
Also to consider are Prom Shoes and Jonesboro, who will be meeting each other for the fourth time this year and share the 122-pound high weight. A 4-year-old son of Include , Prom Shoes got the better of his rival last time out when he won the April 11 Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Jonesboro was sixth in that race, but conquered Prom Shoes in the March 8 Razorback Stakes (gr. III), which was the 6-year-old’s second graded stakes score.
Giant Gizmo and Better Than Bonds round out the field.
$150,000 Alysheba Stakes (gr. III, race 8, 3:34 p.m.), 3-year-Olds and Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
1. Better Than Bonds (FL), 118, Edgar S. Prado
2. Wanderin Boy (KY), 118, Corey S. Nakatani
3. Magna Graduate (KY), 118, John R. Velazquez
4. Prom Shoes (KY), 122, Julien R. Leparoux
5. Giant Gizmo (KY), 118, Rafael Bejarano
6. Chelokee (KY), 118, Ramon A. Dominguez
7. Jonesboro (KY), 122, Garrett K. Gomez