A showdown between veteran star With Anticipation and exciting French newcomer Rouvres is expected to provided added sizzle in Saturday's $300,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs.
The outstanding field for Woodford Reserve makes up one of five major events on a Kentucky Derby Day card that includes more than $2 million in stakes purses.
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic features the first meeting between Augustin Stable's With Anticipation, a runner-up to Beat Hollow in the 2002 running of the Woodford Reserve and winner of both the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) and Man O' War (gr. IT), and Alec Head's highly-regarded French import Rouvres. Nine older turf stars were entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf test for 3-year-olds & up that immediately precedes the Kentucky Derby.
With Anticipation, a son of Relaunch trained by Jonathan Sheppard, also won the United Nations Handicap (gr. I) in a 2002 campaign that ended with a strong runner-up finish to European star High Chaparral in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. I) at Arlington Park. The Woodford Reserve will begin With Anticipation's 8-year-old campaign.
The homebred gray has won 15 of 44 races -- including 7 of 16 on turf -- and has earned $2,641,204 for Augustin's George Strawbridge, Jr. Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia has installed With Anticipation as the 5-2 morning-line favorite under regular rider Pat Day.
Rouvres, a 4-year-old son of Anabaa trained by Christophe Clement, was upset by Candid Glen in the $650,000 Explosive Bid (gr. II) at the Fair Grounds on March 23.
Derby Day at Churchill Downs also marks the return to the track of the 2-3 finishers in last year's Kentucky Derby and the introduction of a new All Stakes Pick Four wager with a guaranteed minimum pool of $750,000. That All Stakes Pick 4 includes the CITGO Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) and the day's three Grade I races -- the Humana Distaff, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the 129th running of the Kentucky Derby.
The day could be a remarkable one for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who will start morning-line favorites in four of the day's six stakes events -- including Empire Maker in Derby 129.
He starts the Juddmonte Farms-owned Requete and Epicentre in the Woodford Reserve. Each is 8-1 on the morning line as separate betting interests.
The race also includes the third-place finisher from last year's Kentucky Derby, Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift. The 4-year-old Dynaformer gelding recently made a successful turf debut in a Keeneland allowance for trainer Murray Johnson, who is launching a bid for an unprecedented sweep of the Woodford Reserve Turf and Churchill Downs' major race for older horses, the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). $400,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT, 4:52 EDT), 3 & up, 1 1/8 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Rider, Wgt., ML Odds
1. Requete (GB), Edgar S. Prado, 116, 8/1
2. Epicentre (KY), Alex O. Solis, 114, 8/1
3. Rouvres (FR), Jerry D. Bailey, 114, 7/2
4. With Anticipation (PA), Pat Day, 123, 5/2
5. Patrol (KY), Cornelio H. Velasquez, 114, 4/1
6. Perfect Drift (KY), Kent J. Desormeaux, 123, 4/1
7. Even the Score (KY), Shane J. Sellers, 114, 20/1
8. Century City (IRE), Jose Valdivia, Jr., 118, 12/1
9. Honor in War (KY), David Romero Flores, 114, 15/1