The Florida-bred son of Successful Appeal will try to become just the second horse to sweep Churchill Downs' three-race series of stakes races for 2-year-olds. Favorite Trick took all three races in the early stages of an unbeaten 1997 campaign in which he earned the coveted gold Eclipse Award that goes to the "Horse of the Year."
The Bashford Manor is contested at six furlongs.
Lunarpal did not impress trainer Steve Asmussen as one of his top 2-year-old prospects until he romped to a seven-length victory in his racing debut in April at Keeneland. He followed that with a stylish five-length victory in the $100,000-added Three Chimneys Juvenile on Kentucky Derby Day and survived a challenge from Consolidator to win the $125,000-added Kentucky Breeders' Cup (gr. III) by a neck.
"He's training well and we expect a good race from him," Asmussen said. "He needs to overcome me. I haven't had much luck in the Bashford Manor when I thought I was going to win it the last two years."
Asmussen saddled heavy favorites Posse and Cuvee in the last two runnings of the Bashford Manor. But Lone Star Sky upset Posse in 2002 and Limehouse take advantage of nightmarish traffic problems for Cuvee in beating that odds-on favorite a year ago.
Lunarpal's rivals will look to his narrow win over Consolidator, who had been soundly beaten in his only previous start, as a reason for optimism in the Bashford Manor.
"He's the target, you know, and that's how it's going to be," he said. "He definitely was shaken up in the race and needed to find more and we'll see how he responds to it."
Regular jockey Shane Sellers will ride Lunarpal, who has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite in his first race at six furlongs.
Challenges come from a pair of promising horses trained by Dale Romans, who is bidding for his fifth consecutive title as leading trainer of the spring meet. Frank L. Jones Jr.'s Smoke Warning finished third to Lunarpal in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup. Maximus C, who is co-owned by Romans, overcame major traffic woes to win his only career start. The latter was scratched from the Kentucky Breeders' Cup when he suffered a minor injury before the race.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a five-time Bashford Manor winner, will saddle Thomas Van Meter II's Raise Ole Glory, a son of Honour and Glory and a recent maiden winner at Churchill Downs.
$150,000-added Bashford Manor (gr. III), 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs
PP. Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Smoke Warning (117) Mark Guidry 5-1
2. Maximus C (117) Craig Perret 5-1
3. Lunarpal (120) Shane Sellers 2-1
4. Storm Surge (117) Robby Albarado 6-1
5. Raise Ole Glory (117) Pat Day 3-1
6. Proper Carson (117) Rafael Bejarano 8-1
7. Copy My Notes (117) John McKee 8-1