Fire Slam and Cuvee Set for Matt Winn

Stan Fulton's Fire Slam, a one-time Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopeful and runner-up in Keeneland's Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), heads a small but strong field entered in Saturday's third running of the $100,000-added Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Fire Slam, a David Carroll-trained son of Grand Slam, will face only five rivals, but that group includes such such stakes stars Winchell Thoroughbreds and Spendthrift Farm's grade I winner Cuvee and Patricia Blass' speedy Wildcat Shoes.

The six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, named for the legendary president of Churchill Downs credited with building the Kentucky Derby into America's greatest horse race, is the featured event on a 10-race Saturday card at the track.

Fire Slam won the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds and finished second to Quintons Gold Rush in his most recent start in the $350,000 Coolmore Lexington. He has a 3-2-0 record in six races, with a fifth-place finish behind Wimbledon in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) being the only outing in his career in which he has run worse than second.

Carroll said the six-furlong Matt Winn will be used as a prep for Belmont Park's $150,000 Riva Ridge (gr. II) at seven furlongs on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard on June 5.

"It wasn't really our plan to go for the Matt Winn as we were looking for a suitable race at around seven-eighths of a mile, " said Carroll "We'd rather run him out of his own stall than have him ship somewhere to run over the same distance. We would ideally have gone back to a one-turn mile or a seven-eighths, but there just wasn't a suitable race anywhere."

The Matt Winn will also mark the return to competition of the speedy Cuvee, one of the top 2-year-olds of 2003 and the beaten favorite in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. The son of Carson City finished 12th in the Juvenile and underwent surgery for the removal of a bone chip following that disappointing race, but the poor finish on the campaign did little to diminish a year in which Cuvee scored dominating victories in the Futurity (gr. I) at Belmont, the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Churchill Downs' Kentucky Breeders' Cup (gr. III).

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2003 Matt Winn with Heiligbrodt Racing's Posse, has patiently prepared Cuvee for his return to racing. Shane Sellers will ride Cuvee, who brings a career record of 4-0-1 in six races and earnings of $360,704 into his comeback run.

Another fast rival to Fire Slam is Wildcat Shoes, a homebred son of Forest Wildcat who has won four of his seven lifetime races. He is coming off a 3 1/2-length romp in the Lost Code Breeders' Cup at Hawthorne and also won the Sugar Bowl at the Fair Grounds for trainer William "Jinx" Fires.

Post/Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Cuvee (120) Shane Sellers 8-5
2. Wildcat Shoes (120) Robby Albarado 5-2
3. Hasslefree (116) Cornelio Velasquez 12-1
4. Nightlifeatbigblue (114) Calvin Borel 20-1
5. Western Roar (116) Justin Vitek 12-1
6. Fire Slam (120) Pat Day 7-5