Friday's Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs is open to 3-year-olds, but a sizable group of older horses will go to the gate for the 8 1/2-furlong event. Kodema, who won the Gulf Coast Classic Stakes at the same distance in his last start, and Spanish Empire, who captured the Fifth Season Stakes (gr. III) at the same distance, lead the field of seasoned veterans.
At age four, Spanish Empire is on the young end of the field's runners. Steve Asmussen trains the son of Pleasant Colony for a partnership that includes Jubilee Stable, Martin Cherry, and co-breeder Twin Creeks Farm. Asmussen sent Spanish Empire out to win the April 7 Fifth Season by a length after he was unplaced in Peace Rules' New Orleans Handicap (gr. II). The colt is a half-brother to grade II winner Forest Camp and has placed in three of his four starts this year, all in stakes company. He will carry 120 pounds.
Also toting 120 will be Kodema, who won his last two starts at Delta Downs. In the Feb. 1 Whirlaway Handicap (gr. II), he faced Spanish Empire, but Kodema finished fourth, while Spanish Empire was second, trailing winner Olmodavor by nearly three lengths. In his last race at Churchill Downs, Kodema won an 8 1/2-furlong allowance in November.
Ask the Lord, a 7-year-old son of Lord At War, defeated Kodema last October at Churhcill Downs in a mile race run in sloppy conditions. Since then Ask the Lord has placed in four of his six starts, including wins in the Dust Commander Stakes and the Tejano Run Stakes, both at Turfway Park. Ask the Lord was fifth in his last outing, the Fifth Season Stakes.
Two grade I winners, Perfect Drift and Sarava, will be attempting to mark their first wins this year in the Alysheba. Perfect Drift, whose third-place finish in the 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and victory in last year's Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) prove that he likes Churchill, has only raced once in 2004. That was in the April 9 Maker's Mark Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland, where he finished eighth. The Maker's Mark Mile was Perfect Drift's first start since running sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Sarava is 0-for-2 in two starts in 2004 and raced once last year. Sarava is winless since taking the 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) for Ken McPeek. Bob Baffert now trains the son of Wild Again
The Alysheba Stakes is the sixth race on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard, and will be run just after the Edgewood Stakes, a race for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. The full field for the Alysheba is as follows:
Horse, Age, Jockey (Weight)
1--Classic Par, 6, Robby Albarado (116)
2--Congrats, 4, John Velazquez (116)
3--Devil Time, 7, Jerry Bailey (114)
4--Ask the Lord, 7, Rafael Bejarano (118)
5--Perfect Drift, 5, Pat Day (114)
6--Sarava, 5, Edgar Prado (114)
7--Kodema, 5, Alex Solis (120)
8--M B Sea, 5, Craig Perret (114)
9--Spanish Empire, 4, Shane Sellers (120)
10--River Mountain Rd, 4, John McKee (118)
11--New York Hero, 4, Norberto Arroyo Jr. (116)