Although the 2008 Derby Trial included four graded stakes winners and this year’s field is without any, the historic dirt sprint is loaded with promising, but unproven 3-year-old colts that will likely be heard from as the season wears on.
The 7 1/2-furlong Derby Trial, which regains its grade III status for the first time since 2004, is the April 25 opening day feature at Churchill Downs. A field of eight was entered for the 85th running of the $100,000 event, which once served as the final prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Of the eight entered, only Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Silver City has a black-type victory on his résumé. It came three starts back when the son of Unbridled's Song—Proposal, by Mt. Livermore, romped by four lengths in the 5 1/2-furlong Dixieland Stakes on Jan. 16 at Oaklawn Park. After that impressive score, trainer Bret Calhoun tried the gray/roan colt in a pair of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prep races. He finished runner-up to Old Fashioned in the Feb. 16 Southwest (gr. III) and then tired badly when finishing fifth to Win Willy in the March 14 Rebel (gr. II) – both at Oaklawn.
Silver City does have the advantage of winning over the Churchill dirt, as he took a 6 1/2-furlong allowance event there in November when closing out his juvenile campaign. Bred in Kentucky by Peter Blum, Silver City is 3-1-1 from six lifetime starts. Julien Leparoux, currently the leading rider at Keeneland, will have the mount and will break from the rail on one of the expected pacesetters.
Another graded stakes-placed starter is Gato Go Win, a California shipper who will make his first start on natural dirt. Trained by Jeff Mullins, who will send out possible Kentucky Derby favorite I Want Revenge next week, Gato Go Win enters off a third-place effort in the Feb. 16 San Vicente (gr. II) at Santa Anita – his 2009 debut.
Gato Go Win, who will be ridden by Calvin Borel for the first time, closed out his 2-year-old campaign by going wire-to-wire in maiden and allowance sprints at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, respectively.
Also shipping in from California is Rendezvous, a son of Victory Gallop trained and co-owned by Jerry Hollendorfer. Rendezvous won a one-mile starter handicap and an optional claimer at the same distance – both at Golden Gate Fields – before finishing third to the Hollendorfer-trained Chocolate Candy in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) in February. Rene Douglas has the mount.
Another good-looking colt shipping into Kentucky for the first time, this one from Florida, is Starlight Partners’ Checklist. Unraced as a 2-year-old, Checklist has won two of three starts this season at Gulfstream Park. His last one came March 21 on the slop in allowance company under John Velazquez.
A $400,000 yearling, Checklist is by Gone West, out of the General Meeting mare Yearly Report. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride for Todd Pletcher.
Interestingly, Velazquez, normally the first-call rider for Pletcher, will stay aboard Nick Zito trainee Santana Six, a Hold That Tiger colt he has guided to consecutive victories at Gulfstream. Both of the wins came at a distance of one mile, including his 3 1/4-length allowance triumph on March 28.
Completing the field is Hull, an undefeated son of Holy Bull who was entered but scratched from the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) on April 18; Bill Mott trainee Tintim Por Tintim, a seven-length maiden special weight winner last out at Gulfstream; and Kensei, who won an optional claimer at Oaklawn for Steve Asmussen earlier this month in his 3-year-old debut.