Amer­i­can Pharoah in post 18 at 5-2

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Ni­cole Russo

Cham­pion Amer­i­can Pharoah drew post 18 and was in­stalled as the 5-2 morn­ing-line fa­vorite for the 141st run­ning of the Grade 1, $2 mil­lion Ken­tucky Derby on Wed­nes­day evening at Churchill Downs.

The Zayat Sta­bles colt romped by eight lengths in the Arkansas Derby on April 11 to be­come the early fa­vorite for Satur­day’s clas­sic over his Bob Baf­fert­trained stable­mate Dort­mund, owned by Kaleem Shah. Dort­mund, who drew post 8 at 3-1, re­mained un­de­feated with a 4 1/4-length score in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Churchill Downs odd­s­maker Mike Battaglia called Baf­fert’s duo “the best one-two punch since Ci­ta­tion and Coal­town.” Ci­ta­tion, trained by Ben Jones, de­feated his tal­ented stable­mate in the 1948 Derby en route to win­ning the Triple Crown.

“I’m glad I have them both on my ros­ter,” Baf­fert said this week, adding that the post­po­si­tion draw was “prob­a­bly the last stress­ful mo­ment” lead­ing up to the race.

Post 18 has only pro­duced one Derby win­ner since the use of a start­ing gate in 1930 – Gato del Sol in 1982.

An over­flow field of 22 horses was en­tered for the Derby on Wed­nes­day. The race is limited to 20 starters, with points ac­crued in des­ig­nated races de­ter­min­ing pref­er­ence. Fram­mento and Tale of Verve – the lat­ter a sur­prise en­trant – were the two ex­cluded from the main body of the field, in that pref­er­ence or­der. They may run only if there are any with­drawals by scratch time, which is 9 a.m. Fri­day to ac­com­mo­date early wa­ger­ing. If a scratch oc­curs, all horses to the out­side of the scratched horse’s post po­si­tion shift in­side one slot, plac­ing the also-el­i­gi­ble in post 20.

Amer­i­can Pharoah, the win­ner of the 2014 Eclipse Award as cham­pion 2-year-old male, is one of three horses in the race for the Zay­ats, who also have El Kabeir with trainer John Ter­ra­nova and Mr. Z with D. Wayne Lukas.

Amer­i­can Pharoah will be rid­den by Vic­tor Espinoza, who is also named to ride Ken­tucky Oaks morn­ing-line fa­vorite Stel­lar Wind on Fri­day. The jockey is seek­ing his third Derby win, hav­ing taken the race last year with Cal­i­for­nia Chrome for trainer Art Sher­man and in 2002 with War Em­blem for Baf­fert. Martin Garcia has the call on Dort­mund.

Todd Pletcher is the only other trainer who will sad­dle mul­ti­ple horses in this Derby, led by Blue Grass Stakes win­ner Carpe Diem, the third wa­ger­ing choice at 8-1. The colt drew post 2 un­der John Ve­lazquez, who chose to ride him over an­other Pletcher colt, un­de­feated Florida Derby win­ner Ma­te­ri­al­ity, now with Javier Castel­lano aboard. It­saknock­out and Stan­ford round out the Pletcher quar­tet.

This Ken­tucky Derby field is con­sid­ered one of the strong­est in re­cent years.

“I think this is a hell of a crop,” said Lukas, who is sad­dling his 48th Ken­tucky Derby starter in Mr. Z.

The Ken­tucky Derby is part of a 13-race card Satur­day, with six un­der­card stakes. First post is 10:30 a.m. Eastern, with the Derby set for 6:34 p.m. NBC will carry the race as part of a na­tional broad­cast from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

Stars aplenty on un­der­card

The stars won’t just be on “Mil­lion­aires Row” lead­ing up to the Ken­tucky Derby at Churchill. As usual, equine stars also will be show­cased be­fore the Derby is run.

Older fe­male sprint cham­pion Judy the Beauty kicks off her 2015 cam­paign in one of six un­der­card stakes races, the Grade 1 Hu­mana Distaff, and Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic win­ner Bay­ern also gets his year started in the Churchill Downs Stakes.

They aren’t the only big-name horses run­ning on a deep and tal­ent-rich card. Stephanie’s Kit­ten, one of the top turf mares in North Amer­ica in re­cent years, races against males for the first time in the Grade 1 Wood­ford Re­serve Turf Clas­sic, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that goes right be­fore the Ken­tucky Derby. She is joined by graded stakes win­ners Choco­late Ride, Fin­negans Wake, Seek Again, and Dubai in­vader Umgiyo in a 12-horse field that is among the most com­pet­i­tive races of the day.

The come­back races for Judy the Beauty and Bay­ern are no gimmes. Grade 1 win­ner Sweet Rea­son is among seven fil­lies and mares fac­ing Judy the Beauty in the sev­en­fur­long, $300,000 Hu­mana Distaff. And Bay­ern faces an even classier lot in the $500,000, Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, an­other seven-fur­long race that drew C. Zee, Gen­tle­men’s Bet, Pants On Fire, and Pri­vate Zone, along with sev­eral oth­ers.

Com­pet­i­tive Edge and Lord Nel­son are the head­line horses in the Grade 3, $200,000 Pat Day Mile, for­merly run as the Derby Trial on open­ing day and re­named this year and moved to Derby Day.

Peace and War, a 3-year-old filly who is on the also-el­i­gi­ble list for Fri­day’s Ken­tucky Oaks, is also in the Pat Day Mile in what ap­pears to be a backup race if she does not draw into the Oaks.

She wasn’t the only horse to be en­tered in stakes races both Fri­day and Satur­day. Sweet Whiskey was en­tered in the Hu­mana Distaff for Satur­day and the Grade 1 La Troi­enne on the Ken­tucky Oaks un­der­card.

The best wa­ger­ing races of the stakes Satur­day on the Derby un­der­card are the three on grass: the Grade 2, $250,000 Amer­i­can turf for 3-year-olds, which drew 14; the Grade 2, $300,000 Churchill Downs Turf Mile for fil­lies and mares, which landed 13; and the Wood­ford Re­serve, a $500,000 race with a dozen en­trants.

Con­quest Ty­phoon and Firespike, sep­a­rated by a neck when sec­ond and third in the Spi­ral Stakes at Tur­fway on Poly­track, meet again in the Amer­i­can Turf, and both ap­pear just as ef­fec­tive rac­ing on grass as on syn­thetic. They will have to catch the speedy Luck of the Kit­ten, a colt whom owner Ken Ram­sey hopes to take to Royal As­cot later this spring.

Lady Lara, San­diva, and Cof­fee Clique – the first three fin­ish­ers in the Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulf­stream – are re­matched in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile. And they are but a few of the con­tenders in a con­tentious race.

The Wood­ford Re­serve ap­pears sim­i­larly well matched with Fin­negans Wake, Jack Mil­ton, Choco­late Ride, and Grand Arch among the most for­mi­da­ble ad­ver­saries to Stephanie’s Kit­ten.

Count­ing the Ken­tucky Derby, 151 horses are in the main bod­ies of the 13 races Satur­day at Churchill Downs, with an­other eight be­ing also el­i­gi­bles.

Bel­mont: Ton­al­ist, Palace Mal­ice meet

Ton­al­ist and Palace Mal­ice, win­ners of the last two run­nings of the Bel­mont Stakes, will make their 2015 de­buts in the Grade 3 Westch­ester at Bel­mont Park on Satur­day. The card also in­cludes a pair of turf stakes, the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay for fil­lies and mares at 1 3/8 miles and the Grade 3, $150,000 Fort Marcy at 1 1/8 miles.

The one-mile Westch­ester has drawn a field of five and is carded as the sixth of 12 races. First post Satur­day is noon.

In ad­di­tion to Ton­al­ist and Palace Mal­ice, the Westch­ester field in­cludes Juba, Con­fronta­tion, and Souper Lucky.

Ton­al­ist, one of the lead­ers of the 3-yearold di­vi­sion last year, won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Bel­mont Stakes, and Peter Pan for trainer Christophe Cle­ment.

Ton­al­ist worked seven times be­tween Dec. 31 and Feb. 10 and then not again un­til March 15. His half-mile drill at Bel­mont Park on Wed­nes­day was the sev­enth of his cur­rent work pat­tern and his first since be­ing shipped back to New York.

“We are very happy to have him back,” Cle­ment said Wed­nes­day. “He has been train­ing very well. It was ei­ther the Westch­ester or the Pim­lico Spe­cial, and we have opted for the Westch­ester. I think the mile is a great dis­tance for him to start back.”

New York Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion clock­ers timed Ton­al­ist in 47.44 sec­onds Wed­nes­day, the fastest of 12 works at the dis­tance over the Bel­mont main track.

Ton­al­ist drew the No. 1 post for the Westch­ester and will be blinkers-on. He did not wear them in his last two starts of 2014, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic.

Palace Mal­ice, the 2013 Bel­mont win­ner, reeled off wins last sea­son in the Metropoli­tan Hand­i­cap, Westch­ester, and New Or­leans Hand­i­cap. Af­ter fin­ish­ing sixth in the Whit­ney at Saratoga, he was briefly re­tired with bone bruis­ing in his left hind leg.

Af­ter some time off, he was put back into train­ing. He has had seven works for trainer Todd Pletcher since Feb. 28. Palace Mal­ice drew post No. 4 for the Westch­ester.

The Sheepshead Bay has a field of five and is carded as race 4. Grade 3 Or­chid win­ner Beauty Par­lor is likely to be fa­vored for Cle­ment.

The Fort Marcy, race 10, has a field of nine. Travers win­ner V. E. Day will make his 4-year-old de­but and his first turf start since win­ning a first-level al­lowance last July.

BAR­BARA D. LIVINGSTON

Dort­mund is the 3-1 sec­ond choice on the Derby’s morn­ing line.

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