Churchill Downs Opening Night: Derby Trial Under the Lights

Churchill Downs Opening Night is under the lights on Saturday (Photo: Churchill Downs)

The Churchill Downs spring meeting gets underway in a big way with opening night under the lights, with a first post of 6:00 ET, the feature the $175,000 Derby Trial (G3) which drew a field of nine three-year-olds.

The race could produce a starter for next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1). Trainer D. Wayne Lukas stated Titletown Five (5-1) would turn around and race in the Run for the Roses if the colt can win the Derby Trial.

The win would be worth 20 points which would place the colt at 21st in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Point Standings. Sitting on 20th now is Winning Cause, the winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland. His trainer Todd Pletcher is leaning toward not running in the Derby, but a final decision will not be made until Sunday.

Lukas already has two runners in the Derby field, Rebel (G2) winner Will Take Charge and Oxbow, who was fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his last start and was beaten a head by his stablemate two back in the Rebel.

Entries for the Kentucky Derby will be drawn on Wednesday.

The morning line favorite for Saturday’s Derby Trial is the Bob Baffert trained Zee Bros (5-2), who earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden win on March 23 at Santa Anita Park. Baffert has won the Derby Trial twice, with Record in 2006 and Souvenir Copy in 1999.

Lukas is looking for his fourth Derby Trial win. He saddled Flying First Class (1997), Houston (1989) and On the Line (1987) to victory.

It is going to be a long day of wagering action on Saturday. First post at Belmont Park is 12:50 ET, with the nightcap at Churchill Downs going at 11:10 ET. Post time for the Derby Trial is 10:42 ET.

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Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Churchill Downs Race 10 The Derby Trial (G3) Post time 10:42 ET

4. Forty Tales   3-1

3. Zee Bros   5-2

9. Titletown Five   5-1

1. Officer Alex   8-1

Forty Tales is looking to bounce back off a subpar effort in the Swale (G3) last out where the colt came with a five wide bid and did not have any punch left in the stretch in a fifth place finish as the even money chalk.  The winner Clearly Now came back to run second in the Bay Shore (G3) at Aqueduct on April 6, beaten a head. Two back our top pick made a good late rally to finish in the runner up spot in the Hutcheson (G2) which was his stakes debut. The colt has enough pedigree to handle the stretch out to a mile and he is going to get a good pace set up as there is plenty of early zip signed up to go here. The Todd Pletcher barn is 35% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from sprint to route.

Zee Bros is coming off a good looking maiden score in his second career start. The colt took the field gate to wire at 4-5 and earned a triple digit Beyer. The effort was flattered when the runner up Master Appeal came back to graduate in his next start on April 13 and the third place finisher Pure Royalty earned his diploma in his next outing on April 7. The colt put in a bullet drill on April 18 over the main track here for the Bob Baffert barn that has won this race twice. The colt owns solid early pace numbers but things won’t be easy up front and the price may end up lighter than the 5-2 morning line.

Titletown Five is the lone runner in the field that appears likely to wheel back in a week and run in the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a win. The colt is coming off a ninth place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) last out which was his first start around two turns. The colt bobbled coming out of the gate, was sent up to vie for the early lead through sharp fractions and faded to finish 8 ½ lengths back of Revolutionary. The third place finisher Departing came back to win the Illinois Derby (G3) in his next start on April 20. The cut back to one turn should suit and he makes his third start off the bench. He showed plenty of promise as a two-year-old, only beaten by Violence by a neck last summer at Saratoga.

Wagering:

WIN: Forty Tales to win at 5-2 or better.

EXACTA: 3,4 / 1,3,4,9

TRIFECTA: 3,4 / 1,3,4,9 / 1,3,4,6,9