Race Preview: Homecoming Classic - Churchill Downs, September 28, 2013

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Matt Carter

September 28th, 2013

The feature race under the lights on Saturday at Churchill Downs is the first running of the $175,000 Homecoming Classic and the inaugural running could not have drawn a better field. An expected field of six will line up for the nine furlong race and will be led by Fort Larned.

Fort Larned won the Breeders' Cup Classic last year at Santa Anita, but this year has not gone exactly to plan. The five-year-old horse dropped his rider at Gulfstream Park in March then was fifth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April. After a win in the Grade 1 Stephen F. Foster over the Churchill Downs track in June, Fort Larned put in another disappointing run in the Grade 1 Whitney. If he is on his game, Fort Larned wins, but it's questionable which horse shows up.

Prayer for Relief has won back-to-back race for trainer Steve Asmussen including the Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows three months ago. He is coming off a win in the Governor's Cup at Remington Park, a hard fought head victory over Wordly, who is also in the Homecoming. Prayer for Relief will be stalking Fort Larned early and will try to keep that rival in his sights turning for home.

On paper, there does not appear to be a lot of speed. Golden Ticket is likely to run in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita and Windswept may be best from just off the pace, even though he was dominant in near wire-to-wire fashion at Saratoga last month. Fort Larned may get an easy lead on the front end, but if someone decides to push, the race could set up for Prayer for Relief and Agent Di Nozzo.

Agent Di Nozzo had won six of eight before a fifth place finish in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park. That race; however, was on polytrack and his previous six wins came on dirt. In fact, Agent Di Nozzo is six-for-ten on fast dirt and there is no rain in the forecast for Saturday.

Off as race seven, which ends the mid-card pick-4 and starts the pick-5, post time for the Homecoming Classic is 9:05 pm ET.