Big Blue Kitten, Tepin star on tremendous Derby undercard
Big Blue Kitten, the champion turf male of 2015, makes his season debut in the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1), the traditional nine-furlong test that precedes the Derby. Unraced since finishing third to European powers Found and Golden Horn in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) in October, the United Nations (G1) and Joe Hirsh Turf Classic (G1) winner will break from post 12 in a field of 13.
Also from the Chad Brown barn is Slumber, runner-up to Big Blue Kitten in those two Grade 1s after beating his stablemate in the Manhattan (G1). Slumber also exits the Breeders' Cup Turf, where he finished a good fourth.
The excellent field also includes current graded stakes stars Grand Tito, Bolo, Chocolate Ride, Reporting Star, Midnight Storm, and Divisidero.
Also making another Derby Day appearance is the brilliant champion turf mare Tepin, who seeks a repeat victory in the $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G1). The Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) heroine is already three-for-three this season, a five-length romp in the Jenny Wiley (G1) being her most recent outing.
A likely trip overseas for next month's Royal Ascot meet in England looms for Tepin with another victory Saturday. Her main opponent is Isabella Sings, who captured the Mrs. Revere (G2) over this course in November and was a strong second to Tepin in the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs after speeding out to an 18-length lead at one point.
The $300,000 American Turf (G2) has attracted 13 three-year-olds to go 1 1/16 miles. The wide-open affair includes graded stakes winners Airoforce, Converge, Frank Conversation, Shakhimat, Dressed in Hermes, and Azar.
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner Wavell Avenue is the likely favorite in the $300,000 Humana Distaff (G1) over seven furlongs. Recently third to Sheer Drama and Stopchargingmaria in the Madison (G1), she's being taken on by multiple graded stakes winners Taris, Stonetastic, and Birdatthewire.
The seven-furlong, male counterpart to the Distaff, the $500,000 Churchill Downs, marks the return to action of Speightster, the Bill Mott trainee who impressively captured his first three starts last season but left the scene with an injury following a 2 1/2-length tally in the Dwyer (G3) in July.
Carter H. (G1) one-two Salutos Amigos and Calculator, multiple Grade 2 star Kobe's Back and Holy Boss are other major contenders.
The $250,000 Pat Day Mile (G3), formerly the Derby Trial, features former classic prospects Discreetness, Ralis, Forevamo, American Dubai, Fellowship, and Star Hill, although the recent Bob Baffert-trained debut winner American Freedom also figures.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)