Opening-night spot plays for April 24 at Churchill Downs
The spring meet at Churchill Downs begins Saturday evening, with a 10-race program, highlighted by the $150,000 William Walker S. for three-year-olds at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. First post is 6 p.m. ET, and the William Walker (Race 9) is scheduled for 10:11 p.m.
The 147th Kentucky Derby on May 1 headlines the 38-day spring meet, and the blockbuster opening week features 18 stakes. Churchill Downs offers a Single 6 Jackpot, which has a 15% takeout and returns 90% of the pool to players with six winners when the jackpot is not hit, and the minimum denomination is 20 cents.
Here are some horses of interest on the opening-day card.
#3 Extreme Force turned in an improved effort in his first start at Churchill Downs in November, when he finished third at 7 1/2 furlongs. He followed with a maiden tally at Sam Houston in January (at Saturday’s 6 1/2-furlong trip), his ninth outing for trainer Steve Asmussen, and looks poised to carry his advancing form forward. I like the addition of jockey Luis Saez, and Extreme Force should prove tough on the front end.
Churchill Downs is expected to receive rain during the afternoon, and three main-track runners are among the 11 entrants in the mile turf affair.
#4 Fortuity appears likely to run on either surface for Mike Maker, and the gray colt will look to make an impact in the latter stages with jockey Florent Geroux. The four-year-old ran well in an off-the-turf race under the Twin Spires in October, and Fortuity exits a closing third to Gear Jockey on Keeneland’s turf. He can break through for his second win in this spot.
The 1 1/4-mile maiden special weight for three-year-old fillies has a 6-5 morning line favorite in Queen Bourbon, but she hasn’t been a serious factor, although she placed, in both previous starts. I will spread in this race, and #8 D’Oro Forever will be on my tickets.
Out of 2006 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever, the Charles Fipke homebred counts Grade 1 winners Forever Unbridled and Unbridled Forever as a half-sisters. Both siblings needed multiple starts to graduate, and D’oro Forever has not gotten out of the gate cleanly in either of her starts. She passed rivals both times, though, and Saez has picked up the mount Saturday. Don’t be surprised to see a much-improved showing with a better start.
Race 9: William Walker S.
The ground will have some give to it if it remains on turf, and #10 Lookin for Loki has shown the versatility to handle any conditions. He has been compromised by the innermost post the last couple starts, including a respectable fifth in the Palisades Turf Sprint S. at Keeneland last time out.
The Into Mischief gelding appreciated being on the outside when he broke his maiden on Churchill’s turf in September, and his form has improved at age three for Chris Hartman. Lookin for Loki looks poised to outrun his expected odds (20-1) with an up-close, stalking trip.