William Walker highlights opening night at Churchill Downs

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 27th, 2016

The 2016 spring meet at Churchill Downs begins Saturday night with an 11-race card program featuring the second running of the $100,000 William Walker for 3-year-olds. First race post is 6 p.m. (EDT) and guests can enjoy at least 17 live arts performances by local artists at locations throughout the track in conjunction with Louisville’s Fund for the Arts.

Grade 3 hero Toews on Ice, a three-time stakes winner who also finished second to Kentucky Derby contender Mor Spirit in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), is the one to beat in a five-horse William Walker field.

The Archarcharch colt will cut back to 6-furlongs for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and receives a rider switch to David Lopez. Toews on Ice will be making his first appearance since finishing sixth as the odds-on favorite in the January 18 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park. He readied for the engagement with a 6-furlong bullet work from the gate in 1:10 3/5 at Santa Anita last Saturday.

Sheikh of Sheikhs is also likely to draw support for conditioner Wesley Ward. A stakes winner last fall in his juvenile finale, the Discreetly Mine colt opened 2016 with a third in the Hutcheson (G3) at GulfstreamPark and exits a fourth to Kentucky Derby presumptive favorite Nyquist in the February 15 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita. Jose Valdivia Jr. takes over the assignment.

Patton Proud brings a 2-for-3 record into his stakes debut, easily capturing an Oaklawn allowance most recently for newly-elected Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. The Eskendereya colt will retain the services of Ricardo Santana Jr.

Fair Grounds maiden winner Twizz, who faded to last when trying two turns in the Blue Grass (G1), figures to appreciate the cutback in trip for Mike Maker and will have the services of Julien Leparoux. Entertainer, who finished third to Patton Proud last out, completes the line-up.

The spring meet runs through July 2, with the 142nd running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 7 the centerpiece event.

Toews on Ice photo courtesy of Benoit Photos