As is customary, the undercard preceding Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) has proven to be a sterling one. Here’s a quick glance at the six graded stakes that serve as appetizers leading up to the Run for the Roses.
$500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1)
Divisidero took this race by a neck over World Approval last year, and is back to defend his title. The former has dropped three straight this year, but appears to becoming into this race well following a close allowance loss at Keeneland. The latter, last year’s United Nations (G1) winner, easily captured an April 2 Florida-bred stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on season debut.
Kasaqui, who unfortunately fell during the 2016 running of this race, rebounded to win the Arlington H. (G3) and place in the Arlington Million (G1). He’s dropped two close ones to start the year, including a neck miss to Enterprising in the Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds. Grade 1 winners Bal a Bali and Beach Patrol, among others, add depth to this nine-furlong test.
$300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2)
The domain of the recently-retired dual champion Tepin the past two years, this fixture marks the 2017 debut of Miss Temple City, a multiple Grade 1 winner against males last year who’ll be using this as a stepping stone for a third attack on Royal Ascot next month. She was last seen in December nosing out Roca Rojo in the Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar.
In addition to that Chad Brown-trained rival, Miss Temple City will have to fend off bids from Linda, who won the Mrs. Revere (G2) over this course in November and exits a third to Celestine in the Honey Fox (G2) in her season debut, and Del Mar Oaks (G1) winner Harmonize, who ran fourth in the Royal Heroine (G2) first out this term. Adding pace is Believe in Bertie, who reeled off four straight at Fair Grounds against much lesser.
$300,000 American Turf (G2)
La Coronel, a rising star among the three-year-old filly set, was entered in Friday’s Edgewood (G3), but is widely expected to take on males here in this 1 1/16-mile heat. She breaks on the far outside against 10 rivals, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Oscar Performance, a dull fifth to Big Score in last month’s Transylvania (G3), and Good Samaritan, a hard-luck third as the favorite when last seen in the Juvenile Turf in November.
$500,000 Churchill Downs (G2)
One of California’s fleetest sprinters, Masochistic, is one of the likely favorites in this seven-furlong dash. He’ll have a rematch with his recent Triple Bend (G1) conqueror, Denman’s Call, and will also have to contend with Awesome Slew, dynamite winner of the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland in April 8.
$300,000 Humana Distaff (G1)
Reigning champion female sprinter Finest City was cross-entered to this seven-furlong race and the longer La Troienne (G1) on Friday. The one to beat wherever she lands, she’d be facing Acorn (G1) heroine Carina Mia, Raven Run (G2) vixen Lightstream, and recent Madison (G1) winner Paulassilverlining in this spot. She beat the latter and Carina Mia to clinch her championship in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
$250,000 Pat Day Mile (G3)
Perhaps the best betting race on the undercard, a wide-open group of 13 three-year-olds will face the starter in this one-turn affair. Local Hero, Uncontested, No Dozing, Sonic Mule and Wild Shot are among those cutting back in trip off disappointing tries in Derby preps. Stakes newcomers Excitations and Bobby On Fleek figure to support as well.