December 4, 2020

Mitole stretches out in upgraded Churchill Downs; Marley’s Freedom, Instagrand also feature on Derby undercard

Mitole, with Ricardo Santana, Jr. aboard, wins the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Stakes Saturday, May 19, 2018 (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

Mitole is considered one of the best sprinters in America — at six furlongs. How he fares stretching out beyond that distance for the first time will be determined Saturday in the $500,000 Churchill Downs, which was upgraded to Grade 1 status for the first time this year.

Brilliant at three-quarters of a mile, over which he’s won six of nine starts, Mitole will attempt to see out seven furlongs on Saturday. He returned from an injury-induced nine-month layoff over the winter to take two races at Oaklawn, including the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) over returning rival Whitmore, who captured the Forego (G1) last summer and placed in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Limousine Liberal seeks to become the first horse since Arabs Arrow (1938-40) to win the Churchill Downs three years in a row. The veteran seven-year-old is six-for-nine over the Louisville strip, and was most recently third in his season debut behind Bobby’s Wicked One and Warrior’s Club in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland.

Promises Fulfilled, a four-time graded winner last season, looks to rebound from a dull fourth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in late March.

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Marley’s Freedom shortens up from a mile to face six rivals in the $500,000 Humana Distaff over seven furlongs. Second in the Beholder Mile (G1) last time, Marley’s Freedom is a five-time graded winner since joining the Bob Baffert stable last year, but was an unlucky fourth when favored in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) over this track and distance in November.

Spiced Perfection and Amy’s Challenge put on a good show when separated by a neck in last month’s seven-furlong Madison (G1) at Keeneland. Indiana Oaks (G3) winner Talk Veuve to Me returns to stakes company after a season-opening allowance score in Lexington, while Grade 1-placed Emboldened gives Baffert another contender.

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Though his Kentucky Derby (G1) dreams fell short, Instagrand will still be part of the big day when he heads a full field in the $400,000 Pat Day Mile (G3). A convincing winner in both starts at two, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee drops in class following third-place efforts in the Gotham (G3) and Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Todd Pletcher has an up-and-coming contender in Last Judgment, who has won two of three starts and makes his stakes debut here. Global Campaign, fifth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) when last seen after winning his first two starts convincingly, would also attract support if he draws in from the also-eligible list.