Last seen finishing second to Tom’s d’Etat in November’s Clark S. (G1), Owendale will launch his 4-year-old season in Saturday’s $100,000 Blame S. at Churchill Downs. The one-mile event has drawn a full field of 14 older horses, and it’s one of five stakes on a dynamite 11-race program.
The $100,000 Shawnee S. will kick off the stakes action, and the 1 1/16-mile test marks the return of Grade 1 winners She’s a Julie and Dunbar Road. It’s the inaugural edition of both main track stakes.
Owendale captured three Grade 3 events and finished third in the Preakness (G1) last year. After an unplaced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he rebounded with a fine showing under the Twin Spires in the Clark. Brad Cox trains the son of Into Mischief, and regular rider Florent Geroux will guide the late-running colt.
Silver Dust is an accomplished rival, winning the Louisiana (G3) and Mineshaft (G3) at Fair Grounds earlier this season before a fifth in the March 21 New Orleans (G2) last out. The 6-year-old gelding has run well at Churchill previously, recording a neck second in the Lukas Classic (G3) last September, and Adam Beschizza will pick up the mount for Bret Calhoun.
Mr. Money has won 3-of-4 starts locally for Calhoun, taking the Matt Winn (G3) and Pat Day Mile (G3) by open lengths last year, but must bounce back from a disappointing sixth in the April 11 Oaklawn Mile S. Gabe Saez will be aboard. Backyard Heaven, who posted a 4 1/2-length score in the 2018 Alysheba (G2) at Churchill but ended last season on a four-race losing skein, will return from a layoff for new conditioner Mike Maker.
Other contestants include 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) upsetter Discreet Lover, who will make his first start since an unplaced effort in the 2019 Charles Town Classic (G2); Peter Pan (G3) scorer Global Campaign, who returned from a nine-month vacation with a sharp allowance tally at Gulfstream on April 25; and Grade 2 winner Long Range Toddy, who will return to stakes company following a close fourth in a stakes-quality allowance at Oaklawn.
Eight distaffers are set for the Shawnee, and She’s a Julie could easily go favored for Steve Asmussen. The hard-trying mare in eight stakes races, getting good at Churchill Downs last spring/summer with a victory in the La Troienne (G1) and a close third in the Fleur de Lis (G2) to Elate, and the 5-year-old captured the La Troienne off a freshening. Ricardo Santana Jr. rides.
Dunbar Road reeled off three consecutive wins last year, including the Alabama (G1) and Mother Goose (G2). Unraced since a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), the 4-year-old filly will return to action for Chad Brown and keeps Ortiz in the saddle.
Stakes winner Vault removes blinkers and makes her second start off a layoff for Cox, and Todd Pletcher will send out stakes vixen Another Broad.