TORONTO, May 4, 2018 – Canadian horse racing fans will have some local connections to root for over Kentucky Derby weekend from Churchill Downs.
The 144th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby is scheduled for race 12 with a post time of 6:50 p.m. ET on Saturday’s 14-race program from Churchill Downs. The $1 million Kentucky Oaks is slated as Race 11 (6:12 p.m.) on Friday’s 13-race card.
Advance wagering on the Kentucky Derby card, including the Kentucky Oaks / Kentucky Derby Double, will be available on Friday at all Woodbine Entertainment locations, beginning at 3 p.m. Advance Pick pools will not be open on Friday until the conclusion of the live Churchill Downs program, approximately 7 p.m.
Churchill Downs’ first race on Friday and Saturday will be at 10:30 a.m. Mutuels will open at approximately 11 a.m. on Friday and 10:15 a.m. on Saturday at Woodbine.
The field for the Kentucky Derby includes the multiple graded stakes winning Ontario-bred Flameaway, who is 30-1 on the morning line and will leave from post four under rider Jose Lezcano. Bred by Phoenix Rising Farms and purchased by John C. Oxley for $400,000 as a yearling, Flameaway is campaigned by Mark Casse, a 10-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s Outstanding Trainer with multiple stakes starters entered on the Derby and Oaks undercards. The Scat Daddy-Vulcan Rose colt kicked off his career last May winning at Woodbine before adding graded stakes victories to his resume in the Dixiana Bourbon at Keeneland and Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Most recently, he was runner-up in back-to-back starts in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass.
The Ontario-bred, Casse-trained Wonder Gadot is one of 14 contenders in Friday’s filly companion feature, the Kentucky Oaks. Bred by Anderson Farms and purchased for $325,000 as a two-year-old in training by Gary Barber, the Medaglia d’Oro-Loving Vindication filly also started her career on a winning note at Woodbine last August. She hit the board in the Grade 1 Natalma before earning her first graded stakes win in the Mazarine at Woodbine, later adding the Desmoiselle at Aqueduct. The Sovereign Award-winning filly heads into the Oaks, where she is listed at odds of 20-1 on the morning line and will start from post five, after missing by a nose in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Woodbine’s second-leading rider Luis Contreras picks up a Kentucky Derby mount on 50-1 longshot Bravazo (post 13) for legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The Calumet Farm-homebred is by Kentucky sire Awesome Again out of Tiz ‘o Gold. He won the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes two starts ago at Fair Grounds. Contreras will ride eight horses over the weekend for Lukas, including Criminal Mischief in Friday’s $200,000 Eight Belles Stakes (Race 5, 12:35 p.m.), plus Warrior’s Club in the $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (Race 8, 2:45 p.m.) and Sporting Chance in the $300,000 Pat Day Mile (Race 10, 4:28 p.m.) on Saturday.
Justify, the 3-1 morning line favourite in the 20-horse Derby field from post seven, was bred in Kentucky at a farm owned by Vancouver, B.C. native John D. Gunther. Mike Smith will ride the Scat Daddy-Stage Magic colt, who is undefeated in three starts including a Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby score last time out, for trainer Bob Baffert. Gunther is also the breeder of 12-1 Derby shot Vino Rosso, who will leave from post 18 with John Velazquez aboard. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Curlin-Mythical Bride colt enters the Derby on a winning note after capturing the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct last month.
Gunther also bred and owns Friday’s $350,000 La Troienne Stakes (Race 6, 1:17 p.m.) contender Tiger Moth (P6, 15-1).
Among the contenders in Saturday’s $500,000 Old Forester Turf Classic (Race 11, 5:25 p.m.) is last year’s Breeders’ Stakes winner Channel Maker (P5, 10-1), recently honoured with a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion three-year-old male, who was bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm.
Woodbine-based trained Barbara Minshall sends out Sovereign Award winner Admiralty Pier (P14, 12-1) on the Derby undercard in the $300,000 American Turf (Race 9, 3:37 p.m.). Alternative Route (AE P15, 30-1), bred in Ontario by William D. Graham, sits on the Also Eligible list of the American Turf. Bred in Kentucky by Toronto resident John D. Fielding (and Fred W. Hertrich III), Rushing Fall is cross-entered in the American Turf (P12, 5-1) and Friday’s $200,000 Edgewood (Race 10, P11, 4-5). Friday’s Eight Belles Stakes contender Salt Bae (P4, 15-1) is also co-bred by Fielding.