Live racing returns this Saturday to Churchill Downs and the $200,000 The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial (Gr. III) will be the featured race on the track's season inaugural card.
What was once a strong and expected prep race for the Kentucky Derby, in recent years the Derby Trial has become more of a prep for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
The race is run at a distance of one mile although from 2007-2009 it was run at 7.5 furlongs. The one-mile distance, along with the three-week span between the race and the Preakness, makes for the perfect prep race for it.
Macho Again won the Derby Trial in 2008 and went on to finish second to Big Brown in the Preakness Stakes. He also established that year the 7.5 furlongs Derby Trial record with 1:28.45.
The standing stakes record for the one-mile distance is 1:34.40, made by Ack Ack in 1969.
This year, a field of 11 horses, headlined by promising Bob Baffert-trainee Paynter and eye-catching Fair Grounds performer Bourbon Courage, will take aim at claiming the 88th running of the Derby Trial.
Paynter (2-1-0-0) impressed on his maiden victory at Santa Anita in Feb. 18 when he won easily at 5.5 furlongs. He followed it up with his game fourth-place finish behind top Kentucky Derby contenders I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby.
He ran very well in that defeat considering he bobbled at the start and had to run four-wide. He has been working lights out for this race and should be the horse to beat.
Bourbon Courage (2-2-0-0) has looked phenomenal on his two races—both wins—where he has registered eye-popping three-digit Beyer figures—103 and 101. Both wins have been at six furlongs, but he has won running away from the field, which suggests he should make the one mile.
He has demonstrated he can rate off the pace and the biggest obstacle he might have is the 11th post position. But with the long backstretch run at Churchill Downs, he should be able to have enough time to recover the lost ground.
Saint of Saints (2-1-1-0) is the best of the four Dale Romans horses on the race. He wore down Unbridled Fire while running three-wide en route to breaking his maiden on his last race.
He has been a feisty runner on both career races and improved his debut Beyer on his last from his maiden win. He has a maintenance workout for the race and Kent Desormeaux returns to ride him.
Nonios (3-2-0-1) won his first two races driving away and improved his Beyer figures by 14 from one to the other. He finished third against older males on his last while regressing on his Beyer figure.
He has two workouts since his last race three weeks ago, so he seems to have bounced back from that last race. He will be making his debut on dirt for this race and gets world-class Garrett Gomez aboard.
Who should win the Derby Trial?
Hierro (5-1-1-0) broke his maiden under a hand ride by Julien Leparoux on his last race of 2011. He then came back in January to finish fifth to Out of Bounds and Secret Circle in the Sham stakes.
His other race this year was on Mar. 16 and he finished fourth behind Senor Rain and Brigand after a slow start—Brigand just finished second on the Jerome last week. He has steady Beyers on those last three races and one great work (1:00 1/5 for 5F) stands out among the five he has for this race.
Leparoux, who rode him to his lone win and on the Sham, returns to ride him for this race.
The Black (8-2-3-0) is one of the most experienced runners in the race. He ships from Santa Anita and this year has improved steadily on his three races, winning in hand his first two races.
He finished second to Derby Gold on his last after having to round the turn four-wide and finished short with his late rally. Mr. Churchill Downs, Calvin Borel gets the mount for the race.
The rest of the field is composed by Tarpy's Gold (9-3-0-2), Quick Wit (5-1-1-1), Seve (11-1-2-0), Stealcase (5-1-0-0) and Motor City (6-2-1-1).
The 11-horse field for this race proves nothing is set in stone and no one is fearing anyone. The lack of true pace will set it up as a very tactical race and the possibility of a longshot winning here gets greatly enhanced.
The Cliff Edge's Derby Trial is the eight race on Churchill Downs' Saturday card and will go off at 9:39 p.m. ET. You can catch the action on TV on HRTV.
The Cliff's Edge Derby Trials | Grade III | Purse: $200,000 | Distance: One Mile | Post Time: 9:39 p.m. ET
|1||Tarpy's Gold||Leandro R. Goncalves||Dale Romans|
|2||The Black||Calvin H. Borel||Doug O'Neill|
|3 ||Saint of Saints||Kent J. Desormeaux||Dale Romans|
|4 ||Nonios||Garrett K. Gomez||Jerry Hollendorfer|
|5 ||Hierro||Julien R. Leparoux||Steve M. Asmussen|
|6 ||Quick Wit||Corey J. Lanerie||Dale Romans|
|7 ||Paynter||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert|
|8||Seve||Jesus L. Castanon||Dale Romans|
|9||Stealcase||Shaun X. Bridgmohan||Mark Casse|
|10||Motor City||Brian J. Hernandez Jr.||Ian R. Wilkes|
|11||Bourbon Courage||Miguel Mena||Kellyn Gorder|