On Saturday, Churchill Downs will stage a pair of high-class stakes masquerading as Grade 3 races when Mia Mischief and Spiced Perfection lead the Winning Colors on dirt and eight graded winners clash in the Mint Julep on turf.
But that’s not all you’ll want to have an eye on this week under the Twin Spires as no fewer than seven other events intrigue at the maiden and allowance levels. Here’s what we’re watching for…
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Thursday’s eighth race (4:40 p.m. ET)
With Portos on the rail and Silver Ratio going from post 11, the Todd Pletcher barn bookends this allowance for non-winners of two. Those 3-year-olds will be facing some older competition after Portos earned a graded stakes placing in Aqueduct’s Withers (G3), then failed to fire in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Silver Ratio, a $320,000 purchase for Paul Pompa Jr., likewise will look to get back into form after debuting a winner on Jan. 11 and dropping a pair of allowance decisions to end the Gulfstream meet.
Thursday’s ninth race (5:12 p.m. ET)
Millionaire Morticia, intended to be retired after adding two more stakes wins to her resume in 2019, is back to begin a 2020 campaign with goals of competing in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. The starting point is this allowance going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf against a familiar rival. Girls Know Best is the slight 8/5 favorite in the field of 10 and has knocked heads often with Morticia, the 9/5 second choice as both look to punch their tickets back to stakes company.
Friday’s sixth race (3:36 p.m. ET)
Tempers Rising gets some class relief in this allowance but will face older going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The Dallas Stewart-trained daughter of Bayern needed five starts to break her maiden and then went right on the Kentucky Oaks trail in Louisiana, running third in the Silverbulletday, fourth in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) and and second in the Louisiana Derby (G2). A move forward here as the 5/2 favorite would reposition her to prep for the Oaks, now scheduled for Sept. 4.
Friday’s seventh race (4:08 p.m. ET)
According to the morning line, Grade 1 winner Hog Creek Hustle is the 4-1 favorite to beat. But that price speaks to the depth of this seven-furlong allowance optional claiming sprint with an overflow field of older horses. Interestingly, the would-be top choices need to draw in. Second on the also-eligible list, Chad Brown-trained Honest Mischief is a lightly raced Juddmonte Farms homebred last seen winning the Nov. 30 City of Laurel Stakes. The Into Mischief colt is 3-for-6 overall with a placing in Saratoga’s Amsterdam Stakes (G2). Volatile meanwhile is 3-for-4 with Asmussen and dashed away by 7 1/2 lengths in an eye-catching victory April 24 at Oaklawn Park.
Friday’s eighth race (4:40 p.m. ET)
Bulletin, who started 3-for-3 with a victory in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, has since gone 0-for-4. After a winter off, he returns in this five-furlong jaunt over the lawn having transferred from Pletcher to Steve Asmussen. The task is tall with Rusty Arnold’s graded winners Totally Boss and Leinster both getting started back here, too, while trainer Al Stall is especially high on Real News, who won Sam Houston’s Jan. 26 Turf Sprint in his most-recent start.
Saturday’s eighth race (4:40 p.m. ET)
With Bravazo back home at Calumet Farm, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas will be looking for his next big horse. His hopes have been high for Fifty Grand, for whom Lukas was quoted over the winter as saying “we’ve got grandiose ideas.” The college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit is among the owners of this American Pharoah colt, who will have Martin Garcia in the irons for his belated debut. Lukas has put a steady string of works into Fifty Grand, who didn’t run at 2 due to a bone chip. That includes Sunday’s 3/8-mile sharpener from the gate.
Saturday’s 10th race (5:44 p.m. ET)
Were a number of contenders at different points in their form cycles, they’d be running in graded company rather than allowance optional claiming event at 1 1/16 miles. Plus Que Parfait gets back to Churchill, though he hasn’t fired in two starts this year. More attention — and wagering dollars — will likely go to Fearless, the Pletcher-trained 4-year-old who has been unlucky not to place better since starting 2-for-2 over the winter at Gulfstream Park. Tiz Mischief and Gun It remain familiar names from their respective runs down the Kentucky Derby trail.