First look: Volatile stars in Churchill Downs’ weekend stakes

First look: Volatile stars in Churchill Downs’ weekend stakes
Photo: Coady Photography

A pair of $100,000 stakes races top action Saturday at Churchill Downs, where 3-year-old fillies will run for a slice of Kentucky Oaks points in the Dogwood (G3), but more attention may turn to a hyped sprinter in the Aristides. Here’s an early glance at the fields…

Aristides Stakes

Volatile turned heads when, in his return to the races on April 24 at Oaklawn Park, the 4-year-old son of Violence chased some swift opening fractions yet still flashed serious turn of foot, drawing off by 7 1/2 lengths in allowance optional claiming company.

“Steve (Asmussen) was positive going into it and ecstatic afterward,” said Doug Cauthen, vice chairman of co-owner Three Chimneys Farm. “If we can just keep him happy and healthy, good things can happen.”

Also campaigned in partnership by Phoenix Thoroughbreds, Volatile will face a tougher test in the Aristides going the same 3/4-mile trip. Given a late start to the races, the colt also missed time due to ankle chip surgery, returning for that last out win that improved him to 3-for-4.

Asmussen brought Mitole back from injury as an older horse and made him into the 2019 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter. History now has a chance to repeat itself.

A short field is shaping up to face Volatile. But it stands to grow beyond the current probables list — entries will be taken Wednesday — with 20 horses nominated.

Dogwood Stakes

After Ain’t No Elmers opened her career with back-to-back Fair Grounds wins by a combined 15 1/2 lengths, trainer Bret Calhoun went looking for a stakes spot. But on her limited earnings, she didn’t fit into fields at the close of Oaklawn Park’s season.

Instead, the Goldencents filly showed up in a May 2 allowance, looking a bit flat in fifth as Bob Baffert’s star filly Gamine out-dueled graded stakes-placed Speech to the wire. Ain’t No Elmers will give it another go in the Dogwood, which will also cut her back to one turn.

The seven-furlong feature awards Kentucky Oaks points to its top-four finishers on a 20-8-4-2 scale and figures to include at least two other contenders with bright futures in Bayerness and Magic Dance.

Bayerness hasn’t run since finishing seventh off the bench in Gulfstream Park’s Davona Dale (G2) in February. But trainer Cherie DeVaux cited improvement lately in the daughter of Bayern having tweaked her feed. Two starts back, Bayerness defeated the future Oaks trail leader Swiss Skydiver in a Nov. 30 allowance going a mile at Churchill Downs.

Magic Dance also made an unceremonious return to the races in 2020, running fifth in an Oaklawn allowance on March 28. Going back to last season, however, she started 2-for-2, winning Churchill’s Debutante, and earned a graded placing in Saratoga’s Adirondack. It looked like she may have needed the last race.

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