What to watch for: Bulletin stars on Churchill's opening night

April 23, 2019 10:24am
Most of the racing world's focus, admittedly, will be on what's happening in the mornings as Kentucky Derby and Oaks contenders train up to the classics. But should you stick around for some afternoon viewing, there are stakes of note set for Saturday. Here's what we'll be watching for...

Bulletin stars under the lights

The morning after Bulletin made his season debut a winning one in Keeneland’s new Palisades Turf Sprint, Ginny DePasquale, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said the colt “was a handful yesterday and was ready for another race.”

The son of City Zip won’t have to wait long as, according to Churchill Downs, he’s probable to return Saturday on the track’s opening night card in the featured $125,000 William Walker Stakes.

It will mark the second start since Bulletin won over the same course in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last November. And it could serve as a springboard to a much larger target, Royal Ascot’s six-furlong Commonwealth Cup (G1).

The William Walker, at 5/8 of a mile, is also expected to include the Wesley Ward-trained duo of Jo Jo Air and Moonlight Romance, both fillies, while Legends of War is a European newcomer for Doug O’Neill formerly trained by John Gosden.

Campaigned by the familiar partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, Bulletin went gate to wire from the No. 12 post position last time at Keeneland.

Paradise Woods gives it another go

Still new to the John Shirreffs barn, 5-year-old Paradise Woods showed dramatic improvement second off the shelf when finishing third in the March 30 Beholder Mile (G1). She’ll continue on California’s string of top graded stakes for older fillies and mares as a headliner in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Margarita at nine furlongs.

Paradise Woods won both the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Zenyatta Stakes (G1) as a 3-year-old but hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since. Last time, she ran third behind Secret Spice and Marley’s Freedom, with neither rival expected to run back in the Santa Margarita.

By Union Rags, Paradise Woods is expected to be joined by La Force, who has run in four straight Grade 1s, Just a Smidge, Lemoona, Starr of Quality and Witholding Info.

This will mark the graded debut for Starr of Quality, a former claimer who on Feb. 7, in her 21st career start, ran second in an allowance event, finishing ahead of the aforementioned Secret Spice.

A big Saturday at Golden Gate Fields

Golden Gate Fields will assemble a diverse lineup Saturday for its featured Grade 3, $250,000 San Francisco Mile, the turf centerpiece to its Gold Rush Weekend.

According to Matt Dinerman, track announcer and analyst, Dermot Weld-trained Wentwood is expected to join West Coast grass staples such as River Boyne and Bowie’s Hero, while the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Choo Choo is interesting entering off a local allowance victory at the distance but over the synthetic.

On the same card, the $100,000 California Derby at 1 1/16 miles could bring back a number of runners from February’s El Camino Real Derby, while the San Vicente (G2) winner Sparky Ville is said to be possible to join the gray. Another popular runner, Tough Sunday, is possible for the $75,000 Lost in the Fog.

In all, Golden Gate will host six stakes Saturday and two more on Sunday.


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