Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) winner Animal Kingdom, Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) champion and defending winner Little Mike and four-time Grade I winner Point of Entry head one of the strongest rosters of early nominations in the 28-year history of Churchill Downs’ $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI), which will be run on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 4.
The 1 1/8-mile race over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course is one of America’s most important races for older turf stars and is run immediately prior to the Kentucky Derby. The list of 62 4-year-olds and up nominated to its 2013 renewal includes many of Thoroughbred racing’s most accomplished turf stars and reflects the growing prestige of the race.
The 2012 Turf Classic attracted 61 early nominations and four more were made eligible during its late nomination phase.
Atop the list of nominees to the 2013 Woodford Reserve Turf are Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan, who won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Santa Anita on his way to being honored as America’s Horse of the Year, and Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and runner-up to the Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup.
Wise Dan, a 6-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry, already owns a Grade I victory on the Churchill Downs main track in the 2011 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare and has a career record of 13-1-0 in 20 races with earnings of $3,541,638. He is one of three Woodford Reserve Turf nominees trained by Charlie Lopresti. The others are Four D Stable’s Turallure, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs and winner of the Woodbine Mile (GI) in 2011, and Gainesway Stable’s Villandry, a three-time winner yet to be tested in stakes competition.
The strong performance by the Graham Motion-trained Animal Kingdom in the Breeders’ Cup Mile came in his first start in eight months. The 5-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux-BRZ started his 2013 campaign with a runner-up finish to fellow Woodford Reserve nominee Point of Entry in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (GI). He is scheduled to run next in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI) on March 30 at Meydan Race Course.
While Priscilla Vaccarezza’s defending Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner Little Mike did not earn an Eclipse Award in 2012, he was a finalist for both in both the top turf horse and older male categories after a spectacular year that included victories in three of America’s top grass events.
Trained by 2012 Eclipse Award champion trainer Dale Romans, Little Mike’s 2012 season was highlighted by victories in a trio of America’s most prestigious turf races: the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Arlington Million (GI) and the Woodford Reserve. He also won the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park and finished the year with a record of 4-0-1 in seven races, which improved his career slate to 12-2-1 in 21 starts with earnings of $3,074,412. A victory by Little Mike in the 2013 renewal would allow him to join Einstein-BRZ as the only two-time winners of the race.
The recent victory by Phipps Stable’s Point of Entry over Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap was his sixth triumph in his last seven races. The only setback during that run was a close runner-up finish to Little Mike in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The Shug McGaughey-trained son of Dynaformer had reeled off four consecutive stakes wins prior to that loss that included Grade I triumphs in Belmont Park’s Man o’ War and Turf Classic Invitational and Saratoga’s Sword Dancer. Point of Entry has a career record of 8-3-1 in 16 races with earnings of $2,014,490 under the care of McGaughey, who won the 1993 Turf Classic with two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Lure, a 2013 finalist for enshrinement in racing’s Hall of Fame.
Early nominations to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic were due on or before Feb. 23 and required payment of a $100 fee. A late nomination period for the race is underway and requires payment of a $1,000 fee by a deadline of 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 10. Supplemental nominations to the race may be made at the time of entry on Wednesday, May 1, but require payment of a $15,000.
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is limited to 14 starters.
Other stars nominated to compete in the 28th running of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include B.J. Wright’s Jeranimo, winner of the recent San Gabriel (GII) at Santa Anita and the 2012 Shoemaker Mile (GI); Stuart Janney III’s Data Link, winner of the Citation (GII) and Canadian Turf Handicap (GIII); Phil Cunningham’s Slim Shadey-GB, two-time winner of Santa Anita’s San Marcos (GII) and the 2012 John Henry Turf Championship (GII); Mill Ridge Farm’s Keep Up, winner of Churchill Downs’ 2012 River City (GIII); Wachtel Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Mac Diarmida (GII) winner Amira’s Prince-IRE, who is unbeaten in three U.S. starts; Janney’s Bowling Green (GII) winner Air Support; Calumet Farm’s Optimizer, winner of the Col. E. R. Bradley (GIII) and Fair Grounds Handicap (GIII) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas; Diamond A Racing Corporation and Arturo Vargas’ Clement Hirsch (GI) winner Champ Pegasus; Doubles Partner, winner of the 2010 American Turf (GIII) at Churchill Downs for WinStar Farm; Sagamore Farm’s Humble and Hungry, winner of Churchill Downs’ Commonwealth Turf (GIII) in 2011; James S. Karp’s 2012 Pan American (GII) and Fayette (GII) winner Newsdad; Old Time Hockey, Glen Hill Farm’s winner of the 2012 La Jolla Handicap (GII) at Del Mar; William Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs; R.E. Courtney Jr.’s 2009 River City Handicap (GIII) and 2012 Arlington Handicap (GIII) winner Rahystrada; Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ Silver Max, winner of Churchill Downs’ 2012 American Turf (GIII) and the Virginia Derby (GII); Willcox Inn, winner of the 2011 American Derby (GII) for Lael Stable and All In Stable; and James Covello and James Dolan’s Swift Warrior, winner of the Tampa Bay Handicap (GIII) and John B. Connally (GIII).
McGaughey nominated five horses to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic to lead all trainers. Mark Casse and Pletcher train four nominees, while Hall of Fame trainers Bill Mott and Lukas and Romans and Lopresti each nominated three. A three-way tie for leading owner includes Calumet Farm, Janney and Ken and Sarah Ramsey, each with three Turf Classic nominees.
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic has attracted many of America’s most accomplished grass stars since reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila won its first running beneath Churchill Downs’ historic Twin Spires in 1987. Manila had won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) in 1986, defeating such luminaries as Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave in that effort. Other American turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, winner of the Turf Classic during his 1994 championship campaign, and 1992 Eclipse Award turf champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year’s Turf Classic renewal. Einstein-BRZ won the 2008 and 2009 runnings of the race and is the only two-time Woodford Reserve winner in its 27-year history. The versatile Brazilian-bred son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for top older male in each of those years and a finalist for turf champion in 2008.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN). Churchill Downs will conduct the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 27-June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.