Dark Cove, 4 ¼-length winner of the Elkhorn (Grade II) in his most recent start, tops a field of nine 3-year-olds and up entered for Saturday’s 76th running of the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) at 1 ½ miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs.
Dark Cove will be saddled by the Spring Meet’s leading trainer, Mike Maker, and will race under the colors of the Spring Meet’s leading owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who claimed the bay son of Medaglia d’Oro in April of last year for $50,000. Prior to cruising to victory in the 1 ½-mile Elkorn on the turf at Keeneland, Dark Cove finished second on the turf at Gulfstream Park while racing for the same claiming price.
“I expected a big effort from him (in the Elkhorn),” Maker said. “I think the distance had a lot to do with it. Was I surprised in how easily he won? A little bit. Was I surprised that he won? Not at all.”
Dark Cove’s top rivals include Ioya Bigtime, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Cup Turf (GIII), Heathcote, who has not raced since winning the Valedictory (GIII) at Woodbine by 12 ¼ lengths in December, and Atigun, an impressive allowance winner on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard and third in last year’s Belmont (GI).
The Louisville Handicap, which was won last year by Simmard, is scheduled as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race program with a post time of 5:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). Post time for the first race is 12:45 p.m.
The field for the Louisville Handicap, from the rail out, with jockey and weight: Prime Cut (Corey Lanerie, 113), Harrods Creek (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115), Mack’s Blackhawk (Ricardo Santana Jr., 112), Atigun (Alan Garcia, 115), Ioya Bigtime (Jeffrey Sanchez, 118), Dark Cove (Rosie Napravnik, 122), Najjaar (Leandro Goncalves, 112), Al Qasr (Jesus Castanon, 117) and Heathcote (Emma-Jayne Wilson, 115).