Saturday’s 85th running of the Grade III $100,000-added Derby Trial, the featured race on the opening day of the April 25-July 5 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs, will have a distinct Kentucky Derby flavor as several of the eight 3-year-olds entered in the race hail from barns that will seek success in 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) a week later.
The Derby Trial will go as the 10th race with a 5:17 p.m. post time (all times EDT). First post time for the 11-race program is 12:45 p.m. and admission gates open at 11 a.m.
Saturday’s program is the first of 52 for the spring meet, which will be highlighted by the Kentucky Derby on May 2 and preceded on May 1 by the 135th running of the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) for 3-year-old fillies.
Heading the field for the 7 ½-furlong Derby Trial is Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Silver City, a onetime contender for this year’s “Run for the Roses” that is now focusing on shorter distances for trainer Bret Calhoun.
The gray son of Unbridled’s Song won the Dixieland Stakes at Oaklawn Park and ran second to Old Fashioned, who was then the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, in the Southwest Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn Park. A fifth-place finish in the Rebel (GIII) ended Silver City’s pursuit of the Kentucky Derby, and Saturday’s race will be his first start since that March 14 outing.
Julien Leparoux will ride Silver City, who is the only stakes winner in the Derby Trial field and will break from post one. Leparoux is set to ride General Quarters in next week’s Kentucky Derby.
Silver City’s seven rivals in the Derby Trial include runners from the barns of Kentucky Derby trainers Jeff Mullins and Jerry Hollendorfer.
Mullins, who conditions possible Kentucky Derby favorite I Want Revenge, will send out Dean De Renzo, Randall Hartley, Joey Platts and William Sims’ Gato Go Win. The son of City Place enters the race off a third-place finish behind the filly Evita Argentina in the Grade II San Vicente on Feb. 16 at Santa Anita.
Hollendorfer, trainer of Derby 135 contender Chocolate Candy, has Rendezvous for the Derby Trial. Owned by Hollendorfer, George Todaro and Team Green, Rendezvous comes into the Derby Trial off a third-place finish to Chocolate Candy in the Feb. 14 El Camino Real Derby (Grade III) at Golden Gate Fields.
Other trainers with prospective Kentucky Derby starters that have colts entered in the Derby Trial are Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott.
Pletcher, whose Kentucky Derby hopefuls include Dunkirk and Advice, will send out Starlight Partner’s Checklist in the Trial. Mott, who will send out Hold Me Back a week from Saturday, will saddle Haras Santa Maria de Araras’ Tintim Por Tintim in the Trial.
The field for the Derby Trial, from the rail out, is as follows: Silver City (Julien Leparoux), Tintim Por Tintim (Alan Garcia), Gato Go Win (Calvin Borel), Checklist (Shaun Bridgmohan), Santana Six (John Velazquez), Rendezvous (Rene Douglas), Hull (Miguel Mena) and Kensei (Robby Albarado). All starters will carry 117 pounds.
None of the horses entered in the Derby Trial is expected to attempt to run back in next week’s Kentucky Derby. Five horses have swept both the Trial and the Kentucky Derby since the Trial was introduced. Black Gold won the inaugural 1924 running of the Trial, which was then run on the Tuesday before the Derby, and returned to complete the sweep in the main event. The last horse to win both races was Calumet Farm’s Tim Tam in 1928. Calumet’s Citation, winner of the 1948 Triple Crown, also swept the Derby Trial and the Kentucky.
Several Kentucky Derby winners failed to win the Trial, but bounced back to win the “Run for the Roses.” Most notable of those were Calumet Farm’s Iron Liege, who finished fifth in the Trial and returned to defeat a Kentucky Derby field that included champions Gallant Man, Round Table and Bold Ruler and is generally considered to be the greatest field in Derby history. King Ranch’s Assault finished off the board in the Trial, but returned to win the Derby and sweep the Triple Crown. In 1941, Triple Crown winner Whirlaway finished second in the Derby Trial, but returned to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.