Louisville, KY (March 5, 2008) -- William A. Sorokolit, Sr.’s defending winner Sky Conqueror, versatile veteran Lava Man and recent Santa Anita Handicap (GI) winner Heatseeker top an accomplished roster of 108 grass stars nominated for the 22nd running of the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I) on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3 at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up will again be run immediately prior to the 134th renewal of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is one of three Grade I events on a stellar Kentucky Derby Day racing program that includes six graded stakes races with total purses of $3.35 million. The race will be televised by ESPN.
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic annually attracts many of America’s finest turf horses, a tradition that got off to a quick start when reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila won its first running in 1987. He had won the Breeders’ Cup Turf the previous year, beating such luminaries as Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave. Other turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, winner of the 1994 Turf Classic during his Eclipse Award-winning campaign, and 1992 turf champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year’s renewal of the Turf Classic.
Sky Conqueror, a Darwin Banach-trained son of Sky Classic, rallied in the stretch under Javier Castellano to win the 2007 renewal of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic by a nose over Mill House’s Brilliant, who is also nominated to this year’s race. The defending winner has a career record of 7-2-4 in 20 races with earnings of $1,720,699.
STD Racing and Vincent Wood’s veteran Lava Man, who has earned $5.2 million, is a three-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup (GI), two-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) and winner of the Charles Whittingham Memorial (GI) on turf. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Heatseeker, owned by William Deburgh, is a son of Giant’s Causeway who won the 2008 Santa Anita Handicap over Cushion Track.
Other high-profile nominees to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein, the Brazilian-bred two-time winner of the Gulfstream Park Turf Classic (GI); Jeff Davenport, Tom Lenner, Jess Ravich and Thomas Murray’s Daytona, the Irish-bred winner of the 2007 Hollywood Derby (GI) and the recent Fair Grounds Handicap (GIII); S J Stables LLC’s Cloudy’s Knight, the Illinois-based winner of the 2007 Canadian International (GI) and Sky Classic (GII) at Woodine; and Triple B Farm’s Shamdinan, winner of the 2007 Secretariat (GI) and runner-up to 2008 turf champion and 2006 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner English Channel in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI).
Versatile nominees include Peter Vegso’s Go Between, winner of the Virginia Derby (GII) at three and the recent Sunshine Millions Classic on Cushion Track at Santa Anita; Millenium Farm’s Student Council, winner of the 2007 Pacific Classic (GI) on Polytrack and Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) on dirt; Juddmonte Farm’s homebred Champs Elysees, winner of the 2008 San Marcos (GII) on turf and third over Cushion Track in the Santa Anita Handicap; and Arindel Farm’s Wait a While, the Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old filly champion of 2006 who won the 2006 American Oaks (GI) on turf, finished third in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (GI) and is Grade II winner on dirt.
Other stakes veterans made eligible for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Ascertain, winner of the Fifth Third Elkhorn (GIII) at Keeneland; 2006 Woodbine Mile (GI) winner Becrux; Drilling for Oil, winner of the 2007 Louisville Handicap (GIII); three-time (2004-06) Louisville Handicap winner Silverfoot; two-time Arlington Handicap (GIII) winner Cosmonaut; Thorn Song, winner of Churchill Downs’ 2007 River City Handicap (GIII); and Arcadia Handicap (GII) winner Icy Atlantic.
The nominees also include four horses that ran in last year’s Kentucky Derby: Circular Quay (6th), Dominican (11th), Great Hunter (13th) and Storm in May (16th).
The sponsor of the Turf Classic, Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, is bottled by the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky., and is a product of Brown-Forman Corp. of Louisville, Ky. Woodford Reserve is the fastest growing Small Batch Bourbon among brands that sell more than 1,000 cases on an annual basis, and the super-premium bourbon is now the second largest selling Small Batch Bourbon brand in the market. Woodford Reserve is the “Official Bourbon” of the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
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 Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008. The track’s 2008 Spring Meet runs from April 26 through July 6. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.