Carl Moore Management LLC’s crack female sprinter Finley’sluckycharm will put her unbeaten record at Churchill Downs on the line Saturday as she attempts to land her first graded stakes win in the 14th running of the $100,000 Winning Colors (Grade III) against seven other fillies and mares.
The six-furlong Winning Colors, which honors the Hall of Fame filly that prevailed against colts in the 1988 Kentucky Derby, is an annual Memorial Day weekend fixture and one of two stakes events on Saturday’s 11-race program. Churchill Downs’ first race is 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern). The Winning Colors goes as Race 10 at approximately 5:21 p.m. and the fifth running of the $65,000-added Keertana Overnight Stakes, a 1 ½-mile grass marathon for fillies and mares, is the fifth race at approximately 2:43 p.m.
Conditioned by three-time Winning Colors-winning trainer Bret Calhoun, Finley’sluckycharm is a perfect 4-for-4 at Churchill Downs.
Following a narrow half-length loss to Constellation in the Grade I La Brea at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, Finley’sluckycharm made her first start of the year on opening night of Churchill Downs’ Spring Meet with a three-quarter length win over Athena in the $65,340 Roxelana Overnight Stakes on April 29.
“She’s been doing really well,” Calhoun said. “We were just a little bit short in her training (Kentucky) Derby week and that’s why we ran her in the Roxelana and not any of the graded stakes (such as the Grade I Humana Distaff on Derby Day).”
Prior to the La Brea, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Twirling Candy won the $82,400 Dream Supreme Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25 by an eye-popping 8 ½ lengths while clocking six furlongs in 1:08.58 – a stakes record for the 12-year-old race.
Overall, Finley’sluckycharm boasts a record of 6-1-0 in eight starts with earnings of $283,708.
Calhoun also entered Mayla in the Winning Colors. The 5-year-old mare, who finished fifth in the Roxelana three lengths behind her stablemate, also is owned by Moore in partnership with Brad Grady.
Calhoun boasts a 9-3-2-1 record in the Winning Colors since his first starter in 2009. His previous success in the race came with champion female sprinter Dubai Majesty (2009-10) and Beat the Blues (2013).
“The Winning Colors is the perfect setup after the Roxelana,” Calhoun said. “With the Chicago Handicap moving to Churchill, that could be a great steppingstone if she runs well to keep her at home.”
The $100,000 Chicago Handicap (GIII) will be run at Churchill Downs on June 24. Previously, the seven-furlong race was held at Churchill’s sister track, Arlington Park near Chicago.
Chief among Finley’sluckycharm’s rivals are Mary Grum’s Roxelana runner-up Athena (22-7-3-4—$430,730) for trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi – the top money-earner in the field – and the Ian Wilkes-trained Sweetgrass (20-4-1-7—$316,095), who was fourth in the $300,000 Humana Distaff (GI) over seven furlongs and sloppy going on Kentucky Derby Day for owners Six Column Stables LLC, Randy Bloch, John Seiler and Fred Merritt.
The Winning Colors field from the rail out (with jockeys): Mayla (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Sweetgrass (James Graham), Covey Trace (Gabriel Saez), Ramona’s Wildcat (Declan Cannon), Game Time Decision (Corey Lanerie), Finley’sluckycharm (Brian Hernandez Jr.), Athena (Joe Rocco Jr.) and Pleasant Tales (Miguel Mena).
Last year’s Winning Colors was one of the most exciting races of the Spring Meet when Diva Express and I’m a Looker hit the finish line together and dead-heated for the win in 1:09.49.
Churchill Downs admission gates will open Saturday at 11:30 a.m. General Admission is $3, reserved seating is $10 and reserved dining packages are $38. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
With Memorial Day on Monday, Churchill Downs will have a special five-day holiday week of racing (with first race post time, number of races): Thursday (5 p.m., 8 races), Friday (12:45 p.m., 9 races), Saturday (12:45 p.m., 11 races), Sunday (12:45 p.m., 10 races) and Memorial Day Monday (12:45 p.m., 11 races).
The Twilight Thursday abbreviated eight-race program is highlighted by $1 draft beers, food trucks, live music on the Plaza stages by funk band Curio Key Club and a Wagering 101 tent for betting advice. There also is a $37,964 jackpot carryover for the 20-cent minimum Single 6 Jackpot on Races 3-8.
In celebration of Memorial Day on Monday, all active and retired members of the United States armed forces will be admitted free of charge. Also, Churchill Downs’ bugler Steve Buttleman will perform patriotic melodies following the “Call to the Post” for each race.