By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: High-class horse racing fare continues at Churchill Downs on Saturday when Godolphin’s chief Kentucky Derby hope Maxfield (Brendan Walsh/Jose Ortiz) makes his eagerly awaited comeback after eight months on the sidelines.
A G1 winner at two in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, the unbeaten son of Street Sense was a leading fancy for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before he had to be scratched days before the race with an ankle injury.
“I feel like all of us have been anticipating his next start since his scratch before the Breeders’ Cup,” trainer Brendan Walsh said.
“We always thought that his best races were ahead of him. When he debuted last year I really wasn’t even thinking about the Breeders’ Futurity if he won that race. I had thought that his best races were going to be when he turned three-years-old or even into next year.”
Given the extra time involved, Maxfield is one horse who stands to benefit from the Kentucky Derby’s postponement until September 5.
Otherwise, he might well have had to run for the roses without a prep race on the first Saturday in May.
“It would’ve been a little bit unorthodox if we were still prepping for the Derby (on the first Saturday in May),” Walsh said. “We were still going to target the Derby but we would’ve only had one race to get him qualified. Now, we have a couple of races that we can get him ready for the race in September.”
Maxfield, who broke his maiden last September at Churchill Downs, makes his seasonal debut in the G3 Matt Winn Stakes (10.44pm BST) on what is being billed as ‘Stephen Foster Preview Day’ ahead of the stakes-laden card on June 27.
With trainers grasping every opportunity they can find, Churchill’s supporting events also feature a handful of high-profile names sprinkled among four ungraded stakes, each worth $100,000 and three of them with double-figure fields.
With Royal Ascot plans scuppered by coronavirus, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf winner Sharing (Graham Motion/Manny Franco) makes her three-year-old debut in the Tepin Stakes (9.40pm BST), where rivals are headed by the unbeaten Godolphin filly Alms (Mike Stidham/Paco Lopez).
The Shawnee (9.08pm BST) features a clash between a pair of G1 winners with Alabama Stakes heroine Dunbar Road (Chad Brown/Jose Ortiz) facing off against She’s A Julie (Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana), who won the La Troienne at this venue in 2019.
Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up United (Richard Mandella/Flavien Prat) headlines the G2 Charles Whittingham (Sun 12.18am BST) at Santa Anita.
Kentucky Derby betting
Coral: 5 Charlatan, Tiz The Law, 6 Nadal, 8 Authentic, 12 Maxfield, 16 Mischievous Alex, 20 bar.