By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Godolphin look to have a serious Kentucky Derby prospect on their hands as Maxfield (Brendan Walsh/Jose Ortiz) made a winning comeback after nearly eight months on the sidelines on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
“Maxfield is thinking Derby!” exclaimed Churchill race caller Travis Stone as the homebred son of Kentucky hero Street Sense took his unbeaten record to three in the G3 Matt Winn Stakes.
Sent off 13-10 favourite, Maxfield produced a likeable performance with a comfortable one-length victory over NY Traffic to earn 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, postponed until September 5 owing to coronavirus.
“We were really anxious to see this one,” admitted trainer Brendan Walsh. “It wasn’t an easy spot either. I think the top four horses are all really nice horses.”
A G1 winner at two in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, Maxfield was running for the first time since being scratched from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile days before the race with an ankle injury. He is now a 6-1 chance for the Kentucky Derby with British bookmakers William Hill and Bet365.
What is more, Saturday’s performance may have been better than it looked, given that the winner was jostled back early and then forced to make up ground four wide on the turn from off a slowish pace.
“It’s nice to get this one out of the way,” added Walsh. “It’s good to see him come back and see he’s as good if not better than when he was a two-year-old.”
Winning rider Ortiz said: “He’s really matured a lot. If you can keep breaking like he did today and be in a spot like he did, he’s going to be a really nice horse.”
A competitive card at Churchill Downs also played host to a successful seasonal debut from Breeders’ Cup heroine Sharing (Graham Motion/ Manny Franco) in the $100,000 Tepin Stakes on turf.
Surprisingly made second favourite behind Godolphin’s Alms (only fifth), the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf winner stalked the pace before edging clear in the straight, where she held the late challenge of Abscond by a half-length.
Alabama Stakes winner Dunbar Road (Chad Brown/Jose Ortiz) rallied to claim the $100,000 Shawnee decisively by a length and three-quarters on her four-year-old debut.
Kentucky Derby betting
William Hill: 4 Charlatan, 5 Tiz The Law, 6 Maxfield, 7 Authentic, Nadal, 12 Mischievous Alex, 14 Ete Indien, 20 bar.