04/29/2010 12:00AM

Alysheba lures field of veterans


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bullsbay and Macho Again, Grade 1 winners and Churchill Downs lovers, renew acquaintances and make their seasonal debuts in Friday's Grade 3, $150,000 Alysheba Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

A surprisingly strong field of nine was entered in the Alysheba, including Friesan Fire, who finished 18th as the favorite in last year's Kentucky Derby.

Bullsbay is 3 for 5 at Churchill Downs, including a victory in last year's Alysheba. Macho Again finished sixth as the favorite in the Alysheba but came back to win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster over this track, his last victory.

Bullsbay beat Macho Again by 1 1/2 lengths in last year's Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, before Macho Again finished second and Bullsbay third behind Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward. In their last meeting - and the last time both raced - Bullsbay finished seventh and Macho Again ninth in the Clark Handicap here last November.

Trainer Graham Motion said the Alysheba was the objective for Bullsbay since the end of last year. After getting December off, Bullsbay went back into training in early January.

"Everything's gone very smoothly since Day 1," Motion said. "I felt like I had enough time. We had this race picked out and knock on wood we haven't missed a beat since we started breezing him. I think the horse looks really well. I couldn't be happier with how he looks and how he's doing."

Jeremy Rose rides Bullsbay.

Macho Again wintered in New Orleans, but trainer Dallas Stewart said the horse wasn't ready to run in any of the stakes for older horses at Fair Grounds. In the last few days, Macho Again has looked resplendent galloping.

"I think he's right on for this race," Stewart said. "Distance is a touch short, but for him being off for a while, I think he'll be fine."

Robby Albarado rides Macho Again.

With Friesan Fire and Cool Coal Man in this field, there should be a contested pace. Friesan Fire missed the New Orleans Handicap and some training time due to a foot abscess, but he has worked four times since April 5.

"He's lacking a little bit on fitness, as big of a horse as he is missing time," trainer Steve Asmussen said.

Arson Squad, winner of the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes in his last start, and Chocolate Candy, fifth in last year's Kentucky Derby, are other contenders in this field.