05/03/2012 12:37PM

Churchill Downs: Amazombie tries to stretch speed to seven furlongs in Churchill Downs Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Amazombie is back at Churchill Downs for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Churchill Downs Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – While everyone knows it’s the first Saturday in May, one glance at the field assembled for the Grade 2, $400,000 Churchill Downs Stakes would suggest it’s the first Saturday in November.

It was the first Saturday last November when Amazombie secured the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter with a neck victory over Force Freeze in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs. Amazombie returns to Churchill on Saturday, where he meets two graduates of last year’s BC Sprint as well as the second- and third-place finishers from the 2010 Sprint in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs.

In two starts this year, Amazombie finished third to The Factor in the San Carlos and came back with a three-quarter-length victory over Roman Threat in the Potrero Grande at Santa Anita on April 7.

“He never even pulled out the stick out,” trainer Bill Spawr said, referring to jockey Mike Smith in the Potrero Grande. “He just hand rode him.”

Spawr wasn’t necessarily thinking of running in this race until he was alerted that the purse had been raised to $400,000 from $300,000. Though Amazombie is 0 for 2 at seven furlongs, Spawr said Smith told him he would get the distance at Churchill no problem.

“He said the way he skips over this track he could run a mile here,” said Spawr, who sent Amazombie out for a three-furlong blowout in 36 seconds Thursday morning.

Amazombie, who figures to come from off the pace, is drawn nicely in post 6 in the eight-horse field.

Apriority was beaten a nose by Aikenite in this race last year, and trainer David Fawkes noted his horse got bumped when between horses at the quarter pole.

“He looked like a ping-pong ball, his feet are off the ground,” Fawkes said.

Apriority comes off a half-length loss in the Count Fleet at Oaklawn, a race in which Fawkes felt jockey Rafael Bejarano had his horse too far out of it early.

Bejarano is back aboard from post 3.

The multiple Grade 1 winner Smiling Tiger makes his first start since Aug. 28, when he finished fourth in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar. He came out of the race with a bruised foot and was given the remainder of the year off.

“We could’ve run a horse that was 90 percent in the Breeders’ Cup, but we chose the high road and decided to give him time off, and he’s come back absolutely super for it,” said Mersad Metanovic, racing manager for owners Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz.

Gantry, winner of four consecutive six-furlong sprints, takes on graded company for the first time on dirt. Preakness winner Shackleford comes off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct last out.

Alma d’Oro, Hamazing Destiny, and Will’s Wildcat complete the field.

Churchill Downs Stakes (G2), Post Time: 2:08 ET Saturday

Purse: $400,000; 7 furlongs





ML Odds


Smiling Tiger

J. Bonde

J. Rosario



Alma d'Oro

T. Pletcher

J. Castellano




D. Fawkes

R. Bejarano




D. Romans

J. Castanon



Hamazing Destiny

D. Lukas

C. Nakatani




W. Spawr

M. Smith




R. Faucheux

R. Eramia



Will's Wildcat

J. Baker

C. Borel