04/26/2012 11:27AM

Churchill Downs: Bourbon Courage steps up, stretches out in Derby Trial

Shigeki Kikkawa
Paynter followed this maiden win with a fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, and returns in the Derby Trial.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – How do you make a horse trainer’s cell phone never stop ringing? Run off the TV screen and earn a 103 Beyer Speed Figure the first time you race. That’s what a 3-year-old colt named Bourbon Courage did in making his career debut in early February at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

“The phone was ringing off the hook,” said Kellyn Gorder, who trains Bourbon Courage for the partnership of Bourbon Lane Stable and Wayne Lynn.

But all offers, including a serious one approaching seven figures, were declined by Mike McMahon and Jamie Hill, the managing partners in Bourbon Lane. So all Bourbon Courage did for an encore was get a 101 Beyer in winning his only subsequent start, a first-level allowance on March 24 at Fair Grounds.

“The colt got quite an education that day,” said Gorder, who will have nearly 20 stalls at Churchill Downs for the 39-day spring meet that begins Saturday night. “He was a little flat-footed out of the gate before he got going. He really has a quick turn of foot.”

Now comes a test on a much bigger stage in the opening-night feature at Churchill, the $200,000 Derby Trial, a Grade 3 race in which Bourbon Courage will stretch out from those two six-furlong races to a one-turn mile when starting from post 11 with Miguel Mena riding.

“We’re going to lead him over there with quite a bit of confidence,” Gorder said. “The outside post is just fine. I think it’s better than getting one down on the inside.”

The Trial will not produce a starter for the Kentucky Derby for the seventh straight year, although the race occasionally yields one for the Preakness. The Trial goes as the eighth of 11 races on a card that gets a “Downs After Dark” start of 6 p.m. Eastern. Post time for the Trial is 9:39, with the last race going at 11:10.

Big Beyers or no, the competition looks far superior to what Bourbon Courage beat in New Orleans. Perhaps foremost among his 10 opponents is Paynter, a Bob Baffert-trained colt making his third start after winning a Santa Anita maiden race and then finishing fourth behind Derby runners I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby.

“He’s a good colt,” Baffert said. “We’ve just kind of taken our time with him, let him tell us when to run him. I don’t know if we’d run back in the Preakness if he wins. That’s just something we’d have to play by ear.”

Martin Garcia will be aboard Paynter from post 7.

Fringe contenders in this 88th running of the Trial include The Black, Nonios, and Hierro, all recent arrivals from California; Stealcase, who finished midpack in both the Gotham and Spiral Stakes; and Motor City, winner of the Iroquois Stakes here last fall.

Trainer Dale Romans, who already has Dullahan for the Derby, will send out four Trial runners in an overt sign of just how active he plans to be here this spring: Tarpy’s Goal, Saint of Saints, Quick Wit, and Seve.

The last horse to run in both the Trial and the Derby was Don’t Get Mad, who won the Trial in 2005 before running a decent fourth to Giacomo a week later. The last horse to win both races was Tim Tam in 1958.

The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial, Post Time: 9:39 ET Saturday

Purse: $200,000; 1 mile





ML Odds


Tarpy's Goal

D. Romans

L. Goncalves



The Black

D. O'Niell

C. Borel



Saint of Saints

D. Romans

K. Desormeaux




J. Hollendorfer

G. Gomez




S. Asmussen

J. Leparoux



Quick Wit

D. Romans

C. Lanerie




B. Baffert

M. Garcia




D. Romans

J. Castanon




M. Casse

S. Bridgmohan



Motor City

I. Wilkes

B. Hernandez, Jr.



Bourbon Courage

K. Gorder

M. Mena